Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro have returned for the rebooted Melrose Place.DR MICHAEL Mancini, the baby-faced love rat of ’90s drama series Melrose Place, has been good to his alter ego, actor Thomas Calabro. The role for which Calabro will forever be recognised propelled his career from jobbing LA actor to prime-time star. He was the only original cast member to stay for the show’s entire run, from 1992-99. But over the decade since, Calabro has found it hard to shake the scheming Mancini. Television roles have been confined to guest spots on shows such as Nip/Tuck,Cold Case,Without a Trace, and, most recently, Glee, or appearances as himself on nostalgia shows such as I Love the ’90s (2004). When I spoke with him in 2010, as the series relaunched to lukewarm reviews in the US and was scheduled to screen on Channel Ten (which then shelved it for two years), Calabro said it was with trepidation that he agreed to resurrect his role as a regular on the redux version of Melrose Place.
”I think any actor who has been on a successful series would say there’s a very small, small chance that that would ever happen again, and so I felt very fortunate and shocked to be asked back,” he said. ”My ex-wife actually lives in the huge success of the first time around. We bought a big house and now she has it.”
Revisiting Michael Mancini and his various loves (Laura Leighton reprises her role as the voracious Sydney, and Josie Bissett appears in a guest role as Michael’s two-time wife, Jane), was confronting Calabro’s own past.
”Michael’s everything I wouldn’t want to tap into,” he said. ”Just like I wouldn’t want to tap into myself 10 years ago. They say every seven years, every cell in your body rejuvenates, so for me there was no need to go back and repeat that. It was most important that I find out who he is now.”
The pilot episode sees an older, wiser Michael doing a very good imitation of a family man with a wife and five-year-old son, but there’s the complication of his fraught relationship with his now grown-up son David (Shaun Sipos), who is embroiled in a love affair with Sydney, who has replaced Amanda (Heather Locklear) as queen of the apartment building.
”Michael has got more self-confidence than he’s ever had before,” Calabro said. ”The first time around he was always seeking greater heights and doing things to achieve [positions such as] chief of staff or a new kind of love, to see how he could get ahead and serve himself. Now he’s on top of the world. Now he’s in a position where he’s got more to lose, so he’s defending the castle rather than trying to attack it … But Michael is Michael and in any incarnation of Melrose Place, he’s going to be Michael and he will get what he wants just the way he wants to get it.”
Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) directed the pilot episode for producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (Smallville), who have faithfully re-created the late Aaron Spelling’s glamorous world of troubled young things. The series opens with all the familiar elements: a love tryst, fracturing relationships, a moral dilemma, and a dead body in the pool.
”What I really enjoyed about Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin’s vision was that it is their own,” Calabro said. ”They were going to bring back a sort of high-pitched drama but they certainly had their own world that they were going to try and create … They weren’t trying to be Aaron Spelling.”
Melrose Place screens on Sunday at 10.30pm on Channel Eleven.
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