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Copyright 1987 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd. 

                                The Toronto Star


                June 6, 1987, Saturday, SATURDAY SECOND EDITION




LENGTH: 761 words


HEADLINE: No shrinking Viola After a decade in the showbiz boondocks  Curtis

 Armstrong  has settled down to a regular job on Moonlighting as an apprentice

gumshoe eager to succeed


BYLINE: By Eirik Knutzen




   "I have never seen anybody throw a piano across the room during creative

differences between Cybill (Shepherd) and Bruce (Willis)," says  Curtis

 Armstrong.  He's the little guy who plays Herbert Viola, the moon-faced

overeager private eye who became the object of Ms Dipesto's pentup passions at the Blue Moon Detective Agency in Moonlighting the past season.


   "They carry something like 98 per cent of the show and are under enormous

pressure physically and emotionally working together 14 to 16 hours a day,"

Armstrong continues. "Under circumstances like that, with two very different and creative people, there are occasional disagreements. But the media blow them up to brawls. I've also seen the two of them make each other laugh so hard that they can't get through a scene. But that isn't interesting."


   No fool, Armstrong isn't about to let the culmination of 10 near-obscure

years in the business slip through his stubby fingers by dropping a few negative comments. "In the great scheme of things, Moonlighting is the biggest job I've ever had. A lot of people saw me in Revenge Of The Nerds (as the utterly disgusting Booger), but it's nothing compared with the millions who tune in to the show every week. I'm also thrilled playing a character close to my

chronological age for a change, having done a bunch of teenage,

coming-of-age-type movies."


   There was considerable confusion when the skinny, 5-foot-6, 33-year-old

 actor  first joined the Moonlighting cast four episodes into the 1986-87

season, says Armstrong. "I thought that Herbert was supposed to be in love with Ms Dipesto (Allyce Beasley) and sweated out my first day on the set because I had never kissed a woman on the screen before. The executive producer finally took me aside to say that Herbert hated her; they just hadn't written it into the script yet.


   "Viola was introduced as an accountant working at the Blue Moon on a

temporary basis, then promoted to a gumshoe without explanation. Though

(Herbert) has mainly been running around helping David Addison with odds and ends, he and Ms Dipesto managed to solve the mystery of a haunted house

together. They're clearly friends now and I think they'll fall in love next



   The son of a Chrysler Corp. personnel executive, Armstrong was born and

raised in Detroit (except for four years in Geneva, Switzerland) along with a

younger sister. He lasted a year studying journalism at Western Michigan

University in Kalamazoo, then enrolled for a two-year program at (the now

defunct) Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rochester, Mich.


   Following graduation in 1974, Armstrong co-founded a theatre group in Ann

Arbor, Mich., called Roadside Attractions Incorporated (since moved to Detroit

and dubbed the Attic Theatre), and made his professional stage debut as Puck

in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Armed with two years of solid acting experience, he moved to New York City and became a mailroom clerk.


   "My last position was for a giant Wall Street brokerage house in Manhattan in

1979. I got a call from a producer wanting me for a bus and truck tour in Da and

ran down to the production office to sign the contract on my lunch hour."


   Armstrong kicked around in various regional theatre productions until his

first film came along, Risky Business (1981), in which he portrayed Miles Dalby,

Tom Cruise's wisecracking best friend. It was followed in short order by

supporting roles in the easily forgotten Bad Medicine, Better Off Dead, One

Crazy Summer and Clan Of The Cave Bear (1986).


   Given the vagaries of the entertainment business, Armstrong spent the year

before Moonlighting unemployed. "The nicest surprise about the series is that I

only expected a one-time guest shot as a body for Allyce (Beasley) to play

off. When they brought me back the following week and it became apparent that I would be at least a recurring character, I spent my first Moonlighting cheque on a letter written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to a soldier in the field during

World War I.


   "I'm a Sherlock Holmes freak and a collector of books, so I spend days

slobbering in used-book shops. I'm also writing a screenplay based on a short

story by P.G. Wodehouse with a friend and fellow  actor,  John Doolittle."


   For the past eight years, he has enjoyed a long-distance marriage with

actress Cynthia Carle (there are no children) as they divide their time between

New York and Los Angeles apartments. "We're renting on a month-to-month basis because we're seldom in the same place at the same time," says Armstrong.


   - Eirik Knutzen


GRAPHIC: photo Curtis Armstrong




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