Here's a belated Friday Question time:
From Chris Andelman:
My question is about writing episodes for guest actors. Do you ever sign them first and then write with them in mind?
but not always. The CHEERS staff had an idea for a character they
thought would be great for John Cleese. He liked the idea and agreed to
played it. Peter Casey & David Lee then wrote a brilliant script.
my partner, David Isaacs and I wrote the Tonight Show episode of CHEERS
we had Johnny Carson going in. We kind of insisted on it.
A hot show will attract hotter guest stars. The Zeitgeist Factor
is huge. Britney Spears did a HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (back when Britney Spears meant something). I doubt they
could have gotten her for ACCORDING TO JIM. Julia Roberts did FRIENDS.
We couldn’t get Iron Eyes Cody for AfterMASH.
It always helps
to hear the actor’s voice in your head as you write but most times
you’re not afforded that luxury. You write a character and hope it
will attract a big name.
In the first year of CHEERS David Lloyd
wrote a wonderful episode called “The Spy Who Came In For a Cold One”.
It’s about a larger-than-life figure who comes into the bar. Richard
Burton had just done an episode of SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (I think he
and Lee Majors were friends) so we thought, “Let’s get him.” Burton
passed. I forget who came up with this brainstorm but we then offered
the part to Jack Elam. He was that terrific character actor with the
wandering eye who always played scruffy characters, usually killers in
westerns. I’m sure it’s the first time the same role had ever been
offered to Richard Burton and Jack Elam. Elam passed. And we wound up
with Ellis Raab, a rather flamboyant theatrical actor – who couldn’t
have been more dissimilar to either Burton or Elam.
the “Hot Rocks” episode of CHEERS, David and I thought we had Celtics’
star, Larry Bird. So we concocted a story where Rebecca thought he
stole her earrings. Bird then dropped out. So we went with the next
logical choice -- Admiral William J. Crowe, the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff.
But if I had to break it down I'd guess you go to the guest star before you write the script 70% of the time. Maybe 71%