Geoff Stults, TV Veteran, Makes a Play for Leading Man With 'The Finder'

Geoff Stults The Finder promo - P 2012
Patrick Ecclesine/FOX

Geoff Stults The Finder promo - P 2012

Geoff Stults is something of an unrealized leading man.

After acquainting himself with television audiences during a recurring gig on 7th Heaven, the actor went on a nearly decade-long binge of guest appearances and leading roles in doomed series. (You may recall October Road, Reunion or Happy Town.)

He's inarguably handsome, boasts a sprawling IMDB profile and has a sense of humor that's landed him smaller parts in hits such as Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up.

Now, at 34, he finally seems poised for breakout status, taking on the title role in Fox's heavily promoted Bones spin-off, The Finder.

"You can always tell when you're doing a show," Stults tells The Hollywood Reporter, not recalling any one project in particular, "One of those 'Gee, we sure hope you do all right' shows and there aren't a lot of expectations for it."

From the sound of it, his experience on The Finder -- he plays Walter Sherman, a slightly imbalanced private investigator capable of locating anything and anyone -- has been quite the opposite.

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"This is just so different," he says. "They're promoting the hell out of it, they gave us the best time slot in television and you can tell that there's a belief in it. I could tell that from the upfronts when we weren't at the very last table. By the way that we're treated, from the press to the people at Fox, there are high expectations. And I want those expectations because it means we have a good opportunity."

The time slot alone lends credit to a vote of faith from the network. The Finder's 13-episode run is scheduled at 9:00 p.m. It's Jan. 12 premiere follows the winter finale of its sister series, and starting the following week, it airs after American Idol.

Knowing that he's also already aired an episode takes a bit of pressure off as well. The Finder debuted as a backdoor pilot in an April 2011 episode of Bones, shortly before it was picked up for the midseason.

"The whole process for me happened so differently from anything else I've ever done," Stults says, noting that he didn't exactly jump on the project when it came across his table. "By being a moron, I walked myself into a fantastic job. I knew of Bones, obviously, but I'd never been a Bones watcher. I'd seen it once before we shot the episode."

As with any spin-off, having Bones around is something of a blessing and a curse for the series. On one hand, there's a built-in fanbase and infrastructure -- Stults likens it to joining a "well-oiled machine" -- and on the other, spin-offs are traditionally taken less seriously.

"Here's my little two cent description," Stults tells THR, redefining the label a bit, "It's like Bones did a crossover episode with a show that just didn't exist yet."

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Not that there aren't similarities. Both shows parallel a procedural element with borderline slapstick humor. THR's chief TV critic Tim Goodman wrote that the series has "has zero pretentions of being edgy."

Still, Stults says there are depths to be explored in Walter Sherman. His abilities at "finding" are conditional on a devastating brain injury that could kill him or drive him insane with little provocation.

"We toe that line a bit," he says of the darker themes, which he thinks will be explored further if they get a second season. "Tonally, there are intense parts of the show, but for the most part its lighter so far."

And maybe you can thank him for that. The quirk seen on The Finder is very much his own.

"Originally the character was conceived to be much darker," Stults says, "but [creator] Hart [Hanson] and I chose to play a bit more with the jackassery. When you cast somebody, you write to their strengths."

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