If Gerald McRaney looks like a natural as a CIA liaison in J.J. Abrams’ sexy new “Undercovers,” premiering tonight (9/22), it could be because he has pals who know the spy game inside out.
“As luck would have it, I’ve actually worked with people in the past who are retired from or associated with the CIA,” the well-liked star of shows including “Simon and Simon,” “Major Dad,” “The Promised Land,” “Deadwood” and “Jericho” lets us know. For instance, “The gentleman who helped us coordinate a movie I worked on in Thailand, ‘Vestige of Honor,’ and some other people.”
Other people indeed. McRaney happens to be friends with George H.W. Bush, who, you’ll recall, was Director of Central Intelligence — the head spook himself — before he became President.
“I suppose that if I needed technical advice, I could get it from him,” observes McRaney with a smile.
That would work.
In fact, McRaney’s relationship with the 41st President and Barbara Bush helped save his life. Years ago, as part of a celebration of George’s and Barbara’s respective birthdays, McRaney took part in a charitable fundraiser for M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston. “I did the tour, met some of the doctors,” he recounts. Later, “When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I turned to the staff at M.D. Anderson and asked if I could come down there and get a second opinion.” He went on to have surgery and follow-up treatment at the esteemed facility.
“I wouldn’t have even known about the hospital if it hadn’t been for President Bush,” says McRaney. He also says he left a thank-you message for Bush, and was surprised awhile later, when he picked up his ringing phone and found himself chatting with the former Prez. Talk about something to bolster one’s spirits.
These days, McRaney’s spirits are soaring. He’s now six years’ cancer-free, he reports, having just received his annual clean bill of health. His 23-year-marriage to Delta Burke still gets him gushing like a newlywed. And he’s loving his latest TV gig, as the boss of super agents Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. “I come in two or three times an episode and tell these young people what to do. They do all the heavy lifting, all the stunt work,” he says. “I have never been around two more beautiful people, I don’t think. And then both of them, being that gorgeous, have the temerity to be nice guys, too.”