Alan Rachins was not a model Wharton student. Rachins, better known as Douglas Brackman, the uptight and insecure attorney on the hit TV series L.A. Law, did not go into finance or management. In fact, he did not even graduate. But nearly three decades after leaving the University, Rachins will return to campus May 18 to deliver the keynote address at the Ivy Day ceremony to be held at Irvine Auditorium. Every year on Ivy Day, which is traditionally held the Saturday before commencement, four male and four female members of the senior class are recognized for outstanding accomplishments during their undergraduate careers. It is also the day each year's Ivy Stone is unveiled. Rachins left the University after two and a half years in 1963 to pursue an acting career. Despite landing only relatively minor Broadway stage roles for 10 years and then taking a six-year break from acting to pursue a screenwriting career, Rachins eventually landed a leading role in the film Always. And four years ago, he got the part on L.A. Law. Rachins, who also attended Ivy Day two years ago, said he is interested in speaking because of the good memories of the event he has from his time as a student at the University. "I had just a great time at Ivy Day 25 years ago," he said. "There were a lot of memories for the potential of what those four years could have been, had I not been so conflictive about my own direction." Rachins' conflict centered on differences he had with his father. While he dreamed of becoming an actor, his father planned for him to take over the family business and pushed him into going to Wharton. So when the younger Rachins made the decision to withdraw from school, his father was not pleased. "He said, 'You're nuts'," Rachins recalled Friday. "There was a whole life that was very safe and secure. We had a food manufacturing company in Salem, Mass., making ice cream toppings and cake decorations." Rachins said he enjoyed his time at the University, but decided to leave because he felt the school was propelling him towards his father's business and because he had set his sights on becoming a professional actor. But, unlike many actors who get their starts during college, Rachins said he did not act while at the University because he feared that if he did not "do great on the college scene," he would have no chance at making acting his career. Instead, he said, he "just wanted to sustain his dream." With the success of L.A. Law and the end of a long and winding road to stardom, Rachins has finally realized that dream. "I like my character a lot because he has a very interesting life," Rachins said. "He has a lot of different sides to him and they've let him be a lot of things: wrong, right, sometimes the fool, sometimes the one who comes out on top." "And he has an interesting social life," he added. "A little desperate, but with some bizarre and interesting relationships with lovely and interesting and strange women." The fictional Brackman's most recent female interest was Vanna White, whom he met while "competing" on the game show Wheel of Fortune. Rachins, who said the on-screen relationship has since come to an end, described White as "very sweet and really nice." "I felt like I was with the head cheerleader from high school," he said. But Rachins quickly added that he and his character share almost no similarities. "Nobody who knows me thinks I'm like this person," he said. "But if I get pushed into a corner . . . " Rachins, who plans to return next year for his fifth season on L.A. Law, praised the show's scriptwriters for their ability to entertain viewers while incorporating timely social issues into the plots. "We deal with stuff from both the imagination and issues right out of the headlines," he said. "I think it's terrific to have these things explored in the way that we do." He said plans are already in the works for an episode dealing with police brutality, an issue recently brought to the nation's attention when several Los Angeles police officers were filmed beating an unarmed man they had arrested for speeding. Rachins would not divulge any other secrets about upcoming story lines except to say that the conflict over who ultimately assumes the senior partnership of the law firm will be a "continuing theme." He did say, however, that his character will finally leave the confines of McKenzie-Brackman and try a case himself. Despite the expected departures next year of stars Susan Dey, Harry Hamlin and Jimmy Smits, Rachins said he is not concerned about the future of L.A. Law. While not downplaying their significance to the show, he said the addition of three new castmembers will help to offset the loss. Rachins added that he considers the quality of the writing to be one of the real strengths of the show. "I think the writing has a greater impact than the individual performers," he said. "If the writing were to go down, I think that would be missed."Comments powered by Disqus
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