MovieWeb sits down with the actor for a second time as he talks about working on the show, his career, and playing Felix Leiter in the James Bond films
When you get a chance to speak with an actor that could have his own career covering segment on TV LAND, it is an opportunity you don't want to miss. David Hedison has a resume that reads like a list of Greatest TV shows. Having been in Perry Mason, Charlie's Angels and The A-Team (just to name a few), it was with great enthusiasm that I sat down with David to discuss his work as Captain Lee B. Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of Sea. It was a timely interview as Voyage to the Bottom of Sea: Season 2, Vol. 1 had just been released on DVD.
Did anything change about how the show was shot when it went from black and white to color on Voyage to the Bottom of Sea?
David Hedison: Well of course the first year was in black and white and we didn't even know if the show was going to be picked up. Then Irwin Allen came on the set with a long face. So I figured well that's it we're not picked up and he came up and he looked at all of us, and then he said, "We're in color!" He was all excited. He was like a little boy. It was great... especially the first show of the second season which was "Jonah and the Whale." That really lent itself to color. It's amazing because on the discs it is so sharp and so clear and so good, it's really amazing. I can't believe it.
I often remark to my friends how rich all the colors look. It's as if they've been painted on the screen.
David Hedison: It's amazing what they've done.
Did the physical demands of the Captain Crane character ever get to you?
David Hedison: It's funny because I did enjoy the show and I saw the possibilities of the show. I always wanted to put more humor into it, and a better relationship between Admiral Crane and myself... and all those other wonderful actors. It just never really worked. We just did our jobs and did the jumps and the things, and it was all strictly action. That's what Irwin liked. He didn't want to take time out for characters. When I look back on it now the shows look so good, that maybe putting a little character into it wouldn't have helped that much. Maybe Irwin was right and I was wrong, who knows?
Do you have a favorite episode from all the shows of Voyage to the Bottom of Sea that you did?
David Hedison: I have a few that I like, yeah. There was one I did called The Phantom and we did a sequel to that called, "Return of the Phantom." I thought there was wonderful stuff in that. There was another show I love called "Man Beast," where I was the star and I turned into a Beast; one of those things. It was great fun because I didn't let the stuntman work at all. I did every bit of that myself. When I think back that was like 40 years ago and I think, "Oh, my God!" I would love to wake up tomorrow morning and get in the car and go to work at 20th Century Fox and pick up where I left off.
What do you think it was about Voyage to the Bottom of Sea that made it resonate so much with the viewers?
David Hedison: They liked the stories particularly in the first two years. I think the reason that they kept hanging in there... it was on at a good hour; 7 o'clock on Sunday nights. And I heard this from many people, they said they liked the chemistry between Richard (Admiral Nelson) and myself. They said, "You two were so wonderful together, we just watched the shows to see what you were up to." So that was a great compliment. When I look at the shows now I can see what they meant. Many times I thought, "Well, what chemistry? We get on very well together. He's a fabulous actor." And I was very honored to be working with him. I see what they mean when I look at some of the shows.
When you got started acting did you have a plan for your career? Or, were you always interested in playing different roles all the time?
David Hedison: My plan was I just knew, I think the first time I was in a high school play, and I liked the feeling of that. Getting on the stage and entertaining and audience. Eventually, I went to New York and studied my craft and I was in school for two years in the same class with Joanne Woodward and Steve McQueen. And we all had our dreams that we wanted to move forward. So Steve and I did a showcase, like they do at the end of the year at the school, and Steve was particularly good, and I happened to be very good in what I was doing. I remember Steve coming up to me and saying, I was Al then, Al Hedison, he said, "Al, you and I are gonna be stars!"
I think about that. Then one day, driving down Sunset Boulevard and all of the sudden I looked at this marquee on this little theater and it said, Steve McQueen... The Blob... Al Hedison The Fly. And I thought that was very funny.
What do you have coming up next?
David Hedison: What I've been doing a lot of, Evan, is Books On Tape. Paul Kyriazi whose written a book called McKnight's Memory, and I just finished that with Robert Culp. That should be coming out in February. Then I did another one... it's called The King, The Queen and The Love Machine, that's another book. Another one that Paul Kyriazi had written about a James Bond seminar, and how "You Can Be A James Bond," that sort of thing. He called me and he wanted me to do the introduction on it. I did since I played Felix Leiter twice in the Bond films.
Voyage to the Bottom of Sea: Season 2, Vol. 1 is available in DVD stores everywhere from Fox Home Entertainment.