Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Questions

Time for Friday Questions. The theme this week seems to be stars.

Ryan asks:

Frasier's first wife, the children's entertainer "Nanny G," was played by Emma Thompson on an episode of Cheers, then by Laurie Metcalf on an episode of Frasier years later. Would you happen to know if any attempt was made to get Thompson to reprise the role?

Yes. Ms. Thompson was unavailable. I will say it was a great thrill to work with her on CHEERS. She’s as incredibly nice as she is Oscar awarded.

Laurie Metcalf was one of the very few people who could replace her.  She was great in FRASIER, but it wasn't the same.  I couldn't ask her what Kenneth Branagh was really like.  

VP81955 wants to know:

Ken, in the old days of the studio system, places such as Paramount and MGM had rather palatial dressing rooms for their stars under contract. Those days are long since gone, of course, as all film stars are independent contractors -- but I'm wondering if such rooms now house stars on TV series, particularly those that have proven to be hits.

First of all, let me make it clear I wasn’t born during those glory days of the studios.

Generally speaking, those lavish dressing rooms have been converted to offices. When David Isaacs and I were at Paramount we had our own bungalow, which used to be Judd Hirsch’s dressing room during TAXI. You can usually tell if it’s a former dressing room because there’s a shower in the bathroom. And there’s a bathroom.

I don’t know what accommodations are made for big movie stars today – I don’t know what Julia Roberts or R2D2 get – but I’m sure they’re nicer than all of our homes.

Some TV stars just prefer giant trailers. You can really trick out those babies these days.

I tried to stay out of stars’ dressing rooms. When I was invited it was usually because they had problems with the script.

From Adam Hauck:

I had a dream the other night that I was at a bowling alley and all of a sudden David Schramm enters. He seems like a nice guy (I'm a big Wings fan).

This got me wondering if you have any good (or even mediocre) stories about him. Also if he really is a nice guy like in my dream, lol.

What were you eating before going to sleep?

For the record, David Schramm played the boorish (and hilarious) Roy on WINGS. You’ll be happy to know he’s the nicest guy in the world. A few years ago I did a reading of my play in New York and asked David to do one of the starring roles. He lives on the east coast now. Two things I remember: He read it cold in rehearsal and got every single laugh. Then during the performance that night he was even better. The man's a natural comedian.  Secondly, he had no email address. Like I said, that was a few years ago so things might’ve changed, but at the time he was (and maybe still is) the only person I know who doesn’t have an email account. So he’s a tad eccentric that way. But I love him and would work with him again in a second. Assuming I could reach him.

Carson asks:

I've been watching Cheers again on Netflix. I've found that the Woody centered episodes are my least favorite. Nothing against Woody Harrelson, but the character just seems so two dimensional that's it's hard to have him carry an episode. Even the Woody centered episode of Frasier is not a favorite of mine. What are your thoughts?

I have to respectfully disagree. Some of my favorite CHEERS episodes are the ones with him and Kelly. Their wedding episode is a series highlight.

I didn’t love the FRASIER that Woody guested on. It was a hard week with a lot of rewriting. I’ll leave it at that.

And finally, from leemats:

I recently learned that some cable shows have "partial contracts" for their actors. (I'm not sure what the actual term is.) For example, Jon Hamm is contracted for all 13 episodes of a Mad Men season, but some members of the cast may only appear in 10 or so.

Has this been going on for a while?

Yes.  Years and years.  They’re generally called recurring characters and will be signed for 8 out of 13 or 10 out of 13 (whatever is negotiated). Not having an actor under contract for the full order can save the studio money but it’s a gamble. If that actor does get a series regular spot elsewhere he can often take it (depending on the terms of each individual contract). Alison Brie has a recurring role on MAD MEN (as Pete’s wife Trudy) but she also became a series regular on COMMUNITY (as Annie).

Anything you’d like to know?  Just ask me in the comments section I'll be in my dressing room.


Rinaldo said...

(It's "Branagh" -- no U.)

I've seen David Schramm several times onstage in NYC, always in musicals and always excellent in those essential character roles. On one occasion I saw him in one of those piano-accompanied "rehearse for a week, then give 5 performances, scripts in hand" formats by which obscure musicals can be seen again. (This one was FANNY.)

Anyway, there was a "talk-back" with members of the cast after the Saturday matinee. The ingenue was asked about the difficulties of preparing a show in such a short timeframe, and she responded that one thing that made it easier with FANNY was that "you don't have to go analyzing your role looking for the subtext -- everyone in this show always says exactly what they're thinking." And Schramm just about fell off his chair laughing at the unexpectedness and truth of this comment (which he had obviously never heard before). It was a very endearing moment.

Baylink said...

I applaud your location of an excuse to post a picture of Allison.

Am I craxy, Ken, or are the Friday Q&A's a book, all by themselves?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Baylink: What a good idea!


Joshua James said...

I was at that reading of yours, and David Schramm is indeed hilarious...

Daniel Saks said...

I remember during the heyday of Carsey Warner that there was a sort of "trailer wars" going on amongst their female leads (it was when most of their leads were female) the trailers and the fences around them just kept getting bigger and bigger.

Johnny Walker said...

That is a good idea! You don't year's worth of these Friday Questions now. I'm sure you could group them together and flesh them out so that it becomes the defacto "Hollywood FAQ".

Cap'n Bob said...

Yes, Baylink, you're craxy. :)

Concetta Tomei said...

Having worked with David on stage ('Goodbye Fidel') and having played his wife on 'Wings', I can confirm that he is one of the funniest, brightest, sweetest and most generous people you'll ever meet. A great talent, and a true GENTLEman...

Michelle said...

In the 13 episode of the new Arrested Development, do you know which episode of MASH they used? (It has Frank Burns at the end as a lead-in for the Babytock clip)

Breadbaker said...

I'm glad to learn that Roy was acting and David Schramm is a wonderful guy and great actor. I always enjoyed how Roy was always going to be the butt of jokes and took it in stride. It's not easy to play that character; you'd like to win sometimes. But David S. did a great job with it.

Adam Hauck said...

Thanks for answering my question. As for where that dream came from, I don't know. I bowl each week and as I said am a big "Wings" fan and for a dream, the two collided. I have weird TV related dreams. Once I had a dream that I was watching "I Love Lucy" with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley in my living room, watching it with me. So, yeah, weird dreams. :)

Gazzoo said...

Whenever you say "I’ll leave it at that", you must know you're torturing us...

Wayne said...

I'm probably not the only one used to reading Ken's wonderful blog on an RSS feed in Google Reader. As you probably heard, this is last month for Google Reader. So you should switch to an alternative. I tried both Commafeed and Feedly. Both look like Google Reader. Commafeed didn't work quite as well as Google Reader. But Feedly actually worked better right out of the box. And it took less than a minute to download and set up, either in Chrome or Firefox.

Also want to say thanks for a great read, Ken.

Ernie said...

What do tou think of Quentin Tarantino's statement that directors over 60 years old are no longer any good?

Bradley said...

I always loved David Schramm, the unsung hero of Wings for sure. And I love knowing that Concetta Tomei reads your blog. She's been one of my favorites ever since I was a kid and I always smile when she pops up on a series when I least expect it.

Concetta Tomei said...

Thanks, Bradley!

cadavra said...

Re Tarantino:

Hitchcock made NxNW at 60, PSYCHO at 61, and THE BIRDS at 64.

Ford made THE SEARCHERS at 62 and LIBERTY VALANCE at 68.

Hawks made RIO BRAVO at 63 and HATARI! at 66.

Kurosawa made KAGEMUSHA at 70 and RAN at 75.


Huston made FAT CITY at 66, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING at 69, WISE BLOOD at 73 and THE DEAD at 81.

I could go on but the point's made.

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Wayne Here are some suggested replacements for Google Reader from Popular Science.

Dan Ball said...

Ken, here's a Friday question I'm wrestling with:

How easily can a TV writer go back and forth between sitcoms and dramas?

Personally, I'm wanting to learn both since we were only taught writing for film in school and that's what I've been doing since. TV writing seems, to me, like a great, little adventure. Right up there with learning how to climb Mt. Pilot. (See what I did there? Pilot...TV writing...Andy Grif--yeah...)

Thanks, Ken!

Dan Ball said...

Hope you don't mind, but here's another one:

Have you or anyone you've known suffered from "director's burnout"?

(Definition of burnout: during a shoot, a director's train of thought derails off the bridge into the ravine, no survivors, and the director spends the rest of the time wondering where the hell their mind gets off taking a full-blown sabbatical in the middle of a shoot.)

One time in college, I was directing a short for a project and I burned out. I started strong, energized, and extremely focused but I just lost all that in an instant at one point. Before I knew it, my co-director had taken over and I was wandering around the set in a daze, in search of unicorns and the holy grail. That experience scared the shit out of me until I read a Paul Thomas Anderson interview ( where he describes a very similar feeling. I really enjoy directing and getting in peoples' heads, but that one incident made me worried that I wasn't going to cut it as a director. Please tell me this is normal and there's life on the other side!

Sean Christie said...

Friday Question:

In your illustrious career as a writer, have you ever come across and befriended a successful Canadian writer who got work (an agent and staffed on a show) and a work permit (visa)?

Just wondering, because that's been my situation this past year in L.A. on a student visa.

Please let me know,
Sean Christie