Ron Perlman has taken a rocky path to get this far

Tribune News Service

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. Somebody up there must like actor Ron Perlman. Not only is he starring as an avenging court judge in Amazon's thriller "Hand of God," he has experienced the touch himself.

While he's enjoyed a variable career from roles in "Hellboy," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sons of Anarchy," his own life hasn't been so genial.

His dad was only 49 when he died. "I lost my brother who was 38 ... to manic depression. And I had my own bout with clinical depression," he confides in a quiet guest room of a hotel here.

"Clinical depression is the hardest thing I've ever had to tangle with because there's nothing you can do. You can be looking at an Academy Award on your mantle I'm not saying I ever won one but what you're seeing is so ugly. That's what clinical depression is. Everything that's beautiful looks ugly," he says, his gravelly voice interrupted with a cough.

"There's no hope anywhere. You start having morose thoughts. You don't want to have that feeling anymore. You want to be done with it. It takes a lot of people's lives. It took my brother's life. It almost took mine."

What interfered, he says, was God. "I didn't have any medication. I went to as low a place I could go, and I didn't die. From that point on, I started to get better and I realized, 'OK, I'm not meant to die. I'm meant to be around. I'm meant to do something, so let's just get on with it.' Little by little I got stronger and stronger and it ended up like most really, really dark, horrible times, it can sometimes be the thing that makes for the best of times if you're able to survive it."

He survived it and then some. His career began with a whimper � he jokes that he worked at a dizzying display of odd jobs, mostly driving cabs and limos in New York and clerking at his best friend's boutique on and off for 11 years.

He says there were decades when he was taking parts only to earn a living. "I wish I could take those jobs back," he shakes his curly white head. "I tried to make the most of them but there were a lot of jobs I had to get through month-to-month.

"I was doing my best, but in a world where you have no control, sometimes you've got to make lemonade."

Both of his children, now 30 and 25, were born during his downtimes. "Now when I look back on that I think that was God's plan to make me have a real bonding experience with both my kids because I was changing every diaper the first two years of my daughter's life. I was there for the first bottle in the morning to the last book at night, combing her hair and learning all that s that men are not supposed to do.

"When she got to be 3 I started to get some work. I went, 'Somebody made it possible for me to have two perfectly uninterrupted years where we bonded in a way that's very uncommon for a dad and a kid.' The same thing happened with my son."

Perlman, 65, says his acting fortunes shifted when he hit 50. "It's been pretty much non-stop, but prior to 50 there were some time periods of two or three years � and that's a long time to go without an income. So I look back on that and go, 'Yeah, bring it, baby.' That's what makes me so in love with being alive right now is how we were able to survive that stuff."

Married for 35 years to Opal, Perlman says for him marriage marked a learning curve. "I learned it isn't all about me; how to meet someone half way. I learned how to compromise when I could, and how not to when I couldn't. I also learned this business I was in was not just an act of self-indulgence, this was how I was going to put food on our table, to make a life for me and anybody I took on as my life partner.

"You have a couple kids, and you double down on all that. You become the breadwinner and it takes the onus off of being the artist and you start becoming a craftsman, hopefully not losing the art while you're doing it."

His performance as the judge in "Hand of God," which is streaming now, proves he hasn't lost the art of it. But Perlman admits he was scared to death to tackle the daunting role.

"Because how out-of-control emotionally he is through much of the pilot. And I imagined if the show had much of a shelf-life, it wasn't going to get better, it was only going to get worse. I really truly didn't know whether I had what it took to go to the places that (author) Ben Watkins wanted the character to go to and be authentic and be that out-of-control emotionally. And it scared me. And I needed everybody's encouragement.

"Trust me when I tell you it's a year and a half later and I'm the happiest I've ever been in my career. Just the fact that I went on that little stroll has infused me with a lot of peace and contentment. I'm really glad I did it, and I've met some amazing people along the way."

Don Mischer has executive produced the Emmys so often that it's hard to imagine the show without him. This year will be his 14th time in the control booth. With all his experience he insists the show will be different this year when it airs on Fox Sunday.

"When you're producing an awards show, the two things that make the most difference are who wins and what did they say. And as a producer, you have absolutely no control over that," he says.

"We hope that we will have unexpected winners, which will make the show more interesting. And I think we have a better chance of that this year, because I think that the diversity and inclusiveness of this year's nominees are greater than I've ever known before."

In the past, blue-ribbon panels have done the voting, but no longer. "The voting has now been thrown open to many hundreds and thousands of people," says Mischer. "That's going to change the character, and I'm very hopeful that that will affect this show. The most important thing, though, in any awards show is your host, and the host is unquestionably the critical element in having fun and making these evenings go quickly." The host this year will be Andy Samberg of Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

The thing that makes ventriloquist Jeff Dunham so popular is that he's also a comedian. He says he didn't think of that until he was in college. "I realized that if I was going to actually compete in the world with the professional comedians, I realized I had to get a lot funnier. I couldn't just have a fancy technique and do fancy ventriloquist things. So I needed to go toe-to-toe with the likes of whoever was working the comedy clubs in those years. And that was the late '80s and early '90s."

Dunham says he had to figure out who he was in the act. "I was a comedy team with one side that didn't say too much. So, that was one reason that I started doing standup myself and became my own opening act on the road doing comedy clubs, because then I would go out there and do 10 or 15 minutes of just me. And people would get to know me. But then I realized they weren't, of course, there for me. They were there for the dummies. Then you pull the dummies out and you've got the entire comedy team on stage."

That comedy team will stir the laughs again on Thursday when NBC presents "Jeff Dunham Unhinged in Hollywood."

Even though the second season of "Doctor Who," starring Peter Capaldi premieres Saturday on BBC America, Capaldi says he's completely mystified by the good doctor. "I had no idea how to play Doctor Who. Even today, I've got no idea how to play it. It's quite clear if you see the rushes. He's mysterious, and I think it's probably not a good idea to arrive with a solid, unbending idea of what you should do. So much of what we do is collaborative and with wonderful scripts to work with and wonderful directors, and I like to try and develop things and see what happens ... But I quite ... enjoy the fact that I don't really know how to play the part. I think it would be a bad idea to arrive with a fully formed notion of how you think you should be."

(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)

(c)2015 Luaine Lee

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