The actor says playing up your strengths and avoiding series titles with your own name is the way to survive

By Mandi Bierly
Updated October 01, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

On Sept. 25, John Larroquette joins David E. Kelley’s Emmy-nominated Boston Legal as partner Carl Sack. The former Night Court star has appeared on over two dozen TV series (including The John Larroquette Show, which ended in 1996). So what tips has this pro, 59, picked up over his years in the biz?

1. Embrace your strengths.
”I was from New Orleans, so I had to play clarinet,” he says. ”At about 18, I realized that I could talk better than I can blow. So I took the clarinet out and started acting.” One of his earliest gigs was as the narrator of 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

2. Getting typecast isn’t all bad.
Larroquette estimates he’s played between 15 and 20 lawyers over the course of his career (including stints on Dallas and The West Wing). ”You get to wear better clothes than the other people,” he says. And at 6’5”, Larroquette says he wears a suit ”fairly well.”

3. Ensemble dramas leave you with time on your hands.
Though Boston Legal costar James Spader has told him to try to appreciate those precious days off, Larroquette can’t stand to sit still for very long. ”I’ve never been very good at not working. My wife has always told me, ‘Please, go get a job.”’

4. Never put your name in a show’s title.
”I begged Don Reo, who created [NBC’s] The John Larroquette Show, not to name it that because I didn’t want to see No. 56 in the ratings with my name next to it the day that the show didn’t do well.”

5. Trust David E. Kelley.
”The last time he wrote a character for me, I won an Emmy,” Larroquette says, referring to a 1998 guest turn on The Practice (the actor has a total of five statuettes). ”I figure that’s not a bad batting average.”