G.W. Bailey knows he owes much of his professional success to the police, twice over.
Two cop characters largely have defined his acting career, and he starts his final round of “The Closer” as one of them — crusty Detective Lt. Provenza — as TNT’s Kyra Sedgwick-starring drama begins its last six episodes Monday (July 9). However, when that show ends, Provenza won’t: Bailey will take him into a spinoff when TNT launches “Major Crimes” immediately after the “Closer” finale Monday, Aug, 13.
And then, there is the considerably more humorous Lt. (and later Capt.) Harris, played by Bailey in six of the “Police Academy” movie comedies. “He was sort of the quintessential guy you love to hate,” the good-humored actor tells Zap2it, “but he brought me a lot of pleasure. And he brought me some great seats in restaurants, and a lot of drinks that people wanted to buy me.
“He also put my kids in college, and he was great fun to play, but it was serendipity. Two other actors were scheduled to play Harris in the original ‘Police Academy,’ but they got other gigs. I was a last-minute choice. I never even met the director beforehand; they just flew me to Toronto because they were already filming. And it changed my career and my life.”
Port Arthur, Texas, native Bailey also has spent more than a decade guiding the Sunshine Kids Foundation, which treats young cancer patients to trips around the country each year (this month: New York City). He had worked in such 1970s series as the original “Charlie’s Angels” and “Soap,” but his first standout role was the lethargic Sgt. Rizzo in the last four seasons of “M*A*S*H.”
In the closing moments of the military comedy’s legendary, high-rated 1983 finale “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” Rizzo finds various means of transportation for senior staffers leaving the 4077th medical unit and Korea. Bailey has particular fun recalling the vehicle Rizzo used to drive stodgy Major Charles Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) away … a garbage truck.
“David is an old friend of mine,” he reports. “We worked in theater together, and the show’s writers did that just to aggravate him. And it worked.”