The Toronto Star

Sunday, April 9, 1989

Written by Rita Zekas

Quote: "Hard-nosed Hunter showed 'em all

Say you're a rough, tough, 6 1/2-foot, 225-pound ex-football player turned actor.

You don't get offered the sensitive, Kramer Vs Kramer roles. You're more likely to be cast as a

laconic, Clint Eastwood type, grinning and squinting while knocking heads together.

Just ask Fred Dryer, star of the action TV series Hunter.

"Yeah, they tried to typecast me in typical ex-jock roles, but I turned them down," said Dryer,

over the phone from his LA. home, just back from working out. "I could have made a good

living. It's like horse manure, it's everywhere. I held out and turned down a great deal of work

because I felt that I could be a leading man and carry a show. I turned down a lot of heavy roles

designed for a big, tall guy."

Well, Rick Hunter's not exactly a 5-foot-nothing spineless wimp. He's a hard-nosed, tough cop

who often employs unorthodox tactics. Dubbed by some critics as "The poor man's Dirty Harry,"

the series had its knuckles rapped for its excessive violence.

But Hunter got its vindication. Now in its fifth season, it recently celebrated its 100th episode,

complete with a big blowout in The Hollywood Reporter. It's the highest-rated action crime show

on TV - and they said it wouldn't last.

It struggled in its first season opposite the ratings heavy Dallas but found its niche Saturday at 10

p.m. on Channels 2 and 11.

What attracted Dryer to "Dirty Harry" Hunter was "a combination of things," he said, "including

the opportunity to be cast in a pilot by a successful production company (headed by action-show

kingpin Stephen J. Cannell of Wiseguy fame). They said it was a 'Dirty Harry' of TV. I didn't care.

I made sure I changed it as I went along -I was shaking my head even as they were saying it.

They realized I was right. Anyway, they couldn't stop me after the cameras started rolling."

"I understand why things fail and why they succeed, I knew it would catch on. Our demographics

range from age 9 to 90. It's an adult show that kids can watch. We got rid of all of the violence.

We used to squish guys in slow motion as they fell out of windows, the first years. You have to

have a blend of taste and originality. You're not watching a cartoon."

Gridiron great

Born 42 years ago in Lawndale, Calif, Dryer is a graduate of San Diego State, where his

excellence on the football field propelled him into the NFL. A gridiron great, he spent 13 years as

a defensive end for both the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams. Released by the Rams

in '81, he enrolled with legendary acting coach Nina Foch and studied with her for three years.

"I was a player and enjoyed doing that but my life's work was not to be a football coach, owner

or broadcasting football games," he explained. "I was always fascinated with acting; I like films. I

was curious about it - why people act, why they don't. What makes a good actor. Then I got into

it and realized, I think I want to do it."

He did his apprenticeship in TV movies like The Kid From Nowhere opposite Gary Coleman,

Starmaker opposite Rock Hudson and The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins.

He was up for the part of Sam in Cheers, one of the three finalists along with Ted Danson and

William Devane. "I've done that show four times," he said.

He's comfortable in comedy he said, and it's not such a stretch to see him as Sam.

"I try to get as much humor and personality in my work. I try to make Rick sensitive and

humorous and understanding and compassionate, not so quick to anger."

"We don't oversell the fact that I bump heads together. You must treat the viewing audience with

respect - I can always shoot someone. We're more oriented to show the police department as they

really are; I'm a stickler for doing things correctly. We've made friends with the LAPD police

chief Daryl Gates and he's been on the show."

Definite chemistry

There's a definite chemistry between Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer, who plays his partner. Dee Dee

McCall. Still, the question of whether they'll be linked romantically gets a vehement response.

"Never will they be an item," he insisted, "never, never, never. Who wants to see that? It changes

the relationship, it becomes bitchy and then it becomes Cheers. That's just a crutch, a weak,

obvious ploy."

As for his own romantic history, he's divorced with a 5-year-old daughter.

And if Hunter's not around to celebrate its 200th episode? Dryer's got it covered.

"I never begged for anything to happen. If this show closed down, sure I'd get another show. This

TV show has established me as an actor."

Besides, he's going for the directing and producing end of things. He's directed five episodes of

Hunter already and will be producing the series next year.

"I've directed, I've edited, I've put Fred Dryer's impact on everything he does. I've got a company,

Cyclone Films, with a partner. Assuming Hunter will go several more years, I'll have the

background to help Cyclone produce and create TV and feature films for Fred Dryer."