Veteran newsman Dan Rather makes acting debut in pilot for ABC series

NEW YORK -- Dan Rather going Hollywood?

There were gasps of surprise at ABC's fall-schedule announcement this week when the veteran TV newsman popped up as an actor in clips for "Dirty Sexy Money," a new drama about a wealthy, misbehaving New York family.

The role wasn't exactly a stretch. Rather plays a reporter at a fancy dinner party pressing a politician, portrayed by William Baldwin, about his future political plans.

Rather initially said no when the show's executive producer and director, Peter Horton, called to ask if he'd be interested. News people occasionally pop up in fictional settings, like CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday's "Gilmore Girls" series finale, but it is frowned upon at CBS News -- his former home for decades -- and Rather had never done it.

Then he gave it a second thought. It might be an easy way to remind people that he's still working, with his own weekly news show on HD Net.

"I thought, at this age and stage of my career, what the hell?" he said Wednesday.

He showed up in a tuxedo one night a few months ago for filming in New York and nailed his lines in two takes.

"This is not a complaint, because I enjoyed it and learned a lot, but I got there at 7 and left at 1, and they still were shooting," he said. "I was very impressed at how hard these actors and actresses work."

Rather, 75, hasn't seen the pilot, so he doesn't know how much of his scene was used. If the network hadn't picked up the series, his work would never have been seen at all.

He's not sure whether he would do it again, but is glad for the experience.

Don't expect him on the red carpet.

"As one who, if Willie Nelson doesn't sing it, I don't know it, and who drives a pickup truck, I'm not sure I qualify for Hollywood," he said.