By Christopher A. Pape
Michael Tucker of LA Law is a man whose passions run deeper than just acting. Having made his success on stage and then through TV and film in the 1980’s and 90’s, Mr. Tucker has not been content to rest idly. While no longer vigorously pursuing his acting, he has made a name for himself as an accomplished writer.
New York Resident sat down to talk with him about his new novel “After Annie.” What transpired, however, was a free wielding discussion about his career, his enduring love of his wife, his vacation home in Italy, his children and eventually his new novel. But, from the very start of the interview I knew that this was going to be an exciting discussion and after it I can’t think of a person more “New York” than Michael. Please enjoy.
New York Resident (NYR): The name of the magazine is New York Resident and so we have embarked on interviewing iconic and noteworthy New Yorkers. So tell us, what does it mean to be a New Yorker?
Michael Tucker (MT): My wife Jill and I had lived in New York for sixteen years starting in 1971. It’s where we got started, and began our careers in theater and slowly into TV. Our kids were brought up on the Upper West Side. In 1986 both Jill and I got the parts on LA Law. We lived in Los Angeles for eight years and then we moved up to Marin County in Northern California for the next nine years. And one day we looked at each other and asked what was missing; we had a wonderful life, at that point we had a house in Italy, which we still have – what was missing was New York City. So we decided to move back and started our theater careers again. And now we are six blocks from where we originally lived in the seventies and eighties. We went right back to our local bodega, Zabar’s.
NYR: What do you like about the Upper West Side; what draws you to there?
MT: It’s just home to me. Although it’s not really the perfect area for us because our kids have moved out and the UWS is filled with baby carriages. Jill wants to be near the parks. We are a half a block from Riverside Park and four blocks from Central Park. We are there all the time.
NYR: Tell us how you got started in acting?
MT: After high school I went to Carnegie-Mellon Drama School. From there I went to regional theater; eventually ending up in Arena Stage in D.C. and that’s where I met my wife. From there we moved to New York and built up a career here.
NYR: How did you land the part on L.A. Law?
MT: Steven Bochco is an old friend from mine in college. He wrote and produced the show. He came to New York. He was doing Hill Street Blues at the time. He told us he had a part for Jill and me in a two-part series. He told us he couldn’t pay our way out to L.A. but if you could get yourself out there you guys can play these parts. We had never worked face to face. We never really acted together and it was a revelation. We didn’t realize it at the time but it was an audition for L.A Law. A year later we were on the show.
NYR: As an aside, tell us about your house in Italy and why did you choose there?
MT: Well it’s in Umbria. It’s in the center of Italy and it’s called the green heart of the country. I had always had this thing that I wanted to buy a house in Europe. We were living in California; Jill was saying I’d love to have a house in the South of France or in Italy, but honey these places are six thousand miles away. A friend of mine kept asking why in the South of France? And I said because it’s so close to Italy. And I said aha! It must be Italy.
We were invited to a friend’s birthday party which was being held at the tip of the country. So we decided to make a trip out of it. We rented a car and drove from the very north of Italy down to Apulia, where the party was. The trip took a month and made a vow not to go into a big city. On that trip, we ended up near Spoleto, where our house is. We were chasing down a meal in a farmhouse on the side of a mountain. We met a woman there, an American expat. We asked what she did and she said I sell houses to people like you. And that’s exactly what she did for us.
NYR: How did you come to write “After Annie”?
MT: I had finished my third nonfiction book. When that was over, Jill had a relapse of her breast cancer. And the book is a “what if” scenario, played out. I couldn’t stop thinking about what my life would be like if I lost her. It was a very scary moment; now she is fine. I began to fictionalize what would happen. Then the characters became other than Jill and me. I had quite a wonderful time writing this book.
NYR: Did you always want to be a writer?
MT: I think my actual personality is more suited to writing than to acting. I can be a very outgoing person; a very social person, but the real me is not that. I love to work by myself. I like to think about the same things from a different perspective and I adore intimacy.
NYR: Lastly, how do you give back to New York? Are you involved with any charities?
MT: We go all over the world speaking about our experience with Jill’s two bouts of cancer. We also work for the Alzheimer’s Foundation. •