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Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow

Tom Cavanagh of 'Ed'

Tom Cavanagh beat out hundreds of actors vying for the role in "Ed," a series about a lawyer who returns to his hometown to run a bowling alley and pursue his high school love  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Tom Cavanagh plays the hero/good guy lawyer who leaves the high-powered corridors of New York and returns to his hometown on Stuckeyville, Ohio, on NBC's freshman series, "Ed." There, Ed promptly buys a bowling alley and mounts a campaign to win the love of a cutie from his high-school days.

True to life? Not entirely. Cavanagh grew up in Africa, where his parents were teachers. And if he looks familiar to you but you haven't seen "Ed," that might be because he had a memorable run on "Providence" last season as the "dog boy" character.

Cavanagh beat out hundreds of actors for the new series' title role, a part that "Ed" executive producer Rob Burnett (producer of "The Late Show with David Letterman") characterized as nearly impossible to fill.

CNN's Lori Blackman interviews Tom Cavanaugh, star ofn NBC's 'Ed'

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    Why? The perfect Ed needed an actor who would be believable as the guy all the gals had a crush on, while simultaneously remaining someone all the guys would want to play ball with. Cavanaugh, 32, fit that bill -- and ably, apparently. The series, which debuted in October and appears on Sundays, has enjoyed positive reviews and has been picked up for a full season.

    Cavanagh recently took a few minutes to expound on "Ed," life, life in Africa and -- naturally -- bowling.

    CNN: Ed may have grown up in a small-town in America, but you grew up somewhere else entirely -- Africa.

    Tom Cavanagh:That is correct: a little coastal fishing village called Winneba in Ghana, sandwiched between the countries of the Ivory Coast and Togo.

    CNN: What brought you to Africa?

    Cavanagh: I was running from the law, and now they've found me -- no, that's not true. My parents are educators, and they were over there putting in teaching systems in Africa. It is a pretty great existence over there; I didn't know how to swear, they didn't have television or film -- a really good existence, I would say.

    CNN: You were cast in this show for CBS more than two years ago. How did you wind up on NBC?

    A paint-covered Ed tries to woo Carol  

    Cavanagh: Well, CBS didn't pick up the pilot. I think they felt that we did a decent pilot, but that we'd be an awkward fit for their lineup. Ultimately we ended up being pretty grateful for it, because we ended up on NBC ... and they've been really supportive. It's been a great home for us.

    CNN: What is the premise of "Ed"?

    Cavanagh: This is the story about a gentleman -- I use that term loosely, because I play that guy. He's a ... big-time city lawyer who loses his job, goes home and finds his wife sleeping with a mailman, and decides the best thing he can do is go (to his hometown) and ask out the high-school crush that he never asked out in high school -- with mixed results. But along the way he falls back in love with the townspeople and the town of Stuckeyville, Ohio, and decides to stick around for a while.

    CNN: Did you ever have any real-life interest in law?

    Cavanagh: I didn't, no, but my brother is actually a bigwig lawyer in Canada. ... I think our family is well represented in that area; they don't need another one.

    CNN: How much are you like Ed, who woos women by putting on the traditional medieval garb and walking down high school hallways carrying flowers?

    Cavanagh: You know, I've done my fair share of embarrassing things to woo the girl, and with the same kind of results, I think -- with them hollering, "Get out of here, you punk! What are you doing in that fish outfit?"

    CNN: Do you bowl?

    Tom Cavanagh had a memorable turn as the dog boy in "Providence" last year  

    Cavanagh: I do bowl.

    CNN: Are you any good?

    Cavanagh: No, I am not, but I tell you what: I am better than this show's executive producer, Rob Burnett, any day of the week.

    CNN: "Ed" debuted this season to extremely high ratings. Do you feel any pressure from that?

    Cavanagh: This is going to sound corny, but the answer to that, honestly is no -- literally. I feel very fortunate to come and do a show where the scripts are good , where the castmates are unbelievable and the crew is great. It couldn't be a better situation.

    CNN: Were you surprised at all by the way critics hailed this show as the hit of the season, even before the season began?

    Cavanagh: Not surprised, given the money we paid them. Being as we're bankrupt right now, they damn well better write nice reviews.

    That's a joke, by the way.

    "Ed" airs at 8 p.m. ET on Sundays.

    NBC: Ed
    NBC: Providence

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