The Informant!'s Scott Bakula on Dream Roles, Fat Damon and That Legendary Playgirl Shoot
Scott Bakula specializes in characters that exude a throwback masculinity tempered by a warm, easygoing trustfulness. It's not surprising, then, that Steven Soderbergh hand-picked the star of Quantum Leap and Enterprise for the part of Special Agent Brian Shepard in his fact-based corporate caper, The Informant!. Shepard is a good-natured lawman investigating a lysine price-fixing scandal, to whom it quickly becomes apparent that his star witness -- played by a doughy Matt Damon with demented abandon -- isn't exactly working with both cornholders intact. We talked to Bakula about the risks and rewards of playing the straight guy, his not-so-secret identity as an accomplished song and dance man, and the legendary magazine shoot that follows him wherever he goes.
You were a great Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls at the Hollywood Bowl this summer.
You got to see it?
I did, on a Saturday night.
Well, thanks. That was probably our best night. Sunday's wacky cause you start during daylight. So the first hour everybody's looking at each other. I'm looking at the audience, they're looking at me.
Oh yeah, they're eating. Normally you can't see that. But in the light you're aware, and they're aware that you're aware.
It's like the world's biggest dinner theater.
[Laughs.] It is! But then the sun goes down and everybody goes, phew, OK. But it's pretty great. I've been lucky enough to do a few things there, and you feel such history. It's such an honor to be asked.
It might surprise people to learn that you got your start on Broadway.
Yeah. I left my hometown of St. Louis and I went to New York and I lived there for ten years. A lot of people don't know that I'm a singer -- that's my thing, really.
I guess you're one of the rare actors claimed by both musical lovers and sci-fi fans.
[Laughs] There's not a huge list there, you're right.
How did you come to The Informant!?
I had never met Steven before, I didn't know Matt. So I didn't go through those channels. One of the producers on it, Greg Jacobs, who's done 17 films with Steven and was his First Assistant Director on many of those as well, is a friend of mine. Our kids went to school together for a few years, and we coached soccer and baseball together. So I get this call from my agent, he says, "Are you sitting down?" And I said, "Yes. I'm driving." He says, "You might want to pull over." "What's going on?" "You're going to be the number two guy in the new Soderbergh movie with Matt Damon."
Obviously, I was shocked and thrilled. And he says, "Subject of course to you reading the script." And I said, "I'm pretty sure I'll be OK." So I asked him how it happened, and he said, "Greg called me. We've been working on this for a few months, and because he knew you, he asked that I not talk to you about it. In case it didn't work out, he didn't want it to be any kind of problem with your friendship." So I knew nothing. Both of them kept it from me until I got an offer. It was a great way to get a job, but of course I yelled at both of them, saying, "C'mon! We could have talked about this! If things were getting hairy I would have met Steve, I would have done anything I needed to do!