There's more to Thomas Ian Griffith than the muscular six foot four
frame that meets the eye. Sure, he's got the black belt in Tae Kwon
Do to go with the blue-ribbon physique-- maybe you caught his slick
moves as the charismatic heavy in
The Karate Kid III.
But the guy also sings opera, plays piano, and dances well enough to
have been on Broadway. That is, when he's not adting in, writing, or
Or doing all three. That's the case with
an action-drama that's the first of three pictures Griffith has
signed to make for New Line. In it, the 32-year old stars as Terry
McCain, a short fused but sensitive Chicago cop fighting the mob.
The script he penned gives the actor ample opportunity to show off
his chops- jazz piano as well as the karate kind. "He's a damn good
writer", says James Earl Jones, who appears under Jon Hess's
direction as a jazz club owner. "What ordinarily would have been
what I consider gratuitous violence did not seem so; it seemed like
part of a very tough story."
Show biz wasn't what Griffith planned on back home in picturesque
Wethersfield, Connecticut, he admits in a deep, surprisingly soft
voice. He planned to got to law school like his father, although "my
prime interests were music and karate." His mother ran several dance
schools, where Griffith played piano to earn his allowance. There he
picked up tap and her speciality, Irish step-dancing. Then one day
his high school drama group needed an emergency replacement for the
piano player. Griffith was drafted-- and hooked.
By nineteen, he'd made it to Broadway. Griffith had dropped out of
the College of Holy Cross to kick up his long, long legs as lead
soloist in the musical The
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
and moved on to other shows, both on Broadway and in the boonies,
until being cast on the soap
"I was the rogue trouble-causer who comes into town and falls in
love with the ingenue," says Griffith with a smile that lights up
his blue eyes. That's also the way it played off-cameras. Last fall,
he and the ingenue, actress Mary Page Keller, married after eight
years together (including three on the soap).
side: Griffith's Tour de "Force"; he enjoys action--"It's like a kid
playing, all the things you got in trouble for"-- but he is wary of
typecasting. "Genre karate movies don't interest me." (click to
Griffith headed west with Keller
when she snared the lead in the TV series
Frustrated by the initial loneliness and lack of work, the actor
found other outlets: Excercising his trained basso profundo in
a University of Southern California production of Puccini and
writing his first script.
As it turned out, Griffith got onscreen before his story.
(Considerably altered, it became the "artsy-looking exploitation
piece" Night of the Warrior).
Making a splashy debut as an �bervillain with a dash of humor in
Karate Kid III,
Griffith was, according to star Ralph Macchio, "the best and
freshest thing in the movie."
Much as Griffith enjoys doing action-- "It's like a kid playing, all
the things you got in trouble for"-- he is wary of chopsocky
typecasting. "Genre karate movies don't interest me," he says.
Griffith's next project, Ulterior Motives, has yet to be released,
but, he says, "I want to do things with character, passion, heart."
In the wake of the Los Angeles riots, Griffith, who lives in North
Hollywood with Keller and their golden retriever, expresses concern
about any contribution action pictures such as
may make to the general climate of violence. "When you see the real
things, the Rodney King stuff, it's just nauseating," he says,
fingering the tiny gold cross dangling from his ear. "Hopefully,
people watching this movie will understand why the word 'excessive'
is in the title."