Sunday, April 19, 2015

Time Winters: A Conversation

Time Winters is a veteran actor of the stage and screen, and on MacGyver he has appeared in Honest Abe and Good Knight MacGyver, the latter of which is in my top 6 of all time favorite episodes (I count the two-parters as one episode for ranking purposes).  I loved everything about his portrayal of Merlin the Magician - he knocked it out of the park with that one. I asked him a few questions about his experience on the show, and I'm very thankful for his time.  Please check out his website linked here to learn more about him.  

NS: Your first episode for MacGyver was "Honest Abe." Anything you remember about that episode and how you got selected for the role of Perigot the dictator?

My agent at the time got me into the audition. It was a particularly crowded waiting room when I got there.  Mark Tillman, the great casting director on the show, had seen me several times before and I knew Russell Grey, who worked with him.  I, however had never played a crazed, egomaniacal, Cuban dictator before;  So I went in well-armed with an accent that was inspired by the wonderful comic actors Vito Scotti (of THE FLYING NUN and most every other situation comedy I had ever seen) and Kenneth Mars (from most all of his films with Mel Brooks).  Of course, when I walked into the waiting room, I saw the real Vito Scotti and Kenneth Mars waiting to go in for the role as well.  Sinking Feeling.

This particular dictator, as written, had a childish delight in magic tricks and referred to himself as the “prince of darkness”, so I also came to the audition loaded with three magic tricks and wore some vampire fangs that I had had the Berman Studio make for me when I was playing a vampire on DOCTOR, DOCTOR.  The Audition room, full with the many creatives and producers on the show, seemed to enjoy the magic tricks (don’t most of us?) and my agent later called to tell me that I got the part.  We even used the fangs in the scene in the show when I was introduced to MacGyver.

By the time we shot the episode,  the Cuban dictator had become French.  French is a tricky accent to do well, but at the time, I was dating a French woman in Paris, where I was spending some time.  I thought I could handle it, but now and then, when I see a clip from the show, I wonder what I was thinking.

Both of my parents, still alive then, came out to visit the set on the day that Honest Abe (Shelley Berman) was trying to sell me the Super Copter.  They were AWE-STRUCK!  Not by me having a nice guest role on a popular TV series, or by Ben Stein, or David Naughton, or even Richard Dean;  no, none of that.  They were in awe that I was working with Shelley Berman: Yes! That Shelley Berman, we used to watch on Ed Sullivan!

as Perigot in Honest Abe

NS: What do you remember about the casting process for Merlin?

I heard that they were going to cast Roddy McDowall as Merlyn, so was VERY surprised when I got the call that they were offering it to me.  I raced out and tracked down several books on the historical Merlyn, who because of the nascent “Men’s” movement of the time, was a very popular archetype. (I played Merlyn again later in a national CAMELOT tour with Lou Diamond Phillips and Michael York.)

NS: This is more of a comment, but I thought the make up was excellent, and they made you look much older than you actually were.

TW: Michael Westmore was head of Make-up and he brought in Richard Snell to do Merlyn’s, which consisted of a time-consuming cotton stipple.  It took about four hours to apply each morning and was pretty fragile.  That was not a bad thing for me, as they supplied an AIR-CONDITIONED dressing room for me while we were shooting in the exterior hot sun, to preserve the latex from cracking and breaking off due to exposure and my own sweat.  Sweet!

as Merlin in Good Knight MacGyver

NS: Do you remember anything about the scene where you and MacGyver are hanging onto a wooden platform over a pit of lava?

TW:  The only moment Richard Dean (great guy!) lost his patience with me was during the scene where the trap opens and I was clinging to him as we both hung over the lava pit.  He told me that I didn’t ACTUALLY need to hold on that HARD.  We were both on safety cables to keep us from falling fifteen feet into the pit, which my mind knew, but which takes the body awhile to understand.  (By the way, the crew tested whether the Swiss army knife corkscrew would hold our body weight as it did in the stunt:  It did not.)

NS: This may be more of a question for Richard Dean Anderson, but what do you remember about the selection of MacGyver's first name?

I remember RDA being excited about his name being Angus in the show, and the reveal of it in these episodes, but I think he really liked that they had never mentioned his first name in all the seasons of the show.

NS: Any other memories from Good Knight MacGyver?

TW:  I remember a scene where we were imprisoned and awaiting execution and we shot it with the three of us leaning against the prison bars.  Later that day, there was a delay for lighting or something, that went on for quite a long time.  We three prisoners sat schlumped against a wall as we waited.  Mike Vejar, our director,  looked over at us and said, "That’s the way I should have shot that scene!"  Unfortunately, TV production moves quickly and once it is shot, it is shot.

NS: How do you look back on your time working on MacGyver?

TW:  Working on MACGYVER was a great time, due mainly to the producers and brilliant, organized crew, that had worked together for so long.  I loved them; Brilliant.

NS: Do you have any projects currently in the works?

TW:  This summer I have a nice role in the SyFy feature LAVALANTULA!   Mike Mendez, who directed BIG ASS SPIDER!, working with Steve Guttenberg and me and again some very large spiders . . .(Great fun!)


  1. Interesting interview. Kind of crazy but I don't think I've seen Time Winters in anything other than those three "MacGyver" episodes. Wild that he got the role of Peugot on "Honest Abe" by emulating the accent of the very guys who were sitting in the audition room with him. Nice that his parents got to hang out on the set. A couple other bits of trivia on that episode. Ben Stein wrote a piece for the right-wing publication "American Spectator" back in 1991 (Stein's a big conservative) relaying his experience on the set of "MacGyver". As for Shelley Berman, he's still alive and had a guest-starring role just a year or two ago on "Hawaii Five-O". He played a dirty old man under the care of McGarrett's sister, but at the end he showed his sensitive side and gave some sage advice to the sister based on his own life experience. It wasn't a bad scene to be honest.

    So Winters played Merlin again in another role? Impressive! I guess Nehemiah Persoff played another Holocaust survivor on a "Law and Order" episode a few years after "The Ten Percent Solution" as well so I guess some of these casting directors were paying attention to actors who nailed these roles on "MacGyver". I can't imagine the patience an actor would need to go through four hours worth of makeup application.

    Interesting that RDA got impatient with "Merlin" during the molten pit scene. I knew there was an actual pit but I'm curious what they used to simulate the lava. Not a big surprise the Swiss army knife corkscrew stunt wouldn't have worked in real life. I know the original plan was for MacGyver's first name to be revealed in the final episode. I know RDA came up with the name but they must have talked him into revealing it in this fantasy episode rather than the finale, which I think worked out well.

    1. Yeah, that was a wild story about seeing the guys in the audition room who he was modeling his accent after. And funny you mention H50 - that's the one fiction show that currently on that I watch regularly, and I remember the episode you're talking about (though I didn't make the Shelly Berman/Honest Abe connection). It has some flaws, but I like the characters and I like Hawaii.

    2. I like it too. I was skeptical at first when it premiered but think it's one of the most ambitious action shows on TV today. I also thought it would get boring quickly and morph into a carbon copy of any of CBS's 67 other procedurals on the air now, but it's stayed entertaining into season 5. They have a clunker of an episode once in awhile like the reason one with Elvis impersonators, but I'm still enjoying it and am glad it's likely to have one more season.

    3. That's interesting, I thought I heard that this was the last season for sure, but after doing a quick internet search, I can't confirm that. Maybe it's like MacGyver and has more lives than a cat! I think all the main characters are great, and McGarrett and Danny especially take the show to another level. I was surprised that they killed Wo Fat when they did (since he survived in the original, I thought they'd at least stretch it out until the series finale). And I find the plot line with the older Navy commander who is hiding secrets about his mom a little tiresome. But the show keeps me entertained which is all you can ask. And that episode about the WWII internment camps was one of the best things I'd seen on tv in a long time - I may have reached for the tissue box during that one... :)

    4. It's a situation very similar to MacGyver actually. It's a very expensive show to produce and CBS wants to have that burden lifted. And the location filming and long hours has everybody on the cast and crew itching to move on with their lives. But the quality is still there and the ratings remain solid, especially for a Friday night, so they keep on bringing it back for "one more year". It's not carved in stone yet but most are speculators it will return for one more season. I hope so....I'd hate to be in a situation where I don't have an excuse to avoid social activities on Friday nights!

      Yeah the old Navy commander (played by Terry O'Quinn from last summer's SENSATIONAL 13-episode Fox drama "Gang Related") storyline isn't one of my favorites, nor is McGarett's mom. I was always surprised they killed Wo Fat off. They must have been confident they were gonna end the show earlier than planned...or else the actor really wanted out. In additional to the regular duo, I also really like Bud. Chi McBride is a great actor and this role on this series gives him a perfect role for his range, mixing some of his vintage sarcastic humor bit with some solid dramatic work.

    5. Yeah, Chi is great. I also like Jerry the conspiracy theorist, and I like the shrimp guy (Kamekona?). Daniel Dae Kim is actually from the Lehigh Valley where I'm from, and he seems like a cool guy.

      Hopefully if five-O goes off the air there will be a new show on Friday to give you a good excuse to stay in! Before Five-O on CBS Friday, there was Numb3rs, which I loved. Did you watch that at all? I thought the writing on that show was top notch - a compelling mystery every week with good dialogue and all shrouded in the context of advanced mathematics.

    6. The only other thing I remember Time Winters from is Buffy the Vampire Slayer - he played a 1-shot doctor character who was trying to remove the behavior modification chip from Spike's brain.

      H50 - I'm about 5 episodes behind on. Like ya'll - the storyline w/ Steve's mom is old and tired and not very exciting. Chi McBride, though, keeps showing up on things I'm watching - he's like Steven Weber. Chi was on House in s1 and Suits in s2 & 4 and I'm sure I've caught him in a couple other things before he popped up on H50. The state of HI loves having the show film there - it's good for their tourism. But I've been hearing that this season or next is possibly the final one.

      Re: Mac's first name - he did a spot on Regis & Kathy Lee - when it was still those two - and was pretty excited about the first name reveal. The interview is here: - and he says he'd found it something like 4yrs prior, but they didn't want to reveal it until the final season.

    7. Yes Jerry and Kamekona add to the fun as well. Surprised Daniel Dae Kim is from the Lehigh Valley. He looks so Hawaiian I would have figured he was from the Islands. He's quite a bit older than I would have thought...mid-to-late 40s. I watched "Numb3rs" in the very beginning but didn't really connect with it and quit watching. I heard from others it got better after the first abbreviated season but fell out of the habit of watching. I know it lasted a long six seasons.

    8. Thanks for the interview, Highlander. I was looking for something like that where he talks about the name and couldn't find it, so that was perfect! It's interesting how he actually gives a few hints about the name like that it's five letters, ends in s, and was popular pre 20th century. I also didn't realize that he came up with it many years before.

      On Numb3rs, it definitely got better as it went along. The beginning few episodes were overly graphic and intense, but it eventually found its niche and was really fun to watch.

    9. Highlander, thanks indeed for that interview link. So many of RDA's interviews on "Regis and Kathie Lee" and other shows are available on You Tube but that was one I never found. It was actually the first I had heard that season 7 was gonna be MacGyver's final season. It got worse nine days later when I found out it wasn't even gonna be a full season and there were only a few episodes left!

      I suppose H50 is good for Hawaiian tourism but seeing all those gangster gunfights in the streets of Honolulu wouldn't help the cause for me. Watching that show, I'd swear Hawaii was as violent as Juarez, Mexico, as opposed to being one of the lowest crime cities in the country as the statistics bear out!

    10. I may have that interview on tape somewhere in my collection. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Apparently the tourism to HI works out - ppl keep going. =)