NEW YORK - Beware of harmful side effects from the pharmacist serving Wisteria Lane. He's pretty creepy, with his simpering smile, embarrassed manner and dead brown eyes. George Williams is the sort of guy you're glad to be separated from by a drugstore counter.
But nothing, so far, can separate George from Bree Van De Camp, the red-haired homemaker of "Desperate Housewives."
Certainly not her husband Rex: George offed him last season by tampering with his heart medication. Or Bree's therapist, who cautioned the new widow to think twice about accepting a marriage proposal from George: He heaved the therapist from a bridge.
Played by Roger Bart, George thus far has covered his tracks as a murderous swain. But things are likely to come to a head this Sunday (9 p.m. EST Sunday on ABC). No episode details were available, but, as viewers saw last week, George is coming unglued and Bree is catching on.
"Nobody in their right mind would say, 'Hmmm, what a great guy,'" Bart acknowledges. "He's not your average sociopath. But I've tried to find things in him that a viewer can identify with. He's so - well, clumsy is a nice word for it. And besides that, I made the choice that he's very, very angry about something. People can relate to that."
"I've tried to maintain an uneasy balance between your friendly unassuming neighborhood pharmacist and Anthony Perkins in 'Psycho,'" says Bart, whose own pleasant manner evokes neither.
Tucking into an omelet at a restaurant near his Upper West Side apartment, Bart can't help marveling at the almost instant fame George has brought him.
"I've been working for 20 years," says the 43-year-old actor, whose stage roles include a Tony-winning run as Snoopy in the 1999 revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and the outrageous, catsuit-clad Carmen Ghia, which he originated in Mel Brooks' hit musical comedy, "The Producers."
For those performances he won applause. "But now I'm getting a LOT of recognition," he says. "And a lot of wagging fingers."
He was signed midway through the freshman year of "Desperate Housewives," never having seen the kooky melodrama set in a leafy subdivision planted with secrets.
"I had the show sort of explained to me," says Bart, who learned, among other things, how Bree's restless mate Rex (played by Steven Culp) suffered a heart attack under the spiked heel of the neighborhood hooker. Bree (Marcia Cross) consented to care for him once he was released from the hospital. But while filling his prescriptions, she took a shine to George.
"I think I was brought on the show as a means for Bree to retaliate for Rex cheating on her," says Bart. Except George wasn't satisfied with just a fling. "The second day I was on set, (series creator) Marc Cherry comes up to me and says, `You want to know what happens with George? He stalks Bree.'
"There was one scene early on where George is home alone, eating dinner and watching Bree on the surveillance video from the drug store. I think that's when America went, `Uh-oh.'"
And maybe when America got hooked on George. Even amid the show's brawny males and bevy of attractive women, this desperate boyfriend is "Desperate Housewives'" most distinctive personality.
No wonder Bart was kept on for more episodes last season, which made his life nicely complicated: While playing the icky apothecary, back in New York he was shooting the film version of "The Producers" (which opens in December).
"I felt like I was on the top of the world," he says. "It was so much fun - flying between both coasts and playing two people who couldn't have been more different - even though I was exhausted."
A never-married father of two daughters, aged 19 and 4 1/2, Bart is savoring his current success - including its bittersweet moments, such as when Rex died shockingly on last season's finale.
"Shooting my scenes, I hadn't really even known what I was putting in his medicine," says Bart, wearing a "who, me?" expression. "But after Steven Culp had shot his final scene, he called to tell me: `Keep your mouth shut, but I'm dead. You did it!'
"Then, when it aired, I watched that episode, watching him in the hospital croaking his last breath, and I found myself moved almost to tears by his death. I was misting up and going, `Who would do such a horrible thing?' And then I had to say, `Wait a minute! I did it!'"
What does he do next? Bart isn't about to say.