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Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International

HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Which black actor has appeared most frequently on television for the past two decades?

If you answered Bill Cosby, as many do, you'd be mistaken.

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James Reynolds holds that distinction.

He is the handsome, debonair star who plays police commander Abe Carver in the daytime series "Days of Our Lives."

Reynolds has logged more total hours on television than any other African-American actor in the country.

Since 1981 he has averaged more than 100 hours of airtime annually in "Days of Our Lives," including a year in "Generations," another soap opera.

This week Reynolds said in his deep baritone, "I've been fortunate because I enjoy what I'm doing.

"As for Cosby, until lately he was on the air 22 times a year with his own show while I put in 150 hours a year or more, often five days a week.

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"I've played Abe Carver for 20 years. He does everything from writing parking tickets to investigating murders, which is how soap operas work.

"Carver has been described as the moral center of the show, a very straight shooter."

Reynolds is not altogether certain sometimes where Carver leaves off and Reynolds begins, and vice versa.

Both men are endowed with engaging dignity and unassailable morality.

"I would hope some of Carver's personal traits have rubbed off on me over the years," Reynolds said.

"When you've played a single character as long as I have you tend to learn from him. I know I have grabbed those things that are close to him.

"Conversely I believe a little of me has been transposed to Carver. He has a better sense of humor and developed a lighter attitude when he approaches people."

Reynolds opined that the quality of personal dignity is in short supply in the world and he is delighted to be playing a man with a great deal of self-respect and a commanding presence.

Off-screen he brings to mind Morgan Freeman, a superb actor with a magisterial air. Each man radiates a compelling air of quiet confidence.

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The actors impart a sense of rectitude free of overbearing self-importance. It's a quality not always found in actors.

"Morgan is an imposing figure and it comes out in his work all the time," said Reynolds, grinning. "He did a soap for a while himself, but I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him."

Reynolds finds himself in the unusual position of playing the authority figure police commander in a genre where men of color are more often the perps or heavies rather than the arm of the law.

"In real life there are many, many African-American law officers, some of them high-ranking," he said. "So Carver reflects reality.

"There's no cliché about him. In this fantasy world we create for viewers every day in a largely white world, it's very important that minority characters are represented.

"If you walked with me for a day and saw the black people I talk to you'd know there is no monolithic African-American anymore than there is such a white person.

"As an actor you can't assume stereotypical misconceptions. Actors play individuals, whether it is a hillbilly one day and the mayor of Chicago the next; it's all part of that experience."

Reynolds, a Marine Vietnam veteran, tours colleges with his one-man show, "I, Too, Am American."

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The show was written and is performed by Reynolds, a commentary on the African-American experience in America from the time of slavery to the present.

Reynolds and his wife Lisa are the parents of a son, Jed. They own and operate Classes Unlimited, a learning center in South Pasadena, an L.A. suburb.

Reynolds attended Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., majoring in pre-law and journalism. He also performed in plays and musicals.

He worked for several newspapers as a reporter and film critic before coming to Hollywood where he was given a featured role in "Mr. Majestyk," starring Charles Bronson.

Deeply committed to charitable work, Reynolds has been involved in some 300 fund-raising events in the past 10 years.

Reynolds believes that Carver is an example of the best a man can be, regardless of race or color.

"It's one of the reasons the producers made the decision some time ago that we make a point of race in the show," he said.

"However, it's not a factor in any story as far as personal relationships or doing a job is concerned. It's important that race doesn't assume a major role."

Reynolds hopes Carver inspires young African-Americans to emulate the high-minded, gentlemanly cop.

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"There's no question Carver is an honorable and decent man who helps people make changes in their lives.

"That is a good message for everyone who watches 'Days of Our Lives.'"

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