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Adrian Paul looks beyond `Highlander’

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Without his long dark locks, Scottish kilt and Katana sword, Adrian Paul looks like any mere mortal among us.

On this day, the "Highlander" is casually dressed. He has sprouted a goatee and cut his hair short during the series' summer hiatus."It was time to cut it off," he says simply, adding that he'll keep it that way when the syndicated series begins filming its sixth season in Paris in July.

"The goatee? I don't think so," he says. "I don't think the goatee will work."

Even though he's on hiatus, Paul hasn't left behind his honorable alter ego, Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, a 400-year-old, sword-wielding immortal who has traveled the world dodging nasties who want to slice off his head so they can gain his power.

Paul is also spending some time attending various "Highlander" conventions.

"It's a lot of energy. You've got that many people wanting your attention, your autograph. You get tired very quickly," Paul says, flipping through the pages of the new "Highlander" catalog.

"Wow, look at that!" he says, pointing at a sterling silver sword baby spoon.

Yes, a catalog, where fans can purchase anything from a Celtic cross pendant to Paul's ornamental hair ties to a chess set with pewter "Highlander" characters.

"Highlander" (usually rated TV-14) has spawned a cult-like following not unlike the "Star Trek" series, "Babylon 5" or "The X-Files."

And it was the first among the recent spate of heroic fantasy shows, including "Xena: Warrior Princess," and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys." A new series "Roar," described as a mix of the films "Braveheart" and "Excalibur," is coming out this summer on Fox.

"I don't liken `Highlander' to `Xena' or `Hercules' because I think `Highlander' is a little bit more cerebral than those shows are," Paul says.

"I think it has a little more class than those shows do. That's my personal opinion. I'm not knocking them, I think they're great for what they are."

The series "Highlander" was based on the 1986 movie of the same name, starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, Paul's idol.

"When I first saw it I went `Wow! This is amazing, what a fabulous concept' because immortality is always intriguing," says the London-born Paul.

"It's something we try for every day of our lives. We try on makeups, creams, age-reducing processes. So to have someone like that who moves amongst us was intriguing."

Adapting a theatrical film to the small screen doesn't always work, and Paul insisted on playing a different character than the one Lambert portrayed. Easy enough - they just created Duncan MacLeod, 70 years younger than his relative Connor MacLeod (Lambert).

"I thought it would be a lot better for me to be somebody related to him because he (Lambert) is that character and my character is totally different. If we played the same character, people would compare them."

The fifth season ended with the emergence of an evil force that drastically changes Duncan MacLeod.

"There will be a different type of evil that MacLeod will have to battle and he'll try and find that throughout the shows next year," Paul says.

"His spiritualism will be different. He'll be a lot more simple in life because of the evil he's facing at the end of this year, it changes his way of being - he has to get rid of a lot of things in his life and basically he's got to get to a certain space of non-violence. You probably will see MacLeod avoiding fights rather than be in them."

But next season, with only an order of 13 episodes (usually there's 22), will be Paul's last. The actor, in his mid-30s, wants to pursue films.

"At this stage of it, we've gone as far as we can without making things repetitive or seeing the same old thing," Paul says.

"I think the show's gone up in quality the past five years, and there's a certain level you get to. I'd rather go out on an up note than a down note."

"Highlander" airs locally on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on KJZZ-Ch. 14.