Monday New Shows, Fall 2001
NBC, 10-11 p.m.
Debuts September 17
When Jill Hennessy was first suggested for the lead role in Crossing Jordan, creator Tim Kring admits, ”I thought she was completely wrong.” Judging from her buttoned-down work as an ADA on Law & Order and as Jackie Kennedy in a recent NBC miniseries, Kring didn’t think she could cut it as feisty, salt-of-the-earth medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh. But he agreed to meet her for breakfast, only to arrive and discover that the restaurant wasn’t open yet. ”She comes walking up, and I start apologizing,” Kring says. ”The first words out of her mouth were ‘Dude, f— it. Who gives a s—? We’ll go someplace else.’ ”
Those turned out to be the magic four-letter words. Kring was instantly sold and started tailoring the role to Hennessy’s just-one-of-the-guys personality. ”After the meeting, he said, ‘Jill, how would you feel if I actually incorporated a lot of your word usage into the character, like cool and dude and man,’ ” the 31-year-old star recalls. ”I said, ‘Dude, that’s awesome!’ ”
NBC hopes audiences are equally enthusiastic about Jordan — which can best be described as the love child of wildly diverse dramas Providence and CSI. Like the Milquetoast Melina Kanakaredes starrer, Jordan is about a thirtysomething single woman who moves back to her New England hometown (in this case, Boston) to live with her widowed dad (again played by a ’70s TV star, The White Shadow’s Ken Howard). But ”this is a much darker and more twisted version of family life,” insists Kring, who used to be a producer on Providence. He adds that Jordan is far more personality driven than techie hit CSI. ”I don’t know how much you know about [CSI’s] characters,” Kring says. ”It’s much more about the science of the cases.”
Hey, at least no one can accuse Jordan of ripping off TV’s last great crime-solving coroner drama, Quincy, M.E. ”Jill doesn’t live on a boat,” points out Miguel Ferrer (Lateline), who costars as her stressed-out colleague. ”And I’m not Asian-American.”
Should Jordan prove as popular as Jack Klugman’s 1976-83 crowd-pleaser, the question is, Will Hennessy stay put? She bolted Law & Order in 1996 after only three seasons to pursue other parts (her post-L&O résumé includes gigs as a lawyer in TNT’s Nuremberg and as a police officer in Steven Seagal’s Exit Wounds). ”I get paranoid when I know I’m going to be playing one character for three years,” she says. ”I don’t want to lose my acting muscles.” Still, the actress feels confident that embodying the emotionally volatile Jordan (who loses her job in California after kicking her boss in the cojones) will keep her in fighting dramatic shape. ”That’s the cool thing about Jordan — she’s not very restrictive,” she says. ”There are so many layers to this character, I could see playing her for five years and still coming up with new stuff.” Dude, that’s awesome!