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Truth Vs. Lies in HBO’s ‘Galileo’

January 2, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Michael Moriarty, on location in Italy, walked across the same stones as Galileo had nearly four centuries before in the Piazza del Herbes in Padua. Dressed as the scientist, the actor had an eerie sense of life and art coming together.

Moriarity was filming ``Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants,″ an hour-long drama about the 17th century astronomer, physicist and mathematician premiering on HBO Tuesday at 7 p.m. EST.

The actor calls ``Galileo″ a buddy film. His buddy is Cosimo de Medici, a sulky, opinionated youth tutored by Galileo. ``We start as antagonists and become friends,″ Moriarty says of the young prince, played by Kenny Vadas. The youngster starts out believing the stars are fixed in the sky, but then warms to Galileo’s dictums: ``Observe and collect evidence″ and ``Science is common sense, persistence and imagination.″

Cosimo ultimately champions his mentor’s observations that Earth revolves around the sun, and the moon revolves around Earth, and he helps Galileo set forth the law of falling bodies and to invent the telescope. ``Well, he improved it,″ Moriarty says. ``Some people in Europe were on to it, but Galileo put it together.″

While Moriarty is the star, Vadas also shines. Child actors ``always steal the scene. You admit that going in,″ Moriarty says, adding, ``They’re much more fun to act with than adults. They let themselves be themselves.″

Moriarity says the young Medici adds a critical element to the show aimed at family viewing. ``Children will see it through the boy’s eyes,″ he says.

For Moriarty, the central issue in ``Galileo″ is truth vs. lies. The conflict surfaces through Cardinal Bellarmine, played by Michael Copeman. The cardinal doesn’t favor freedom of scientific inquiry and considers Galileo’s beliefs heresy. And this is what Moriarity describes as ``the central challenge of going up against authority when you know you’re right and the world thinks you’re wrong.″

By choice, Moriarty read little about Galileo before filming started. ``I’ve learned from bad experiences that I must learn the script and do what is demanded of me in the script,″ he says. ``If I read a lot, I come in with ideas and start lecturing the writers _ `He would never do this and this’ _ which is a very bad idea. My job is to make it as real as possible and learn those words to my soul.″

But he did research Galileo’s appearance through paintings. ``I look somewhat like him,″ Moriarty says. ``His forehead wasn’t as high as mine. That 56-year-old brow is mine.″

Until 18 months ago, Moriarty spent most of his time in New York City. Then he headed to Nova Scotia. He first went to Halifax to make a Hallmark Hall of Fame show, ``Calm at Dawn,″ a father-son story about Nova Scotia’s diminishing fishing industry. And he met Suzana Cabrita, who sells children’s books.

Now he’s applying for residency. Meanwhile, he finished his second mystery novel, featuring J.C. Kaminer, a New York psychiatrist from South Carolina, and he started thinking about writing a children’s book. And about marriage. Moriarty and Ms. Cabrita have set a June 21 wedding date.

Moriarity says his acting career hasn’t suffered from his Canadian forays. He’s appeared on TV’s ``Psi Factor″ eight times; in ``Emily of New Moon,″ based on a book by the author of ``Anne of Green Gables,″ as part of a Canadian TV series; in ``Dead Man’s Gun″ in Vancouver, for Showtime; in ``Major Crime,″ a four-hour miniseries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. _ and in ``Galileo.″

And he occasionally performs ``Face the Night,″ an evening he describes as ``love songs and anecdotes, about how love and night are similar in terms of excitement, and how you must have a lot of faith to fall in love unconditionally.″

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Elsewhere in television ...

VAN’S `IN CONCERT’: ``ABC In Concert″ features Van Morrison from his hometown of Belfast, Ireland, tonight at 12:35 a.m. EST. Morrison performs songs from his long career, including ``Into the Mystic,″ ``Tupelo Honey,″ ``Days Like This″ and the title track of his current album, ``The Healing Game.″ Madison Michele is host from McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York City. This program carries a TV-PG parental guideline.