Dan Futterman

by Eirik Knutzen | May 10, 2001
Dan Futterman Dan Futterman`s heart stopped - just for a split second - as doctors and nurses sprang into action the moment his daughter was born on March 5. Suddenly, tubes were inserted down the tiny baby`s throat and suctioning equipment sprang to life.

Little Sylvie, named for Futterman`s late aunt, was suffering from meconium aspiration. The potentially fatal condition occurs when the newborn`s first bowel movement takes place inside the womb, the waste mixes with amniotic fluid and the fluid is inhaled into the lungs by the infant - causing partial or complete blockage of the airways. Meconium aspiration occurs in nearly 10 percent of all births and can be fatal, particularly in medically deprived Third World countries.

"She had a tough first night and it was scary her being in distress during the first few moments of her life," says the "Judging Amy" co-star softly. "It`s amazing how immediate your emotional life is for this little creature - your protective instincts are powerful and you simply can`t imagine what would happen if you lost her.

"My poor wife, Anya, didn`t get to hold Sylvie immediately, because they had to take care of her for a few hours, then kept her in the Intensive Care Unit overnight to make sure everything was cool. She turned out to be fine by the next day."

The arrival of his first born has radically altered his universe, according to the skinny, 33-year-old actor with an unruly mop of dark brown hair and warm blue eyes hiding behind cold steel-rimmed glasses. Finally relaxed ("I`m a worrier"), he is sipping a cup of coffee in the bright and airy kitchen of his Mediterranean-style house in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We`re absolutely in love with her and willing to do anything to keep her happy and comfortable in the crib next to our bed," he says, smiling. "Whatever she wants is fine with us, because we want some sleep, too."

Sylvie`s debut also happened to be a case of perfect timing, as the production of "Judging Amy" (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m. EDT, CBS) shut down for five weeks when star Amy Brenneman delivered her own ingenue, Charlotte Tucker, on March 20.

"I`ve been able to stay at home and spend more time with the baby than I could ever hope for," says Futterman. "It has given Anya a little break and time to work on a screenplay, a top-secret project. We met eight years ago when I guest-starred in an episode of `Homicide: Life On The Street,` which she wrote and produced, then were married last year."

But before resuming his work as Vincent Gray, Amy`s somewhat beaten-down younger brother, Futterman managed to put in a couple of weeks` work on the dramatic feature film "Enough" as the ex-lover of Jennifer Lopez.

Among other things, he has a fling with J.Lo`s best friend, Juliette Lewis, at a wedding. The story focuses on Lopez marrying Billy Campbell, a psychopath above her class, and winds up on the run five years later when she discovers that he is cheating and he responds by beating her into pulp.

Born in Silver Spring, Md., and raised in New York`s upper-crust Westchester County, Futterman`s family background hardly resembles the trials and tribulations Vincent goes through overshadowed by an ambitious sister and a powerful mother. In real life, his father was once employed as a legal adviser for the U.S. Sate Department and now practices contract and labor law. His mother, who holds a Ph.D, is a psychoanalyst in private practice. At the moment, his older brother is a New York attorney and his younger brother works as a journalist in Bergen County, N.J.

Playing a butcher in a fourth-grade play sealed Futterman`s fate. By the time he graduated from New York`s Mamaroneck High School, he was taking acting seriously indeed. His theatrical aspirations waned somewhat while earning a bachelor of arts degree in English literature in 1989 at Columbia University.

"They had a dreadful undergraduate theatre program there, but my parents prevailed on me to just go for the best education possible, then go for acting afterwards," he sighs. "It turned out to be wise, though it didn`t always seem like it when I spent a year after school making burritos at a Mexican restaurant in Manhattan."

Futterman`s big break came in 1991, when he appeared in a Liz Claiborne fragrance TV commercial. A few months later, he moved into legitimate theater with an off-Broadway production of "Club Soda." Sharing the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village, he somehow made ends meet with tiny parts in feature films, TV movies, soap operas and plays.

His first modest, but real, motion picture part came as Second Punk in "The Fisher King" (1991) with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. Five years later, he co-starred in "The Birdcage" as the gay Robin Williams` straight son who was about to marry Calista Flockhart.

"It`s wonderful to work with people like Robin, because they are endlessly inventive, want to do good work and are willing to help you do good work. It`s a vibrant, exciting environment created by terrific artists. One day, I reminded him that we worked together before on `The Fisher King` and his eyes glazed over, looking at me like, `Who are you?` Evidently, that day was much more important to me than it was to him."

Broadway appearances in "Angels In America" and "A Fair Country" also boosted his film career with "Breathing Room" (1996), "Shooting Fish" (1997) and "Urbania" (2000), but "Judging Amy" has finally given him name recognition worldwide.

"The great thing about being part of a successful television series is that you feel like you`ve won the lottery," he says, smiling. "And, as a rule, you usually get about three months off every year to do other things. Ideally, I do a movie or direct a play and have enough time to travel afterwards. I like visiting London (where he spent a summer studying acting at King`s College), Paris and Madrid, but I love driving through the United States. It`s wild out there."

A lucky man, Futterman thoroughly enjoys going to work on "Judging Amy" every morning, feeling secure in the fact that he was offered the role by the show`s co-creator and executive producer, Barbara Hall, and all the professional support in the world from Amy Brenneman and Tyne Daly - two of his favorite people.

"Acting is something I did as a kid, then stayed with it to see if I could make a living at it," he explains. "I`ve had lean times and forced to do some jobs that weren`t very interesting, but when you stumble over something great, it`s incredibly gratifying. Now, I can`t imagine doing anything else."

(c) Copley News Service

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Author: Eirik Knutzen


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