Fichtner enjoying his new Break

FIGURE OF AUTHORITY: William Fichtner in Crossing Lines.
FIGURE OF AUTHORITY: William Fichtner in Crossing Lines.

From Prison Break to Invasion and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, American actor William Fichtner has been known for playing figures of authority. That's why when he says his latest show Crossing Lines isn't your typical ‘crime of the week' police procedural, James Croot takes his word for it. 

He might be a proud New Yorker and a die-hard fan of the Buffalo Sabres ice hockey team, but William Fichtner can't stop enthusing about his new, second home - Prague.

"I love the people, the country. I'm looking out the widow at a castle - it's beautiful," the 57-year-old, former Prison Break and Invasion star says.

He's there for his second lengthy stint in two years filming action crime drama Crossing Lines, which makes its New Zealand debut on Sky's The Box channel this week.

Fichtner plays former NYPD officer Carl Hickman, who suffered a career-ending injury that left him addicted to morphine and working as a garbage collector at a Dutch carnival until recruited to join the International Criminal Court's special crime unit, working alongside an international team of crime-busting specialists.

Like most actors, he says what attracted him to the project initially were the scripts.

"Ed [Bernero, the show's creator] is a former Chicago police officer and he had the character really dialled in. I think good scripts give you so much about who the character is. Here you learn so much right off the bat about Hickman - his history, where he came from, the problems that he has. All of these things help an actor create layers. Sure, there's a lot of interpretation, but it's not like I had to go searching to say, ‘Who is this guy?' "

But, Fichtner admits, there was another drawcard - extended periods in Prague.

"That was a big part of my decision-making. My wife and I came here seven or eight years ago for a week and had a great time.

"I know it is one thing to do that and another to live here for five months but we really embraced the idea of getting an apartment, finding a grocery store and places where we like to get a cup of coffee."

So what's changed about the city since he was last there? "The whole restaurant scene is much more eclectic and cool," says Fichtner.

"And while it's one of those places that remained relatively untouched through World War II it's also a city of the world now. People come here for a good reason."

One non-negotiable for Fichtner was that his wife Kymberly and boys Sam and Vangel had to come with him. "Last year, I worked on the new Paramount reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [due out in New Zealand in September] and I flew back home seven times in three months, but I couldn't really commute with this."

He says the whole family have thrived on the experience. "This year my younger one is at the international school and he doesn't want to leave."

This year nearly didn't happen, admits Fichtner.

"There was a rumour that we might shoot the second season elsewhere.

"So I said to my manager, ‘Tell everybody on the show, I wish them well - that's fantastic - I won't be there, but if you're going back to Prague - I'm in'."

Fichtner got his way - he has an air of authority about him which probably not only explains why he plays a lot of people with power but also why I believe him when he says Crossing Lines isn't just a typical cookie cutter cop show in the tradition of the Law and Orders or CSI.

"I don't see it as a procedural show. Sure, we have crimes and things we have to solve, but the thing that makes us different is that there are elements to Hickman introduced in the first episode of the first season that you will find out a little bit more about each episode.

"And even though we have a big ensemble, we find out more and more about each of them and who they are, what their problems are and what are the things affecting their life.

"That's one of the things I love about the show and what makes it not just a straightforward ‘crime of the week' drama.

"I really don't think television audiences tune into a show after six or seven episodes because they want to see the crime of the week - they tune in because they want to see what these characters are doing."

Crossing Lines, 9.30pm, Thursday, The Box.