Timothy Busfield has been doing two television jobs for some time, but now, he’s leaning toward just one.
An Emmy winner for playing ad-agency man Elliot on “thirtysomething,” he cut his teeth as a director on that series, and he’s kept working both sides of the camera since. In fact, he’s filling both roles for Lifetime: After a week on the set of “The Client List” — directing an episode for the show’s second season that starts Sunday (March 10) — he also plays a U.S. senator in Saturday’s (March 9) new film “Restless Virgins.”
“This is a movie about screwed-up kids and what screws them up,” he tells Zap2it about the drama, also casting Vanessa Marano (“Switched at Birth”) as a newcomer at a prep school where she learns a sex tape involves several lacrosse players … including the son of Busfield’s character.
“Whether he’s a senator or any kind of powerful man who thinks that writing a check means being a dad, it’s about lack of supervision and too much money,” Busfield reasons, “and kids can often find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time that way. That’s what drew me to the part. Especially being a parent of three, I think it’s about what you do when your children aren’t serviced by spoiling them.”
Though he also directed “Psych,” “Franklin & Bash” and the ABC Family series pilot “The Fosters” recently, Busfield maintains he’s fine with placing himself in someone else’s hands as an actor. Having done that on “Restless Virgins” with Jason LaPeyre, he reasons, “I am so happy not to have to be thinking about the mass of it all — what angles to shoot, what cuts together with what, and so on.
“I’ve heard from producers that some directors have said, ‘Is he gonna direct himself?’ There’s that concern on Day One, then they realize I couldn’t care less about the directing side. I just really want to be the best actor I can be, which is to show up, know your lines and try to make anything work that anybody wants you to do. It no longer has the mystique of, ‘What do they want and what do I want?’ It’s much more a one-way street.”
Now engaged to fellow TV veteran Melissa Gilbert, Busfield also was a director on “The Client List” last year. He enjoys his reunions with its star and executive producer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, who had one of her first series roles as his daughter on ABC’s “The Byrds of Paradise” almost 20 years ago.
“She’s just the same little girl I knew when we were in Hawaii,” Busfield reflects of making “Byrds” with Hewitt there. “I know her acting. I can see when she wants help in a situation, and I try to guide her through that enormous job she has, with a tremendous amount of power as a producer while still being the lead.
“I’ve worn those hats, and I’m always impressed with how she handles things. To me, she’s just one of the greats.”
Guest-starring soon on NBC’s “Revolution,” Busfield is at a point where he’s ready to choose between his careers. “People were offering me work” as a director regularly, he says, adding that Thomas Schlamme — an executive producer of “The West Wing,” on which Busfield played political reporter Danny Concannon — advised him on becoming a producer on the show “Ed.”
“Tommy said, ‘You’ll be a much better filmmaker, and you’ll have to put the acting on the back burner for a while.’ About 10 years later, I’ve just been on a burn of directing and producing and figuring out what a TV show needs to get done … and I’ve just about had it. It’s too overwhelming, especially producing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but all I want to do now is act.”