In making his television series debut, Elias Koteas has no problem being engaged in "Combat."
With a richly varied movie career that has run the gamut from the youth comedy "Some Kind of Wonderful" to the vampire thriller "Let Me In," the actor is back in his native Canada making ABC's new Tuesday drama "Combat Hospital." Cast as the colonel in charge of a multinational medical unit stationed in Afghanistan circa 2006, Koteas is as astonished as anyone that he's embodying an authority figure after playing so many offbeat characters.
"Yeah, definitely, man," he concurs, "but that was part of what attracted me to it ... the chance to get to play the sage, the wise one. It came up suddenly, then the following Monday, I was in front of the cameras. Anytime anybody is crazy enough to hire me, I'm there.
"I don't consider myself an easy choice," Koteas adds, "because of this off-kilter sensibility. They invited me along on this, and I thought, 'OK. They must see something in me that could bring this to life, so what do I know?' "
Koteas says the "Combat Hospital" pilot script helped him.
"On the page, he was written as a very military guy," he says. "There are preconceptions that you have of someone who has spent 25 years of his life doing that, so how do you get past those conventions? How do you navigate the waters of the huge personalities in a hospital, and how can you gain their respect?"
If "Combat Hospital" were to be deemed a more modern "M*A*S*H," Koteas would be thrilled. "That's on at noon here in Toronto, so I've been watching it when I'm not at work, and it's great."
Celebrity Scoop: Elias Koteas