July 2002 - TV Times
Showbiz Inside Out
Simon Baker shares philosophies and tales of work on 'The Guardian'
By Jaqueline Cutler
In the restaurant at Manhattan's Four Seasons Hotel, where an iced tea costs as much as lunch in most places, the well- heeled patrons chat quietly. In the back of the room, a man who looks rather out of place slumps into a banquette.
Simon Baker, star of "The Guardian" that airs at 8pm Tuesdays on CBS, wears a faded black shirt, striped jeans and work boots. He drinks water by the carafe, and mostly goes unnoticed. But as he makes frequent trips to the rest-room, the mirrored walls reflect the stir he creates among the female patrons as he unassumingly walks by.
In an industry where being beautiful pretty much is a job requirement, the 32 year-old Baker is stunning. And as good as he looks on TV, he looks even better in person, with sun-streaked blond hair and aqua-blue eyes. "I'm on f-ing holiday, baby" he says in reference to his reddish beard.
Baker is on hiatus from playing Nick Fallin, the slick, clean-shaven corporate lawyer whose drug conviction landed him 1,500 hours of community service as a child advocate in lieu of jail time.
Earlier this year, Baker raised some eyebrows when he revealed that he doesn't use deodorant in a profile in People magazine, which included him in its issue showcasing the 50 most beautiful people in the world. His reasoning is that drinking enough water flushes out impurities, making toiletries unnecessary. Just after the issue hit the stands, Baker, who admits to being shy, appeared on "The View." The hostesses of the daytime TV series, who are anything but shy, sniffed his armpits. "That was charming" he says in a tone that leaves no doubt he was horrified.
Baker says he does not see himself as a sex symbol, regardless of how women react to him. "When I was younger, I was more concerned about the way I looked and my physical appearance," he says. "I've bred. I found my mate and I bred and the only concern I have about physical appearance these days is that I can't have too much of a beer gut because it hurts my back. I can't get out of shape for the job. I am what I am. I'm an actor and what comes along with that is a certain amount of kudos and public awareness. It is healthier to shift the focus away from yourself. The best thing you can do for your children is to give them your attention."
He and his wife, Rebecca Rigg, were traveling with their youngest, Harry Friday. Born in September, his middle name comes from the day of the week on which it was chosen. Harry's two older siblings, 8 year old Stella and 3 year old Claude, were home in Los Angeles.
Baker enjoys spending time kicking the ball around the yard with Claude, and happily reports that he's teaching Stella to surf. At the moment, however, he is delighted to be in Manhattan to attend "Top Dog/Underdog" starring his friend Jeffrey Wright.
"This place is buzzing because it has an epicenter," Baker says of Manhattan. "L.A. is a void. The focal point of L.A. is cumulative bank accounts. In Sydney, people walk around. You don't see people walking in L.A., unless they have a belt with water and all their little power accessories."
Baker misses the pubs, neighborhood coffee houses and community feel of his homeland. He speaks in a thick Australian accent that he manages to stifle when portraying Americans. Though born in Tasmania, he grew up in the country on the coast of New South Wales in Byron Bay. He's an accomplished swimmer, who used to compete in water polo. "I wouldn't be able to get my head above the water now," he says.
That was pretty much how Baker felt about work this year. "It's relentless," he says of "The Guardian". "It's five days a week, but Friday will bleed truly into Saturday. We shoot one hour every eight days. The first two to three weeks of the season, I had a headache constantly.
"There was so much to deal with it was just hurting my brain. I had brain aches. I thought I made a mistake, at times. I'm a realist. I really enjoy what I do. I made the decision to do what I do because I love being an actor."
Baker became interested in acting as a child, though it was not considered a manly profession in the tough neighborhood where he grew up. "I grew up in a male dominated era where guys were guys," he says. "The guys were going to become builders."
He had his share of working class jobs. "I worked with an electrician, and as a bricklayer, " he says. "I made pizzas. I sold time-shares. I was a cellar man (receiving keg deliveries at a pub)."
Baker has had no formal drama lessons, and acknowledges, laughing, that hawking time-shares was about as close to acting class as he got. He confesses he was sacked from that job for "being flippant."
Plays in high school eventually resulted in television roles in Australia. Six years ago, Baker came to the United States, where his first movie was "L.A. Confidential." "My first job was followed by a flurry of pretty ordinary movies," he says of "Judas Kiss" and "Secret Men's Business", among others. "But they were all extraordinary experiences on their own."
Baker is looking forward to continuing to play the complicated Fallin. He'd also like to direct at some point, but says, "I want to remain organic about it."
Taking a long swig of water, Baker reveals his personal goal is "to be able to have a good, solid, healthy relationship with my wife and children for the rest of their lives and my life."
And then he races off to the bathroom again.
Thanks to Kim for transcript.