TV Guide

Wrong and Write

HE BOOKED PERPS ON HOMICIDE. NOW BROODING KYLE SECOR IS PREPPING BOOKS ON PARTY OF FIVE, AS JULIA'S EDITOR AND NEW LOVE

WRONG AND WRITE  by Ileane Rudolph

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Only a few years after he won the part of philosophical Detective Tim Bayliss on Homicide: Life on the Street, Kyle Secor lost almost everything. When he temporarily moved from Los Angeles to Baltimore, he pull all his earthy belongings in storage, only to discover a year later that his furniture, his artwork, even his personal journals had disappeared from his locker. Most people would wail and rail - and then call an attorney - but not the equally philosophical Secor. "It was on of the most liberating moments of my life," he says, as he relishes a pasta dish at his favorite Baltimore hangout, Margaret's Cafe Open. "It was a lesson in letting go of things."

It's a lesson the 41 year old actor did not forget this year, as the critically acclaimed drama that made him a star drew to a close. In fact, he felt the lesson so deeply that even before the series was cancelled, Secor had already decided to move on. "Bayliss had gone as far as he could, " says Secor, who was responsible for steering his alter ego into challenging story lines about everything from bisexuality to spirituality. "The character would not have evolved to who he was without Kyle's input," says Homicide's executive producer Tom Fontana, who describes Secor as "one of those wonderful actors who I can throw anything at, and he hits the ball out of the park."

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Secor's next turn at the plate is as book publisher Evan Stillman in the first eight episodes of this season's Party of Five (Tuesdays, 9 PM/ET).  Initially, the very serious Evan is Julia's (Neve Campbell) mentor; despite the almost 20-year age difference, she pursues him until he becomes her lover as well.

"Kyle's been a delight to work with, " says Campbell, "He's definately been inspiring in a lot of ways because he's a very talented actor."

On  camera, Secor has often played intense characters; off camera, he likes to enjoy himself. "Kyle has such a great loving spirit, and he also has a wonderful sense of humor about himself," says Fontana. "He's one of the few people who can take himself very seriously and still be a goofball at the same time."

Yet, says Secor, he didn't take  himself - or anyone else - seriously enough and, over time, that really began to bother him. "I took a look at my life and saw that for the most part I hadn't been of any help to anyone on this planet. I was basically a miserable person who just made money and had what I thought was fun. In actuality, it was an awful lot of lying, cheating, hurting people. But I thought there has got to be something else. If not, then I can't be on this planet much longer."

Secor felt himself heading into depression and decided to take action. He started practicing yoga and doing charitable work and gave up smoking, drinking and eating meat. When he returned to Homicide in 1996 after the summer hiatus, he says, he was newly focused and dedicated.

Such an existential crisis is not what he looked forward to growing up in Federal Way, Washington State. The youngest of three sons of a Beech-Nut salesman, the 6 foot 4 Secor was an avid basketball player who hoped to become an MP in the air force and then eventually open a martial-arts studio. His extreme nearsightedness short-circuited his military dream, and a touring edition of "Hello, Dolly!" made martial arts seem too tame. The day after he saw the show, Secor, who was then working in a pizza parlor, told his father he wanted to be an actor. That goal eventually shattered his youthful marriage to a woman he will only say is a "wonderful person" who didn't want to leave Washington. (Secor is still single, having recently ended a long-term relationship with a New York actress whose name he won't disclose.)

In 1981, he moved to Hollywood, determined to be a success. While he was waiting for his big break, Secor made ends meet by working as a "terrible waiter", a movie usher, and a housecleaner. "I didn't make a living as an actor for six years." he says, admitting that at one point, he lived in a walk-in closet.

His first TV acting job came in 1986, a three-month stint on the soap Santa Barbara, playing an ex mental patient. His first real break came a year later, when he landed a recurring role as an AIDS patient on St. Elsewhere. After several TV-movies and small parts in feature films, he landed Homicide in 1993.

This summer, after the show ended, he found himself, with no work lined up, driving to L.A. He stopped to spend time in Lowell, Massachusetts, and trace the life of his hero Jack Kerouac. Ironically, a few months later Secor was cast as an ill-fated hanger-on in the upcoming "Beat," a movie about Kerouac cohorts Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, which also stars Kiefer Sutherland and Courtney Love.

And he hasn't quite rid himself of the Baltimore detective. He'll be reprising the role in a Homicide TV-movie slated for the spring. He can't wait. "If they do one movie a year, maybe I'll just retire from anything else," he says. "And travel around the world." You almost believe him.