It's all in a day's work for Peter MacNicol.
The Emmy winner, best known for playing oddball legal eagle John Cage on Ally McBeal, is pulling double duty in prime time next season. Not only will he continue his current gig in the CBS crime drama Numbe3rs, but MacNicol will also be punching in as a series regular on Fox's 24.
Fox said Monday that MacNicol will portray a high-ranking government official who will play an active, if unspecified role, in shaping what will inevitably be yet another bad day for the show's hero, Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland).
When last we saw our eternally under-the-gun crimefighter during the fifth-season finale in May, Jack once again thwarted the baddies, stopping a terrorist-controlled nuclear submarine from blowing up Los Angeles and busting conniving President Logan (Gregory Itzin) for an attempted coup d'etat. Then, just as he was getting ready to reunite with on-off companion Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), he was abducted and apparently shipped off to China.
Per usual, show producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran are keeping plot lines for the show's upcoming sixth season a closely guarded secret. And there's no word whether MacNicol's character will be good or bad.
Aside from his Emmy-winning stint on Ally McBeal, the 52-year-old MacNicol has done voice work for the WB 'toon The Batman as well as the Cartoon Network faves, Justice League and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, which airs during the Adult Swim block.
He appeared in the flesh as a guest star on ABC's Boston Legal before coming aboard as Dr. Larry Fleinhardt, sidekick to David Krumholtz's brilliant mathematician in Numb3rs.
The apparently digit-happy MacNicol will need to maximize his time in the coming months, juggling production on both Numb3rs, which returns on Fridays in September, and 24. He'll catch a little break, since 24 doesn't return to the airwaves until January and he only appears in a few scenes each week in Numb3rs.
MacNicol isn't the only one joining 24. E! Online's TV guru Kristin Veitch reports that Ray actress Regina King has also accepted a role on the show as well--as a powerful advocacy lawyer and sister to Wayne Palmer, the strong-willed brother and former chief of staff of the late President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert). D.B. Woodside will reprise the part of Wayne which is being expanded this season when he's elected president.
In any case, 24 is coming off its most successful season to date.
The race-against-time saga garnered 12 Emmy nominations last week, the most for any network television series, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Sutherland, and supporting nods for Jean Smart (who played first lady Martha Logan) and Itzin.
By averaging 13.6 million viewers last season, 24 has shed its "cult hit" reputation and evolved into a ratings powerhouse for Fox. The fast-paced thriller has gotten so popular, the net's sister company, 20th Century Fox, has inked a deal to keep the clock ticking by turning 24 into a feature film.
Fans can also keep up with the action online now that News Corp., which owns both Fox and MySpace, is making the very first episode as well as the first episode of season five available for free to the more than 75 million registered users on the social networking site. The rest of the first- and fifth-season episodes can be downloaded for $1.99 a pop.