In 2006 David Walton decided it might be time to quit acting. Things weren’t coming together for him professionally and so Mr. Walton, a Boston native, began plotting a move to New York for a career change to banking. When NBC ordered a pilot called “Heist,” he landed a role playing a thief, and the show made it to the airwaves.
“Heist” lasted for only seven episodes, but it set a pattern for Mr. Walton. He has become NBC’s go-to leading man, with a catch: none of the five shows he has starred in have made it past 11 episodes. His current series, “Bent,” a romantic comedy in which he plays a womanizing contractor attracted to Amanda Peet’s single-parent homeowner, finishes a run of a half-dozen episodes on Wednesday night and awaits its fate.
“The first season of a show is kind of like an extended pilot,” Mr. Walton, 33, said. “You’re only really on the map if it goes a second season. And I’ve never had a second season.”
But, he said, he has gained some perspective along the way.
“When I started out I was so optimistic, spending money recklessly, renting places in L.A. and New York,” he said. “Then I woke up to the fact that series get canceled, and I got so pessimistic and scared of failing. Now I’m at the point where even with the highs and lows, I realize the life I have is almost impossible. I’m so grateful for it.”
After “Heist” he starred in “Quarterlife,” a 2008 drama hyped for its digital-age tie-ins and its aim at millennial-generation viewers. “I think I got paid, like, a hundred bucks to do it,” said Mr. Walton, who played a lazily brilliant smooth talker. “It was the power of the names — Marshall Herskovitz, Ed Zwick.” (Mr. Herskovitz and Mr. Zwick were the producers of “My So-Called Life” and “thirtysomething.”)
“Quarterlife” lasted just five episodes, but he met his wife, the actress Majandra Delfino (“State of Georgia”), on the show.
Then came “100 Questions,” a sitcom in which Mr. Walton “played the cocky guy that’s got a heart,” he said. “They burned that show off in the summer.”
By the time that show’s six episodes came and went, Mr. Walton had moved on to “Perfect Couples,” an ensemble comedy about relatively settled relationships in which he played a slightly unhinged, unrelentingly dramatic fiancé. While that show was running, Mr. Walton received a pretty clear clue to its fate — through yet another job offer. “I got the call from NBC: ‘We’d like to see him for “Bent.” ’ ” Though “Perfect Couples” had low ratings, it also had a passionate fan base, and Mr. Walton’s summons effectively dashed the renewal hopes of his co-stars. “It was a really awkward situation,” he said.
But he met with Ms. Peet for a “Bent” read as “Perfect Couples” ticked off its 10 episodes. “The first time I saw him read, I knew it had to be him,” said Tad Quill, the creator and executive producer of “Bent.” “This character makes a lot of dumb decisions but also often has the perfect one-liner. David can play cocky and absurd without turning into a buffoon; he brings this vulnerability, so you buy it.”
NBC seemed happy to have Mr. Walton on board again. “He’s an incredibly gifted comic actor,” said Vernon Sanders, executive vice president for programming. As for Ms. Peet, who plays a divorced mother who hires Mr. Walton to redo her kitchen, she said: “I didn’t know who he was, to be honest.” She added, “Now I think he’s so brilliant I can’t believe we got him.”
Mr. Walton said he had read reviews complaining that his “Bent” alter ego is “the same part I always play.” The character is actually a departure from his reliable lothario — he has the familiar natural wit, but also a gambling problem and abandonment issues — and the basis of his most nuanced performance yet. Then again, NBC’s promos for “Bent” (ads featuring Mr. Walton and Ms. Peet simply read “Bad Boy. Good Girl”) didn’t do much to combat typecasting accusations. It is also possible that if Mr. Walton’s characters blur together, that might be because none of them lives very long.
Whether the contractor Pete Riggins will outlast his predecessors remains to be seen. There are some ominous signs: “Bent” has had a rushed run (NBC showed episodes two at a time over three weeks) and it failed to overcome that scheduling slight with healthy ratings. Though the show earned some nice reviews — in The New York Times the critic Neil Genzlinger advised viewers to “simply enjoy the chemistry between the two stars and admire the casting of the supporting roles” — the pilot drew just 2.8 million viewers and the ratings fell in subsequent weeks.
“I’m fully invested in this show, and I’ll be so disappointed if it doesn’t go forward,” Mr. Walton said. “But I’ve been through this. You’re depressed for a day or two, and then you move on.”
This show was really under rated and got no promotion but it was actually pretty good and has a funny cast.