"Admit it," challenges a friend.
"Would you be at all interested in the new TV series Crossing Lines if William Fichtner wasn't the star?"
"But he is," is my response. And as far as I'm concerned after watching the first two hours of this new European made thriller he's reason enough to keep watching.
The first year of Crossing Lines starring William Fichtner premieres on CBC-TV on Tuesday October 8 at 9 p.m.
When I reached the affable Cheektowaga native in Prague where he's busy filming the second season I reminded him I'd first interviewed him in Toronto at CTV's fall 2005 launch for a much heralded sci fi series (made by ABC) called Invasion.
Fichtner was nothing short of sensational as the curious and evil alien romancing and marrying Canadian co-star Kari Matchett in what I still consider one of the best TV pilots.
"The network kept asking 'When are the aliens coming?'," laughs Fichtner. And indeed after eight very spooky episodes the concept was watered down to yet another aliens in America tale.
With Crossing Lines Fichtner doesn't have to worry about network interference --this one is an all star European series with a gaggle of stars including a Canadian (Donald Sutherland), a French leading man (Marc Lavoine) plus imports from Italy (Gabriella Pession), Ireland (Richard Flood), Germany (Tom Wiaschiha) and France (Moon Dailly).
Together they have formed a crime fighting unit organized by the International Criminal Court tussling with bureaucrats in various jurisdictions.
We first glimpse Fichtner's character, the ruined and twitchy ex-New York cop Carl Hickman, picking up garbage in a run down Amsterdam circus,
Physically he is a ruin --one hand is completely worthless, pain from various beatings renders him hooked on morphine patches.
As one expects with Fichtner this character is compulsively watchable with his shambling gait, the hoarse, drugged voice, the look of complete ruin.
And yet the determined French leader of the unit Louis Daniel (Lavoine) needs this ex-NYPD cop badly because he remains a brilliant, intuitive detective.
Quickly recruited he is after a ruthless mass murderer who specializes in the torture and sadistic killings of vulnerable, young woman not just in one country but all over western Europe.
Look--this isn't another CSI episode --all neatly wrapped up in 42 minutes.
Crossing Lines is very European in never giving us what we want --a quick resolution.
Fichtner says "I fought at first not to do this because it would mean uprooting my family or even worse leaving them in America for months.
"But the creator Ed Bernero who is a former Chicago cop kept at me and I had to admit the character was completely captured --an American living in a different society. I mean this guy is so fractured, yet he still is among the best in his business."
Fichtner finally agreed and for Season Two which he's currently filming in Prague he brought his family over five weeks early so his son could start school on time.
When I told Fichtner it seemed to me that Lavoine had been expertly dubbed he chuckled. In such an acting smorgasbord it's essential North Americans unused to European actors understand one of the leads.
Fichtner says the same basic crew travels wherever the cast goes although there are tighter restrictions in France. "So far the second year we've filmed in Sofia. Now we're back in Prague."
Fichtner, 56, says he also gets to act with Donald Sutherland."Now that's something else. We talk a lot about the Montreal Expos although I insist on also talking about the Buffalo Sabres."
After Invasion ended Fichtner went right into another series and this time it was one of the most talked about of its time --Prison Break. Cast as the fugitive pursuer, the much misunderstood Alexander Mahone was right up Fichtner's alley of characters with many complex characteristics.
He's also made a habit of scene stealing in such films as Go (with Sarah Polley), Black Hawk Down,
Armageddon, Crash, Date Night and this season's The Lone Ranger.
And, yes, that was Fichtner without the aid of a stunt guy making a very dangerous jump from a moving train to a horse. "We wanted to do that without an edit so you'd know it is not faked."
"Yeah, I'm a character guy. I want to find that good journey. When there's the challenge I make a commitment. Which explains what I'm doing right now living in Prague."
CROSSING LINES PREMIERES ON CBC-TV TUESDAY OCTOBER 8 AT 9 P.M.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.