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'Missing Persons' cop role resonates for black actor


Bobby Davison on ABC's "Missing Persons" is, at first glance, the typical television maverick cop. He bends the rules. He's sarcastic to his superiors and fellow officers, and sometimes to some of the people he has to question.

In the pilot episode, Davison used a disguise to get information about a case, and went into the trunk of a car without a proper search warrant.

Typical television cop. Except this cop is black. Rarely does television afford blacks an opportunity to take such a role and make it their own, the way actor Erik King does with Bobby Davison.

Mr. King saw that Davison "was not homogenized like a lot of people that I've seen on television, and roles that I've played myself.

"He was very clearly Afrocentric, and I loved that about him," Mr. King says while sitting at the desk his character occupies. The show's squad room and other scenes are filmed in an old police station on Chicago's Southwest Side.

Although Davison isn't the typical black police officer on TV, he does share a main trait with other make-believe cops.

"He's very creative in getting the job done. More so, I guess, than any normal patrolman would be able to do, or even more than you would normally do within the missing-persons [unit] or whatever," says Mr. King, a Washington, D.C., native who makes his home in Los Angeles.

"King read a character that was written extremely honestly and, I think, that to a great extent didn't feel like it was a black character written by a white man," says Gary Sherman, the creator, executive producer along with Stephen J. Cannell, and a writer of "Missing Persons."

Mr. Sherman, a native Chicagoan, says he based Davison on two cop friends as well as several other police officers he knows.

Bobby Davison shares an affinity with Lt. Ray McAuliffe, played by Daniel J. Travanti of NBC's "Hill Street Blues."

"I think Ray sees a lot of himself in Bobby, and he wants to keep him on sort of the straight and narrow," says Mr. King, who has appeared in such series as "The Round Table" and "Stephen King's Golden Years," and the movies "Casualties of War" and "Cadillac Man."

"Erik is a very bright and accomplished actor. And he's obviously has been doing this a long time," says Mr. Travanti, just before filming a scene with other cast members. "He has a polish and a controlled craft."

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