Not three minutes into the season premiere of "Numb3rs," David Gallagher robs a diner, steals a car and shoots a man in the chest.
"7th Heaven," this is not.
"The ['Numb3rs'] casting director, the first thing he said to me was, 'This role would really change your image, won't it?'" says Gallagher, who ended a long run on the family-friendly drama "7th Heaven" last spring. "I said, 'Yeah, that's what I'm looking for.' That's what I had been actively looking for, since I'd been auditioning off the show. Then this came along, and it was just perfect."
In the CBS crime drama's two-part season premiere (part one airs at 10 p.m. ET Friday), Gallagher and Kim Dickens ("Deadwood") play Buck and Crystal, a newlywed couple on a cross-country crime spree. She's in her 30s, he's 17, and she was his teacher before they became lovers and she suffered a break with reality.
The episodes are clearly inspired by the numerous stories about teachers falling for their students, the most notorious being that of Mary Kay LeTourneau (though, of course, murder and robbery wasn't part of the real-life story). Dickens, though, was careful not to judge her character.
"What worked for me was just to try to understand the characters and why the things they're doing make sense to them," says Dickens, who played whore-turned-property owner Joanie Stubbs on HBO's "Deadwood." "Then there's no judgment in it about whether I'm doing the wrong thing. Crystal doesn't really see that she is doing the wrong thing."
At least in Friday's episode, Dickens and Gallagher spend most of their time away from the regular "Numb3rs" cast, while FBI Agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) enlists his math-genius brother (David Krumholtz) to help predict the couple's movements and profiler Megan Reeves (Diane Farr) tries to understand what's driving Crystal. (The two storylines converge toward the end of the episode, with hints of more to come in part two.)
"It was interesting shooting a crime drama," Gallagher says. "Kim and I would go in and shoot first thing in the morning -- we'd enter the crime scene, kill people and get out of there. Then we'd wait while the other actors would go to the same location and [film] the investigation. ... It was like a tag-team scenario."
Filming two episodes back-to-back, and getting to shoot and blow stuff, up, made Dickens feel like she was "doing a little movie."
"I worked a lot with Diane Farr, who's just a phenomenal actress and person," she says. "By the time we were finished with episode two, I was like, 'Don't I get to come back?' I got a little attached to the part. A lot of times as a guest star, you're like the new kid at school. ... [But] it was a great experience."
Gallagher, too, says he had a great time, and he's hoping that his "Numb3rs" role will help show people that he has a little more range than what he showed in his 10 seasons on "7th Heaven."
"It's been 10 years that I've been doing this safe thing, and now there are no rules again anymore," he says. "It's a little discomforting, but ... it's nothing I wasn't absolutely looking forward to. Now I get to redefine what my career means."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times