What Made Him A TV Star:
In the early 1980s, Caruso had a recurring role playing the leader of a street gang on Hill Street Blues. But it wasn't until he was cast as Detective John Kelly on NYPD Blue in 1993 that he became a bonafide star. Caruso won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Kelly. But his stint on the hit show was short-lived.
His Transition To Movies:
NYPD Blue co-creator Steven Bochco claimed his producing partner, David Milch, begged him not to hire Caruso, as the actor had a reputation for being a malcontent. Sure enough, Caruso had been starring on NYPD Blue for little more than a year when he abruptly quit in 1994. Bochco believed the star thought he was too good for TV and deliberately set out to alienate cast, crew, and writers in order to be let out of his contract. After Bochco rejected the actor's demands for remaining on the show, a nasty stalemate set in for several weeks between the show and the actor before Bochco let Caruso out of his deal.
The decision backfired on the actor. Not only did NYPD Blue successfully replace him with Jimmy Smits, but in 1995, his two big-budget starring efforts, Jade and Kiss of Death, tanked at the box office. His abrupt NYPD Blue departure also resulted in Caruso getting labeled as ungrateful, insecure, and greedy. He later admitted that he didn't handle the situation well.
"I became the guy who had this great opportunity and walked away from it," he told The New York Times in 2000. "People still see me as this enigma. It was my fault,''
Caruso confessed to the Times that he had been frightened by his success on NYPD Blue. "I didn't know how to handle the responsibility. I handled it like an amateur. I didn't realize how upset people were until the show was over. I didn't get it. And I think it has a lot to do with fear. I mean, I was terrified I couldn't meet the challenge of the job."
He never got another chance to become a movie star, but he did earn renewed fame on television when he took on the role of Lt. Horatio Caine on CSI: Miami. He appeared on every episode of the show from its premiere in 2002 to its final episode 10 seasons later. When the series was canceled, Caruso retired from acting. He later opened an art gallery.