dennis franz david caruso nypd blue 325 abc 'NYPD Blue' partner David Caruso 'had to suffer through quite a bit,' says Dennis FranzDennis Franz still smiles about “the wonderful day” he had with his former “NYPD Blue” partners, particularly his first one, several months ago.

David Caruso famously left producer Steven Bochco‘s groundbreaking ABC police drama after attaining overnight stardom in the show’s first season, and it would be a number of years until success came his way again with his Horatio Caine role on CBS’ “CSI: Miami.” He and later “Blue” regulars Jimmy Smits and Rick Schroder reunited with Franz at an Entertainment Weekly photo shoot last fall.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played the last partner of Franz’s Detective Andy Sipowicz, was out of the country at the time. “He was understanding about it,” the pleasant Franz tells Zap2it, “and I missed him dearly, but I loved seeing Jimmy and Rick again … and, so importantly, the affection that David Caruso and I shared was so moving and uplifting to me. There was not one sense of anything other than positive, happy feelings toward each other.

“That was the first time I had seen him since he said goodbye and walked out the back door of the set,” four-time “NYPD Blue” Emmy winner Franz adds. “A lot of water has gone under that bridge over the years, and a lot has been said and made of it, and his career certainly has had its ups and downs. Thankfully for him, it’s on a huge upswing now, but he had to suffer through quite a bit after that.”

Franz says that after such a long separation, he was pleased to be back in close proximity to Caruso “and hug him again, and look into each other’s eyes. We’ve grown over the years as people, so it was really special to be able to express our feelings toward one another and say, ‘I understand. I get it now. I hope you’re happy. I love you.'”

Largely unseen since “NYPD Blue” ended its 12-season run in 2005, Vietnam War veteran Franz returns to television Sunday, May 27, with a dramatic reading on PBS’ annual broadcast of the National Memorial Day Concert. He’ll join close friend and fellow Chicagoan Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”) — who will co-host the event with Gary Sinise (“CSI: NY”) again — in Washington, D.C., along with Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn and music’s Daughtry and Natalie Cole.

“I certainly don’t look at it as a career move,” Franz stresses. “I’m not doing it for that purpose. I’m doing of it because of my respect and my wanting to thank people. The fact that I haven’t been in the public eye for this amount of time has been by choice. I’ve enjoyed the time off and my personal life … and I’ve gotten much worse at golf than I ever thought I’d get.”

Also renowned as Lt. Norman Buntz on Bochco’s “Hill Street Blues,” Franz travels frequently with wife Joanie and says they “fill up every day with wonderful activities, Our grandkids and our immediate family are part of it, so this isn’t intended to be any kind of a stepping stone. It’s just something I feel, in my heart, that I would like to be a part of. And it’s good to be back.”

Posted by:Jay Bobbin