The Boston Herald

February 13, 2000 Sunday

 Grilling Detective Bayliss;

Kyle Secor talks about NBC's 'Homicide' movie

 By BART MILLS

They're striking the "Homicide" set in Baltimore, but before all that blood-spattered and coffee-stained plywood goes into storage, there's one more heinous crime to solve. The cast of the lauded cop show, canceled last year after seven seasons on the air, has returned to the Chesapeake metropolis to tie up any remaining loose ends.

In "Homicide: The Movie" (airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on WHDH Ch. 7), the detectives' leader, played by Yaphet Kotto, has been shot while running for mayor. Gathering at his bedside and fanning out through the city to hunt for the shooter are members of his squad from the old days, such as Ned Beatty and Andre Braugher. Also appearing are those who made it to the show's curtain, like Kyle Secor, Clark Johnson and Callie Thorne.

Never a ratings winner, "Homicide" used to be pulled during ratings sweeps months. Now NBC is airing it in the middle of February sweeps in hopes that the masses will take a last look at what most critics called a classic series.

Kyle Secor, who was the show's central figure in its last season, says, "What made 'Homicide' work was that it was messy. There was no clear-cut moralistic view. The characters weren't necessarily good guys and bad guys, but guys who did what they had to do in order to survive." Secor's own character, Detective Tim Bayliss, evolved from an untrained neophyte to a bisexual Buddhist. He affected a philosophic detachment from his work until he found himself taking justice into his own hands in the series' final episodes. "I don't know if he'll go down in the annals of great Buddhist characters on TV," Secor says jokingly. "When the movie opens, he's been on a leave of absence for eight months because he's on conscience overload," Secor says. "Reuniting with Andre Braugher's character, who was his teacher, his brother, his lover, his God almost, he scratches that old scab of his low self-esteem. We come to a subtle sort of closure at the end."

Secor, 41, remains boyishly enthusiastic about "Homicide," which was the one big chance of his late-to-ignite career. The 6-foot, 5-inch actor, comfortable in a white T-shirt and jeans at a Los Angeles coffee shop, discusses his hyper-extended acting apprenticeship, the kind that makes most would-be actors give up and become clerks. "It took me seven or eight years before acting paid my rent," he recalls. "I delivered for a liquor store. I was a waiter, a really bad waiter. I taught yoga, which was my last regular job." Secor grew up near Seattle, the son of a Beech-Nut Life Savers salesman and a homemaker. "After high school I worked at Shakey's, and three years later my life was set up to become assistant manager. "Originally, my aspiration was to be in the Air Patrol, which is the Air Force's police, like MPs. The day before I was supposed to go in, they called and said my eyesight wasn't good enough for the Air Patrol, but I could be a Cargo Loader. But Cargo Loaders didn't have the same cool uniform, so I stayed a civilian and kept my job at Shakey's. "Those were good years," he insists. "I got to study kung fu in Hawaii. I learned about women. I did some good, juicy stuff. (Ed. Note- I don't think he is referring to cutting up pineapple) "Then I saw a friend in a play, 'Hello, Dolly.' I decided it was something I could do." After a few semesters at Green River Community College, Secor won a drama competition and took the $ 500 prize to Los Angeles. "I got a horrendous little apartment and went downhill from there," he says. "Once I paid $ 100 a month to sleep on a futon in a closet. Or I lived in my car. I slept at the Center for Yoga, where I taught. I stole from supermarkets, but I never slept on the street. What kept me going was the idea of having to go back to Washington without having done a thing, not even making a small divot here. When I first started getting work and I was able to get a credit card, I was 29 or 30."

Now, with a long-running series on his resume, he has no trouble working. Since finishing "Homicide," he romanced Neve Campbell on eight episodes of "Party of Five" earlier this season, and he has completed two films. "Beat" is about the early days of Beat Generation authors Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg. Secor plays a character who has an obsessive love for Lucien Carr, another writer in the Beat group. Courtney Love and Kiefer Sutherland are also in the cast. In "Endsville," he says, "I play the inept head of an inept cult. We're expecting an apocalyptic flood, and we try to get people to come aboard the ark, which we've found up in Poughkeepsie." When he was making "Homicide" eight months a year, he says, he and the rest of the cast found that "you couldn't live a normal life because we were the only game in town. I wasn't sad to leave and come back to Los Angeles, where you can be anonymous. "In seven years playing the same part, you get set in a routine. You can get rusty and start wondering if you still know how to act. Now I'm back in the loop. I feel like I'm starting all over again."