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SEVEN DAYS: "Mr Donovan's Neighborhood"
Don Franklin on playing Captain Craig Donovan.
By Anna L. Kaplan
May 08, 2000
Every week on SEVEN DAYS, Frank Parker (Jonathan LaPaglia) faces the challenge of going back in time alone, seven days, to save the world from some tremendous catastrophe. Although Mr. Parker is the only one who actually uses the blue sphere to travel through time, he gets assistance in fixing things from a whole Operation Backstep team, including Captain Craig Donovan, played by Don Franklin. Donovan is Frank's good friend, an ex-Navy Seal, and back-up chrononaut, who helps deal with the problems Frank encounters.
In the episode scheduled for May 10th, actor Don Franklin takes a more central role in 'Mr. Donovan's Neighborhood,' written by Brad Markowitz and directed by Kenneth Johnson. Franklin explains, 'It's a story about the old neighborhood I grew up in, and the shocking deterioration of it. My family is still there. My sister gets caught up in some stuff with the wrong people and ends up being killed. I go back to attend the funeral. Of course I have to start snooping around to find out what happened, because I can't believe she died that way. One thing leads to another. I end up in prison, on my way to death row. They actually had a scene written in one of the versions of the script where I was actually killed in prison. They might actually put that back in, I'm not sure. Of course Parker has to think up some brilliant scheme to backstep to reverse this whole process. A lot of fun is had by all, a lot more action in this one than usual. Parker goes back, and he tells me what actually happened in the former time line. We go into stealth mode and reverse everything.'
The title of the episode, of course, is amusing to anyone who remembers not only MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD, but Eddie Murphy's brilliant SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE routine, 'Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood.' Laughs Franklin, who does a spot-on Eddie Murphy imitation, 'We had so many jokes doing spin-offs on 'Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood,' needless to say, the old Eddie Murphy skit. I had a whole routine. 'Okay now boys and girls. Welcome to Mr. Donovan's neighborhood. Don't step on the needles. Now come on in.' We had a great time with it.'
Although SEVEN DAYS is a drama, it sometimes straddles the comedy line, as the writers, producers, directors and cast try to come up with new and terrible perils for each episode. The cast also looks for moments of humor. Says Franklin, 'It can get a bit overwhelming trying to save the world every week. We all look for humor at every opportunity, even if it is not in the script, and often it isn't. We are always looking for goofy, funny stuff to sort of break the tension. When Jonathan and I first did 'Mr. Donovan's Neighborhood,' he and I had a lot of stuff that we had to do together, a lot of Butch Cassidy-Sundance Kid moments. It looks like we are walking to our deaths, but then we crack a jokeLETHAL WEAPON-type humor. We are always looking for moments like that, stuff to throw in. It sort of solidifies the relationship, for us and for the audience.'
LaPaglia and Franklin ad-libbed at least one joke. Laughs Franklin, 'We filmed it. Whether or not it ends up on screen, we'll see. Generally, I have been really lucky in that department, and I'm alone there. When Jonathan and I riff, for the most part, they leave a lot of stuff in. With other people it doesn't seem to work for some reason.'
Perhaps that is because Parker and Donovan are supposed to be friends. Also, the producers of SEVEN DAYS seem to have a very set formula for the showone that, as Franklin emphasizes, has been working. He says, 'We have a good time when we are together. We wish that we could all work together more. A lot of times when you tune into the show, you'll see us together in the briefing room or in the control room doing exposition, and that's pretty much it. Then it's Parker and the guest stars. We'd really like to see more interaction with the rest of the cast instead. We'd like to do more, but we are making the best of it. That's a formula that seems to work. They seem very comfortable and confident with that formula, and I see no reason for them to deviate from it if they think it's working. Believe me, they are going to stick with it. That's how it should be, because we all want the show to be successful. We all want the show to run for a long time, although admittedly it is frustrating for the other actors. We are very grateful to have jobs. You can't forget that.'
Another obvious area of humor in SEVEN DAYS, on or off-screen, is that Mr. Parker has seen most of his coworkers die countless times in catastrophes he then prevents, which should have made him quite crazy. Laughs Franklin, 'His character is psychotic. I think I am the leader in the number of times killed or murdered or died on the show. It's between me and Ramsey. Actually, we are running a tally. I think I am up now. He and I argue about it all the time.'
Nate Ramsey, played by Nick Searcy, is the patriotic head of security for Operation Backstep. Says Franklin, 'They seem to be much more rigid with the interpretation or characterization of Ramsey, his character. He is a very, very funny man, Nick Searcy, and he brings a lot of humor to the material, but I think they have a different slant on the character than that. Again, they just have a real specific take on the show. The show has been successful, and they're sticking with that. It's working. The numbers are going up. I think eventually, maybe, when we get into season three, you'll see some more creative expansion, some more risk taking.'
Franklin is probably best known to genre fans as SEAQUEST's Commander Jonathan Ford, whom he played from 1993-1995. He also appeared in the miniseries ASTEROID (1997). Franklin considers himself fortunate to have been a regular in five television shows, including KNIGHTWATCH (1988), NASTY BOYS (1989-1990), and YOUNG RIDERS (1990-1992). His feature film credits include FAST FORWARD (1985), MOVING (1988), and THE BIG PICTURE (1989).
SEVEN DAYS has held pretty steady in the ratings as the lead-in show for STAR TREK: VOYAGER on UPN's Wednesday night, prime-time lineup. Franklin is optimistic about a third season for the show, saying, 'You talk to the execs and people in the business, and everybody thinks it's going to be picked up. It's looking good. That's what the rumor mill has, anyway.'
Maybe next season Donovan will get to take a backstep in the big blue sphere, something both Franklin and LaPaglia would like to see. Laughs Franklin, 'It would be cool if it happened eventually, but there is no indication of that happening any time soon, except Jonathan La Paglia's complaints. The poor guy needs a break. He would really like to see me go back. He's been campaigning for it for a long time. A couple episodes ago we had an instance where I had to go into the sphere simulator and do some tests, so I had to put on the suit and the whole bit. He, all day, was going, 'God he looks good in that suit, doesn't he? Quick, go get the producers. Look at this.'' SEVEN DAYS stars Jonathan LaPaglia as Frank Parker, Justina Vail as Olga Vukavitch, Don Franklin as Craig Donovan, Nick Searcy as Nate Ramsey, Alan Scarfe as Bradley Talmadge, Norman Lloyd as Isaac Mentnor, and Sam Whipple as Dr. John Ballard. Its creator-executive producer is Christopher Crowe. It is a Crowe Entertainment production in association with Paramount Network Television, and airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM on UPN.