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US Magazine Feature: Kyle Chandler

by Tom Russo
February 1997

It's late afternoon in downtown Chicago, and since early this morning, Kyle Chandler has been pulling 25-25 duty: out on a rooftop 25 stories up, in 25-degree weather, blocking out a stunt shot for his starring role in television's highest-rated new drama, Early Edition. Chandler, 31, plays Gary Hobson, an unassuming Everyguy turned accidental Samaritan when he inexplicably finds the next day's Chicago Sun-Times at his door each morning complete with accounts of yet-to-transpire crashes, holdups and, of course, rooftop plunges. It's the kind of catchy premise that has not only offered viewers a welcome alternative to this season's rash of oddball paranormalists but has saved some of CBS' imperiled prime-time dignity as well. Such thoughts should keep Chandler warm, but at present not nearly enough. In search of a diversion, he sidles up to an iron railing and starts launching paper airplanes off the building. When it's suggested he might hear a yelp of "Christ, my eye!" from down below, he grins and quickly notes, "I ripped the point off of it first." If Chandler appears cautious, it's only because he's someone just entering the spotlight, a nice guy who wants to be accessible without getting stung. While he garnered his share of attention a few years back in the period drama Homefront (as Jeff Metcalf, all-American Joe), Chandler is now carrying a series on his own - and trying to do it without letting the attendant public exposure upend his life. "Kyle's character is a throwback - self-sufficient and practical," says Early Edition executive producer Bob Brush. "And that's Kyle. He doesn't act like a star; he's a guy going through his life."This explains why Chandler is so inclined to shoo away the silver-screen-idol comparisons he draws. Brush clearly has a Gary Cooper analogy in mind: "Kyle should have [played] Lou Gehrig - that kind of quiet leader who performs and isn't flashy about it and yet has this sly sense of humor tucked underneath." It's something you can see in Chandler's eyes. Gazing out placidly from beneath heavy lids, they radiate an almost sleepy earnestness; but they also spark and flare with infectious energy when he's got a good punch line to share. Witness the yarn about his father, a pharmaceutical salesman, moving the family from the Chicago suburbs to rural Georgia when Kyle was 11; "He stopped the motor home in front of this gigantic old house that had an outhouse and had passed its day. And he jokes, 'Here we are!' and I burst out crying. My mom was like, 'Ed-ward!'" These days, Chandler divides his time between Early Edition's Chicago base and L.A., where he and his wife of a year, Kathryn, have a home in the Hollywood Hills. Even so, he says Georgia remains on his mind. His mother, Sally, a dog breeder, still lives on the same 22-acre fame where he grew up. (He has two brothers in their 40s, as well as an older sister.) He supposes that it was farm life, coupled with his dad's death from a heart attack when Chandler was 14, that ultimately steered him toward acting. "Before my father died, but especially after, what do you do when you live on 22 acres and there aren't enough kids to play with?" he asks rhetorically. The answer was supplied by Ted Turner's first foray into broadcasting, a channel with a heavy Gable-Stewart-Cooper rotation. Chandler says he would do his best to mimic these black-and-white heroes: "So, when I stepped into acting, it fit real well because I had played these characters already." Chandler's friends, in fact, are still the actors he hooked up with at the University of Georgia, before many of them found their way to L.A. (In Chandler's case, the Hollywood leap was made via an ABC recruiting program.) Skeptics need only scan the Early Edition set for proof. Hovering near a chair that reads THE OTHER EDITION is Ken Bradley, a school buddy employed as Chandler's stand-in. When Bradley is asked by phone a few days later for a good story about his pal, he recalls a mini-road trip the drama crowd used to take, known as "the perfect route." "When things got hectic at school, we'd go out and sit in this guy's field and talk about things," he says. "And we'd say, 'I hope we all work together one day'; but you're not thinking it'll happen. Ten years later, here we are." A few minutes later, Bradley calls back, with Chandler needling him in the background. "Uh, when we were talking about 'the perfect route,' I didn't want you to think it was just me and him," Bradley says, backpedaling fast. "Kyle was like, 'People are going to think we went out into the woods and picked flowers and stuff!'" "Oh, you're a big magazine guy!" Chandler jokes loudly to his friend. In Chandler's mind's eye, Chicago's deep freeze has melted away and he's cruising along with the top down, laughing large, easy in the knowledge that he has taken the right road.