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?
TW: 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!NS: What do you remember about the casting process for Merlin?
|as Perigot in Honest Abe|
TW: 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!NS: Do you remember anything about the scene where you and MacGyver are hanging onto a wooden platform over a pit of lava?
|as Merlin in Good Knight MacGyver|
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?
TW: 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!)