LOS ANGELES – “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is yesteryear’s party game. The actor with the most impressive, wide-reaching connections these days, at least in the TV universe, may be Alexandria native and Gustavus Adolphus College graduate Peter Krause.
Krause has spent two decades working for some of the most influential voices in Hollywood. His latest series, “9-1-1,” which pairs him with executive producer Ryan Murphy, is reaching more than 14 million viewers a week, the largest debut for a Fox series since “Empire” in 2015. Fox just renewed it for a second season.
Krause, 52, who returned to Minnesota last summer — visiting the State Fair for the first time in 15 years — reflected recently on the roles and the bosses that have made him one of the small screen’s most successful leading men.
‘Sports Night’ (1998-2000)
The role: Casey McCall, a loose impersonation of fellow Minnesotan Craig Kilborn during his stint as an ESPN anchor.
Creator/writer: Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “Molly’s Game”).
Krause says: “I didn’t know how grateful I should be when I got that part. It was really the starting point for the rest of my career. His facility for language is unbelievable. There’s a specificity of pace, a meter. If you missed a word and then did it the way it was written, it was the difference between night and day. I’d love to work with him again. His stamp on Hollywood is indelible.”
‘Six Feet Under’ (2001-05)
The role: Nate Fisher, a funeral director who finds new life when forced to take over the family business.
Creator/writer: Alan Ball (“American Beauty,” “True Blood”).
Krause says: “That show was a complete original. I knew when I read the pilot that it was something special, with such a richness of characters and sensitivity to them. There was kind of a magical realism in the way Alan explored people’s minds and their expectations of life and death. I also think the way he chose to end the series in Season 5 elevated it into a work of art. HBO asked him to do one more season, but Alan felt it was better to leave the audience wanting more.”
‘Dirty Sexy Money’ (2007-09)
The role: Lawyer Nick George. Just when he thought he was out of the family business, they pulled him back in.
Creator/writer: Former Minneapolis playwright Craig Wright (“Greenleaf”).
Krause says: “You can dig up all of Craig’s theatrical credits and see that he’s a brilliant writer. He’s one of the most creative voices I’ve ever worked with. Donald Sutherland [as family patriarch Tripp Darling] was tremendous. There was a little bit of conflict. Steve McPherson, who was running ABC at the time, wanted a straight-up soap about rich people, and Craig was making a satire. That show was a little ahead of its time. Maybe if we were on today, we’d be talking about Tripp Darling for president.”
The role: Adam Braverman, the soft rock of a California family, afflicted with guilt that he isn’t Ward Cleaver.
Creator/writer: Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Rise”).
Krause says: “Jason just kind of has this golden touch, creating an environment where you get to do it all. Those were six really wonderful years, especially since I got the chance to work with one of my idols, Craig T. Nelson. Am I envious of the success of ‘This Is Us’? No. I think our show was different, although cerebrally it was related. I was just happy [NBC Entertainment President] Bob Greenblatt kept us on the air. He clearly wants storytelling like that on his network.”
‘The Catch’ (2016-17)
The role: Master con artist Benjamin Jones, who ultimately uses his charm for good in the name of love.
Executive producer: Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”).
Krause says: “I learned a lot about what Shonda is trying to do, especially when it comes to empowering women. It made me proud to be part of that show. Allan Heinberg, who developed the show, went on to write ‘Wonder Woman.’ The cast had a fantastic time.”
‘9-1-1’ (2018- )
The role: Bobby Nash, a captain for the Los Angeles Fire Department, struggling with a burning desire to fall off the wagon.
Co-creator/executive producer: Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”).
Krause says: “Ryan is so wildly creative and cares so much for the people who work for him. He looks at the world in a different way. He’s a big-picture guy, but he’s also a self-confessed control freak. But that’s what you need in an executive producer. There has to be an element of control. I spent some time with firefighters outside of work, but mostly what was helpful were the consultants that we have on the show. Working on this is sort of like the Nike school of acting. You just do it. ”