By RYCH McCAIN
He has a large body of work to his credit in numerous roles but over the last several years, J. August Richards seems to have locked into the legal profession as an actor.
“Jay”, as most of his friends refer to him, is a native of Washington, D.C., where he grew up in a suburb of the city and attended a performing arts school. His mom preferred that he not pursue acting but Richards boldly and confidently applied to one school (the University of Southern California) and moved to Los Angeles. His brashness paid off because he was accepted and received scholarships and grants to pay his way.
Richards, who was voted #10 on the “Top Ten Sexiest Men of the Buffy/Angel Universe” in a fan poll by Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanzine in 2004, is currently playing the role of Prosecutor Marcus McGrath on the Steven Bochco & David Feige-created TNT drama, ‘Raising the Bar’, which airs on Monday nights.
Most of Richards’ fans were introduced to him during his four-season stint (2000-2004) as vampire hunter, Charles Gunn, on the Buffy spin-off, ‘Angel’. He became a lawyer towards the end of that series and continued as a lawyer on his next series, ‘Conviction’, which was short-lived and then moved on to yet another legal role with his current show.
When describing his current role, Richards says: “Oftentimes the producers and writers will say that my character has the most even idea of what justice is. And some people disagree with that. They feel that sometimes he wants to throw the book at people a little too hard. He’s very motivated by doing the right thing.
“He’s a very interesting character because he really believes in the system and this show is designed to talk about how the system does not work. I personally believe that the system has problems as well so sometimes it’s been hard for me to get behind the things that my character says and does because I find him a little conservative. But he’s constantly growing and evolving and that’s the kind of character you really want to play as an actor.”
Asked if his bold move to the West Coast – not knowing whether he was in or out at the University of Southern California (USC) – is typical of the way he approaches life, Richards laughs: “It really is. But it’s funny. I look back at myself at 17 years old and I’m like, man, it was really kind of crazy because – what if I didn’t get in? I had to fool my mom because she wanted me to be Ivy League and go to Harvard or Princeton and I would tell her that the applications came but I never filled them out because I knew there was nothing else I was going to do but move to Los Angeles.
“Nothing else was even in the cards. I had really great grades, I was good in math and had a lot of potential to do a lot of other things but I didn’t want to do anything else but act. So I applied to USC, I auditioned for the theatre school on a Saturday, they called me back Monday to tell me that I was in and that they were going to do whatever they had to do to make me go there.”
Photo by Bobby Quillard