It's dawning on him

Taye Diggs awakens to the challenge of his big "Day Break" on ABC.

By Greg Braxton
Times Staff Writer

THE stakes couldn't be deadlier for Brett Hopper, the police detective at the center of "Day Break," ABC's new thriller. Hopper has been framed for murder, his loved ones are in jeopardy, and he's caught in a dangerous cycle where he keeps living the worst day of his life over and over again.

The arrival of the drama tonight marks perhaps the riskiest gamble of the television season as ABC hopes that "Day Break" will captivate viewers until "Lost," which concluded the first part of its season last week, returns in February. ABC and Touchstone Television, the producers of "Day Break," are well aware of the hazards, and they have been addressing them with a multimillion-dollar, saturation-level promotional campaign of TV spots, theater trailers, bus placards, billboard and online elements such as an exclusive "Day Break" game available on ABC.com. The network is giving the two-hour premiere of "Day Break" a prime slot — following the expected blockbuster finale of "Dancing With the Stars."

Still, the show's challenge is formidable as it will kick off as an unknown in the face of growing competition from CBS' already potent "Criminal Minds," only to be hit near the end of its run by the behemoth "American Idol." The drama will also face off against the third-season debut of NBC's "Medium." And, in a twist, the Nov. 22 episode of "Medium," Allison (Emmy winner Patricia Arquette) relives the same horrific day over and over again — a story line NBC says was hatched ages ago.

Much of the "Day Break" burden rests on Taye Diggs, a familiar face yet hardly a household name or a star with a large following. And if that weren't pressure enough, Diggs is breaking ground as one of the only African Americans in broadcast history to headline a prime-time weekly dramatic series on a major network.

If the stress of all this is getting to Diggs, it's certainly not evident as he stretches out on a photo studio couch, a gray T-shirt and fashionably shabby jeans on his muscular frame. He still has the assured confidence — and the impossibly white smile — that launched his career in 1998 as the sexy young Jamaican lover who steals the heart of an older woman (Angela Bassett) in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." Diggs is not sweating the big stuff.

"I don't know if I'm choosing to be blissfully ignorant or what, and whenever I get asked about it, I forget that a lot of this is on my shoulders," says the 34-year-old actor. "I'm just about doing the work, and everything else is just a byproduct. The fact that there's so much press, that I'm No. 1 on the call sheet, that I'm a black man — all of that stuff comes secondary to me. To me, this is just a really good gig."

Executive producer Matthew Gross says he couldn't be more pleased with Diggs or with ABC's full-court press: "We have an outstanding show, and ABC has shown incredible confidence in us," said Gross. "Taye is just phenomenal."

But will "Lost" fans embrace the fantastic premise — think "Groundhog Day" only far darker — of "Day Break," the latest in the stream of new serialized dramas that have drawn mixed reactions from audiences? While "Heroes" and "Ugly Betty" have scored with huge ratings, most other new serialized shows, including "Kidnapped," "Vanished," "Smith," "Six Degrees" and "The Nine," which will follow "Day Break" starting next week, have been yanked or are struggling.

Despite the promotion, it won't be easy for "Day Break" to find its footing. The show's second episode will air on Thanksgiving eve, a historically low viewing night for TV watching. Meanwhile, "Criminal Minds" is gaining strength in its second season, becoming the only scripted series competition to beat "Lost" in total viewers. "Criminal Minds" earned nearly 17 million viewers and 17.6 million viewers in the last two weeks, while "Lost" attracted just more than 16 million and 17.2 million. CBS declined to say whether it plans any special strategy to capitalize on the momentum.

And then there's Diggs, whom ABC is positioning as a major star. Even Diggs admits he has not had roles that measure up to the hype which followed his splashy debut — his starring roles have mostly been in romantic comedies targeted for black audiences ("The Best Man," "Brown Sugar"). And his only series, UPN's "Kevin Hill," in which he starred as a hotshot New York entertainment lawyer who suddenly finds himself the guardian of his late cousin's 10-month-old daughter, was a flop.

The creative forces behind "Day Break" downplay the pitfalls.

Jeff Bader, ABC executive vice president of program scheduling, said that he was not that concerned about the showdown between "Day Break" and "Criminal Minds." "The audience for 'Criminal Minds' is older," he said. He added that there is "plenty of room" in the time period for two hit shows, and that original episodes of "Day Break" would be facing off against a lot of repeat episodes of other series during the holidays.

Bader and others also said they are not worried about the risk of debuting another serialized drama. "We know we have serialized elements, but we also have self-contained elements," said Paul Zbyszewski, creator and co-executive producer of the series. "The show does not rise and fall on being a serial drama."

The advertising on the series has been almost constant, with "Day Break" getting the same intense push that launched "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." "At the end of the day, we're trying to get as many eyeballs as we can for that first episode," said Mike Benson, the network's senior vice president of marketing, advertising and promotion. "We're trying to reach 90% of our target audience, which is the 18-to-49 demographic."

He would not specify how much ABC is spending on the campaign, though rivals estimated the cost at around $6 million. Said Benson: "We're putting our resources behind the show because the quality is there. We're also in a position where we're doing well, and we want to continue to do well, to remain competitive. Having a show like 'Day Break' work is critical for us, but we're spending our money in all the right places."

Additionally, Diggs' lack of headline credentials is not necessarily a disadvantage. Some of TV's recent hits — "Heroes," "Lost," "Jericho" and "Ugly Betty" — feature unknown performers or stars without huge followings (America Ferrera, Skeet Ulrich). And Kiefer Sutherland was just another reliable young actor in town before "24" transformed him into a major Hollywood star.

Diggs believes his fans will be drawn to "Day Break": "I'm blessed and fortunate enough to have a certain amount of fans who like me…. For people who are into me, they will be excited to see Taye Diggs do this different type of thing. For the people who aren't necessarily into me, it's an interesting premise."

The actor is not shy about confronting critics. Last summer during a Television Critics Assn. news conference, he spoke out, apparently fed up with the constant inquiries from reporters.

"You'll have to excuse us if we come off as a little sarcastic or maybe defensive … but we're not dumb. I'm Taye Diggs. I wouldn't sign up for [bad TV]," Diggs said during the rant.

Looking back on the session, Diggs says now the "I'm Taye Diggs" comment was meant as a joke. But he doesn't back down from lashing out against the TV writers.

Diggs said: "It wasn't a mistake that I got this role. I know how the game works. I'm saying, 'Trust us. There's a lot of garbage on TV. I'm here and I want to answer intelligent questions.' I did have a bit of an attitude and I don't take it back one bit."

He paused, then flashed his trademark smile. "It's a smart show, and they should be asking smart questions."

The actor is much higher on "Day Break" than his last TV series outing. "I feel far better taken care of than I was at UPN. They didn't have as much experience under their belt, and we were always asking for more. And the quality of writing here is of a different caliber."

But only if "Day Break" is a hit will Diggs finally relax. "If it's a success, I'll probably take the time to pat myself on the back and say this was something worth congratulating myself on. But right now it's all about staying the course."

A New Acting `Break' for Taye Diggs

The Associated Press

GLENDALE, Calif. — "Hey, man, look. It's you," one of the producers says, handing Taye Diggs a copy of the National Enquirer.

Inside is a full-page ad for "Day Break," featuring the actor, buffed and stoic. Diggs' eyes light up. "I'm simply too excited," he says. But right now, just days before the show's premiere, the 34-year-old isn't imbibing the hype.

"I just don't want to get my hopes up too high for fear of them being smashed to the pavement," he says in a momentary respite on a sound stage in this Los Angeles suburb. "I have a good feeling about it. I have a good feeling."

ABC's also optimistic about "Day Break." The high-concept thriller is replacing "Lost" for 12 weeks beginning Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. EST with a two-hour premiere. Diggs stars as Brett Hopper, a cop who must relive the same day over and over in order to clear himself of murder. Think "Groundhog Day" meets "24."

It's Diggs' latest TV turn since his short-lived run as a lothario lawyer in "Kevin Hill," which aired in 2004-2005 on the now-defunct UPN network. "We were considered a black show, and (UPN) wanted to go in a different direction," he says.

Diggs, too, has been trying to go in a different direction and break out of the black box.

"After college, I realized I could be successful at this because Spike Lee was coming out," says Diggs, a native of Rochester, N.Y., where he lived with his four siblings and his mom, a student of theater who inspired his acting aspirations.

"On TV, there was always the black friend and I thought, `OK, I can be that guy.'"

Then came his breakout role as Angela Bassett's young Jamaican lover in 1998's "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."

From there, he appeared in the urban romantic comedies "The Wood," "The Best Man" and "Brown Sugar." He also landed mainstream parts in the Oscar-winning "Chicago" and the big-screen rendition of "Rent," reprising his role from the 1996 Broadway hit where he met his wife, actress Idina Menzel.

"Day Break" is his first role as an action lead. "It's the kind of thing where you want to do something different and stretch your muscles," he says, "and at the same time, it's good for the cats in the industry, and the public, to see you in a different light."

But Diggs also acknowledges that it's not all about him, that there could be a down side for black actors if the series is successful.

"African American folks, we're not yet in the position of power," he explains. "If this show were to succeed, white folks could just sit back on their laurels and say, `Oh well, he's the one. We don't need to work with anybody else.'

"If every black dramatic actor were to fall off the face of the Earth, people would mourn Denzel and Morgan Freeman. But they would still have the Tom Cruises. Until we get to a point where we can control things in Hollywood, and I'm confident we'll get there, we're still in a position where we kind of have our hands out."

Still, Diggs was the actor the "Day Break" producers came to first. "I approached him long before the script was done. I just felt he was an action star in waiting," says executive producer Matthew Gross.

"Certainly he's got the physique and the fortitude to be an action star," Gross continued. "But there's a sensitivity to him. You really feel for his predicament. People are going to see a broad range of Taye as an actor."

But even casting some of the biggest marquee names hasn't been enough to bring audiences to this season's plethora of complex, serialized shows.

"The bottom line is it's not about Taye Diggs. It's about `Day Break,'" says MediaWeek columnist Marc Berman. "He certainly is an asset, but I think ABC made a mistake in scheduling. They would have been better starting the fall with `Day Break' and (returning) `Lost' in midseason.

"To take an established hit, put it on for six weeks, and take it off until January may cause some bad feelings," Berman continues. "And the audience may go check out CBS' `Criminal Minds' because that show is really heating up now."

Says executive producer Jeffrey Bell: "If the `Lost' audience gives us an opportunity, they'll enjoy our show. We're different from `Lost,' but if you like puzzles, there's a lot to love. You're going to get a satisfying conclusion, we believe, to this day."

The following article appeared in the June 30/July 7, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine


The following article appeared in the November 2005 issue of Premiere Magazine

The following article appeared in the November 2005 issue of Upscale Magazine


The following article appeared in the February/March 2005 issue of Movieline's Hollywood Life Magazine


The following article appeared in the January 16, 2005 issue of TV Guide Magazine


The following article appeared in the November 22, 2004 issue of Jet Magazine


The Sly Charm Of Taye Diggs

On UPN's 'Kevin Hill,' The Actor Flashes His Own Brand of Charisma

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer


Taye Diggs is caught between two love interests, and apparently, he's busted. Totally busted. In for some serious grief.

"Oh, you're just a stuttering bumpkin."

"You're so, 'I'm caught! I'm caught!' "

"That is just so wrong!"

In the scene they just ran through, being filmed, Diggs's character -- lawyer and single parent Kevin Hill of the UPN show by the same name -- has run into one woman he's dating while out walking with another. On the first take, Diggs hems and haws his way through his predicament, employing shrill laughter and some overnervous body language that, his co-stars insist, would be a dead giveaway to any real woman getting two-timed by her man.

"No woman would buy that," teases actress Leila Arcieri, who plays the lawyer girlfriend, Monroe McManus.

"You'd be so busted," chimes in Lisa Marcos, who plays the actress girlfriend, Evelyn Cruz. Both of them are laughing up a storm.

Cornered, Diggs starts to work the situation. Clearly, it's time for the charm. For the patented Diggs smile. For the big baby browns. For that little-boy innocence.

"What do you mean?" Diggs says, his eyes widening. Sure, he wants to know how women would read the situation. But he's going to have a little fun with them, too.

"You're saying you'd just assume? You'd just assume?" he continues. "It could have been a client. It could have been somebody I used to hook up with a long time ago. It could have been -- "

He goes on and on, until Arcieri is helpless.

"Okay, okay," she says, succumbing. "I would trust. I would trust."

Diggs smiles to himself, satisfied.

But on the next take, he plays it much more cool.

This is life for Diggs nowadays: marathon shooting days, endless rounds of promotional interviews, the constant pressure of headlining a new drama on a network that has banked on his box-office appeal to bring it some new buzz -- and a broader viewership.

"He's the bionic man," director Arlene Sanford says while shooting a scene of Episode 8 on the show's set, near the shores of Lake Ontario . "As in, he works 16 hours a day and he's in every scene and he doesn't complain about it, and he's prepared, and he takes direction.

"Oh, and he's handsome. In case you didn't notice."

So far, all that's working: The show, which airs at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, debuted to an audience of 3.9 million, an overall increase of 51 percent from the same time slot the previous year. In the demographic representing women 18 to 34, viewership was up 210 percent.

"That's Taye Diggs!" laughs Christina Hendricks, who plays Diggs's colleague Nicolette Raye. "Who doesn't want to watch Taye Diggs for an hour? Every time I say I work with Taye Diggs, girls are like 'Oh my god! What's he like?' "

Her answer is standard: He's fabulous. As charming in person as he is on-screen. Sorry, she says, but no dirt to report here. The set of "Kevin Hill" has the best working atmosphere she's ever experienced.

"He gives it out good, and he takes it good, so there are a lot of jokes and laughter on the set," Hendricks says. "He sets the tone for how everyone is because he has such a good attitude."

Like that morning the crew filmed on Adelaide Street -- which is doubling for a New York boulevard -- and he, Arcieri and Marcos filled filming breaks with a whole lot of raucous back-and-forth, prompting Diggs to break them up with this one: "It's me, baby. I'm so chocolaty sweet. It's fun being around me, seeping into your bloodstream.''

"The thing about Taye is, if he were really my man and that happened, he just might be able to charm me out of it," Arcieri says later, recalling the earlier scene. "He flashes that smile and those big brown eyes and he just might get away with it."

Diggs's winning smile and big brown eyes -- and a few other features -- first became a sensation with his breakthrough role as the hot younger man who gave "Stella" her groove back in the 1998 film starring Angela Bassett as an over-40 divorced businesswoman who falls in love on vacation in Jamaica. Since then, Diggs, 33, has become a staple of black romantic comedies ("The Best Man," "Brown Sugar") while also mixing in cameo parts in the likes of the Oscar-winning film "Chicago" and the Emmy-winning show "The West Wing."

There are no serial killers on his rιsumι. No action heroes. He generally doesn't like to play against type. "Kevin Hill" fits that mode.

"I wanted to do something that I thought could work, and be a hit, but would also allow me to be me and do the one thing that I think people like to see watching Taye Diggs," he says. "There's that brand 'Taye Diggs.' "

Which would be?

"Hmmm," he says, rubbing his chin. "A combination of humor. Of sophistication. Of charisma, I guess?"

Somehow, the way he says it, it doesn't sound conceited. Maybe it's because he has just taped a scene in which he dances a client through the courtroom -- hips swiveling to a few salsa steps, hands sliding over the small of her back, his eyes locked on hers . . . all other eyes locked on him.

"Is that too sexy for UPN?" Sanford wonders aloud after one particular take.

Humor? Sophistication? Charisma? Guilty on all counts. Talk to the women on "Kevin Hill" and they'll say he's got all of that -- on- and off-screen. The premise of "Kevin Hill" -- and one of the key reasons the script appealed to Diggs -- is what happens to the life of a hip, single urban lawyer when he inherits the infant child of a beloved cousin who has died. The answer: He gets a nanny, downsizes to a family-friendly law firm and has a much, much harder time with the logistics of his life.

It also means lots of "daddy" time, so Diggs has many scenes with his "daughter" -- who has a way of reaching up and pulling on his lips.

"Ohhhh, she loves him," gushes Kate Levering, a friend of Diggs who plays opposite him as attorney Veronica Carter. "And he's dying to have a baby."

Yes, the love affair is mutual. Diggs has baby lust. Bad. Bring up the subject of little "Sarah" and he all but swoons.

"This baby we have, she's just so cute," he says, closing his eyes as if he needs to remember the look and feel of her. "This baby makes it seem like it would be great to have her around constantly. It's supposed to be hard work, but this baby makes me feel like it would be easy."

He opens his eyes again.

"But maybe I'm just being ignorant."

Either way, he's ready. At the moment, though, that's not all that realistic. Diggs's wife of nearly two years (and girlfriend of six before that) is actress Idina Menzel, who won a Tony this year for her starring role as Elphaba the witch in the Broadway musical "Wicked." So he's hinted, but he's well aware the timing isn't great.

"She knows it, and she definitely wants to have children, but right now she's focusing on her own career," he says. "So I'm trying to be patient and respectful. But she knows whenever she's ready, I'm there."

The couple -- who met while working on the Broadway production of "Rent" -- currently operate on a complicated schedule. He tapes Monday through Friday. She performs Tuesday night through the Sunday matinee. So every Saturday morning, Diggs flies from Toronto to New York to spend two days with Menzel, who then flies back with him to Toronto on Sunday night and stays until Tuesday morning.

"In some ways, it's good," Diggs says. "When we see each other, we want to be there. And I always feel good when I see her."

Still, he says, this commuting thing can't go on forever. He smacks his palm on the table for emphasis. His dressing room is done mainly in red, with a bed for midday napping, and multiple photographs, many of Menzel. There she is kissing Diggs, there she is at their wedding in Jamaica, there she is winning her Tony earlier this year. Diggs calls that night the best moment of his life.

"That will probably change when I have children," he says, "but it surpassed the wedding day even."

His wife, Diggs says, would say that his best quality is that he's still a kid, and his worst quality . . . is that he's still a kid. Which, obviously, would have to change -- at least a little -- if he had one of his own.

"Absolutely," he says. "But the truth is, in life what matters is how you relate to people, and I'm really good at that. With my child, I'll be at the soccer games, and I'll be there to explain how life is. And when it comes to opening a bank account, he can ask someone else."

There's a knock on the door. Break's over. The bionic man is needed again.

Back on the set, Diggs's character is about to get thrown in jail for contempt of court, and Sanford is laughing as he makes an exaggerated gesture to the bailiff before getting hauled away. "Kevin Hill" is an hour-long drama, but it's suffused with humor -- sort of like "Ally McBeal," on which Diggs had a recurring role -- and that strongly appealed to the actor. That, and the fact that his character plays against the stereotype of the absent black father.

"That was a big part of it," he says during another break, the crew re-lighting the set. "That is just so great. Every time people turn on the show and see a black man taking care of a child -- not that it's easy -- and he's also a cat who has an urban feel, but still can carry himself in the world of law. He can code-change, which is what a lot of people have to do. It's something people need to see."

Diggs grew up in a traditional two-parent family, the oldest of five children raised in Rochester, N.Y. Because both of his parents worked at various times, he helped care for his younger siblings, hence his immediate comfort level with the baby on set -- he has, after all, handled a few diapers in his lifetime.

"I was a dweeb," he says. "I had glasses, and because I always played sports, the glasses were always broken. I was kind of insecure. Not romantically inclined. I saw that there was a definite difference between me and the cool people."

That was in junior high. Under pressure from his mother, he attended a high school for the performing arts, where all that mattered was talent, and he immediately felt more at home. He went on to Syracuse University to study theater, graduated, and did what most aspiring actors do: He moved to New York.

"I was kind of naive," he says. "I just went where people told me to go. Go to the city, get an agent, find a place to live, get a survival job, and audition."

His survival job was host at a Pizzeria Uno. His first real role was in the musical "Carousel."

The offer to play Winston Shakespeare in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" -- the role was written for someone much taller (Diggs is 5 feet 10) -- came as a total shock.

"I was unbelievably ecstatic and there was no one I could share it with," he says. "My girlfriend at the time [Menzel] was recording an album. A lot of my friends were out of town and my mother wasn't home. I left a bunch of messages. I remember jumping on my bed."

That film, which included a much-discussed shower scene, made Diggs a familiar face and an immediate sex symbol.

"That part was fine," he says, the smile spreading across his face. "It never got to the point where I was Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, so that part was kind of fun. Yeah. That part was okay."

After "Stella," Diggs signed up with the powerful Creative Artists Agency and waited to become the next Matt Damon -- which is what he was told would happen by an agent at the time. It didn't materialize exactly that way.

"I rose to the top of the list, but I rose to the top of the black people list, which is always going to be below the white people's list," he says. "And I didn't think that existed, because of the way I was raised. My high school was integrated. I always dated all different types of girls; the parts [at school] were not black or white."

He didn't mind, though, being typecast as the romantic-comedy guy, as opposed to being looked at for tough-guy roles or action hero movies. When "Kevin Hill" goes into hiatus, he'd love nothing more than to do a big, sappy date movie.

Unless, of course, someone in Hollywood gambles on another big-picture musical like "Chicago."

"Don't get me started!" he says, professing his love for musicals. "I want to dance and sing and act. There aren't that many actors out there who can do all of that, straight up."

He could, of course, go back into theater. But although theater is his first love in terms of performing, he likes the celebrity -- and the paychecks -- that come with being in television and film. And so sometimes there have been lulls as he has carefully tried to diversify his career. During one of those times, Menzel was working and so was his good friend Steven Pasquale (now on FX's "Rescue Me"), so he started hanging out with Pasquale's girlfriend -- who at the time happened to be Levering.

"We had our routine," Levering says. "Taye is a health nut, so he'd come over with his chicken breast and protein shakes. And I was like the boy -- I'd order all this food. We'd watch reality television and just laugh."

Apparently even endless hours watching Diggs pick at his food while dressed in sweats does not make one immune to his charms.

There is a hole in Diggs's head. A crater, really. This is problematic, seeing as how the day before, when several of the other scenes for this episode were shot, his head was its normal, smooth, well-rounded self. It also messed with the start of Diggs's day.

"I was shaving and I was trying to be expedient," he says, sighing. "It was such an awful feeling. It wasn't a nick; it was a piece. It made me feel anxious. I didn't feel cool, and for this role, that didn't feel good."

But it's late afternoon now, and he's getting over it. The magic makeup woman has made the red crater disappear -- at least from camera distance. And it was a good morning, filming on location with Arcieri and Marcos. Nothing like a little on-set teasing to get the day really rolling.

"That's me," he says, when asked about giving the actresses grief. "And it's all women, for the most part. I'm just surrounded by unbelievably attractive women all day on this show."

So how does Menzel feel about that?

"She's the anti-girlfriend," he says. "Always very cool about me hanging out with the guys, having boys' time. She's unbelievably respectful of privacy, being friends with ex-girlfriends, having female friends."

And he reciprocates. At least he tries to. There was, after all, that stint when she was filming "Ask the Dust" on location with one of Hollywood's bad boys.

"Ohhh, that movie with Colin Farrell," he says. "I was worrying, staying up late, got [ticked] at her. I assume it's just all work. But people get jealous. Of course. You just don't know."

He laughs then, as if none of it is all that serious. His mantra, he says, is innocent until proven guilty. Did you see anything? Nope? Then you've got nothing. Hey, it could have been a client, it could have been somebody he used to hook up with, it could have been . . .

"I'm pretty good, I have to say," Diggs says, smiling slyly. "I haven't often found myself in a position where I've had to charm the pants off people, but I can. I'm an actor, I should be able to charm the pants off people."

That's how he plays it.


The following article appears in the August 30, 2004 issue of Newsweek Magazine

Diggs Tries Small Screen in UPN Drama

For The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Taye Diggs says he used to be an "ugly duckling." "No one believes it, but I was kind of very thin, very insecure, big glasses," says the now buff star of UPN's new drama "Kevin Hill."

Diggs says his transformation into the proverbial swan was a slow process that started when he went to a performing arts high school.

"There, it was great because it didn't matter what you looked like, how much money you had, how good you were at sports. If you had (acting) talent you were considered," he said, "so that's where I got a little confidence going."

Later, after earning a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Syracuse University, Diggs got eye surgery that allowed him to dump the specs and hit the gym to sculpt his body.

The results have made him a heartthrob in movies such as "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," "The Best Man" and "Brown Sugar." Women swoon over him, but he insists on pointing out his appearance still has flaws.

"I didn't think I was a short person, until after `Stella.' But then lots of women who approached me would say `Oh, my God, you're so short, you looked so much bigger in the movies,'" Diggs sighs.

Nobody's likely to complain about that when the 5-foot-9-inch actor hits the small screen in "Kevin Hill," which premieres 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

"A lot of people had been looking to lure Taye to television. He's such a great looking guy and very charismatic actor," says executive producer Nancy Cotton.

Diggs, 32, plays flashy bachelor lawyer Kevin Hill, whose lifestyle takes a sharp turn for the more complicated when he inherits Sarah, an orphaned 10-month-old.

Being a parent changes not just his private life and personal values, but also his work schedule, as he downscales from a big corporation to a small legal firm staffed by women.

Although the show's baby bit seems familiar, series creator Jorge Reyes insists he was inspired by the experience of a male cousin who was left to rear a child alone, as well as his own stint working at a women's magazine.

The lead character was not specifically conceived as being black; Reyes says he wanted to write a script that was "diverse, but colorblind." Only minuscule changes were made after Diggs was cast.

"What we all wanted to do, and what Taye then wanted to do, was to make a show that was multicultural, but not about racial differences," says Cotton.

An hour drama with a black lead is a rare thing on network television, but Diggs says he tries not to think of that as added pressure. His main reason for signing on was simply that "Kevin Hill" appealed to him.

"It's a character with many layers and layers. There's a reason why Kevin always has to appear to be ultrasharp," he says. "He's obviously compensating for something ... The baby is going to slowly tear him apart. He won't be able to hold it together and that will force him to shed that skin and look inside himself."

Jon Seda plays lawyer Dame Ruiz, Hill's best friend, and Patrick Breen is George Weiss, a gay nanny. Michael Michele is Jessie Grey, the single-mom boss of the feminist law firm, which is staffed by Nicolette Raye (Christina Hendricks) and Veronica Carter (Kate Levering). Five babies alternate playing Sarah.

Diggs says he's isn't worried about playing a womanizer. "I'm a red-blooded male ... I'm looking forward to experimenting with Kevin's lifestyle," jokes the actor, who's married to Idina Menzel (Tony winner as the young witch Elphaba in "Wicked").

The couple met about eight years ago when they starred together in "Rent." Their relationship developed gradually while he played Benny, the villainous landlord, and "she was the lesbian, and her character hated my character!"


The following article appeared in the September 2004 issue of Essence Magazine

Additional information about Taye Diggs

Taye Diggs@ABC.com
Taye Diggs@Wikipedia
Taye Diggs@TvNow.com
Taye Diggs@Internet Movie Database
Taye Diggs@Tv.com
Taye Diggs@Filmbug.com
Taye Diggs@Hollywood.com