His Other Badge Is 'Broken'

Times Staff Writer

Miguel Ferrer was having a damn fine cup of coffee at Art's Delicatessen, his favorite deli in Studio City.

"I live here," wise-cracked the son of Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney.

The restaurant was packed, but no one recognized Ferrer. Or perhaps the breakfast patrons were afraid to approach him. Maybe they thought he would be rude and sarcastic, just like Dr. Albert Rosenfield, the FBI pathologist he plays to dislikable perfection on ABC's "Twins Peaks."

Dressed in scruffy blue jeans and a denim jacket, Ferrer, 35, seemed like a normal, nice guy, though a somewhat sarcastic normal, nice guy.

"I want a half of grapefruit," he said playfully to the waitress. "And I want it heated ."

It was Ferrer's last day in Los Angeles before heading to Vancouver, Canada, to start filming "Broken Badges," which premiered last Saturday on CBS. The show features Ferrer as Beau Jack Bowman, a charming Cajun police detective who heads a unit of policemen suspended from the force for psychological reasons.

And for once, Ferrer is the good guy. "He's nice and also on the edge," Ferrer said. "I guess he makes up the rules, and getting the job done is the main thing. He's a liar and he's a thief."

"Broken Badges" also marks the first time Ferrer has been " the guy on the show, as opposed to the fourth or fifth banana," he said.

"I have never been in the No. 1 slot, as obnoxious as it sounds. I was always the sidekick or the comedy relief or the jerk. I am excited about doing something different."

Ferrer, though, has loved playing loathsome characters: "They are a ball to do, but then there are built-in limitations to playing those parts. Typecasting is very real."

Until 1987, Ferrer had never been out of a leather jacket in his career. "I was a biker or a heroin dealer or the guy who beats up old people or the hired killer," he said.

Then he auditioned for 1987's "RoboCop," eventually winning the yuppie villain role.

"I was actually asked to read for one of the gang guys in 'RoboCop,' " he said, "and when I got the script I said I would like to take a whack at this guy and the casting director agreed. Since 'RoboCop,' I have only been out of a suit a couple of times."

So what's he wearing on "Broken Badges"?

"It's a ma-a-r-rvelous ensemble," he said with a laugh. "I look fabulous."

The new series doesn't mean the end for Albert. The producers of "Broken Badges" have agreed to let Ferrer have time off if he is needed to report back to "Twin Peaks."

"That's very nice of them," he said. "They didn't have to do that."

Ferrer relishes his involvement with the cultish "Peaks." "I think it's so cool," he said. "Now I know my future is somewhat secure because 20 years from now I will be able to do 'Twin Peaks' conventions. I will never starve. I will never be homeless. I will be able to stay in the Hyatts."

And he has discovered the least likely people are Peakies. Just a few nights before, Ferrer's burglar alarm went off in the middle of the night.

"I didn't leave my bedroom," he said. "I sat there waiting for the cops to come. They came very quickly and they went through the house. It was a false alarm. I said to the cop, 'It was a scary thing to wake up at 2 a.m. with that siren going off in your ear.'

"And the cop looked at me dead straight and said, 'It would be a lot scarier if you wake up and find a 7-foot giant sitting on your bed.' I said, 'Oh, yeah.' And then I realized he was referring to 'Twin Peaks.' "

Though Ferrer was always interested in acting, it took him a long time to build up the confidence to follow in his father's footsteps. The elder Ferrer is best known for his Oscar-winning turn as the tragic long-nosed poet in 1950's "Cyrano de Bergerac," and as tormented painter Toulouse-Lautrec in 1952's "Moulin Rouge."

"My dad is pretty amazing and that can be an intimidating thing to try and do what he does so well," Ferrer said. "I couldn't just do it out of the box. It took me a while to become sure enough to try it out and be able to call my dad and say, 'Guess what? I am going to take a whack at what you do. What do you think?' "

His father was encouraging and supportive. "I guess I really didn't consider him to be anything but, but when I was younger I cared a lot more about what people thought of me," Ferrer said. "There were an awful lot of people who were friends and family members who said, 'Now he is going to be an actor! Sure!' They're not laughing now."

It was Ferrer's friend, actor Billy Mumy of the "Lost in Space" TV series, who gave Ferrer the acting bug. In the mid-'70s, Mumy, now 36, was a regular on the short-lived NBC series "Sunshine," and he asked Ferrer if he would like to play a drummer on an episode he had written. "I always say to my friend Mumy, ' You did this.' He is completely my mentor. I am merely the puppet."

The two also have written scripts for such TV series as "Swamp Thing," and they haunt comic book conventions. "We collect the old stuff," Ferrer said. "We go to these conventions and try and find these rare books."

Mumy, still an actor as well as a musician and artist, also has teamed with Ferrer to write comic books--they created the Marvel Comic book character Comet Man.

Now that Ferrer is starring in his own TV series, will he be able to find the time to pursue his writing career?

"You would be amazed," he said with a smile. "There's plenty of time."

"Broken Badges" airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on CBS. "Twin Peaks" airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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