Robert Downey Jr. Joins 'Ally McBeal'

ByNancy Chandross

Aug. 11, 2000 -- Robert Downey Jr. will be working with an entirely new team of lawyers this fall as he joins the cast of Ally McBeal.

The announcement comes a week after the Oscar-nominated actor was released from prison, where he served time on drug charges.

Downey, who declares he is now sober, can be expected to stir things up for single gal Ally (Calista Flockhart). FOX Television says he will have a recurring role as a “ mysterious stranger” with a knack for understanding the wacky attorney.

Downey will make his debut on the series’ season premiere, set for Oct. 23. Series producer and creator David E. Kelley says he is thrilled with the new cast member.

“We’ve admired his work for years and know he’ll make an enormous contribution to Ally McBeal,” Kelley said.

As for Downey, he’s happy about the new gig — and relieved that his character’s costumes don’t include prison jumpsuits.

“David is a genius, Calista’s awesome and once again I have a choice of shirt colors,” he said.

Speedy Decision

The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise, just a week after the actor resumed his life as a free man. Upon his release from prison, Downey immediately checked himself into a rehabilitation center and said nothing of future acting projects.

His spokesman said at the time that he would likely resume acting at some point but had nothing in the works.

Downey was released Aug. 3 when an appeals court ruled his time served had not been calculated correctly. He remains free on bail with no court-imposed restrictions for 40 days, after which the appellate decision becomes final and he will be placed on parole.

Downey was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 screen biography Chaplin.He has appeared in several other films, including Less Than Zero, Natural Born Killers, One Night Stand and Two Girls and a Guy. He last appeared on screen in Wonder Boys, which was released earlier this year, and starred Michael Douglas and Frances McDormand.

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