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This story originally appeared in the Sept. 14 magazine edition of The Hollywood Reporter.
He was exactly not right for the part on The Finder, which spun off from Bones. The part of Leo, a former lawyer who owns a bar in Key West, Fla., was written for someone who was more like Sam Shepard: an old, white, skinny cowboy. The casting and studio people called and asked if there was a place for Michael Clarke Duncan, and I said yes.
I completely rewrote the character for Michael because he hadn’t done TV before. He was a huge presence, and I believe he was destined to be a big TV star. A lot of actors are nothing like what you see, but MCD was very much like what you see onscreen: that big smile, that big voice, not a bit of a bully to him. He doesn’t alpha-male anybody, though he could alpha-male anyone he wanted. He was just a genuinely good guy.
It’s hard to believe he’s gone in the way he went, with a massive heart attack. He and [series star] Geoff Stults would put on 50-pound vests in Miami at the Sonesta Hotel at Coconut Grove and run up and down 20 flights of stairs and do 50 pushups at the top and at the bottom. Both were inclined to exaggerate how many times they did it, but it certainly was more than once. Geoff, who is 34, would be laughingly astounded that he would be running stairs with this 285-pound, almost 54-year-old man.
When we shot that last scene of The Finder this year, we were hoping it would be the season finale, not the series finale. If I had known it would be the end of our series, the last image would have been Leo standing outside his bar, looking out at the weather vane and being the last man standing, with everyone else scattered to the wind.
The Finder started as an episode of Bones, and we were thinking of having MCD and Geoff do one more crossover episode on Bones so that we could tell the Bones fans what happened after The Finder didn’t come back. We put all that on hold when he had his heart attack in July, but we were hoping he’d be back. [Bones star] David Boreanaz directed a Finder episode, and David and MCD really bonded. They’re both team-playing, big-hearted, noisy, jock-type wonderful guys.
We’re just now coming to grips with the idea that MCD is gone. I sure hope we can think of something that would do him proud. — As told to Lesley Goldberg
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