One of my favorite actors gets a write-up in the Los Angeles Times in connection with his upcoming 89th(!) birthday!
They don’t make the big money or get their names above the lights or their pictures on the covers of magazines. But character actors are the lifeblood of show business — and a versatile one can work for decades.
Case in point: William Schallert, who has been a working actor for more than 60 years, starting with his feature film debut in the 1947 period drama “The Foxes of the Harrow” through his current role as the mayor of Bon Temps on HBO‘s erotic vampire series, “True Blood.”
I first worked with Bill Schallert on my episode of Twilight Zone: the Movie, which I wanted to stuff with veterans from the Serling TV series. (Bill had played a cop in Mr. Bevis, an episode starring Orson Bean which had been intended as a backdoor pilot.) I was a little intimidated because it was my first studio movie and Bill was a SAG president, but he was very easy to work with and the whole experience was a lot of fun.
Next I asked him to play a bumbling priest character in Gremlins, which he did without billing since all but one of his scenes got cut out. Next I had him play Martin Short’s put-upon doctor in Innerspace, which I thought was fun because Bill had been The Incredible Shrinking Man‘s doctor and Marty had a miniature Dennis Quaid inside him.
But our next project provided Bill with one of his funniest roles, the rapacious Dr. Grabow, MANT‘s dentist in the film-with-the-film in Matinee. Bill gave it just the right blend of B-movie blandess and over-the-top scenery chewing and he has some of the funniest lines. It was agreed that neither Bill, nor Kevin McCarthy or Robert Cornthwaite would take billing for their contributions to MANT!, but they have a lot of screen time.
The complete version of MANT! can be seen right here:
Remember, these examples are just a tiny portion of a long and varied career. Look Bill up on IMDb and marvel at his credits. Happy Birthday, Bill!