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Doc Hollywood

Billy Ray Cyrus talks about playing doctor and scorching the trailer park park park

Story by Larry Holden

I wasn't even in Nashville to see the plastic pink flamingos pop up all over town. I hear ... " Then bam-bam-bam! An insistent knocking interrupts Billy Ray Cyrus in mid-sentence. He rises to open the door to his dressing room.

"Scene 9 is five minutes away," informs a production staffer. Billy Ray nods. "I'll be ready," he says. Billy Ray is in Toronto on the set of Doc, his new series on PAX-TV. Doc isn't his first foray into acting - Billy Ray has had smaller TV roles and starred in the yet-to-be-released action film Radical Jack. But the flamingo story will have to wait - right now, he's anxious to talk about his role as a Montana doctor who falls for a New York City journalist.

"I come to the Big Apple because of her, but I find love of a different kind," he reveals. "I end up adopting a homeless boy, and I find out God has a different plan for me."

Retrieving a bottle of water from across the dressing room, he adds, "I love the story we tell on Doc. It has a lot of truth to it. It's about doctors and patients and HMOs. There's compassion and humor and love."

The series, which debuts with a two-hour movie on March 11, is a labor of love for Billy Ray. "Doc is a lot of hard work, but I'm relishing it," he admits. "We shoot five days a week. A short filming day for me is 12 hours. Most are 15 to 17." Even with all the work, Billy Ray has been making concert appearances on weekends.

Filming in Canada is beautiful, he says, "but I sure miss being home. I miss everything about my Tennessee farm - my wife, my kids, my dogs, my horses."

Those may be the downsides, but there are also benefits. "Being away from my family makes me depressed, and that rekindles strong emotions. I've written three songs in the first 30 days I've been here. I didn't write three all last year! And I hate to admit it, but I've written some of my best songs when I was depressed."

He offers an example. "When I was filming Doc, I wrote a song called 'Stand Still,' " he recalls. "It's from my own life.

"One morning when I was eight, my dad took me squirrel hunting. I got lost, panicked and ran farther away from Dad. It was night by the time I found an old farm house. The farmer drove me to where the sheriff - and a lot of people in the county - were looking for me.

"My Dad ran to me and we hugged each other. With big tears in his eyes, he said, 'Son, if you're ever lost, stand still.' I expanded on that - and wrote an uplifting song. It might turn out to be the theme song of the show, or we might use it somewhere in the series.

No matter what, I've got me one heck of a record."

Finally, Billy Ray gets back to his flamingo story. As it happens, there's a line in his new single "Burn Down The Trailer Park" that playfully proclaims his intentions to shoot the pink flamingos out in the yard.

On the morning the new song hit radio, the sun crept up over Nashville to find more than 500 plastic birds perched in Nashville yards. Folks from his record label, Monument, had gone out around midnight to plant the flamingos up and down Music Row. "That was great," notes Billy Ray. "I hear the birds were hot items. People were snatching them up for souvenirs."

Bam-bam-bam! More knocks. This time, a staffer at the door tells Billy Ray he's needed on the set. With his white lab coat flowing, the singing actor heads out the door. "I'm not a doctor in real life," he says with a grin. "I just play one on TV."

"I always loved that old commercial," says Billy Ray. "Now I'm living it!"