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Published: Tuesday, 11/1/2005

Male actors adjust to backup roles

With husbands becoming an afterthought on some TV dramas trading places with the portrayal of wives early in the history of the medium male actors are adapting to secondary status.

David Conrad plays the husband of Jennifer Love Hewitt s medium on CBS s Ghost Whisperer. At a CBS party in July, Conrad said he felt like he d have a larger role in this program than in his last series, Miss Match, in which he played a potential love interest opposite series star Alicia Silverstone.

On Miss Match, I was just a guy on the set. In this one they were paying attention to the character, he said. Even in the wardrobe fitting they were committing to it, which they hadn t before.

Even so, Conrad said, he doesn t expect to be with the series long-term.

It s like a hotel. Every five years they have to tear out all the furniture and put new furniture in to sell it, Conrad said. They re gonna need a new guy. I m sure they ll kill me off in two years. It makes sense. It s marketing. You bring in somebody else, like they did with Sarah Jessica Parker [and her roster of boyfriends] on Sex and the City.

Jake Weber plays Joe, husband of Patricia Arquette s Allison DuBois, the lead character on NBC s Medium. Because Allison and Joe have children, Weber has a larger role than the husbands on shows such as Ghost Whisperer and Close to Home.

Television has tended to marginalize one partner or the other. Either the woman is the lead and stuck with a dolt of a husband or a philandering husband, Weber said in July at an NBC party. What is interesting about this show is that even though she s a fierce presence, there isn t a sense of him being emasculated.

Even if Joe had a smaller role, Weber said, he d be satisfied.

I like being the support, he said. I was always the guy in the back of the class, and I enjoy not having to carry all the pressure of being front and center.

Even if male actors get frustrated by diminished roles, Conrad is quick to note they always have other outlets.

It totally feels like you re the sixth batter; you re the second string, more or less, he said. For me, I know I can do more than that, but I do it on stage, and this is what pays for it.

Rob Owen

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