sinks his teeth into second-season return of HBO's Oz
The News-Times online edition, Connecticut
July 7, 1998
Tergesen read the script for Saturday's second-season sneak preview
of HBO's grisly prison drama "Oz,'' he thought: "Oh, dear God.
Another TV first.''
In a bone-chilling scene, Tergesen's character, Tobias Beecher, a
lawyer-turned-psycho serving 15 years for a drunken-driving
accident, bites into an appetizer only Lorena Bobbitt could love. As
production of the episode approached, "everybody got more and more
freaked. It was so intense," he recalls.
Tergesen says he called "Oz" creator Tom Fontana and told him he was
"the sickest" guy he knows. Not one to be deterred by a compliment,
Fontana "asked me what I thought of the script. I said, 'For you,
I'll do it.' ''
Having lived through a season of unspeakable degradation on "Oz,"
Tergesen steeled himself and did his dramatic duty. In retrospect,
he labels the scene "a great moment for my character. He's drawn the
line. He will do anything to keep himself from being killed."
Cynics might argue that starring in "Oz" could get an actor's career
killed. Particularly one whose most memorable credit is "Terry, the
cameraman" in "Wayne's World."
Instead, the acclaimed "Oz" - which takes over its regular 10 p.m.
Monday slot next week - has garnered kudos for Tergesen, along with
Ernie Hudson, Rita Moreno, Terry Kinney, Eamonn Walker and Dean
"We were all surprised it was a hit," says Tergesen, 32, whose
brother, Chris, is Oz's music supervisor. "I was pretty humiliated
in the first eight episodes. As horrible as the show is, we care
about it. I'm working with some of the greatest actors I've ever
Over the course of last season, Tergesen's Tobias Beecher was slowly
transformed from a naive, slaughter-bound lamb to a hardened, mad
"At first, I saw him as a poor guy in the wrong place," muses
Tergesen. "Now, after having everything stripped away from him - his
freedom, his family, his profession - he's evil. He's using what's
at his core. Lawyers play with power. They're opportunists, and they
can be vengeful."
Truth be told, Tergesen is not a complete stranger to prison.
He says he spent a night in jail in L.A. and lost his license for 18
months after being arrested for driving while intoxicated in April
1992. Tergesen had been sentenced to 10 days, he says, but because
the incident occurred just after the riots that followed the Rodney
King verdicts, "they sent me home after one day."
After "Oz's" exhausting intensity, Tergesen will take a breather
with a "fun" project - as a bad guy in Jean Claude Van Damme's
big-screen "Inferno." ["Desert Heat"]
Production begins this month.
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