Russell Einhorn/Splash News Online
06/11/2008 at 09:00 AM EDT
Stars of Patrick Swayze's recently greenlit show The Beast
can't say enough about him.
"Patrick is an amazing person," his costar Larry Gilliard Jr. (an alum of The Wire
) tells PEOPLE. "When the word got to me he was sick, and then the word was that Patrick was saying he's gonna beat whatever it is, I had his back. I was like, 'Of course – it's Patrick! He's gonna do it.' He's so positive. I'm really looking forward to getting back to work with him."
Swayze, 55, who says he has been responding well
to treatment for his pancreatic cancer, filmed the show's pilot last August, before his diagnosis. Back then, the cast "clicked," Gilliard Jr. says – due in large part to Swayze. "He was texting everybody, calling, like 'Where are you? This is where
we are!' " Gilliard Jr. says. "He started it. We all really bonded."
In The Beast,
Swayze plays undercover FBI agent Charles Barker, who is assigned to teach his rookie partner his eccentric crime-solving methods while being investigated by an Internal Affairs team.
"I have searched for quite a long time to find a character that is this multi-layered, unpredictable and downright entertaining," Swayze said in a statement from the A&E network, which picked up the show.
Costar Sarah Michelle Madison says this may be Swayze's most "interesting" role yet.
"He is such a primal character, you almost forget it's him," Madison says. "His kind of talent and passion are really palpable. His energy is so fantastic that I cannot imagine what it's going to be like for him to work now – he's just gonna be on fire."
Production on The Beast
is slated to begin in Chicago this summer.
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