From TV Update, October 1987:
Knox discusses Cosby, Platoon and his new show Tour of Duty.
Three tours of duty in Vietnam during the late 1960s may not seem like sufficient punishment for the unrepentant Dr. Peter White, the in-house rapist at St. Eligius Hospital. But for Terence Knox, the actor who played the now-infamous White for four seasons on “St. Elsewhere,” the flak he's taking as Sgt. Zeke Anderson in CBS's new series “Tour of Duty” is a bit more literal.
Knox plays the central character and is easily the most recognizable face in the “Tour”’s 10-member ensemble cast. Zeke Anderson is a combat veteran on his third 'Nam tour, to whom falls the task of teaching young recruits how to survive and function as a fighting unit.
“He's a guy who leads through humor and example, strength and affection,” says Knox. “He's 33 years old. He's there in Vietnam because he's very good at it and he believes in keeping the guys alive. He's a career soldier, he's not political. I think the show is refreshingly unpolitical.”
Knox may view “Tour of Duty” as unpolitical, but for many observers, that's not the point. Television's first series set in Vietnam has generated a hot debate. It's obvious that the way can still be a divisive issue nearly two decades later. Part of the controversy involves the scheduling of the show opposite NBC's blockbuster “The Cosby Show.” Critics say this early time slot (7 p.m. in some areas of the country) is not the appropriate hour to subject youngsters to graphic violence and raw language.
But Knox thinks the Thursday-night spot is a good idea. “If we knock off a rating point from “Cosby,” we're a runaway hit,” he says. “Besides, they're soft in the middle. It's been about a year since they had a good story line.”
The actor is 36, an age he likes to refer to as “somewhere between Tom Cruise and death.” Knox moved to Los Angeles 8 years ago from his native Oregon, and those eight years have been a professional mixed bag. His breakthrough role came as the troubled Dr. Peter White on “St. Elsewhere” in 1982 and this role led to a part on a acclaimed (but short-lived) series “All Is Forgiven.”
But “Tour of Duty” has given Knox his most visible role to date and he’s aware of the implications. He says he feels a responsibility to Vietnam vets to portray the situation as accurately as possible. “The prop master, the technical advisor, the writers, our first assistant director were there. You can’t not feel a responsibility doing this show, to do it honestly. No John Wayne crap.”
Mention Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning “Platoon” to Knox and he uses it to make his points. “For all its beauty and gore, “Platoon” was one man’s story about one man’s platoon. It was one man’s vision, and I’m not knocking that. That was his experience. But this is a weekly television show, and it’s going to be representing the veterans and who they were as people. We have a certain obligation to make sure that people know that they weren’t all fighting each other, there weren’t all these Tom Berengers around. They were basically people trying to stay alive. In “Platoon,” if that movie had gone on another 30 minutes, everybody would’ve been dead,” he laughs.
“I’m not carrying around the show,” he asserts. “I might continue to have a bigger part than most, but each story will center around another one of the young guys. I'm the anchor.”
At least this time, Knox only has to worry about the Viet Cong shooting at him.