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Robert Downey Jr. goes from jail to 'Ally McBeal'
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- Actor Robert Downey Jr. has landed a prime time job just a week after being released from prison -- a recurring role on the hit Fox series "Ally McBeal" as a potential love interest for the star, the network said Thursday.
Even as he returns to the limelight, the 35-year-old actor will remain in the drug rehabilitation program he has checked himself into, his attorney told Reuters.
Downey will make his post-jail debut Monday, October 23, on the season premiere of the Emmy Award-winning legal "dramedy" produced by David E. Kelley and will appear in eight episodes of the show, publicists for the series said.
A Fox statement hinted at the possibility of romantic sparks flying between Downey's character and the lovelorn Ally McBeal, played by Calista Flockhart.
Downey, the announcement said, "will play "a mysterious stranger with a knack for understanding Ally. ... Has Ally McBeal met her match?"
Kelley said he was "thrilled" that the Oscar-nominated actor was joining the show's cast. "We've admired his work for years and know he'll make an enormous contribution," he said.
Downey wryly referred to his recent incarceration in his statement, saying: "David's a genius, Calista's awesome, and once again I have a choice of shirt colors."
The troubled actor was freed on $5,000 bail last week from the California State Prison in Corcoran after an appeals court ruled that a lower-court judge had erred in sentencing him and that Downey had served more than enough time to fulfill his prison term for drug possession.
Downey, who had been at Corcoran since August 1999, immediately checked himself into a residential "after-care treatment" program at an undisclosed Southern California facility outside Los Angeles.
His new job on "Ally McBeal" is being undertaken "within the parameters of" and "with the full backing of" the rehab program, said his lawyer, Robert Waters.
"Working, we believe, is part of the recovery process," he said, adding that Downey will continue to spend his nights at the facility and to meet daily with members of his "support group."
Waters added that he had received no word as to whether state prosecutors intended to challenge the appellate court ruling, which becomes final after 40 days unless the state attorney general's office files an appeal. After that, Downey would be placed on parole.
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