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'Without a Trace' Star Eric Close Finds the Core of His Character

Since the early '90s, Eric Close has been working steadily in television. Like most actors, he worked his way up the ranks to bigger parts. He had early work on the soap opera 'Santa Barbara' and the drama ’Sisters.’ He starred in the short-lived, but cult hits ’Now and Again,' 'The Magnificent Seven' and ’Dark Skies.’

In 2002, all that hard work came together for Close, when he starred in the successful Sci-Fi channel mini-series 'Taken,' and he landed the role of FBI agent Martin Fitzgerald on ’Without a Trace.’ The gripping crime drama about the FBI New York Missing Persons Squad ends its fourth season in May and consistently ranks in the top five shows of the week in the Nielsen ratings.

In an interview with AOL Television editor Sean Doorly, Close chatted about the challenges his character has faced this season, his first star sighting back in the day and just saying no.



What have you learned about Martin this season?
He learned he has a strong support group around him. He can rely on his friends. These guys put their lives on the line when they are out in the field, and they have each others back. They also stepped up and got his back when he was down. He also learned more about his vulnerabilities. He grew up in a family where mediocrity was never tolerated. To fall into this addiction, and not intentionally, was a wake up call to Martin that he isn't invincible.

Do you think the sparks with Sam will ever be rekindled?
I don't know, but I would like Martin to have another romance of some sort. I don't know where they are going with that. Sure, I would love to see that, but I'm not sure it would be Samantha or someone else.

Your character grew up in a household that didn't tolerate mediocrity. What kind of household did you grow up in?
I grew up in a household with a lot of encouragement. We were expected to do well though. I'm more of an artistic sort of person, so school wasn't my strong suit, and my dad is a surgeon. So that was challenging. There was pressure to excel academically, so dad would be happy. My parents have always been supportive in whatever I wanted to try. This is a guy who went to school for 14 years to become a surgeon. Sometimes I think he looks at what I do and says, "Here he is running around and pretending, and he makes a nice living. My son never grew up and he is getting paid for it." (Laughs).

What drew you to working on 'Without a Trace?'
For me it always starts with the story and then the character. A lot of times, you will read a script, and you will see a great character, and then the story is horrible and then you say, “I don't want to be a part of that.” Whereas, in this case, everything came together -- you have solid stories and solid characters. I saw the potential to play a character that would start out in one place and in the life of the series go someplace else. We have seen Martin grow and go through a lot experiences through the years.

My mother- in-law recently visited me in Los Angeles, and the highlight of her trip was spotting you on the Warner Bros. lot. Do you remember your first celebrity sighting?
Oh, absolutely. I still get that. Clint Eastwood is shooting a new movie, and I got to see him -- that was cool. I'm a big fan of his directing. And way back when -- 13 years ago -- I got the chance to meet Tom Cruise. He is a great guy. I feel a little bad for him. He is getting clobbered. The person I met was very humble and very kind. I've always been a fan of his.

Hopefully my mother-in-law didn't jump out of the studio tour van.
(Laughs). No. Today Enrique Murciano and I were in Times Square and we were running around outside with Kathie Lee Gifford. People were everywhere. We started a conga line on Broadway. (Laughs.) But I said to Enrique, "Imagine if Brad Pitt was trying to walk down Times Square?" It would be mayhem. It would be crazy.

How does it feel to be on a hit show?
It feels good to be working. It gives me a chance to tell great stories.

Do you have any favorite current TV shows?
I like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and ’Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’

Do you have an all-time favorite?
I loved 'All in the Family' and 'The Munsters.' 'The Twilight Zone' is one of my all time favorites. I thought 'M.A.S.H.' was brilliant. I still think it was one of the greatest shows ever made. It covered the gambit -- political satire, drama, comedy. It was a brilliant show. I haven't seen anyone really recreate something like that.

You mentioned a few comedies in there. Would you like to do more comedies?
Oh, yes absolutely. I think it may come eventually. People develop perceptions of who you are by the characters you have played. Granted, I have played a lot of serious characters. People don't say, "Eric Close -- he would be perfect for this comedy." I have had a chance to do a little bit of comedy. I don't think I would be interested in a sitcom, but I love improv like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'

What do you do in your free time?
I really enjoy playing golf. I have worked at that a long time.

Are you good?
I'm a 12 handicap. 'Golf Digest' put me as number 33 out of a 100 celebrity golfers. I also love backpacking, hiking and skiing. I love spending time outdoors.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
One thing I would say is to not worry what other people say about you. I admire people who know who they are at a young age. It can go too far though and they become too self-centered and arrogant, so I don't mean that. There was a recent article in ‘USA Today’ about saying no and how we have become a culture of yes people. To avoid conflict, we say yes. I would like to go back and say to myself that it is OK to say no -- it doesn't mean you are not a good person.

Do you have more confidence now?
Oh absolutely, but I think this business is an insecure business. If you want a couple things, I think I would have also told myself to try harder in school. To make more of an effort in school and take advantage of opportunities that life offers. There were times when I was in USC and there were opportunities I didn't take advantage of -- like say trying out for the sailing team as opposed to partying and hanging out all the time and being a bum. (Laughs).