Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.
The actor: Since the late ’80s—actually, let’s just say 1989, since that’s when Glory came out—if a casting director has found themselves in need of a burly, blustery, mustachioed man for their project, Richard Riehle has likely been near the top of their list. He’s been in over 200 films and on more than 125 TV series, including Casino, Executive Decision, The Fugitive, Grounded For Life, and Office Space. In addition to popping up all over the primetime lineup—among the currently airing shows he’s guested on are NCIS, The Middle, The Real O’Neals, Major Crimes, Mom, Drunk History, Modern Family, and The Mindy Project—Riehle can also been seen in the new indie comedy Medal Of Victory, now available on home video and VOD.
Medal Of Victory (2016)—“Ted Crump”
Richard Riehle: Ted Crump is the longtime mayor of Townville. He lives by the usual minor corruption in order to get through, but he’s never had a real dangerous opponent. Now a local businessman decides he wants in on it, so it’s a fight to the finish between these two guys.
Now, what happens is that these two bottom-of-the-rung GI’s are working in a shipping office not too far away, and when a box of nuclear triggers is accidentally put in a shipment of food and medicine being sent to an African country, as normally happens, the blame goes downhill, and they’re the last ones in line. They’re about to be put in the stockades for a long time, so they go AWOL, but one of them decides he has to stop at his hometown—Townville—and see his ex-girlfriend, because when he joined up, he left things in kind of a strange state.
But before they get into town, though, they decide to stop at a bar to get a little touch of pure courage. [Laughs.] And here’s a veteran at the end of the bar who’s pretty much in his cups, and he’s wearing this medal of victory, this hero’s medal that he was given, but his feeling is that it’s a bloodstone, that the stuff that he did is not deserving of a medal but, rather, he should be punished for it. So they chat for a while, the vet leaves, and then a little while later they take off, too.
But as they’re driving to town, they notice this car wreck and go and try to help the guy… and it’s the vet, who literally pins the medal on one of the soldiers. And when the police and EMT and all that come, they see the medal and think they have another hero here, so they bring him into town. And, of course, both of the guys running for mayor decide that they want to have a hero on their team. So there’s a battle between the two guys running for mayor about what they can offer this guy in order to get him on their team.
The A.V. Club: So how did you find your way into this film?
RR: It was very interesting. There’s four guys that went to film school at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison, and then they graduated and took off. But they’d come back every summer and do these little shorts, and during the course of working together, they were also trying to develop a feature that they could shoot. I grew up in Wisconsin, and I was back there a couple of times doing films that were shot there, and I was at the Milwaukee Film Festival for one film that was playing there, and they happened to see me. They didn’t come up and talk to me, but they discovered that I was a local guy that liked to come back to Wisconsin and work there, so when they had the script ready, they contacted my agent and sent me a copy and said, “Do you think there’s any way you’d want to come to Madison for a couple of weeks in the summer and do this movie?” And it was a great script, so I said, “Absolutely! I’d love to!”
Rooster Cogburn (…And The Lady) (1975)—extra
AVC: It looks like your first time in front of the camera—according to IMDB, anyway—was playing a bartender in the film Joyride.
RR: Yes, that was the first one with lines. I did appear previous to that in Rooster Cogburn (…And The Lady), shot back in ’74 in Rogue River Valley, in Oregon. But I was a glorified extra that got bumped up to being Richard Jordan’s stand-in for a while. I think I was a dead body two or three different places in there. [Laughs.] But I can’t find myself in it, so I wouldn’t expect anybody else to recognize me, either!
But, yes, the first one with lines was Joyride. It was a very interesting project. It was American International Pictures, and they had gotten a couple of kids of stars to be in it, so it was Desi Arnaz Jr., Anne Lockhart, Bobby Carradine, and… oh, who was the other one? Melanie Griffith! Tippi Hedren’s daughter. But they were all very young kids, and the premise was that they went up to the Alaskan Pipeline while it was in the process of being built and were looking for jobs to make some money. Of course, they got up there and there was nothing that they could do, so they rob the payroll office and take off, and they’re eventually captured back in the States. I was a bartender in Alaska. We actually shot in Washington state, though. I happened to be up there working, so that’s how I ended up being cast.
There are a couple of things I remember about that. In one scene, there was a pissing contest, and they wanted to take part in it and maybe win some money. So Bobby Carradine was going to be the guy, and he was pumping down beers at the bar, and the local hero was doing the same, and I was the judge, so I’d take them outside afterwards and decide who could piss the longest and the farthest. And it was the local guy, so they lost out on that deal, too. But what happened was that we were shooting in a real bar in some small town up there, and there were a bunch of locals who were there as extras, and in order to keep them for 14 hours and kind of maintain a little bit of order, they thought it would be a good idea if they went ahead and actually served them beers. So they made a deal with the guy who owned the bar, and I began handing out beers to anybody who wanted one. And by the lunch break, there were several people who decided that they had a better idea of how the scene should be shot. [Laughs.] And they eventually had to get security and get them out!
AVC: To jump back to Rooster Cogburn for a moment, as you said, there wasn’t much to your part…
RR: There was nothing to my part! [Laughs.]
AVC: Still, just being on a set with John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn must’ve been staggering.
RR: Yeah, it was absolutely amazing. Stuart Millar was the director, and he didn’t really have much of a track record at that point. I don’t exactly know how he got to do that thing. But all the people who worked on the movie had worked on the last 12 John Wayne films, and they were kind of used to the way that it was run at that time, which was that Wayne would do the dialogue and the close-ups, and then he had a double who was frightening in how much he looked like him. He unfortunately had a very high voice, so he couldn’t do anything that involved speaking. [Laughs.] Wayne was always there and readily available, but the double did most of the scenes for him until it came down to doing dialogue.
Katharine Hepburn was over in England shooting something with Laurence Olivier—Love Among The Ruins, I think—so she arrived about a week later, by which time they’d sort of gotten into their routine, and she just threw a monkey wrench into that, because she wanted to drive the buckboard, she wanted to camp out, she wanted to do everything. And the thing with Wayne was that he was a consummate gentleman, so he was always there whenever she wanted to do something. So suddenly he was doing more and more stuff. And you could kind of see the crew going, “Oh, my gosh, this is incredible! This is the way it used to be, and it hasn’t been like this in 10 years!” And the two of them were fascinating together. They respected each other’s work and they worked really well off of each other. It was a shame at that point that it wasn’t a better film for them both.
AVC: Were you on the set at all while Strother Martin was working on the film?
RR: I was not. But like I said, I became kind of the general go-to guy on the film when they needed something.
At one point, the stunt coordinator asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping with a stunt. Now, it wasn’t much of a stunt—Richard Jordan kicks Anthony Zerbe in the face over the campfire, and he ends up falling off a cliff. But both of them were going to be stunt guys when they shot it, and they’d worked out that the guy was going to take the kick, roll down about 8 feet, and then do this little drop-off, which was about a 4-foot drop. It wasn’t like there was any danger involved. It was just going to look dangerous. So they asked me if I would crouch down below the rise that he was going to go over and just be there to catch him when he went over, and I said, “Fine.”
So I watched them rehearse it, and the guy who’s taking the kick is rehearsing taking the kick, but he’s not doing the fall, the roll, or any of that. And then they get ready to shoot it, and he kind of works his way down the 8 feet to take out any rocks or anything else that’s there, and then they set up the shot. But when they shoot it, he takes the kick, and whether it was the adrenaline or whatever, he throws himself further than he’d planned, so he’s going off a different edge. Now, it was no more dangerous than if he’d gone down right where I was—it was still only about 4 feet—but he rolled off it and then landed there, and then somebody yelled, “Cut!” And the director came running up and said, “Are you okay? Were there any problems?” And the stunt coordinator came up and said, “We got it. If you want to do it again, we’ll do it again, but we’ve got it.” Talking to the stunt guy, not the director. [Laughs.]
Afterwards, I asked the stunt guy, “I’m just curious—why didn’t you practice the fall and the roll?” And he said, “I don’t do any stunt unless the camera is rolling. There’s no point in getting hurt—however much or however little—if it’s not at least on film.”
AVC: So how did you find your way into acting in the first place?
RR: Totally by chance. I was a senior at the University Of Notre Dame and I couldn’t really afford to stay another year in school, and this guy I knew said, “Well, you know, you can take all the credits you need in speech and drama in one semester.” So I said, “fine” and I did that. I spent a semester doing anything and everything that you do in the theater—acting, directing, building sets, etc.—and then for some reason they liked what I did enough that they got me a teaching assistantship at the University Of Minnesota. So I went on and got my MFA. I figured, “What the heck? If they’re gonna pay me to do it, I’m gonna do it!”
So I got up there, and I ended up going from there to the Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, Michigan, where my MFA advisor spent half the year directing. And from there I ended up going all around doing regional theater for about 15 years, including a lot in the Northwest, and that’s where I did Rooster Cogburn and where I did Joyride. Occasionally I’d pick up little things here and there, but I never really thought I was going to do anything but theater. But then Emily Mann, who directed me in a show in Seattle, had written a play called Execution Of Justice, about the Harvey Milk-George Moscone thing in San Francisco, and they had decided to take it to Broadway, so she called me up and said, “I can’t offer you anything, but if you go out and audition, I think there might be a role for you.”
So I came out, met with the producers, auditioned, and got cast in that, so I was in New York. And that’s when I began doing more film and TV. I did Black Rain while I was there, and I got cast in Glory there. I did some of the soaps, and I did little bits and pieces in films that came through there. And I got an agent there! I never had an agent before I went to New York. And when Glory opened, my agent said, “Well, you should go to L.A. for the opening, and we’ll see if we can set up some meetings.” And then everything sort of changed from there. Suddenly I was doing more and more movies and TV and less and less theater.
RR: That was a really fascinating movie to be involved with. The [Kevin] Jarre script was incredible. I was in New York doing theater at the time, and I got this audition, so I came in and read for Ed [Zwick, the director], and he told me when they came back and offered me the role, “Everybody else played him like a villain, and you played him like a bureaucrat.” And I said, “Well, that’s how I read him because that’s how I saw him!”
So they flew me down to Savannah for a week to shoot the two scenes the quartermaster’s involved in. They shot almost everything there. They shot the final charge in Hilton Head, I think, but everything else was shot in Savannah. The quartermaster’s scenes are actually supposed to take place in Boston, though, and the day I arrived, they had snow in Savannah for the first time in 25 years. So they jumped ahead and kind of guerrilla-shot that scene of Matthew [Broderick] walking through the snow with all the troops there.
They had 400 [Civil War] re-enactors there—it was the first time they were used so integrally in a movie—and they knew everything—to the point of knowing more than you wanted to know. [Laughs.] But that was amazing, and the acting company that Ed put together was incredible. In addition, he hired 10 African-American actors who were called The Company, and they came down and went through all of the training with the principles, and they were set up strategically throughout all the scenes, so that whenever an actor was doing anything, wherever he looked, he knew there was going to be an actor there who was absolutely keyed in on him and supporting him, as opposed to an extra who might be thinking about something else at the moment. So that was really fascinating.
Jihmi Kennedy, who played the young soldier who’s the crack shot but couldn’t reload his rifle in time, we had just toured the five boroughs of New York with a series of children’s shows, so when I arrived, he kind of picked me up there at the hotel and took me all around and introduced me to everybody. So it was an incredible experience. And Freddie Francis as the cinematographer was amazing as well. Everything about it was amazing.
The Public Eye (1992)—“Officer O’Brien”
Casino (1995)—“Charlie Clark”
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)—“INS Agent”
AVC: You’ve been in a couple of films with Joe Pesci: The Public Eye, Casino…
RR: The Public Eye is how I got Casino. What happened was, it was just before Thanksgiving, and I got a call from my agent saying, “Is there any way you can be on a plane to Las Vegas today at 1 o’clock?” So I said, “I guess so. Why?” “Well, they lost an actor, and they need to replace him right away, so they’re sending as many people up as they can to meet with [director Martin] Scorsese to see who can do this role. So go to the airport, there’ll be a ticket for you, and there’ll be sides. Learn the sides on the flight up, and they’ll take it from there when you get up there. Be prepared to turn around and come back later today or stay for a week.” [Laughs.] I said, “Okay…”
So I got up there, and there’s only one other actor who they were able to get at that last minute like that: Clive Rosengren, who I’d gone to grad school with! We had a great trip up, and we were catching up and working on lines, all that sort of stuff. So they put us in a couple of honey wagons and waited till they had a break, and then they took us one at a time into Scorsese’s trailer. And we’re sitting around that little area in the back, and it’s Scorsese and the script supervisor and Joe and whichever one of us was reading at the time. So I read the scene, Clive read the scene, and then they took us back to the honey wagons and said, “Okay, go to lunch. We’ll make a decision after lunch.”
You have to understand—Clive looks like a banker. [Laughs.] I certainly don’t, and I didn’t then. But all of a sudden I get a knock on the honey wagon, and it’s the assistant director. And he says, “Are you willing to trim your mustache?” I said, “Sure!” He said, “Okay, say goodbye to Clive, we need to take you to costumes as soon as possible.” So I knock on Clive’s door, and I say, “Sorry, Clive. We’ll do this again sometime, I’m sure.” And then I went out to wait for the teamsters to take me to some store in Las Vegas where they were going to get me a suit. While I’m standing there, Joe’s on the corner, grabbing a cigar, and I said, “Joe, I know I didn’t knock it out of the park there. I’m sure the only reason I’m doing this is that you put in a good word for me.” And he’s, like, “Yeah, just don’t fuck it up, kid!”
But Joe was great. We spent probably four or five weeks on and off together in Cincinnati, in Chicago, and here in L.A. shooting bits and pieces of The Public Eye, in which he played Weegee [a.k.a. Arthur Fellig, photographer for the New York Daily News]. And, you know, we didn’t become bosom buddies, but we were spending a lot of time together. So I thought it was really nice that he was willing to take that chance on me.
So what happened after they gave me the fitting for the suit… They took me back to the hotel, and the teamster says, “So who are you?” I said, “I’m here to play Banker Clark.” He said, “Oh, yeah! The last guy disappeared.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, I brought him onto the set yesterday and he shot all day, and I took him back to the hotel last night, and on my pickup this morning, he was gone, he had checked out, and nobody knew where he was.” Evidently it was sort of a high-tension set at times. [Laughs.] I don’t know who the guy was. I never did find out. But evidently it was just more than he was willing to handle at that time.
AVC: You were also in Lethal Weapon 4, but is Joe Pesci in your scene?
RR: No, it was Chris Rock and Danny [Glover] and Mel [Gibson].
AVC: Well, still, at least you managed to be a part of a pretty famous film franchise.
RR: Oh, yeah, that was fascinating. We shot it on the pier at Long Beach, and they had 400 extras, two helicopters, a couple of cigar boats, and 50 emergency vehicles. And then they would say, “Background action!” And then we had this little four-headed scene. [Laughs.] So you knew that you couldn’t screw up, because it’d take them 20 minutes to reset all of that!
The Fluffer (2001)—“Sam Martins”
RR: A really interesting thing. The script came through, and it was very strange, and I thought, “Oh, boy, this might be something fun to get into.” So these two guys, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, were wonderful writers and directors—Richard just passed away about two years ago—had put together this project. Wash had come over from England, and he was a director there, but the only thing he could get here in the States was directing pornography. And Richard, his partner, had been [producing] Divorce Court and then had gotten a little bit of heat from a movie that he wrote that was kind of a takeoff, a satire of Divorce Court. So they managed to raise a little money to do this film.
So I came in and read for it, and they liked this gruff, no-nonsense director that I gave them, so they said, “We’d like you to do it. Have you ever been on a porn set?” I said, “Uh, no, I have never been on a porn set.” [Laughs.] They said, “Okay, well, we’re going to set it up. We’ll meet you at this porn studio in North Hollywood, and it’s where we’re going to shoot the porn scenes, and we’ll watch a little bit of how they do everything.” So I said, “Fine.”
So I arrive at this nondescript building, and I ring the bell, and I identify myself, and the guy says, “Oh, yeah, Wash said to tell you he’s not going to be able to make it, but come in and we’ll give you the busman’s tour.” So I sat in on this production meeting they were having about the scene they were going to shoot, and then I sat in on watching them shoot the scene for a while. The one thing that surprised me was that, when you’re shooting film as an actor, you try not to pay attention to what’s going on behind the camera. It was quite different with these two actors. They were constantly checking what my response was all the way through, whether or not I was enjoying their performance. In fact, afterwards, the actors go, “What’d you think? That was good, huh?” What do you say? [Laughs.] “That was fine!”
Chillerama (2011)—“Cecil Kaufman”
AVC: You’ve done a number of horror films in your career, and you’ve met your end in a myriad of ways. Do you have a particular favorite in terms of your on-screen demises?
RR: Well, I think it would have to be Chillerama. That whole thing was just fascinating. We shot that in an actual working drive-in, one of the few that’s still around, and it has four screens, but they gave us one screen and the parking lot for it to work in. So the other three screens were running movies! [Laughs.] By the time we got to the finale of that, we’re running around killing zombies and reciting lines from various horror movies, and then there’s the final explosion, where they all attack me. That was pretty fascinating.
Executive Decision (1996)—“Airline Marshal George Edwards”
RR: Now, the best near-death experience was in Executive Decision, where I get shot with an Uzi, and it takes out part of the wall of the plane, so I get pulled into Halle Berry’s crotch several times as she saves me from flying out. And then at the end, when you’re sure this guy’s dead, they bring him out of the plane on a gurney, and he gets one last scene with Halle! [Laughs.]
That was actually a very interesting situation, because the casting people had brought me in to read for one of the group of essentially talking heads around the table, where they make the plan up. And it had more lines, and probably more screen time, though I’m not sure about that. But I’d read the script, and I thought, “Oh, I don’t really want to sit around at a table for a week and throw lines out.” So I said, “Hey, listen, have you made any decisions about the air marshal? Because at least there’s some interesting aspects of that. You get involved in a gun fight, you realize what’s going on, you hide your gun and badge…” It just seemed more interesting to me. They said, “Well, you only have one line!” I said, “That’s okay! This is a visual medium!” [Laughs.] So they said, “You know, that’s actually a good idea. We’d thought we’d have some football-player guy doing it, but that’s kind of fun to have an older guy just pretending to be a passenger on the plane.” So they went with it.
As it turned out, the talking heads thing just got worse and worse, because evidently Steven Seagal was having a little trouble with lines, so they were handing out lines to everybody. He’d come and whisper in their ear, and then they’d say, “You know, that’s a good idea he just had!” [Laughs.] So I’m glad I ended up doing the other part.
AVC: So you actually had no interaction with Seagal in the film, then, right?
RR: No, I had no interaction with him.
AVC: You probably dodged a bullet.
RR: [Laughs.] I may have. The closest thing I had to interaction with him was when the Dalai Lama was doing an event at this hotel in Beverly Hills, and my girlfriend at the time was running the event, so she said, “Look, would you get in a suit and show up? There’s this one elevator that will allow people to go up to this second floor meeting room, and it’s where the Dalai Lama’s going to greet the major donors. We need somebody at the base of the elevator who’s sort of recognizable but also is imposing enough that if he says, ‘No, you have go someplace else,’ they’ll do that.” So I said, “Sure, I can do that.”
So the first people who came to the elevator were Harrison Ford and his wife at the time. His wife was really into supporting the Dalai Lama. So they’re standing there, and it was the slowest elevator in the world. So I’d press the button, and we’re waiting for it to come, and they’re kind of chatting with each other, but finally his wife says, “Excuse me, but… were you up to our place in Wyoming?” I said, “Uh, no. But I was in The Fugitive.” And when she says, “Oh!” then Harrison turns and goes, “Oh, geez, I’m sorry. I was just so intent on this event! How’s everything going?” And finally the elevator came, and they went up.
Well, Steven Seagal showed up, because he was a high donor, so he went up, and he was in this fancy dashiki of some kind. He’d had several of them made for some movie that he did in Thailand. So he got up there, and, well, my girlfriend at the time was maybe 4 foot, 11 inches, and he got up there, and he was very upset that it wasn’t a private audience with the Dalai Lama. That’s what he was expected. And evidently what upset him the most was that he was wearing his yellow dashiki… and if he had known it was going to be this group event rather than a private event, he would’ve worn his green one. And she told him, “I’m sorry, but this is what it is. If you want to say hello to the Dalai Lama, get in line. Otherwise, go on downstairs and take your place at the dais.” [Laughs.] So that’s as close to an experience with Steven Seagal as I’ve got!
The Fugitive (1993)—“Old Guard”
AVC: Well, since you’ve provided an organic way to tie it in, do you have a particular anecdote about working on The Fugitive?
RR: Oh, I loved being in The Fugitive! It was incredible! The interesting thing about The Fugitive was that Harrison was excited to do it, but he asked them if they would shoot it in sequence, because he didn’t want to be going in and out of various beards and colored hair. So they agreed to do that, and it sort of lends itself to that, because you don’t ever really go back to any location. It continues forward. So we went to Chicago and shot the opening sequence, putting him into the prison bus, and then the whole group flew to North Carolina, where this guy had a private railroad that went from Cherokee to Ashland, and he was willing to allow them to dig a little spur and run the engine off and down this spur.
So we went to start shooting there, and first we were shooting all of Harrison’s stuff. He was amazing. He was there ahead of everybody else. By the time they had rolled the bus down and onto the tracks, it was pretty much crushed up, so you had to kind of crawl through windows to get in there, but he was always there. He was behind the camera for everybody else’s shoots, too. Every time. But he wasn’t chatty. If he had any ideas, he would always talk to the director and let the director do that. Well, we had just finished Harrison’s stuff, and he was jumping off—well, he wasn’t jumping. We had a stunt guy that jumped off the train. They had 16 cameras going simultaneously, and he did that thing. Because Andy [Davis, the director] wanted everything done in camera, they weren’t going to do any effects shots, but eventually the studio made them do a shot of Harrison jumping from a green screen, so they had a facial shot of him jumping off the train.
But the next day, it snowed. And it snowed the whole day, so we were stuck in the motel. We couldn’t start scenes with Tommy Lee Jones and his group, so we kind of waited there all day. And it essentially all melted the next day, so it was only a one-day thing, but because of that hiatus, it was very apparent how different the process was, and that it was Tommy Lee’s show now. [Laughs.] And he was great! But he was so inclusive. He wanted everybody involved in the process, whether you wanted to be or not. Like, between takes, he’d put on music and sit around and chat if people wanted to talk to him. But it wasn’t like he had anything that he wanted to do or say. He just wanted people to stay involved. It was really kind of great. And then the whole “go out and search the highways, byways”—he essentially made that up on the spot!
But the real interesting thing was after I left. The way that the original script was written, it was like the pilot, three episodes, and the finale of the original TV show. In the first episode after the escape, he gets picked up by this waitress, and she’s being harassed by the short-order cook, and eventually he steps in, and the short-order cook happens to see his face on the TV, he’s calling the cops, and Harrison’s character gets out at the last minute. Well, by that point, they decided that they might as well just go right to Chicago and deal with everything there and not stop at these scenes along the way. So you actually see her pick him up… and then suddenly they’re in Chicago! [Laughs.]
And the great thing about that was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Because they were kind of writing it on the fly once they got to Chicago, since they’d cut out these three stories, they would have these production meetings, and somebody said, “Okay, so we’re going to do this, this, and this tomorrow.” And somebody said, “Oh, no, you can’t do that. There’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade there tomorrow.” And they said, “Really?” [Laughs.] And they just loaded up a bunch of stuff and threw those guys into the middle of the parade and shot it guerrilla-style.
My Two Dads (1989)—“Ed Steinbauer Jr.”
Ferris Bueller (1990-1991)—“Principal Ed Rooney”
AVC: The turning point that took you out of one-off territory for the first time was playing Principal Rooney on the TV adaptation of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
RR: Yeah, and that was a very interesting experience, because that was the first pilot I ever went to try out for as a regular. So I went in, and… god, I can’t remember the names of the people now! But the writer and the director are there, and I had read the script the night before, and I said, “Oh, this is More Science High!” There were these comedy records [by the Firesign Theatre] that came out back when I was in school, and one of their things was More Science High, a high school that was just craziness. Well, the scene that I was reading for this audition was the greeting to the students, a welcome to the high school, so I did it like More Science High. And the writer almost fell out of his seat. And the director’s looking at him, and he says, “This is a set-up, right? You brought him in.” “No, I have no idea who this guy is! He just figured out what I was doing with this speech!”
So I wasn’t able to do the first round of studio stuff because I was up in Vancouver shooting something, so I came back, and they said, “Okay, we like you for this role, but we’re starting shooting on Monday, and we want to have a table read on Friday for [president of NBC at the time] Brandon Tartikoff, since this is his project, and a bunch of people from NBC.” So I said, “Fine.” I get there, and most of Rooney—or a lot, anyway—is with his secretary, who they haven’t cast yet. So I’m reading with one of the casting directors in those scenes, and it wasn’t the funniest, jolliest room to be in, for whatever reason. So I get a call saying, “Look, can you come in Monday and read with these three women that we’re thinking about for the secretary?” I said, “Sure!” And they said, “Oh, by the way, they re-cast the girl playing Ferris’ girlfriend.” And I don’t know who the original actress was, but she looked like Mia Sara. I mean, she looked exactly like her. And I thought, “Well, that makes sense.” But they ended up with Ami Dolenz, a lovely blond and a wonderful actress, but totally different. So I thought, “Oh my god, they’re re-casting it before they even shoot the first thing?”
So I get there, and I spend the day shooting that speech and falling through the platform, and then I drive over to the studio and read with these three women. And they say, “Okay, can you wait a second?” And then they bring me and one of them back in again. And the woman says, “Oh, come on, Brandon, any one of us could’ve done it. Why are you putting us through all of this?” I thought, “Oh my god…” [Laughs.] And then he says, “It’s okay, it’s okay, we’ll let you know later tonight.” And then I had this momentary thought that maybe they were going to re-cast me, that they decided they had gotten a real good secretary and now we didn’t work as a team. But it ended up that we both ended up doing it, and the reason she was talking like that was because she and Brandon had been writing partners for years. So she knew him well enough that she thought she could say that. And apparently she could, because she got the role.
AVC: Did you feel any intimidation about doing an adaptation of such a popular movie?
RR: You know, I didn’t, because I… hadn’t seen the movie. [Laughs.]
AVC: Well, that does make it easier.
RR: Yeah! Up until then, I hadn’t seen the movie, but as soon as I got the audition, I saw it, and I really liked it. I thought it was great.
The West Wing (2001)—“Officer Jack Sloan”
RR: That was a show I’d been watching religiously since it came on, and I’d wanted to be a part of it, but I hadn’t gotten an audition. But somehow this audition came up, and I got cast. John Spencer [who plays Leo McGarry] was an old buddy of mine. We’d actually both been in Execution Of Justice, the Broadway show. At the time I did The West Wing, he was doing a show down at the Taper [Forum], so I went down to see the preview and went backstage afterwards, and I said, “That was great, John. I really liked you. I had a great time.” He said, “Well, you’re gonna have a great time on The West Wing, too.” I said, “Oh? I didn’t know you knew I was doing it.” He said, “Yeah, I found out you were doing it, and I told them they’d better bring their A-game, because they’ve got a real actor that’s gonna be there.” I said, “Oh, geez, John…” [Laughs.]
But I got there, and Allison [Janney] couldn’t have been nicer. Chris Misiano was directing it. So we did the first scene, and then he came to me, and he said, “Look, I can’t be here to do the second scene, I have to shoot out Stockard Channing. She’s off to do a movie tonight. But Tommy Schlamme is gonna direct you. Are you okay with that?” I said, “Of course I’m okay! Are you kidding me?” So we did the second scene with Tommy. But they couldn’t have been a better group to work with. And it was frightening how amazing those sets were. I mean, they looked just like the real thing.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1998)—“Merrick”
AVC: You were stepping into Donald Sutherland’s shoes. He played the character in the original film.
RR: Exactly! I was hoping that it would carry on, but they decided not to continue that character in the next seasons. But that was exciting, too, because Joss [Whedon] directed that episode as well. But it was amazing. I hadn’t started out watching television, but by this time I was watching every show’s first couple of episodes, just so I know them in case I get an audition for them. And I liked Buffy, but it’s not really my genre. But I had a friend who was just a Buffy freak, so I kept having to go back to it, and I became more and more interested in it as they explored other things. So when this character came up, I said, “Oh, great! I’d love to be her watcher!” So it was a great time, couldn’t have been a better experience working on it, and I really enjoyed it. And then when the graphic novel [The Origin] came out, they actually used that episode [as the visual inspiration], so I actually have a drawing of me in that!
Psych (2009)—“Army Johnson”
RR: It was a strange experience. I get a call saying, “Can you go up to Vancouver for a week?” And I said, “Okay…” They said, “Well, it appears that an actor that they hired for this role, they aren’t going to let him into Canada.” [Laughs.] “And they need to start shooting on Monday!” I said, “Okay!” Bruce McGill’s an old buddy, so that was fun to work with him, and Tim Matheson directed it, and he’s amazing. But, yeah, evidently they’re a little more stringent at the border now if you have any kind of offense, and I guess this guy had some sort of a driving offense while he was in Canada doing something else, and it came up at the border. They held him there for six hours, and then they finally said, “No, we aren’t going to let you in.” As it was, I was there for, like, four hours, and I had a clean record. But I liked that episode a lot, with the fireman setting his own fires.
Body Of Evidence (1993)—“Detective Griffin”
RR: That was an interesting process. I’ve had this mustache forever, but there were two periods when it got shaved. One of them was when I starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation. [Makeup artist] Michael Westmore demands to have complete control of the actor’s face. And I hadn’t been in L.A. long, so I thought, “Well, that’s not a problem. I can shave it and grow it back when I need to.” So I had auditioned for Body Of Evidence with the mustache, and they cast me with the mustache, and then I’d gone off and done Next Generation. And then they said, “Okay, well, we’re going to go up to Portland to shoot this,” so I said, “Well, you probably should know: I’m clean-shaven right now.” And they got a little freaked about it.
So they sent me to this makeup place in Toluca Lake, and they said, “Pick up a mustache and come on up.” So I got up there, and they put the mustache on, and they hated it. So I did it without the mustache. But it was great. I slightly knew Joe [Mantegna], so that was fun. And then we filmed the scene at that conference table with Madonna… [Laughs.] Yeah, it was really great.
AVC: So what was the experience like of working with Madonna?
RR: Well, you know, I didn’t have much interaction with her. I think I asked her one question at the table, and that was it. It was mostly just sitting there and watching. But she was great. What was interesting, though, was that she and Joe hadn’t been in contact since they’d done Speed-The-Plow, which I’d seen in New York. So they were kind of catching up, and that was interesting to be a fly on the wall during that!
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992)—“Batai”
Star Trek: Voyager (2000)—“Seamus Driscol”
Star Trek: Enterprise (2004)—“Dr. Jeremy Lucas”
AVC: Since you’ve brought it up, your episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Inner Light,” is actually Patrick Stewart’s favorite of the series.
RR: That’s what he said, yes! We had a great time—we would sit around and talk a lot of theater—but that was a tough episode for him, because he would have to go through all this makeup stuff. Literally, the A.D. would come over when we wrapped for the night, and they’d say, “Okay, we’ve got about an hour to get you out of this makeup, then we’ll drive you home. Get dinner and get some rest, because we’re gonna pick you up at 4:30 in the morning.” But he was really game for it. And then his son [Daniel Stewart] was in it as well. He played Young Batai. So he was happy about that, too. So there was a very upbeat feel about it. It was really kind of a wonderful experience. And by the way, “The Inner Light” has stayed in the top three or four episodes for the fans as well.
AVC: And then you went on to be in both Voyager and Enterprise.
RR: For Voyager, they decided that they wanted Janeway to have a love interest, but it couldn’t really be somebody on the ship, so they created this Irish village on the holodeck, and they brought in this Irish guy [Fintan McKeown] who was just great. He had been the pig farmer in Waking Ned Devine, and he was a wonderful, wonderful guy. But it’s Star Trek, and it moves really, really fast, and you end up saying a lot of strange combinations of words. [Laughs.] And so the days were getting too long for them, and I know they were hoping to do a number more next year and sort of explore this relationship, but then the writers went an entirely different way, and there was no point in even attempting to bring back that holograph. The best for me was the second of the episodes, in which I spent most of my time with Seven Of Nine.
AVC: There are worse people to spend time with.
RR: I know. [Laughs.] But the other side of that was that I spent the rest of the time with the cow in the church! And Enterprise was a lot of fun. John Billingsley, who played the doctor, is an old, old buddy of mine, so we had fun doing that. And Scott Bakula, I had done two episodes of Quantum Leap with him, so that was again like Old Home Week. He was having a great time on it. It was sad that it ended when it did. I thought they were going to do better with it, but I don’t know what happened. It just didn’t catch on the way the others did. But I thought it was so interesting, the way they were exploring the beginnings of things, like the transporter, and they were still learning the dangers. Everything was new. I thought that was exciting.
Iron Will (1994)—“Burton”
Lonely Boy (2013)—“Mr. Fitz”
RR: Oh, boy, Iron Will. Well, we were in Duluth, Minnesota in January because they told them there’d always be snow there. Sure enough, it was snowing the first day of shooting. It was probably at least 20 degrees below zero—they said it was 40 below with the windchill—and they’re shooting this master shot of Mack [Astin] coming up on the dog sled, racing the train and cutting across it. I played his girlfriend’s father, so me and his girlfriend are standing just outside, watching him come in. Everybody is freezing. So they do two or three takes of this master, and then they’re going to change lenses. They take the lens out, and something in the armature or whatever froze, and it contracted. It took like two hours for them to warm the camera up, recalibrate it, and put another lens in it.
Now, the next day was the warmest day in January in Duluth on record. Everything was melting. The snow was melting off the roofs and everything. So they put this foam on the roofs to try and match the snow, but it became like marshmallow cream dripping off. And because it had been snowing, they were blowing potato buds at us while we were walking along, but you’d take two steps, and you’d have, like, cartoon shoes, because the potato buds would form mashed potatoes around your shoes! And it would go like that, back and forth. It’d be freezing when we’d do exterior scenes, and then all of a sudden it’d be melting. Well, the melting ended up winning that battle, so they had to—I was gone by the time they did this, but they had to go all across the northern tier looking for snow to do the scenes. It was just amazing.
Bridesmaids (2011)—“Bill Cozbi”
AVC: There’s a listing for you on IMDB as being an uncredited funeral guest in Wedding Crashers, but having watched the funeral scene, I’m skeptical of its veracity.
RR: Yeah, IMDB has got me married with four kids, and neither of those things are true, but then there’s also been this long-term thing about me having an uncredited role in Wedding Crashers. I got an award from the National Association Of Theatre Owners in Wisconsin—I have no idea why, I presume someone backed out at the last minute—and, of course, the guy who introduced me had gone to the IMDB page, and he said, “And you may recognize him from blah blah blah… and Wedding Crashers!” I said, “Okay, I’m desperately trying to get that removed, and I’m thinking that talking to all of you theater owners, maybe I can get the word out: I’m not in Wedding Crashers.” Now, somebody did find a photo of an extra with a mustache who maybe if you squint your eyes could be me. But it wasn’t. I guarantee it wasn’t me. So, of course, for the rest of the convention, everyone’s coming up and telling me how much they enjoyed my performance in Wedding Crashers! [Laughs.] Now, I am in Bridesmaids, though.
AVC: I was going to ask you about that, actually, if only because of your character’s now-unfortunate name.
RR: [Laughs.] I just loved that movie, but… I was supposed to have an extended series of scenes with Jill Clayburgh. And we both arrived the same day to start shooting, we did the scene in the garage, and she wasn’t feeling well, but she was sort of putting it down to jet lag. Well, we got through that scene, and then later that week I think we were supposed to be at the AA meeting, and I was also supposed to be her escort to the wedding, but she went to the doctor, and the cancer had come back. So they decided to shoot around her and send her home. And she passed away a month or so later. But it was wonderful to even have that much of an opportunity to work with her. And, of course, Kristen Wiig was just a delight. And her co-writer [Annie Mumolo] was also a gem, and I loved their scene together on the plane. I thought it was hilarious.
Desperate Escape (2007)—“Croaker Norge”
AVC: Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
RR: Oh, golly! That’s funny, I never really thought about that.
AVC: To be fair, you do a lot of projects. I can see how they might fly by.
RR: Well, there was one that was actually shot down there by you [in Virginia]. It was called Dismal—we shot it in the Dismal Swamp—but they changed it to something else: Desperate Escape. But we literally shot it in the swamp. They built a little cabin there in the swamp. It was the first time for me to do a villain and the first time I was sort of the lead. I mean, I was the lead bad guy. And it came about because I had done The Ransom Of Red Chief, and Ray Brown, who was the head grip on it, I used to see him at lunch a lot, and we used to chat. So he called me up and said, “Look, this movie down here in Norfolk, I’m curious if there’s any way you might able to come and do it.” And I said, “Well, send me a script.” It was a wonderful script. I had a great time doing it. It was all sorts of strange, interesting little things. And Ray did a great job, and it was a good cast, but it never really got any love at all, unfortunately.
Shadows And Fog (1991)—“Roustabout”
RR: Well, that was a very funny experience. I got a call from my agent saying, “Woody Allen’s people have called and said they might have a role for you in his next movie. Is there any way you could go up to this house in the Hollywood Hills where he’s shooting Scenes From A Mall with Bette Midler immediately and meet him?” I said, “Of course. Can you tell me anything about the movie?” “We don’t know anything about it.” I said, “Okay.” So I put on a blazer, I go up there, and they’re just about to shoot this 360-degree interior shot, so they grab me and they put me in the bathroom in the middle of the house with Woody Allen’s assistant and Bette Midler’s child—I can’t even remember whether it was her son or daughter, which is terrible—and the child’s nanny. And we sit there for 45 minutes while they shoot this scene!
Finally they’re done, and they say, “Can you wait another minute? I’ll go see if Woody’s available.” So I’m still sitting in the bathroom! Well, all of a sudden here comes Woody Allen in this gray running suit that I think he wears the whole time in the movie. And he says, “Hi, I’m Woody Allen,” and I say, “Yeah.” [Laughs.] He says, “Juliet [Taylor, Shadow And Fog’s casting director] told me you might be right for this movie I’m doing, so I thought I should meet you.” I said, “Thank you!” He said, “Okay, well, someone will be in contact with you.” And that was it! He left! So I drove back home. A couple of weeks later, I get this call. “Yes, they want you to do this role.” And as was [Woody Allen’s] wont then, all you got were the sides that you were shooting. In fact, if it started in the middle of a page, the other half of the page would be blacked out.
AVC: I believe that is still his wont.
RR: [Laughs.] Okay, so I fly out to New York, and it was very interesting because the film is set in Europe early in the Second World War, but all of the exteriors were built in the Astoria Studios. All the interiors were shot in various places around town, but they built a cobblestone street. So they put us up in this hotel in New York. It’s me and Bob Balaban working on it, so they pick us up and drive us over, they get us into costume and makeup, and we wait. And then they break for lunch. And then we wait. And then they say, “Oh, it’s 4 o’clock. We’re not going to get to you. Why don’t you go on back? We’ll get to you tomorrow.”
The same thing happens the next day, but finally at about, oh, 11 o’clock, the first A.D. comes and says, “Okay, come onto the set.” So we’re on the set, and it’s fog forever because, you know, Shadows And Fog. And then he says, “Okay, here’s the deal: Woody is out there, and he’ll say, ‘Action!’ And then as soon as you see him, begin the scene. And it’s important that you speak the dialogue exactly as written. Now, he may vary a little bit, but it’s your job to sort of keep it flowing.” I said, “Okay, fine.” So they’re picking up a bunch of people and putting them on the back of this wagon and taking them away. Suddenly I hear, “Action!” And then I’m looking sort of that direction, I see him coming, I start the scene, he walks up to me, we play the scene. This old woman is dragged out, she gets in, he says something more to me, and then he takes off. And then I hear him say, “Cut!” So then he’s walking back to go back to the start, he comes by me, and he says, “I’m glad you could make it.” And that’s the only thing he said to me that whole first day we were there.
So we shot it a few more times until he got what he wanted, and then I flew back to L.A. But now I need to back up for a second, because around this time I was cast in Hot Shots! Part Deux, and I was supposed to do the Efrem Zimbalist Jr. role. The whole role was essentially a sight gag, so when they brought me in for a fitting one day, it took five hours, because in every scene he shows up in a different outfit. So we do a couple of shots, and then I gather that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. became available, so they said, “I’m sorry, but we really feel we need somebody who people will identify with,” blah blah blah. I said, “I understand, that’s fine.” And they said, “Oh, and by the way, we’re going to pay you off.” And I said, “Then that’s great!”
Okay, so now it’s about a week after I get back from shooting Shadows And Fog, and my agent gets a call saying, “Woody really liked working with you, he’s not sure that he’s going to use that scene, but he’s got another scene that he wants you to do.” So I said, “Okay,” and I fly back… and the only reason I was able to do this was because they had dropped me from Hot Shots! Part Deux. [Laughs.] But I go back, and this time it’s a scene where there’s a dead body in the middle of this courtyard, and there’s a set of stairs. He’s going to come down the stairs, I’m standing there looking at the dead body, and we’re going to have this scene discussing how it’s strange how many dead bodies are showing up in this town, and then there’s going to be some sort of noise, and we’re both going to run away. So we do this a few times, and this time Woody says, “Oh, I’m so glad you could come back.” That’s it.
Sure enough, a week later, my agent gets a call: “You know, he’s re-thinking some of the scenes, and he’s not sure exactly where that scene will fit or if it’ll work in, but he’s got another scene. Do you think you could come back and do the other scene?” I said, “Sure.” This one—it started with the camera up in the heavens someplace, and we’re standing there talking, the two of us, and then it gets down to right next to us, and that’s the cut. And then there’s an L-shaped track that they’ve built, so we walk along the track and we talk, and then I walk off. I think he’s walking with me, and he’s not, so I keep talking. And then when I realize he’s not there, I come back and I chat with him there, and then that’s the end of the scene. And Woody, he’s got his reed from his clarinet, and he’s practicing on it at the beginning, before we start filming, and then between takes, so this time he doesn’t talk to me at all.
We finish that scene up and I leave, and then about a month later, my agent gets another call: “According to Woody’s contract, he gets three weeks of reshoots, and he’s not happy with the ending. He’s wondering if you can come out and shoot the ending with him. We don’t have any of the other scenes you’re going to be in or anything else, but he wants you to do the ending.” I said, “Sure!” So I go out there, and it’s me and Kenneth Mars. We’re at the hotel, and he’s saying, “So do you have any idea what’s going on?” I said, “I have no idea.” He said, “Yeah, I’m a little concerned.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, when I got cast in this role as the magician, I knew about his fondness for Bergman, so I watched Bergman’s movie The Magician, and I decided I would do the character with a Swedish accent. And he didn’t say anything, so I did it. Now I’m not so sure that it was such a good idea, but I really can’t change it… and now I’ve got this dialogue I’ve got to do with a Swedish accent.”
So we get to the set, and Woody shoots three different endings—three completely different endings—with various people involved in them: Mia [Farrow] and her sort of Fellini-esque group are kind of wandering through it, and there’s a scene of us in front of a mirror, and various other things. And he put all three together. He used parts of all three. He didn’t use any of the other scenes I did, but he used parts of all three of the endings. And when I finally left after all that time, he was very nice. He still didn’t say a lot, but he said, “I’m so glad that you could be a part of this project.”
Black Rain (1989)—“Crown”
Grounded For Life (2001-2005)—“Walt Finnerty”
RR: Grounded For Life was just the most amazing experience. I hadn’t gotten an audition for it originally, and they had cast Stephen Root as the grandfather, but he was doing this series with Alfred Molina [Ladies Man], and they wouldn’t release him. They tried to buy out his contract and everything, but he wasn’t available. They held other auditions in order to replace him, because Fox decided they wanted the series, but I didn’t get into the first round of those auditions. I didn’t get into the second round of those auditions.
Finally they’re having a third round of auditions, they’re bringing in everybody who’s over 50 and under 100. And I’m there sitting next to Paul Dooley and… well, anyway, it was incredible. But I went in and did it, and they liked it enough that they brought me back as one of the three finalists. So I’m going in to be one of the three finalists, and I’m reading with Donal [Logue], and after we finish reading the scenes, I get ready to leave, and Donal comes up to me and says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be laughing at you, but you’re so good.” I said, “I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I had no idea what you were doing.” [Laughs.] And they ended up casting me in it. And, of course, they did six more episodes of Ladies Man and then canceled it, so they brought Stephen back in as Megyn [Price’s] father.
I’ve known Stephen forever. One of the first films I did, Black Rain, we were both internal affairs guys, questioning Michael Douglas. At that time, we had to shoot on a Monday, because both of us were doing plays at the time. He was doing Driving Miss Daisy, and I was doing—well, I can’t remember what I was doing! But our paths have crossed forever. So they said, “Oh, you know Stephen? Well, here’s the pilot we shot with him. Take a look at it. You’ll have an idea what we’re looking for!” [Laughs.] And it was great watching him do it, because I stole as much as I could!
Grounded For Life a wonderful experience, though. They got Donal and Kevin [Corrigan] by telling them, “We’re going to be doing these short films every week.” And that was the original plan—it was going to be shot single-camera. But then when they lost Stephen in re-negotiating, they said, “Well, look, that’s a little too expensive. What we’ll do is, we’ll give you three days of single camera, and then the rest of the show we’ll do multi-camera.” So the first season, that’s how they did it. And then the second season they decided that they were going to do two days of single camera and three days of multi-camera. That was because they’d planned just to do a summer season of it, but it was so successful that they just kept on shooting. So we did 20-some episodes between November and May of the first year, and then they showed half of them as part of the summer season and then half of them were already prepping for the next season. They figured they’d cut money that way. And then they eventually went to one day—maybe—of single camera, pretty much shooting it all on multi-camera, and then they went to pedestal for the last season, but by then, it was on The WB.
AVC: So what was the deal with your character? Was it a budgetary situation that led you to be phased out from series-regular status?
RR: Well, it was a strange thing, but the main thing—from what I was told, anyway—was that they wanted to focus on the kids, especially since they were going over to The WB. And they’d added Bret Harrison as a regular, and they brought in this other good-looking guy as another option [Mike Vogel]. He did two seasons, I think, and he’s become a very successful actor. But they said, “We want to focus on the kids, and there’s not enough stories for Grandpa.” I said, “I understand that.” They said, “But we’ll make you recurring, and we’ll bring you back whenever you can.” I said, “Okay.” But then they decided to have the boys—Donal and Kevin—buy a bar… and the kids couldn’t go to the bar. So it seemed very strange.
And then for whatever reason, they decided not to keep Jake [Burbage], the youngest boy, for the last season. I found that to be very strange. So early on there were all these lines in there about, “Where’s Jake?” “Oh, he’s staying over at his friend’s house.” [Laughs.] I only did one episode in that last 13-episode season they did, and their excuse that they hadn’t seen me was that I’d gone off and gotten married. So I’m introducing my wife to the rest of the family at Lily’s graduation. So I say, “Well, these are my two sons, my son’s wife, and then here’s their oldest boy, and… Jake’s around here somewhere. He’s always running off.” They even gave me one of those lines!
Office Space (1998)—“Tom Smykowski”
RR: That was an amazing experience. It took forever to get the role, though. That was the most times I’ve gone in for an audition for anything. The first time I went in, he had me read the psychiatrist and Tom Smykowski, and I had a good time. I met Mike Judge, he’s a nice guy. We did the reading and I didn’t hear anything, but then a couple of weeks later I got a call: “Can you come back for a callback?” I said, “Sure. Is this for both parts?” “No, it’s just for Tom.” So I came back and read again for Tom. And then I went in a third time to read for Tom. And each time he’s very nice, each time it’s a little more comfortable, but he’s not giving any indication as to where he’s leaning, what he’s looking for, or anything like that.
When he made the casting choices, though, we got calls saying, “So, look, we’re going to go to Austin, it’s my hometown, we’re going to be working hard, but we’re going to have a good time, too. I’m going to take you to the clubs where my band used to play, I’m going to take you to what I think are the best places to eat in Austin, and it’s a good group of people, and that’s what was important to me—that we had a good group for 29 days in Austin, so we can enjoy ourselves doing this movie, and we won’t have any suits looking over our shoulders. It’s just us.”
So we get down there, and the first day we shot the heart of the group scene where they’re coming across the parking lot, down the walk, through the hedge, and then down and up the place until we get there. Well, we shot part of that in Dallas. We shot part of it along a hedge one place and then part of it in a different place with a different hedge, a different little valley to go through. And then we were still blocks away from Initech, so we still had to do the final scene of us going into Initech. But the thing that he did that was so wonderful was that he shot his scenes first. So we got the whole sense of what he was going for, with all the flair stuff and that. And then they shot the traffic jam and all of that.
The next day, we shot the party, where I’m all done up in the halo and in the wheelchair. They didn’t have a special effects person there, so they hired an EMT to come and put me in all of that. Now, he didn’t screw the halo in, thank god. [Laughs.] But he put all these casts on me, and I was stuck in the wheelchair and the casts for, oh, about eight or nine hours! And he’d left the cast cutter with one of the P.A.s, who got me out of it eventually at the end of the day. But it was just an amazing group of people. Everybody hung around. The basketball playoffs were going on, so at the end of the day, we’d often be down in the lobby, watching the game and having drinks. He took us to the Salt Lick and all the great places to eat in Austin.
AVC: So here’s the big question: When all was said and done, did you get to keep your Jump To Conclusions mat?
RR: No one knows where it is.
AVC: Oh, man…
RR: Yeah. And that’s including Mike Judge! I saw him when he brought me in for Extract, and it was very nice. We had a nice chat, and that’s one of the things I asked him: “Where’s the Jump To Conclusions mat?” He said, “It disappeared.”
AVC: Whoever’s got it, you have to figure that if they haven’t revealed themselves by now, they’re never going to tell.
RR: Well, they should tell. They could make some money off of it! [Laughs.]