Article 143

'Kildare' venturing back into showbiz

Richard Chamberlain

Richard Chamberlain, still fit and dashingly handsome at 73, describes himself these days as a "beach bum who paints and occasionally acts."

In fact, the star of the 1960s medical drama "Dr. Kildare" and popular miniseries including "Shogun" and "The Thorn Birds" has been venturing away from his home in Maui for acting gigs regularly of late.

"I have been doing some interesting stuff," he said, including guest shots on "Will & Grace", "Nip/Tuck, Hustle" and, just eight days ago, on "Desperate Housewives" as Lynette's ex-stepfather, who discloses that he is gay.

He hopes he returns to Wisteria Lane soon.

"I fell totally in love with Felicity Huffman," Chamberlain said.

"And Polly Bergen was great fun to work with. She did a "Dr. Kildare." She played twins; she was the good twin and the evil twin, of course. She reminded me the evil twin tried to seduce Dr. Kildare on a beach somewhere."

Chamberlain, who came out of the closet four years ago, has been pleased to find that revealing he is gay hasn't put an end to the job offers. "That was a great breakthrough in my life when I suddenly realized that what I was so afraid of forever and ever and ever was a complete, absolute nonissue," he says.

Besides television work, Chamberlain has turned up in feature films, including the box office hit "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" and the small Irish boxing drama "Strength and Honor", which opened yesterday.

Written and directed by Mark Mahon, the film revolves around a boxer (Michael Madsen) who, after killing a man in the ring, promises his wife he will never fight again. But when his young son gets a potentially fatal heart disease, he returns to the ring to try to win the money needed for surgery. Chamberlain plays the fighter's warm-hearted, encouraging trainer, Denis O'Leary.

Chamberlain didn't do any research for his part. "I went by the script," he said. "We had a lot of boxing people around, and they told me what to do. I didn't have to do much actual fist-cuffing in it. I'm a little old for that!"

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