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Sweeney stars as "Michael Whitman" on ABC's drama "Life As We Know It". D.B. Sweeney began his career with memorable roles as Shoeless Joe Jackson in Eight Men Out, Jackie Willow in Gardens of Stone and Lt. Phil Lowenthal in Francis Ford Coppola’s Memphis Belle. He played a hockey player turned figure skater in the romantic comedy The Cutting Edge, and followed with starring roles in the thriller No Man’s Land, the sci-fi pic Fire in the Sky and the heartfelt drama Roommates. Sweeney’s big break in show business came when, after landing a series of commercials, he was cast in the Broadway revival of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. Other theatre credits include performances in Death of a Salesman and Under Milk Wood at the prestigious Williamstown Theatre, and Blue Light, directed by Sydney Lumet for Bay Street Theater Sag Harbor. Supporting role credits in film include parts in Hard Ball, Spawn and Speak (Sundance, 2004). On television, Sweeney is best known for his roles opposite Diane Lane in the landmark miniseries, Lonesome Dove, and opposite Halle Barry in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Most recently he played a series regular on Strange Luck, the ABC series C-16 and the Emmy Award-winning Miss Rose White, and guest starred on CSI: Miami and Karen Sisco. Sweeney initially had aspirations to become a professional baseball player. While an injury cut short his hopes of playing ball, a new door opened to the world of entertainment.
Daniel Bernard Sweeney born in Shoreham, New York in 1961. D.B. Sweeney is one of four children. He was a star athlete in high school and even aspired to become a professional athlete. His dream came to end after he injured his leg in a motorcycle accident. After graduating from Tulane University, he continued on to N.Y.U.'s Tisch School of the Arts. In 1983, Sweeney got his big break on Broadway in The Caine Mutiny. His big break on the screen came a few years later in Francis Ford Coppola's Gardens of Stone, released in 1987. During that same year, Sweeney starred as a baseball player in the film Eight Men Out. The role of Shoeless Joe Jackson entailed extensive training, which even included spending the summer with the Twins minor league team. As Shoeless Joe Jackson, Sweeney had the chance to fulfill his dream of hitting a homerun.
Sweeney has continued his involvement with both theater and film. He is a member of the Actor's Studio and has been in numerous productions, including most recently Distant Fires. Sweeney has been in 13 features since 1986. He has played characters with an athletic background such as a hockey player - turned ice skater in The Cutting Edge and a basketball player in Heaven is a Playground. On television, Sweeney is best known for his role of Dish Boggett in the critically acclaimed miniseries The Lonsome Dove. He also portrayed a fugitive who killed a man in an old haunted Civil War mansion in Tales from the Cryp. Most recently, Sweeney was on the virtual reality based television series Harsh Realm (from The X-Files creator Chris Carter). He portrayed a resourceful soldier sent by the army to outscore Santiago, the current champ of the virtual reality game.
Up next for Sweeney is the film Dinosaur, which he lends his voice to one of the dinosaurs.
Theatre Appearances: The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (Broadway), Distant Fires (LA Production), Blue Light, Death of a Salesman (Biff Loman - Seattle, 1998)
Believe it or not, before acting came along, D.B. Sweeney saw himself as a professional baseball player. Unfortunately in 1980, he suffered a debilitating motorcycle accident that put an end to a potential sports career. This could be seen as some kind of sick twist of destiny as it led to him discovering drama.
After beginnings in an Army commercial, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial in 1983, and tiny roles in Out of the Darkness and Power; he landed the role of Baxter in Fire With Fire, 9th billed. But his major break came in the form of Jackie Willow in Francis Ford Coppola's Gardens of Stone. D.B. says of the experience "Francis is so very open and supportive, and he treats his film as a true collaboration. In fact, I enjoyed working on Gardens of Stone so much I dreaded the day it would end, knowing that I'd have to go on to work with a mortal 'director' again."
Next along was No Man's Land, co-starring Charlie Sheen. Sweeney is essentially the leading man in this film, but due to the release of Platoon prior, his role was overshadowed by Sheen. Obviously there were no bad feelings as the pair appeared together again in John Sayles' excellent Eight Men Out, bringing together these talents along with John Cusack, Michael Rooker, Christopher Lloyd, Gordon Clapp and David Strathairn. Here was D.B. Sweeney's forte. He had never lost his love for baseball, and had even formed a New York team (The Skins) with old schoolfriends. He says, "the funny thing is, back in 1919 (when the film is set) I probably would have been good enough to compete professionally…it was much more a strategic game back then, less about raw athletic ability". His love for the game eventually cost him $25,000 as he prepared for his role travelling with a minor-league baseball team - The Twins. He even went to the extreme of being completely authentic in his representation of Shoeless Joe, and learned to hit the ball southpaw, even though he is right-handed. Sweeney rightly likes to think, "as far as actors go, you're not going to find many ballplayers better than me."
Next along was Sons, followed by the successful TV mini-series Lonesome Dove. He did as many of his own stunts as was allowed and worked for a week at Tommy Lee Jones' ranch cattle-roping. Memphis Belle gave Sweeney the opportunity to film in England alongside a talented American ensemble cast (including his Eight Men Out co-star David Strathairn). His role was of the 'chicken' navigator Phil Lowenthal.
After this he worked on four low-key films: A Day In October, Blue Desert, Leather Jackets , and Heaven Is A Playground. Next came the role of Doug Dorsey in The Cutting Edge alongside Moira Kelly - Dorsey tragically almost mirroring Sweeney's real life in the fact that he can no longer play professional hockey due to the loss of peripheral vision, the consequence of an accident. He then joins up with skater Kelly to become a figure-skating pair. The film became Sweeney's first solo hit, and was highly amusing in places (watch for the 'toe-pick' scene!) This was followed with a role in the TV movie Miss Rose White. Next came Hear No Evil, co-starring Martin Sheen, Marlee Matlin and John C. McGinley. Unfortunately, this film was not a hit, unlike the following Fire In the Sky. Based on a true story, Sweeney plays Travis Walton, a logger who is abducted for five days, and during this time his friends are accused of murdering him. The film is notorious for it's horrific interpretation of alien testing (kudos to Sweeney if that liquid really does go into his eye), and gives a clever reasoning to why all aliens appear to look the same.
After a two-year break, Sweeney appeared on TV screens as Chance Harper in Strange Luck. Although it only lasted one season, it was enough to be picked out by a large amount of fans, who enjoyed following Chance through his 'jinxed' world. Chance was the sole survivor of a plane crash, and consequently trouble and weirdness were always finding him. Co-starring Frances Fisher and Pamela Gidley, Strange Luck was a refreshing change, a drama/comedy with a twist. Next came a demanding and dramatic role in the form of Michael Holezcek in Roomates. The legendary Peter Falk played Sweeney's grumpy, but full of character grandfather who is always with him in life (literally), almost hindering his romantic interests with Julianne Moore. Following an uncredited role in Patrick Swayze starrer Three Wishes, Sweeney had a major role in the big-budget comic book adaptation of Spawn, playing Terry Fitzgerald. Sweeney says about the film, "I can't remember a movie that took us to hell to begin with, that was a literal kind of mythical hell, where it's fire and the hoards of hell. So in that sense that's all new ground that they've broken in terms of that and it doesn't let you down". It certainly didn't and became a box-office smash worldwide. But there was one downside for Sweeney - not getting an action figure made of him: "I do not have one, it's a sore spot for me, I thought I was a lock to get one because I'm one of the main characters. But apparently there's not a big market for computer guys who wear tuxedos."
A return to TV followed in the twelve part series C16: FBI. D.B. Sweeney played Scott Stoddard, the womaniser of the group. Again, he was joined with a talented ensemble cast including Eric Roberts, Zach Grenier, Christine Tucci, Morris Chestnut and Angie Harmon. This was not a 'crime of the day' series, it followed the characters through the crimes rather than study on the crimes themselves. DB also starred in the interesting Chris Carter-created TV series Harsh Realm. Based on the comic-book series, Harsh Realm explores a highly advanced virtual reality world -- where anything is possible. The series also starred Scott Bairstow and DB's The Cutting Edge co-star Terry O'Quinn. Although the show was only shortly on the air, it did find a cult audience.
Following on from these DB found cameo roles in the Book of Stars, The Weekend, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, and Hardball. He recently starred in firefighter drama Superfire. He has also found time to work on voice-only work in Disney's Dinosaur, and a variety of commercials and documentaries. He returns to voice work for Disney in 2003's Brother Bear.
20 Questions with D.B. Sweeney
D.B. Sweeney has been around a time or two. Starting in the mid-80s, he's racked up almost 50 credits in television and movies, making him one of those actors who turns up in nearly everything you watch on cable. From baseball player to alien abductee to hockey-player-turns-
figure-skater, D.B. has managed to avoid typecasting to become a first-rate character actor.
His most recent role is as Michael Whitman, father to a hormonally-charged teenager, and husband to a cheating wife, on ABC's critically touted drama Life As We Know It. As the show returns from a quick hiatus, D.B. took a moment to answer our 20 Questions.
1. Life as We Know It was based on Melvin Burgess' excellent novel, Doing It. Did you pick up a copy before you started filming?
I heard a lot about the book, but didn't get to it. I plan to before season two!
2. How is working on this show different from any other that you've done?
It's really a great bunch of people. Sometimes a cast or crew may be excellent creatively, but you don't really feel a personal connection. In this case we have both. I am extremely fond of Lisa Daar, Sean Farris and all the rest of the company. The crew is first rate as well. They're good people.
3. Are there parts of yourself you have to turn on or off to play Michael Whitman?
It's hard to say. I think there's a lot of me in all my roles - that's all you have to draw on. I think Michael is a bit more accepting of his circumstances than I am (would be).
4. During each episode, the camera focuses in on one of the three main teenage boys, letting them speak directly to the audience. If the camera zoomed in on Michael, what would we learn was going on in his head?
I think he's a little scattershot. You'd probably hear him talk in non sequiturs about his hated job, picking up the cleaning, oh - and he has to get some milk, too. The mundane mixed in with his frustrations.
5. Michael is the father of an angst-ridden teenage son. Do kids really have a harder time growing up in today's climate, or are we just more aware of subjects that might have been taboo before?
The vivid nature of the media, especially the Internet, is a concern. We're giving kids too much information and imagery too soon. I'm not sure everything is protected by free speech. I think we need to look at all of this legally. It's too unregulated.
6. While this show certainly focuses on its younger characters, it doesn't feel like a typical teen drama. Do you think there is an age barrier attached to this show? Is it just for kids?
I think good programs are for everyone. And the Neilsen demographic studies are fiction. It's like Oz behind the curtain...it only works because everyone has agreed to buy into it.
7. Life As We Know It has a critically-acclaimed lineage, coming from the producers of cult favorite Freaks and Geeks. When you're taking on a new role, what - if anything - do you like to learn about a show's creators, writers, etc.?
You sniff around, try to learn what you can, then take it with a grain of salt. You always "hear stuff" about people. Experience has taught me it's usually lazy information and untrue. Ultimately it comes down to the script and the character. If it's good, I don't really care if the guy's "got a rep."
8. Speaking of fancy lineage, you were also in Chris Carter's short-lived action drama Harsh Realm, which faced high expectations from X-Files fans. As an actor, did you feel a different kind of pressure working on a show that had such high up-front expectations?
Not extra expectations in a case like that, but maybe some extra excitement because the possibilities are limitless. I was disappointed the show was dumped by Fox. I loved the part and it was the kind of thing I could have seen doing for a while.
9. The beauty of a drama like Life As We Know It is that there's a life lesson in there for everyone. Which character is going through the hardest time, and which one has blown things way out of proportion?
One's own struggle always seems most trying. I don't know that anyone's is blown out of proportion.
10. Has any of the show's brutally frank content been surprising to you? Are there scenes and topics that you were surprised made it through the censors?
I wouldn't let my 10-year-old niece watch it. Even if she was 14. Or 15.
11. Life As We Know It has a hip soundtrack, showcasing some of the best in indie rock today. Have you learned anything new about your own musical tastes from doing this show?
I already knew I was a little out of touch. Pop music changes so fast and so many acts are one-hit wonders that you really have to invest a lot of time to remain absolutely current. I don't have the time.
12. A handful of your past roles have given you the opportunity to portray athletes, and now you're playing the father of one. At any point, were you ever worried that you'd get typecast as "the guy who can play baseball" or "the guy who can play hockey"?
I don't know. Maybe Tom Cruise worries about getting typecast - him and the other five guys that actually get to CHOOSE their roles. The rest of us are doing what we can to get hired into the best situation we can find. The system does ask you to repeat commercial success. I haven't had to worry about that much. I haven't had any breakout hits, and that does allow me to slink around the edges and mix it up, which I think I prefer.
13. Was it a coincidence that you were cast in a series in which hockey plays a major role?
Coincidence. I resisted Cutting Edge sequels for years because I didn't want to be defined by that, although I am very proud of that movie. Romantic comedies don't get the respect they deserve...it's a very difficult genre.
14. To date, you've had a full career. What advice would you give to your younger cast mates?
Save your money. Don't fight "to the death" over creative differences. Be respectful to the crew. Try not to make people wait. Most of all: Enjoy it.
15. Do you have any interest in getting behind the camera as a writer or director?
Stay tuned. I'm on it now.
16. With the proliferation of the Internet, fans are able to get pretty close to their favorite celebrities through online chat events, message board participation, etc. Has this changed the way you approach your own celebrity?
I don't feel much like a celebrity. People recognize me in airports and so on, but it's not like they're screaming and pulling their hair out. I've been around some "pop icons" socially. I'm sure the pay's great, but it's tough to get through a cup of coffee in peace.
17. Fans have already launched an online "Save the Show" campaign to support Life As We Know It, even though the show has not been cancelled. Does this kind of talk make you nervous, or have you been through it enough times that you're able to roll with the uncertainties?
I don't worry much. I hope they keep it on. If they don't, I'll do other things.
18. This role will introduce you to a new generation of young fans. If you had the chance to shape how they view you as an actor, what is one past project of yours that you would want them to see?
I like Lonesome Dove, Eight Men Out, Strange Luck, The Cutting Edge...I've been fortunate to be in some good projects. Memphis Belle also holds up pretty well.
19. Is there a role you were born to play?
Spiderman. But they went with another guy. (Ha Ha) [I'd like to be] Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Someday soon, I hope. Find me a Maggie if you can!
20. For you, what is the biggest difference between television, movies, and the stage? If you could choose to do one for the rest of your career, is there a clear winner?
Holy segue! Movies are great because they end and you get to do something else. Plays are great because of the immediacy (and Paris Hilton isn't invited [to your premiere]). TV's great for...Okay. Movies or plays.
Rounding the Bases: An interview with actor D.B. Sweeney
The Exorcist may be unparalleled in its ability to terrify, but there are a few hair-raising moments at the end of 1993's Fire in the Sky that come damn close. In one of the most shocking and indelible cinematic sequences ever filmed, D.B. Sweeney plays Travis Walton, a good ol' boy who is captured by aliens and taken aboard their slime-ridden spacecraft. The scenes of Sweeney strapped to a gurney while aliens stick needles in his eyes and ears are dark, disturbing and remarkably realistic. Years later, Sweeney, now safe and sound, says although Fire was fun to make, he finds himself occasionally haunted by, of all things, the film's audience.
Says Sweeney, "That movie had a big impact. You'd be amazed at how many people believe that aliens have abducted them. I think I've met most of them. For some reason, they feel the need to come up to me in restaurants and bars to tell me their stories. I don't the patience for it anymore though. After about three or four minutes, I cut them off."
Luckily, he's found a place to hide: in Chris (X-Files) Carter's Harsh Realm (Fridays on Fox, 9PM), Sweeney plays Mike Pinnochio, a tough-as-nails soldier stranded in a virtual universe. Sweeney describes the plot: "A soldier is sent into a virtual reality game to kill its arch villain, a rebel soldier who has built his own kingdom within the game. It's actually a real epic show with a broad romantic canvas. I think it's gonna be big."
Fans can also see Sweeney in The Weekend, an upcoming film co-starring Brooke Shields, Gina Rowlands and Deborah Unger. Says Sweeney, "It's about a group of friends that come together after a friend dies. It's a little like The Big Chill. I have the best part--I'm the dead guy."
drDrew.com: According to your bio, you were "a star right fielder and scouted while in high school."
D.B. Sweeney: I don't know about the "star" part, but I was a good baseball player. I wanted to turn pro, but it didn't work out.
drDrew.com: So what happened?
DS: I blew out my knee. Then, while I was rehabbing, I went to New York to spend time with my sister and decided to try my hand at acting.
drDrew.com: Just like that.
DS: Well, I approached it the same way people take a backpack and travel to Europe. It was something new. Within three years I was in a Broadway play. My knee never completely healed, so I stuck with acting.
drDrew.com: Why choose acting though?
DS: It seemed like a good way to meet girls without having to work too hard.
drDrew.com: There's an endorsement.
DS: Yeah, so far it's worked out pretty well on that level.
drDrew.com: Doing Eight Men Out--a baseball movie -- must have been heaven for you. Is it true that you taught yourself how to bat left-handed for the role?
DS: Originally, I suggested to the director, John Sayles, that we copy Pride of the Yankees. For that film, Gary Cooper was a hopeless athlete and he could barely swing a bat, so instead of having him hit lefty, they had him hit righty and run to third base, then they flipped the negative. That's why all the shots of him are very high and wide. I told Sayles that I'm a really good baseball player from the right side and that we should do the same thing. He was against it because it would have cost a lot of money to make uniforms with backward logos and things like that. He asked me to learn how to hit lefty, so I did.
drDrew.com: Are you sensitive to criticism?
DS: Not really. I did my first play while in college and got such a bad review that I decided never to read reviews again.
drDrew.com: Do you remember the review?
DS: It said that if my role couldn't be better cast, then it should be eliminated.
DS: Yeah. It was pretty bad at the time, but I decided never to grant people like that any power ever again.
drDrew.com: What did you buy with your first big acting paycheck?
DS: In 1986 I did Gardens of Stone and made about $12-14,000. I spent every bit of it flying around the country to watch Boston Red Sox games, including all the playoffs and World Series games. I couldn't have spent it better. I saw some great games that year.
drDrew.com: So as a Sox fan, what do you think their chances are this year?
DS: I think they're gonna win it all. Go Sox.