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Artykuł TV Guides' interview w/Pernell Roberts -1979
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Artykuł TV Guides' interview w/Pernell Roberts -1979
Poniższy artykuł znalazłam na http://trapperiscool.proboards.com/thread/30 z którego między innymi można się dowiedzieć, jak Pernell Roberts przygotowywał się do roli Trapera. Niewątpliwie Roberts nadal był swego rodzaju buntownikiem, ale z nieco innym spojrzeniem na życie.

Interview from the Nov. 1979 issue of TV Guide-written by Anthony Cook.


WHEN LADY LUCK SMILED, HE KICKED HER IN THE TEETH
Back on TV with a new series, Pernell Roberts has mellowed since he quit 'Bonanza'...

Seated at lunch in the executive dining room at 20th Century-Fox studios, Pernell Roberts stabs distractedly at his shrimp salad while serving up thoughts on the subjects that occupy his mind: the mess in Washington, the energy peril, the polarization of the races, the chemical pollution of America, the failure of British socialism. He seems to have opinions on everything--everything, that is, except the subject I have come to inquire about: his new series, Trapper John M.D.

The Fox executive who has joined us is a bit chagrined. "C'mon Pernell," he says, "tell him something about the show." But no, Roberts is undeterred. He has warmed to a new subject: the primitive origins of class differences.

An hour later, following his dissertations on the Nation's shortage of leaders and the half-truths told by journalists, Roberts still hasn't touched on the subject of his new role. Finally, after a postprandial stroll in the sunshine and more cajolery, he agrees to explain why, after years of performing as a versatile free-lance actor, he has decided to take on the demands of a weekly hour-long series.

"I wanted the security," says Roberts. The security? This coming from the man who almost 15 years ago spurned the comforts of a hit series, quitting the role of Adam Cartwright on Bonanza, thereby kissing off a million bucks, in order to stretch himself as an actor? The man who inspired a friend at the time to suggest that when Lady Luck smiled, Roberts kicked her in the teeth?

Well, times change. And now Roberts, who is 51, is thinking about his old age and his family and his sick father and the economic doomsday scenerio he sees unfolding. He says he wanted to hook into something that offered him some financial security. "It 's called covering your rear end," he says.

From the sound of it, Roberts has changed his tune in the years since he took his last ride off the Ponderosa. Back then he was known as a guy who would rather be right than liked. The producer of Bonanza, David Dortort, once called him aloof, rebellious and outspoken. Dortort, who still praises Roberts' acting skill, remembers how he and Roberts used to fight over certain scenes and dialogue that the actor considered too far beneath him to deliver. Apparently Roberts had particular problems portraying the relationship with his TV "father," Lorne Greene. The young rebel didn't like callling Greene "Pa." An exasperarted Dortort asked him at the time, "What are you going to say, Pernell--'Hey you'?" Eventually Roberts agreed to use the word "Pa"--as long as he delivered it only one or two times per show.

Now the upstart image that has been dogging Roberts for years doesn't seem to fit him any more. True, he still doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. He can be standoffish and downright exasperating. Even so, Roberts is clearly a rebel who has mellowed.

In this respect he is like the man he plays Sunday nights on CBS, Trapper John McIntyre, M.D., the one-time maverick from the M*A*S*H unit in Korea who now, 28 years later, has been transformed by scriptwriters into the successful establishmentarian chief of surgery at a busy San Francisco hospital. What's more, he's acting as the steadying influence on a younger version of himself, the rebellious verteran of a M*A*S*H unit in Vietnam, George Alonzo Gates, M.D. (played by Gregory Harrison), otherwise known as Gonzo. The dramatic question posed in the show is: how far will Trapper bend the rules to make room for the outrageous Gonzo?

While the Trapper has grown more conservative, below the surface there are still traces of his old spunk. He is like that familiar American species, the converted radical--the man who, after years of railing against the system, eventually winds up joining it.

A converted radical like Trapper John is unpredictable--and that suits Roberts to a T. One minute Roberts will seem brooding and intense, the next minute he will be guffawing over a joke, with an infectious baritone laugh. With his bald crown, dark eyes and salt-and-pepper beard, Roberts appears simultaneoulsly distinguished and offbeat.

Trapper John is a character whose flair for the unconventional is similar to that of the man who plays him. Roberts, born in Waycross, GA., the gateway to the Okeefenokee swamp, took serveral odd detours on the road to prime time. He flunked out of college not once but three times before deciding to become an actor. Then, during his early lean years, he helped support himself with work as a butcher, a forest ranger, and a tombstone maker. But gradually he established a reputation as an intelligent performer. By the time he began his tenure on the Ponderosa, he had done everything from musical leads in summer stock to an award-winning performance in "Macbeth."

His six years on Bonanza soured him on series acting. He complained about bad scripts. He complained that too many episodes were put together in haste. He argued that the show rarely rose above the cartoon level. Sometimes management listened to him and sometimes not. Roberts gave them the impression that he had disdain for television in general.

He quit the series to return to "serious" acting, but instead of returning to Shakespeare, he wound up touring the straw-hat musical circuit in productions of "Camelot" and "The King and I." He was still known for being "difficult"; people close to him suggested he should change to get more work. But Roberts didn't want to stoke the star-making machinery that was a necessary requirement for a return to the limelight. Even now, it pains him to share his life with the public. He avoids journalists.

Roberts decided he was willing to sacrifice a certain amount of fame in order to hold onto his privacy. Gradually, performing became less the be-all and end-all of his life. He began to sense the repetitiousness of the craft--there were only so many roles, so many parts, so many stories. He began to think of acting as a convenient form of therapy--a way of re-creating the psychodrama of his own deepest feelings. "And once you finish your therapy," he says, "you have no more need of it."

He still did guest stints on TV series, but his principal pleasure became travel. "I was a late starter," he says. "I didn't get across the water until I was 40." But he and his wife, Kara, have made up for lost time, regularly leaving their home in Los Angeles for trips abroad. Next on their agenda is a vacation in the Far East. (Roberts has one son who is grown and no longer lives with him).

As much as anything else, it was his desire to lead a balanced life that softened Pernell Roberts' rough edges. His concern for the future made him answer the call to play Trapper John, but he knew he wouldn't have to give up all of his pleasures to do it. He is working hard without killing himself, even finding time to cultivate a vegetable garden he's planted near the set on the lot at Stage 5.

The show's executive producer, Frank Glicksman, who hired Roberts, is naturally pleased. Glicksman knew about Roberts' reputation, but wanted him anyway because, Glicksman says, "I knew he was a fine actor. A first-rate dramatic actor who's got a great sense of comedy, too. Sure, he has strong opinions. He's very intelligent. Still, he's flexible. Sometimes he bends, sometimes we bend."

Before the production began, Roberts spent time tailing a friend, who is a nephrologist, on the man's rounds at San Francisco's Moffitt General Hospital. Roberts interviewed nurses, interns and medical students and suited up to watch open-heart surgery. He wanted to get a sense of the ambiance of a hospital and the body language of the doctors so that, when Trapper John bent over a patient in the operating room with the cameras rolling, he would wear the expression of a surgeon, even if, below the level of the TV screen, he was simply twisiting a Kleenex.

Roberts' immersion in the realism of the show eventually too an unpredictable turn. After reading and observing firsthand for months the problems of disease and illness, he got the news that his father was suffering from cancer. "It just seemed a kind of poetic coincidence," says Roberts. "Suddenly, so much of my life was involved both on and off stage with questions of living and dying." Observing his father's successful treatment was, he says, "very nourishing," but the ordeal nevertheless served to provide Roberts with a vision of his own mortality and to heighten the concern he has about the future. He knows that older actors get fewer calls and that the prudent man in middle age does not reflexively spurn steady work.

So, this time out, Pernell Roberts is doing everything he can to make his new television series work--everything, that is, except beating the promotional drum. This time out, all seems pretty tranquil. But, out of respect for all converted radicals, it is essential to offer an attachment: all seems pretty tranquil. For now.

The end.
06-03-2017 10:32 PM
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