'Practice' for real thing - Spader keeps eye on indies


James Spader didn't sign on to "The Practice" to become a big-name TV star.
He had been a highly recognizable film actor appearing in such movies as "sex, lies and videotape" and "Secretary," and was concerned that being in a mainstream TV series wouldn't give him the freedom to take on a quirky role.

"I didn't want to do this show if people weren't going to continue to allow me to do those things," Spader told the Daily News. Producer "David [E. Kelley] assured me that I'd still be able to play in the nether regions. That's proven to be true to a certain degree. I'm constantly trying to push it toward that."

But, six months into his run on the ABC drama as maverick attorney Alan Shore, Spader is a certified TV star, credited in part for reigniting a series that less than a year ago teetered on the edge of cancellation.And he's getting a lot of screen time. For instance, on tomorrow's episode, (Ch. 7, 10 p.m.), Spader will wrap up a three-week story arc that has Shore defend his best friend from a murder rap.

In Sunday's show, Spader will get heavy camera time, alongside a guest cast that includes veterans Jill Clayburgh, Ed Asner, Betty White and Patrick Dempsey.

"It's when David reaches further and further afield with Alan that I enjoy it the most," said Spader. "What's fascinating to me is playing with such dichotomy and opposites in the same character. That I love."

Off-screen, the story is spinning around Spader, as well.

ABC hasn't renewed "The Practice" for another season yet, leaving Spader's future uncertain, according to industry sources.

Earlier this week, ABC Entertainment TV group president Lloyd Braun sparked further speculation about the eight-year-old drama's fate after he told reporters network brass was talking with Kelley about developing another show that "will share some of the same blood" with "The Practice."

A spokeswoman for Kelley said no final decision has been made regarding the next season of "The Practice."

© By DONNA PETROZZELLO (DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER) New York Daily News Entertainment, March 6, 2004 (Thank you, Sulena!)