Rick Schroder joins ''NYPD Blue'' -- Can the actor fill Jimmy Smits shoes?

By Tom Russo
Updated December 04, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

NYPD Blue

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Rick Schroder calls to change the time for this interview. Still adjusting to the rigors of playing the new cop on NYPD Blue, Schroder really wants to unwind by taking in the Kurt Russell action flick Soldier. ”A little mindless entertainment,” he laughs. Given his star-making credits — in director Franco Zeffirelli’s remake of The Champ at age 8 and Silver Spoons as a teen — maybe Schroder can relate to Soldier‘s tale of a guy trained from earliest childhood to perform, perform, perform. Or perhaps it’s that Russell is another example of a guy who’s managed to survive the professional death wish that is tender-age fame (remember The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes?).

To be fair, Schroder, 28, doesn’t seem to be especially concerned about burying his old image — at times, he even refers to himself as Ricky, despite the media’s own snarky use of the moniker. Instead, his focus is on jumping off the movie-of-the-week track he settled into after relocating to Colorado eight years ago (a move inspired by his experience making 1989’s Lonesome Dove miniseries). ”It’s been tough to maintain a career 800 miles away from L.A.,” says Schroder, who now flies back to his 15,000-acre home on the range on weekends to be with his wife, Andrea, and their three small children. ”What I was doing was enough to make a good living, but it really wasn’t challenging anymore.”

Problem solved: Schroder is donning the badge of Danny Sorenson, a young narcotics detective promoted to Blue‘s 15th-precinct detective squad after Bobby Simone’s (Jimmy Smits) teary departure. ”The squad’s dynamics are very complicated, but he’s smart enough to come in, keep his head down, and realize that it’s going to take time to replace Simone,” Schroder says. And no, he adds, the parallels aren’t lost on him: ”There are a lot of similarities between what my character is dealing with and what I’m dealing with.”

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Rookie antsiness notwithstanding, Blue cocreator David Milch likes what he’s seen from his new lead. ”Saying I’m surprised would be underplaying my reaction to how good he’s been,” Milch says. ”My preconception of who Rick Schroder was would not have put him on the longest of candidate lists. [But] that’s why you have to allow life to surprise you.”

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