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Ruivivar hopes pilot puts him on cable, 'the next frontier'

By Mike Gordon

LAST UPDATED: 2:24 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

The waiting continues for Hawaii's Anthony Ruivivar, who's hoping A&E will order a season of "Big Mike," a police drama that shot a pilot this past spring.

Ruivivar had a leading role in the pilot as homicide Detective Armando Romero. He's paired with series star Greg Grunberg, who plays Detective Mike O'Bannon.

"Big Mike" offers a nice mix of plot and potential, Ruivivar says.

First, of course, is the story. It's a character-driven cop show about two detectives who have been best friends since childhood. And second, the story could flourish under A&E because there's more creative freedom on the upper channels of cable television.

"Doing cable TV has always been at the back of my mind as the next frontier of really good programming where you can push the envelope," Ruivivar says. "Network is great and I'm not railing on it. I came from it. It's just that networks have many more people to please than cable. They are answering to a larger cross section of viewership."

Ruivivar has had several network TV gigs, starting in 1999 with his breakthrough role as Carlos Nieto on NBC's "Third Watch." He bagged 123 episodes in the series. In 2007 he had a role in ABC's "Traveler" and last fall in that network's short-lived legal drama "The Whole Truth."

A&E announced in May that "Big Mike" was in development, but there's been no further word. It's being produced by Sony Pictures Television and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. The story is set in San Diego, but the pilot was shot in Orlando, Fla., in March and April.

Ruivivar says everyone knows a Big Mike — which is part of the show's appeal.

"Greg Grunberg's character, Big Mike, basically grew up in my house, not because he had a dysfunctional family, but because he was just that kid who never left your house," Ruivivar says. "He was always there for dinner."

The two friends become cops: Grunberg's Big Mike as a football player-turned-plus-size-detective and Ruivivar's Romero as a lean, mean former Marine. Their story is full of comedy — think "House" and you get the idea, Ruivivar says.

"It's quirky and it's offbeat and it's fun," he says.

ONE OF THE KEY differences between network television and its cable counterparts is that the latter doesn't have to follow accepted cycles of series development — pilots shot in the spring, pickup announcements in May and a shooting schedule that usually starts in the summer. Cable can work the schedule to its satisfaction, but that means a lot of waiting.

"This is what you expect but it is absolutely nerve-wracking," Ruivivar says.

The 40-year-old Ruivivar is well acquainted with the rhythms of the industry, in part because he comes from a show business family. His father, Tony, is a founder of the popular Hawaii musical group Society of Seven.

"Being an actor, you are a gypsy," he says. "You live this gypsy lifestyle where you rarely know what you are doing the next year. Episodic television is great, but other than that it is total free fall. You get used to it, and you get used to those long waits."

AND that's a wrap …

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. Read his Outtakes Online blog at Reach him at 529-4803 or email

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