RICHARD HERD

THE RETROCRUSH INTERVIEW

You might remember Richard Herd for his portrayal of John, the Supreme Commander from the classic NBC miniseries "V". He's also well known for playing George's boss on "Seinfield". Richard's starred in such classic films as The China Syndrome with Jane Fonda, The Onion Field, Summer Rental with John Candy, and the underrated F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone. Recently, Richard took some time to speak with us.  In addition to being an accomplished actor Richard is also a wonderful painter. Recently, Richard took some time to speak with us.

One of your first movies was with the governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yes, Hercules in New York. His name in that movie was Arnold Strong. His voice was dubbed. It was re-released as Hercules goes Bananas.

Do you know the reason why they changed the name?

The reason they changed was after he did a couple of successful films he became well known. It made him a Hollywood Star. That made Hercules in New York very valuable. They re-released it and made a killing.

Are you surprised at how successful he became?

Not really. He has such a good work ethic, he was disciplined, and had ambition. Itís the Horatio Alger story in America. The immigrant guy comes over, works hard and dutifully and becomes a success.

Especially when considering his humble beginnings in Austria.

He gave the whole body building industry a huge shot in the arm. I think the Mr. Universe contest paid him $1,500 to $2,000 dollars at this time if you won. Once he got involved it went to 5, 10, 15 and $20,000 dollars. It made bodybuilding more respectable, he brought it to the forefront. Itís still possible in this country, if you have a good work ethic, discipline, and brains to achieve great success.

I think he comes off as intelligent.

There are a lot of intelligent people in the acting and creative arts community. As an entertainer itís difficult for people to take a political stance or come up on an issue. Sometimes it damages their popularity or a certain fan base because theyíre not supposed to have attitudes and ideas.

You have to be careful what you stand up for.

A lot of people are bright and smart. Itís not always the best profession to have a political opinion in.

You were in The China Syndrome with Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas.

That was quite an experience. Whatís amazing about it is they didn't have any expectation that it was going to be a huge success. Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, and the producer worked very hard for many years to get that movie done. Most studios didnít want to do the picture. They didnít think it had any commercial value.

Nuclear Power is a controversial subject.

Yes, now it is. When Three Mile Island happened just weeks after that movie was released. Everyone wanted to see The China Syndrome. The timing was incredible.

You play a pivotal role towards the end.

I play the chairman of the board Evan McCormack who runs these atomic plants. Itís his job to deliver the goods. I donít think he truly knew about the construction of it. That the x-rays were not taken of all of the rivet bases. The contractor just turned in the same x-ray for every rivet base.

Iím certain that happens in the real world too.

Itís a shame because so many lives are endangered by it. You know what it is? Itís greed. People are pushed to get things done by a certain time. Oftentimes, they get it done because they donít want to lose the contract. They donít want to get a reputation as a company who canít finish a job.

The China Syndrome is about someone standing up for the right thing.

You see there again how everything is hushed up, you donít want word to leak out, business as usual. Thereís "The Insider" that Al Pacino did about the guy who blew the whistle on the tobacco industry. Itís repeated all the time.

And rather then being looked upon as people who did everybody in this country a service theyíre looked on as squealers, informants, and people you donít want to have anything to do with. Isnít that amazing when they try to do something good, they try to save 100ís of thousands of lives. They get looked down upon, mistreated, and locked out.

You were in The Onion Field with James Woods.

That was a Joe Wambaugh picture, directed by Harold Becker and had many performers including John Savage who I think is a fine actor. I really got to know Joe. Ted Danson was the one in "The Onion Field" who was killed. He was John Savageís partner.

What was it like being the tough boss of William Shatner in "TJ Hooker"?

I worked for 2Ĺ seasons with Bill, Heather, Adrian Zmed, and Jimmy Darren on that. It was a big turn around for Bill. It was difficult after he did "Star Trek" for both he & Leonard Nimoy to be taken seriously in the industry. Theyíd call up and say, "We donít want a guy with pointy ears or who gets beamed up." When he did "TJ Hooker" it brought him to the public in a very different way. It was a big visual change for him.

He and Leonard had 10 years of being strongly associated with "Star Trek". It didnít help their careers when they came out of that show. Leonard starred in one of the episodes. I believe it was called, "Vengeance is Mine" and he directed the next episode. He ended up directing a Star Trek movie. That changed his life as well. So both Bill & Leonard had big life changes from that series.

Iíve heard that reality shows have taken away jobs for actors.

You know 50% of our business is gone. Itís left the country; reality shows take up air time when they donít do shows with actors, and game shows. All of these are very inexpensive to produce. Most of them are done with nonĖunion people. Itís a very difficult time finding work opportunities.

Thatís pretty sad.

People donít know how bad it really is. People look upon actors like theyíre all millionaires and have big homes with swimming pools. Believe me that is not the truth. The average salary of your journeyman actor is only $50,000 dollars a year. Youíve got 120,000 members and only 5,000 including all the series people and all of the movie stars make over $50,000 a year.

Acting is a tough business.

Itís tougher now because of people not stemming the tide of work leaving our country. A lot of the states have now created tax incentives, right to work states. Theyíre trying to get some of the business back into the country. I personally think itís un-American to take money out of the country to produce a show. Then bring it back across the border and sell it. I just think itís terrible.

You're taking away jobs from Americans.

Thatís right youíre taking away jobs. I can understand the producers problems as well. I think itís up to the Federal Government to enforce countervailing tariffs. I think itís imperative that the governors of the states create tax incentives to bring work back to the country. We lost the whole aerospace industry out here. Now weíre about to lose the motion picture industry.

Iíve heard that even with animation.

Theyíre building studios all over the world.

But not here

Not here in America. Most of your sci-fi shows are shot in Canada. Theyíre all shot up in Vancouver or Toronto. There are very few shot down here.

Is that because itís dirt cheap?

When they use Canadian actors or other actors throughout the world they donít have to pay them residuals, pension, they donít pay them health, and they buy out the contract.

They get around the union?

They get around everything. Also the country or the state gives them tax incentives. You have to realize the dollar in Canada is worth $1.33.

That makes a difference.

When youíre a producer you have to go where itís cheaper. We have to create more of a competitive climate. Itís the bottom line with every company. Itís not just the motion picture business. A lot of major industries: automotive, textiles, and steel have all left the country for cheaper labor.

What about the miniseries "V"?

I had a wonderful time working with Jane Badler, Marc Singer, Andy Prine, and especially working with Kenny Johnson who created that show.

Where you surprised by the popularity of "V"?

We were all surprised and so was NBC. We did another mini-series a year after, that was big too. They didnít know what to do. They thought weíll go to a series. They made a big mistake there, but how are you suppose to know at the time?

They should have waited another year and done another mini-series, but it was so popular it seemed like the right idea. It just didnít work. Theyíve been threatening the last 20 years to redo it.

With the Star Trek universe youíll always have work doing conventions.

If they come up with a new sci-fi show they donít want to see anybody whoís done "Star Trek". There was another show after "V" and none of the sci-fi shows wanted to see people who had been on "V".

How weird.

Well, they just donít want them. They donít want them to be associated. Youíd think if itís a big hit people will watch these people because they watched them on "V" or they watched them on "Star Trek".

Youíre dealing with many different personalities.

Years ago there were a small number of people that you dealt with and you got the job quickly or you didnít. Today everything is done by committee. There are too many people involved in the casting, the plotting, and the producing.

It sounds like itís gotten bloated.

Everybody gets on the bandwagon. They get on the money wagon. What happens is the journeyman actor gets kicked in the butt. They donít want to pay him his money. The money it took him 10, 15, 20 years it takes to get a certain quote.

All they have to do is call the last production company and theyíll tell them. These producers cut their quotes in half. Thatís purely based on greed.

Youíve had a long & varied career.

Iíve been very fortunate and Iím very grateful. Itís been over 50 years.

When you look at the roles itís over a 100 different things.

If you throw it all together with the plays itís probably over 300.

Itís hard for people to keep that momentum.

The nature of the business is that. You can come out of a series and never stop working or you can come out of a series cold & not work for a year or two. You can do a big movie that everybodyís got to see. That will carry you for four or five years.

You can do a movie like one of my favorite films "F.I.S.T." It was not seen by anybody. A lot of us were expecting to hopefully make the next step after that picture. If nobody sees the film then nothing happens.

Stallone was coming off of Rocky at that point.

It was a very well done picture. I thought Norman Jewison did a good job and the cast was splendid. It just wasnít in the cards.

You have great expectations for some movies.

As an actor you shouldnít have expectations. You canít help it. Its like "China Syndrome" what happened was a freak thing. In the Beverly Hills circuit everyone wanted to bring that film home to show their friends.

When F.I.S.T. came along nobody wanted to bring that home to show their friends. With "Seinfield" they never thought it was going to be the huge success that it turned out to be. It was cancelled a couple of times. "Quantum Leap" was cancelled 5 times.

Thatís another show that has a cult following.

It had wonderful scripts, a fine actor, wonderful guys Scott, and Don Bellisario. They were good, hard working people. Even when it was cancelled it shouldnít have been cancelled. Who knows? Whimsy? Quarterback Monday thoughts? Nobody has a crystal ball. If anybody could figure it out. They'd pay that person millions of dollars to forecast what would be a hit.

You were in the John Candy movie Summer Rental.

I had a red mustache, and tons of hair with John Candy, Rip Torn, and Richard Crenna. My wife Patricia Herd was in that. They cut her and John Larroquette out. She had a nice part. Sheís a fine actress herself.

Was John Candy a nice guy?

Oh yea, he was a really sweet, hard working guy. It was a shame that he passed away so young and to leave a family. We were directed by a wonderful man Carl Reiner.

Youíve also done a few Steve Martin movies?

Thereís a lot of work I had in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, it was cut for whatever reason. They wanted to move the story along. Then I played against Steve Martin as his commanding officer General Tennyson in Sgt. Bilko. I also had a part in Coneheads with Dan Aykroyd at the end of the film when I married them, but that was cut.

What about Steve Martin?

You have to realize that most comedians are very serious people. All of the comics study each other. Itís a serious business. Theyíll laugh at something good. Most of the comics Iíve been with theyíll watch something. They wonít laugh theyíll say," Gee that was funny". They study.

Was it fun working on Gleaming the Cube with Christian Slater?

We had a good director Graeme Clifford who directed the movie Frances. The only difficulty with that was the title. People didnít know what the movie was about.

I saw that movie and I couldnít tell you what the title meant.

Tony Hawk has gone on to do very well. He built this huge skateboarding industry and videos.

He was one of the stunt guys in it?

He was only 16 years old. He was one of the guys coming down the hill.

Where you impressed by the young Christian Slater?

I liked him. I thought he was a fine actor.

What about working with Robert Redford in All the Presidentís Men?

I didnít have any scenes with him, but we would play catch between takes. We had a couple of baseball mitts. He is a hard working guy who created Sundance. He took an interest in the environment. Heís done a lot of good things for our country.

Another guy I worked with twice was Rod Steiger in F.I.S.T. and The Honor Guard too which was also called Wolf Lake. I got to know him very well. He was helpful, a wonderful human being, and a marvelous actor.

There was a director Burt Kennedy who helped you out from time to time.

Burt looked out for me and you know Iíd do a western for him or Iíd do this and Iíd do that. There use to be a loyalty like that years ago in Hollywood amongst all the directors and the stars. Like Clint Eastwood. Heís had a lot of the same people work with him 10, 15, and 20 years.

Do fans recognize you from your many roles?

Yes, but you have to realize most people in America know your face. The young people use to watch old movies. They donít do it anymore. You have to realize thatís the climate and thatís the way things are and if you want to function in the industry you have to stop thinking that people should know you.

You have done the convention circuit.

Thatís been wonderful, but the convention circuit has all changed now. You have groups of people from "The Sopranos"; you have "Laverne & Shirley". A lot of them are no longer just sci-fi shows.

Iíve seen a picture of you at a Klingon event.

Iíve never gone to one specifically. Everybody has a specific feel for what they like in the sci-fi world. The conventions have been fine. Also work comes from them on occasion. There are a lot directors and producers. First time people who are younger trying to get a project off the ground. A lot of people ask for your advice.

Maybe I do two or three conventions a year. You have to realize that the popularity of certain shows wanes. If you donít have a current show youíre not as marketable as you use to be.

Youíre only as good as your last TV series.

Iím doing a lot of painting lately. I have a painting of L'Kor from Star Trek and John from "V". I kind of paint what I want. Iíve been fortunate enough to have a few shows. My paintings now are in a lot of folkís collections around the country and I have my own studio.

I have one of my collages at a very famous gallery out here. I did a collage on 9-11. They had 1200 entries and they chose 70. It's at the Viva Gallery in Sherman Oaks.

What current projects are you working on?

I was in an episode of the hit TV series "Ghost Whisperer". As far as movies I'm in a remake of the classic Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Checkers, Confessions of a Pit Fighter, and The Dog Days of Summer. I just did several NFL commercials for the Super Bowl that are currently running on the NFL cable network and the internet.

Which upcoming conventions are you attending?

My wife Pat & I are leaving for Europe soon. I'm going to be doing a convention out in Italy with Michael Dorn. I did a role that was close to me being his father on "Star Trek: The Next Generation". The role of L'Kor the Klingon. I'll be there May 12th, 13th, and 14th.

After that we'll be flying back to London. We're going to do the London Expo there on May 26th, 27th, and the 28th. I'll be there with a lot of the "Star Trek: Voyager" people.

I'm also doing the Chiller Theater convention June 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the Secaucus -  Meadowlands of New Jersey.

When you were growing up was there someone you had a retroCRUSH on?

There were actors that I looked up to. People like Claude Raines, Frederic March, and Vivien Leigh.

-Randy Waage
randy@retrocrush.com


Richard is cleaning out his sci-fi closet and is selling off the original prosthetic teeth he wore while portraying the Klingon L'Kor on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the Silver Triangle Hat he wore (the above right picture) as Capt. Galaxy from "Quantum Leap". E-mail him at richard@richardherd.com with a reasonable offer and maybe you'll own a piece of television history.

Richard also has self portrait paintings as John from "V" and L'Kor from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for sale. You can see photos of them if you scroll up a bit in this article. E-mail
Richard or go to his website for more information.

Make sure to look for Richard in the upcoming films: "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", "T.V. Virus", "Confessions of a Pit Fighter", "The Dog Days of Summer" and "Checkers" which will premiere at the California Film Festival.


Check out Richard's website at: www.richardherd.com

 

 

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