WATCH Magazine: December 2022: Wilmer Valderrama

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET • 1994 This was a modern version of the 1947 Christmas classic. A department store Santa Claus named Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) believes he’s the real deal. When he is in danger of being institutionalized, a lawyer—McDermott in his only PG-rated role—defends him in court, helped by a precocious young girl (Mara Wilson in the Natalie Wood part). THE PRACTICE • 1997–2004 He took the role of scrappy attorney Bobby Donnell believing the ABC legal drama would be a home run, but it took a few years. “We got bumped to Saturday nights early on because the network was upset that we only got 20 million viewers,” he says. He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy during his six-season tenure.

of my mother when I was a kid. [McDermott’s mom, Diane, was killed by her boyfriend in 1967. McDer- mott was just 5.] I felt like I needed something to call back on, to anchor me as I take on this character. I didn’t want to be just an FBI agent. Remy’s job is to catch bad guys, but I wanted him to have an emo- tional tie as to why he’s doing it. That helps me as I go through the series. Given the tragedy with your mom, did you ever con- sider becoming an FBI agent or lawyer? No. I think I’ve always been an artist since I can remember and have always seen the world from that perspective. I’ve always had a longing for art. Was television a big part of your life back in the day? Growing up, I watched TV religiously. That was everything to me. I loved I Dream of Jeannie [and] The Courtship of Eddie’s Father . When you were starting out, what did you envision for your acting career? I never became an actor to be rich and famous. I loved the craft of acting and still love it. I enjoy cre- ating a character from the ground up and thinking about what caused them to be the way they are. What were their emotional wounds and inju- ries? All that stuff was fascinating to me. It didn’t matter how big the part was as long as I was doing great work and surrounded by good people and good writing. What do you remember about your first big break? I got very close to getting the Mandy Patinkin role in The Princess Bride . But in 1986 I went to an open call for a movie called Hamburger Hill . I figured that they would give it to somebody in the Brat Pack. And I think when you don’t care, you feel free, you know? They kept on calling me back for a bigger and bigger role. Finally, I got the call that I was going to play this enormous role [as Sergeant Adam Frantz]. That was a remarkable time for me. All these years later, do you have a preference for portraying a virtuous character versus a villain? I like to do both. I don’t think I would want to do one thing for any length of time because you get caught up in that world.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY • 2011, 2012–13, 2018, 2019 McDermott met with creator Ryan Murphy, and “we hit it off and became instant friends,” he says. He joined the first season, focused on a troubled couple (McDermott and Connie Britton) becoming unglued after buying a haunted house. McDermott has since appeared in three other AHS chapters. “I don’t even read the scripts anymore— I just say yes.”

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NOVEMBER / DECEMBER • 2022

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