Will Ferrell Ditches Name for Dramatic Role

Mystery surrounds the surprise appearance of funnyman Will Ferrell (search) in a rare dramatic role in the season finale of The Guardian.

Sparking the intrigue is the fact that he's not listed in the show's credits. Instead, the actor playing Ferrell's role on the show is identified as "Phil Reston," a name which turns out to be fictional.

In the show, the former Saturday Night Live (search) star plays Larry Flood, an eager new lawyer in the Pittsburgh-based show's non-profit, legal-assistance center.

He turns up about 12 minutes into the episode, which was sent out on tape to TV critics this week. It airs next Tuesday night at 9 on CBS.

After introducing himself to various clinic staffers -- including surly Nick Fallin (series star Simon Baker) -- Flood converses briefly with clinic director Alvin Masterson (Alan Rosenberg) and then exits.

The cheerful new hire appears again only once, near the episode's conclusion.

The role is low-key and not entirely essential to the plot, but it's not a comedic role either.

And the actor is definitely recognizable as Ferrell, despite being dressed in a business suit and made up with a mustache and glasses.

For reasons which remain unclear, CBS publicists -- perhaps hoping to keep the lid on a surprise for Guardian viewers -- were reluctant at first to acknowledge Ferrell's involvement in the episode.

They eventually confirmed that it is him.

"Guardian" executive producer David Hollander did not return a phone call seeking comment and Ferrell could not be located by his own publicist.

One source speculated that Hollander and Ferrell have mutual acquaintances who may have arranged Ferrell's walk-on as a lark.

However, the origins of Ferrell's pseudonym, Phil Reston, remain a mystery.

It's not likely that Ferrell will return to The Guardian (search) next season either. Indications are that his guest-starring stint was a one-shot deal.