Even if Rob Estes isn't supposed to know all "The Evidence" before viewers do, he can't resist peeking.
The "Silk Stalkings" alumnus portrays a police detective again in ABC's drama series that lets the audience in on major clues before the San Francisco cops played by Estes and Orlando Jones get them. Premiering Wednesday, March 22, the show also features Oscar winner Martin Landau ("Ed Wood," "Mission: Impossible") as a forensics expert who helps the investigators glean all possible information from the evidence.
"You get all four or five of the clues in the opening, and we get nothing," Estes explains. "It's a great challenge for an audience member. You get everything you need to solve the case." Actually, so does Estes, who confesses he reads each "Evidence" script in its entirety upon receipt. "I like to know what actually has happened, so that I can pick out each piece of information that's going to lead to something.
"Procedural shows don't excite me; there's so many of them now. When I sat down with Sam Baum and Dustin Thomason (the Harvard graduates and pals who created the series), they said, 'This is a procedural show, but it's also a show about two guys. There are no shows on television that explore the relationship between men the way it really is.' I love that. We talk like guys, and we react like guys really would react."
Estes also likes the occasionally grainy look of the show, which he feels evokes the style of movies like "Traffic." He replaced another actor after ABC bought the pilot, "which is always a good gig. You don't have to play around. It's just, 'Let's go to work.' The only tough thing was that we started by doing the exteriors for seven episodes in San Francisco, which was like doing a new episode every two days.
"To come in as the new kid on the block, it took me about a week to get acclimated," adds Estes, who already knew co-star Jones from a celebrity basketball league in which they both played. "I've been cast on shows that were already going and doing well, but this was the first time for me with something like this. This is so what I've been waiting for. It was nice of the network to put us in behind 'Lost,' which is one of the most coveted time slots. That says, 'OK. We're behind this.'"
Estes is quite familiar with series work through stints on "Melrose Place," "Suddenly Susan," "Providence" and daytime's "Days of our Lives." Still, he admits he had "pretty much turned my back on TV. "I had moved up to Seattle with my soon-to-be-ex-wife (actress and fellow 'Melrose Place' veteran Josie Bissett) three years ago, and I just did theater and raised my kids. 'The Evidence' was my first job interview back in L.A., and I almost didn't go."
Mention of television veteran John Wells as an executive producer of "The Evidence" made Estes reconsider. He recalls, "They were going to cast a character on 'ER,' and I went in then and met with John. I wasn't what he was looking for, and I think he knew that right off the bat. This project was the next time we crossed each other's radar. He's a very smart man, very good at what he does, and this is going to be interesting for him.
"This is not 'ER' or 'Third Watch' or a lot of the other things he's done. The great thing about him is that he's a great storyteller, and it'll be very exciting to see where he's going to take this."