THE RETROCRUSH INTERVIEW
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
What was it like being the tough boss of William Shatner
in "TJ Hooker"?
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
Iíve heard that reality shows have taken away jobs for
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.
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
They get around the union?
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
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".
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
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
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
Thatís another show that has a cult following.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
There were actors that I
looked up to. People like Claude Raines, Frederic March, and Vivien Leigh.
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
with a reasonable offer and maybe you'll own a piece of television
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
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: