The married performers who starred as attorneys and spouses Ann Kelsey and Stuart Markowitz on the 1986-94 NBC series “L.A. Law” often keep their work intertwined, as they demonstrated again Saturday (April 28) at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, N.Y. They recorded short-story readings for the National Public Radio program “Selected Shorts,” and they’ll act together again in the new play “Brace Yourself” in August at the Berkshire (Mass.) Theatre Festival.
“It’s been a very nice career, and we’ve had a great time,” Tucker tells Zap2it. “And we’ve been involved with some great people. ‘Arthur’ (in which Eikenberry played Dudley Moore’s high-society fiancee) is a classic, and so is ‘Diner.’” The latter movie — which featured Tucker — was directed by fellow Baltimore native Barry Levinson, whom Tucker will help honor at an upcoming tribute.
Last year, Eikenberry did a guest stint on ABC’s “Body of Proof” and appeared in the movies “Something Borrowed” and “Young Adult,” while Tucker’s focus is on writing now. “I never say never,” Tucker says of possibly doing a regular series role again. “If some wonderful thing came along for both of us that was well-written, I’m sure we’d consider it, but it’s not what we’re trying to do.”
Among its 15 Emmy Awards, “L.A. Law” was named Outstanding Drama Series four times, and the experience remains “great” to Eikenberry. “It was a rare thing then for us to be able to do something together, and to have it be critically acclaimed and also popular, that’s just a lot of good stuff all together. The first five years especially, the scripts were so much fun, everybody couldn’t wait to get the next one. Even the lighting guys would be up top in the walkways reading them.”
To this day, Tucker and Eikenberry get asked frequently about one of the most famous elements of “L.A. Law”: the so-called Venus Butterfly, a secret bedroom maneuver Stuart used on Ann with great success.
“I was in Wisconsin visiting my mom when I got a call from (‘L.A. Law’ co-creator and executive producer) Steven Bochco,” Eikenberry remembers, “and he said, ‘Listen to this.’ And he read me that scene, and he was so excited about it. He said, ‘This is gonna be big. Just you wait.’ But when we shot it, I kept thinking how strange it seemed to have all those people there; it was the first bed scene we’d had.”‘
That wasn’t the only intimate scene Eikenberry and Tucker did on “L.A. Law,” and for another, they did an extra take that involved someone unexpected … the late John Ritter, who also was on the 20th Century Fox lot making the ABC series “Hooperman” at the time.
“We were walking down the street in our bathrobes to the stage where they had the bedroom set, and we ran into him,” Tucker recalls. “We knew him a little bit socially, and he said, ‘Can I come?’ We said, ‘Sure,’ and we went back to the set, and he got between us in the bed. They let us shoot one just like that, and he was looking back and forth at us as we delivered our lines.
“Then the phone rang, and Jill said to me, ‘It’s for you.’ And she handed it to John, and he handed it to me. He was just fabulous. Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis were shooting ‘Moonlighting’ there while we were there, too. It was an exciting time.”