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ABC hopes you'll spend Forever with Ioan Gruffudd.

The Welsh actor, who first made his mark onAmerican TV with Horatio Hornblower, stars in ABC'sForever as a New York City medical examiner with a secret: he can't die. (Technically, Henry Morgandoes die – he just doesn't stay dead.) Henry hasn't been around forever, but he has lived for over 200 years, which the show uses to help explain his Sherlock-level powers of observation.

Casting Gruffudd for a man born in a much earlier century was a natural choice, says creator Matt Miller. Because he's done so much period work, "it already feels like he's been around for a long time."

For Gruffudd, the physical challenge of the role stems from the character's particular way of being reborn: buck naked. "It made me appreciate the fact that I had a muscle suit on as Mister Fantastic (in Fantastic Four)…I'm not getting younger, so there's a commitment to the cause that one has to make."

While the fantasy element defines Forever, it's also a procedural: Henry helps Alana De La Garza's police detective solve crimes. "I think that's one of the fun elements of the show and what attracted me to the show," says Gruffudd. "He's using his experience and wealth of knowledge over time to untangle the case."

When Henry dies, everything disappears — his body, his clothes, his wallet, and his driver's license. "The spin-off," Miller jokes, "will be Henry at the DMV."

Two people know Henry's secret. One is a mystery stalker whose identity is not revealed in the pilot; the other is his best and only friend, played by Judd Hirsch.

"Every once in a while, the intelligence of a show just grabs me," says Hirsch. It happened with Numb3rs, and it happened again here. "To play someone special and to be able to develop a character? That's a gift for an actor."

And why did he do Sharknado 2? "They told me I was going to be eaten by a shark. I said 'I'm in.'"

In TV, of course, people may die — but ideas seldom do. If you remember the short-lived Fox series New Amsterdam, then you're no doubt thinking the fantasy-idea behind Forever sounds just like that Fox flop.

Creator Matt Miller is aware of the comparison now – but says he wasn't when he created the show. "It came up when I was pitching the show," he says. "I had not seen New Amsterdam."

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