Saving Chase

Chicago area native Bailey Chase enjoys career rebirth with 'Saving Grace'
2007-12-07T00:00:00Z Saving ChaseJEFF BELL
Times Correspondent
nwitimes.com
December 07, 2007 12:00 am  • 

Bailey Chase's hit television series centers on a police detective (Holly Hunter) whose downwardly spiraling life is touched by a "last-chance" angel.

And since "Saving Grace" premiered in July (new episodes air Mondays at 9 p.m. this month on TNT), Chase has experienced a seemingly supernatural reversal of his own.

The abrupt about-face involves salvation not of his soul, but of his career.

A year ago, the Skokie-born actor was appearing in a short-lived cable soap he can't even mention without wincing.

Now, in addition to trading lines with his Oscar-winning "Grace" costar, Chase enjoys recurring status as lothario Becks Scott on ABC's smash sitcom "Ugly Betty." And last month for two episodes of the CBS drama "Criminal Minds," he played a seemingly harmless fellow who literally blows away a key cast member.

Previously best known -- if known at all -- for stints on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and daytime's "As the World Turns," the amiable 35-year-old is savoring this spate of strong roles.

"Yeah, it's all going pretty well," he says.

"Personally and professionally, I feel like I'm hitting my stride."

He's speaking from Los Angeles, where he recently returned after a three-week retreat to India. During that "personal discovery," Chase lived in an ashram, practiced yoga and discussed life with Buddhist monks.

The trip, he says, reflects the greater sense of peace he now feels within himself. "I'm not worrying too much about what other people think or [about] trying to be good.

I'm just showing up with who I am, and it's more 'take it or leave it.' Fortunately, people are taking it."

His rugged good looks -- glacially etched jawline, deeply dimpled chin -- ensure that many of those "people" are women. His "Grace" character, Butch Ada, is an Oklahoma City cop who enjoys a complicated past with his profane, promiscuous coworker, Grace Hanadarko (Hunter).

"(Butch) comes from a privileged background; he's a cop by choice," Chase says.

"He could easily live off his trust fund and ride horses, but he wants to make a difference. He's a guy's guy."

The series was the closest Chase could find to a modern Western -- and he idolized Clint Eastwood while growing up in Barrington and Naples, Fla.

Although football earned him a full ride to Duke University in Durham, N.C., the psych major ditched athletics for acting following graduation. (He'd later lose his last name, "Luetgert.")

Treading water in L.A. with beefcake parts on "Baywatch" and "Married with Children," he soon headed to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts to develop his craft over his delts. "(I knew that) if I could get on stage and make a go of Shakespeare, I could come back here and do just about anything."

It took him longer than he might have expected. Still, George Clooney's career didn't ignite until his mid-30s, and the small-screen smoldering of "ER" started atop a pyre of past defeats.

Chase, who cites Clooney as an inspiration, eyes a similar transition to studio films.

"I'm just one of those guys (who's) always looking for ways to (be) better," he says.

"God willing, things will work out."

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