Rountree still shadowed by 'Shaft' in 'Rescue 77' role
April 12, 1999
From Lauren Hunter
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Richard Rountree has appeared in more than 60 movies and about a dozen television shows. But Rountree, it seems, just can't live down "Shaft."
His 1971 turn as the cat who won't cop out when there's danger all about follows him to this day, right to his new role as a Los Angeles fire captain in the WB network's "Rescue 77."
"It's an ongoing love-hate relationship," Rountree says. "I mean, after 27 years you would like to move on, but by the same token, I'm very proud of that character ... it put me on the map."
On "Rescue 77," Rountree plays fire Capt. Durfee, the commander of a Los Angeles paramedic rescue unit. But to his fellow cast members in this Aaron Spelling production, he's still tough-guy private detective John Shaft. And that Shaft mystique can intimidate the show's younger actors.
"He yells at me on-screen and it scares the hell out of me," says actor Chris Kane, who plays Wick Lobo.
"He comes walking into Spelling's office," recalls Victor Browne, who plays Michael Bell on the show, "and Chris and I were, like, kicking each other -- 'There's Shaft!'"
For the actors, the show's challenge involves not only working with Rountree but also lugging around the gear that firefighters carry -- sometimes as much as 70 pounds' worth.
"Rescue 77" is the struggling WB's latest entry in the mid-season sweepstakes. Greg Widen, the show's co-producer, is a former firefighter and co-creator of the Ron Howard film "Backdraft." He says the show will focus on the drama inherent in rescue situations.
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