Homicide's masterminds find new life on the street with UPN's rookie cop show.
March 17, 2000
By Bruce Frett
Picture Editor Denise Sfraga

The crew of UPN's new police drama, The Beat (premiering March 21), are heeding the siren call of New York City. As cocreators Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana shoot in front of a church in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, the screaming sound of a real‑life NYPD car interrupts the scene. "Show‑offs," Fontana cracks. "You know they did that just for us."

The big shots behind NBC's deceased Homicide: Life on the Street are returning to TV as partners in the crime genre, but they swear The Beat won't feel like a rerun. It follows a pair of young uniformed officers (Mark Ruffalo and Derek Cecil) as they pound the Big Apple pavement ‑but the show gives as much focus to their messy personal lives as to their profession. "It'll be an honest portrayal of cops," promises Fontana. "Let's face it ‑I don't want to get stopped by some New York cop who's pissed off because of the show. I've got enough problems."

NYPU DEUX (1) "Derek is low‑key, and Mark is more volatile," explains Levinson (left) of the chemistry between relative unknowns Cecil (right) and Ruffalo "It's like instruments in an orchestra: You want different qualities."

(2) "She could just be the serious doctor, but I see her as bubbly," says Poppy Montgomery (Relativity), who comes down with cold feet as Cecil's med‑student fiancée.

(3) "if we deliver a 5 share, they'll be dancing at UPN," says Fontana (left, with Levinson). "We'd like to give them their first big hit‑other than Smackdown!"

(4) Ruffalo's and Cecil's characters "irritate the s--- out of each other," offers Fontana. "Unlike Adam‑12, this isn't about guys who get along every single moment."

(5) As Ruffalo's hotheaded girlfriend, You've Got Mail's Heather Burns (left) torches his apartment in the pilot. "People may call her crazy," Burns admits. “She has a very short fuse."