Second career Actor's roles include 'The Wire,' 'NYPD Blue,' and 'CSI'

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By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Originally an advertising executive for TBWA International in New York City, John Doman planned to leave the advertising business at age 45 and launch his second career as an actor.

“I missed it by six months. I left when I was 46 in 1991,” Doman, 70, recalled with a laugh.

Doman earned an undergraduate degree in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania in his native Philadelphia, where he played a defensive halfback on the football team. He would later earn an MBA from Pennsylvania State University. He also served with the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam for three years.

Doman has made his reputation as an actor playing imposing, strong-willed authority figures on numerous TV series and movies, including “The Good Wife,” “NCIS,” “CSI,” “The Practice,” “Damages,” “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” “Judging Amy,” “Burn Notice,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” among others. His first role was in 1991 on NBC’s “Law & Order,” a franchise he’d return to several times over the course of his career, most recently in 2012.

“I had a very small role in an episode of ‘Law & Order’ playing the courtroom bailiff reading charges against the guy on trial. I didn’t meet (‘L&O’ creator) Dick Wolf on that first job, but I did eventually meet him,” he said. “I’ve done probably a dozen ‘L&O’ episodes over the years on the various shows. At least two to three of those episodes were the same character.”

Doman’s best known for playing Deputy Police Commissioner William A. Rawls on “The Wire,” HBO’s ground-breaking crime drama that aired from 2002-08, the brainchild of former police reporter David Simon, creator of NBC’s critically-praised “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” Occurring in Baltimore, “The Wire” is considered one of the finest television dramas of all time. Each season introduced a different institution – the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, the school system, and the newspaper media – and its relationship to law enforcement. “The Wire” also featured appearances by actual Maryland figures, including former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke.

“‘The Wire’ has really become… a sociological document. It was under the radar when we were doing it. The audience wasn’t that big. It was critically acclaimed. HBO never really promoted it. We didn’t get nominated for anything but a Peabody Award one year; there were no Emmys, no Golden Globes, none of that. People weren’t really paying that much attention to it. But then the DVDs came out and word of mouth started building. It’s much more popular now than when we were actually doing it, which is a strange phenomenon. It’s an international thing too – it’s all over the place,” explained Doman.

His next major role was Edward Galston on HBO’s “Oz,” a prison drama that starred Wayne State alumnus Ernie Hudson and Grosse Pointe native J.K. Simmons.

“It was a great bunch of characters on that show. I was playing, interestingly enough, a former Marine who ends up in jail for raping a woman Marine. It was a terrific show, a great bunch of guys,” said Doman. “Through that show, I met Tom Fontana, who was the executive producer/showrunner. I subsequently worked with him again on a series called ‘Borgia’…” 

Simmons, who won an Oscar for his role in “Whiplash” earlier this year, enjoyed working with Doman. He sang his co-star’s praises.

“First of all, Doman is exactly 10 years older than I – to the day (both Simmons and have a birthday of Jan. 9). But he’s one of those guys who seems ageless to me.  Like he was born at age 50 and hasn’t aged since,” said Simmons. “He’s also a great guy to work with – solid as a rock.  No drama between takes, always delivers, and makes it look easy –my kind of actor.  I wish we’d shared the screen more on ‘Oz,’ and I hope we have more opportunities in the future.”

Reuniting with Fontana, Doman’s most complex role was Rodrigo Borgia, who becomes Pope Alexander VI, on the above-mentioned 2011-14 Netflix series “Borgia.” This historical drama chronicled the Borgia family’s rise to power and subsequent domination of the Papal States during the Renaissance. Although it was Doman’s most complex role, he stated it was also “gratifying and enjoyable,” playing such a complicated character.

Doman’s recent roles include “Person of Interest,” “The Affair,” and “Gotham,” as well as doing voiceover work. He’s currently the voice of the Michelin Man on various Michelin tire commercials.

Doman plays Sen. Ross Garrison on “Person of Interest,” the CBS techno-thriller returning for its fifth season in early 2016. He’s been “pinned” by producers, which means they want to see if he’s available. Doman stated he’s tentatively slated to reprise this role in the upcoming season.

“Person of Interest” is about a Big Brother-esque mass surveillance high-tech computer system/artificial intelligence called the Machine that borders on omniscient. Created by the enigmatic Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), he uses the Machine to prevent crimes before happening, utilizing the skills of his ally John Reese (Jim Caveziel), an ex-Special Forces operative. However, other parties want to get their hands on the Machine and use it for their own purposes.

“Big Brother is watching as we all know from the news with the risk and the scare of terrorism. The government is very active in monitoring stuff – video cameras are all over the place. I think (‘Person of Interest’) an exaggeration of how it is today, but it’s close enough,” said Doman.

He also portrays mob boss Don Carmine Falcone on “Gotham,” FOX’s Batman prequel series that opens immediately after the double-murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, parents of young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), who’ll one day become Batman. Doman was a regular during the first season and is slated to return for several episodes this season. Last season, Falcone – who mentored the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) – was the target of rival mobsters who sought to assassinate him. However, he survived and left Gotham with the Penguin now the city’s reigning crime-lord.

“Falcone’s an interesting character – he’s a villain, but he’s a very honorable villain in his own way. He’s not a garden-variety villain; he’s a complicated character, which I thought was really wonderful,” he said.

Doman became interested in acting – although just not right away – when he saw Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy” and the next night in “The Graduate” after he completed his tour of duty in Vietnam.

“I was so blown away by (Hoffman’s) performances in these roles. I thought, ‘Wow, this would be an amazing thing to do.’ That planted the seed in my head that I wanted to give acting a try,” said Doman.

However, Doman didn’t know anything about the acting profession, so he went into the advertising profession first. 

“I led a double-life for two years while I was in the ad business; I was taking (acting) classes at night,” said Doman. “I just got sucked into the ad business and it took me 20 years to get out of it.”
 

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