Dear Mr. Wilcox,
When the fire department would arrive on the show they looked like the vehicles from Emergency! Were they?
Thanks Mr. Wilcox,
Michael in Indianapolis, Indiana
Michael – no at a studio which is like a small town, the transportation department has all of this stuff and if they do not, they simply rent one for the day and hire actors.
Do you have any plans to start acting again?
Chris in Missouri
Chris…I have mixed opinions depending on the day. First, some fear plays in my decision making process, and I have to try and maintain some vigilance of denial and transference if you will. For example I know that there is very limited need for an older actor as the market is teens. Therefore, I can take rejection in doses but not sure I want to dance with it 9 out of 10 times. I am also very encumbered with the baggage of being on Radar as a celebrity as the media and often police or regulatory agencies do their own chest pounding and Public Relations by talking about the big fish they CAUGHT when in many cases it is pure rhetoric and PR. I do not want to waste time with that exchange of bad energy if you will and even though I know that I walk the talk of integrity, I just do not want to get mixed up in judgmental authority ever again in my life. Now, that is my baggage in my rationale to act or not to act. Deep down, I enjoyed acting but it should not be blown out of context as it is what…….simply entertainment. I had fun being different personalities and such…..enjoyed the studying of the psychology of the characters and the intention of the writers……but there were times when it was really stupid and I wondered why I was being paid. So, I doubt that I would begin acting again and if I do, it would or will be putting my pinky in the pond first. I was thinking the other day about my feelings of acting and becoming a premier artist if you will…..and I chuckled to myself, realizing that I had lost the ego and the strut and the false identity and indulgent joy of it all. Not sure I measure up anymore….LOL……but honestly, I enjoyed the characters that I created because I know that they sure were not written. The characters in The Last Hard Men and in Dirty Dozen and other such character roles I did……the writing had none of that in there and I felt like I created those definable characters that were NOT defined in the scripts. So, when you are able to put a little lipstick on the pig it is fun to pound your chest…..privately. With Chips….I pretty much just played myself and tried to be down to earth and honest in the role of the straight man.
I was wondering if CHiPs made you feel like you had done a good job. I read an article many years ago that CHiPs made a lot of people want to join CHP as motor officers or general officers in real life because of the show.
I know it was a show but it had an impact on a lot of people. To this day there are people who still watch CHiPs daily or weekly.
Helen, I felt like I did a good job on CHiPs. Sometimes I will look at a scene and see things I do not like. Sometimes I will see that I was working too hard or trying to make something bigger than it was. CHiPs was not really drama but it was fun entertainment with a moral story and I had lots of fun. When I produced and directed Lil Chips at the CHP Academy I had so many young cadets come up to me and they were full of gratitude and complimented me to death. That was enjoyable to see people get that much from the show and I tried to reciprocate with my sincere gratitude for their emotions and feelings. This week I do the toys for tots gift drive in Victorville California with my friend Robert Pine and our mutual friend Tom Shadbush. I am happy that I can continue to help my fellow man in any way that I can be a polite and hopefully subtle TOOL.
How much of your own stunts did you get to do on CHiPs? I assume every time Jon rode a horse it was you?
Gary – I did some of the stunts on CHiPs. But normally when there was a serious stunt I had Scott Dockstedder or Gary Davis do it for me. Gary Davis was the young hot dog on the motorcycles and the kind of young and up and coming star stunt man. He did wheelies all the time with the Police Bikes and it would get people’s attention. Scott Docksteddar was a great guy who went through lots of emotional pain with girlfriends, and family problems. He was a really nice guy who just kind of needed some love somewhere….some support. Eventually some of his friends even used him and he sold all of these collectible very old Harley Davidson motorcycles his Dad had collected for many years…..now all gone. Scott also had some Kawasaki 1000 camera bikes and he bought one of mine for spare parts. One of his friends took his idea and did it himself and screwed Scott out of a bunch of jobs and employment. Scott Docksteddar now lives on the streets as a bum in the San Fernando Valley. He is not all there now and it is a very sad story. From time to time I run into homeless people and look for him but I have not run into him yet. My prayers for his lost soul.
And I did the jet skis and all of the horse stuff. Sometimes I did some high speed chases on the motorcycle but not all the time. In the re-union Chips 99- I did all of the fight sequence on top of the bus as my young boys watched in shock confused with reality and illusion. I took a fall in the fight luckily as within seconds we hit a low handing huge Oak Tree Branch that knocked the cameraman out and injured him seriously and broke the camera. It would have smashed my face had I been standing where I was supposed to remain standing like John Wayne. Somebody was watching out for me!
I’ve always wondered what your secret is to being so confident. I have always been a rather shy person and have always wondered how you managed to get in front of a camera or live audience and be so articulate and put together. I always get tongue tied and my mind goes blank! Do you ever get nervous? I would love any public speaking tips you may have!
New York, NY
Sue, TRUE confidence is evolution, and is a result of being vulnerable lots and lots of times until you are no longer scared but confident. Boxers are brought along and with a good manager fight inferior fighters often to help them build confidence. For me, I was NOT confident for a long time. ACTING was my bridge or transition tool that allowed me to embarrass myself and fail in front of my peers and then do it again with the guidance and mentoring of excellent acting coaches. I mean, acting puts you at the most vulnerable position of showing your ass if you will. It can be humiliating and how you process this humiliation and growth is how I began. This helped me so much in life and so much with all of my psychology or couch time. I soon enjoyed the walk down the dangerous isle of vulnerability as I knew that each time I did so, I came closer to becoming the BLACK KNIGHT (my hero as a boy).
The second most influential thing was that in speech class I would shake with nervousness but my teachers would nourish my needy soul with compliments and help me grow. I think this gave me an edge and the fact that I looked like boy next door helped win some of their empathy that others did not get.
Last, I made the naïve choice of working in a company called Fund America. I did not know anything about such a company but was excited with my enormous and instant successes. (Kind of like I felt in Florida when the FBI said they wanted to invest in my company as long as I paid a commission. I thought….wow….this is cool, because it is their money and I am ok with it if they are ok……WRONG) Well this Fund America was an MLM company and I had to start doing the presentations with slides. My presentations would be 2 or 3 times a week speaking in front of 10 to 500 people and I enjoyed it and each night I would sign more people up (kind of like Amway) and I thought….wow….this is fun and easy. I spoke and spoke and spoke. Then I began speaking in Wash DC and with Presidents and with large Vet Organizations, etc…and I just kept getting better with practice. So….confidence is an evolutionary pursuit that comes from the willingness to be vulnerable.
How much input did you have into the character development of Jon Baker? It seems they took a lot of your background and gave it to him-was that your idea? What do you think of Jon? Did you enjoy playing him?
Rob, Jon Baker was just a surrogate of sorts for Larry Wilcox. Not much development or character study….just say the lines and relax. I was pretty bored with the character from an acting stand point because it did not warrant a lot of acting, just honesty.
Many years ago I heard that you had a chance to be in the famous ´80s TV show Miami Vice (the main character that Don Johnson played).Is is true and if it is what happened exactly? Have you ever had regrets about good chances in your work you’ve missed?
Hugs and Merry Christmas in advance!
Mari,Rio de Janeiro
Michael Mann asked me to read for this series called Miami Vice. He asked if I would grease my hair back and have stubble and moustache and be a hard ass. I said sure….and when I read for the part he was one intense bastard which was his protective shell of his soft heart. I really enjoyed the character I defined and it was for Universal Studios in association with NBC. My agent told me they had read tons of actors and could not find the right guy. They had read even Don Johnson originally according to my sources.
When Universal saw my screen test they went crazy saying that I was one of the finest and most intense actors they had ever seen in a screen test and told my agent, David Shapira, that I should have been a screen star with that intensity. I wallowed in the ego of those statements and of course…….agreed.
Then they said that we need you to read with other actors to see if we can find someone that will be good with you. I read with many actors and did stunts and fight scenes and all kinds of crap for Michael Mann and the writer. Later I found out that the writer of the orig series pilot did not want me and was perhaps just using me to read other actors. I went and read for NBC for the final decision and Brandon Tartikoff, the esteemed President of NBC, said in his book, that Larry Wilcox was the choice for Miami Vice. On the day before Christmas after helping them (universal and Michael Mann) to find an actor, taking hits to my face in fight scenes and all of the other such tests…..I was informed that it was all bull**** and they were not going to use me and in fact were going to use Don Johnson. It was a cold blow and a manipulative blow the day before Christmas and I was upset and dejected. I wondered about all the compliments and all the hoopla and the lies or truth of it all. I still do not know what happened but it could have been the writer, it could have been an Agent pulling a move with other actors in some other production IF they would take Don Johnson on Miami Vice, or it could have been Don was just great. In retrospect, I think they made the RIGHT choice!
I came very close to starring in Rich man Poor Man after Nick Nolte left the series but that became an ugly political thing with a casting director who hated me because one time as a young actor on a TV commercial I pushed for getting travel pay and a meal penalty and she was very upset with my Union like behavior. In retrospect…..she was right as my selfish and pompous choices were not giving but she should not have taken revenge on me like she did my entire career.
I was also chosen to do Full Metal Jacket and they wanted me to work for Scale ad they did when they wanted me to do Boys in Company C about Vietnam. I thought I was an ARTISTE then and passed on the SCALE (minimums) pay. In retrospect, I won the roles and I should have done them…..they might have changed my career.
I’d like to know if you became surprised when you knew you still have so many fans throughout the world nowadays. And how do you deal with all of them ?
Greetings from Brasil!!
Debora…..yes I am surprised that I still have international fans and it is a testimony, not to Larry Wilcox, but to the enormous worldwide syndication the show chips had in the late 70s and early 80s and it ran on TV for over 30 years which is a long time. I did get tired of marketing myself and the labor of the “product” but I am grateful. Thank you to all of my friends in the world and may your children find similar joys in their Stars or Mentors they choose in life. It is a two way GIFT and I have enjoyed it so much. Gratefully…..Larry
I have worked as an extra on a few shows and movies. What I have learned is that it takes a team to make a TV show or movie. Many people put long days to make a TV show. Many of the people who work hard we never hear their name. I am talking about people form the the Art Dept, set Dept, wardrobe Dept, transportation Dept, make up Dept, Production Assistant (PAs) and so on. My question is who do you recall from Chips that but a lot of work into his job that we us fans may not know the name?
Yes it takes an enormous team and sometimes the only one who gets the spotlight is the actor or actors which is unfair. The ART Department is one of my favorite departments and they contribute the whole look and feel of the set. The total sound department has always amazed me and these are usually some very intellectual guys and gals. I have always been enamored with the lighting guys (Gaffer) as they paint with the Director of Photography. Each group has its culture and the culture seems to pander to the STAR who often is not the STAR we think he or she is because the editor and producer have saved his terrible acting performance in post production. Yes it is a TEAM effort.
My 2nd question is for the Chips movie who would you want to play Jon Baker? and the of rest of the cast. There have been rumors that Owen
Wilson may play Jon Baker and Wilmer Valderrama to play Ponch. I would pick Larry Wilcox to be the director. What do you think?
Thank you Larry for taking the time to answer our questions!
Canoga Park, CA
Armando thank you for your time! I talked to Wilmer a few times and I think he now has the rights or is trying to produce a CHIPS Movie but the orig budget was too high at $32 Million or so and he did not have matching funds. I have no idea who would play Jon Baker. I have always loved the humor or Owen Wilson and his oblique style of acting. I think to make Jon Baker interesting and to add longevity to this character life it would require a quirky guy like Owen…..but not sure who they would pick nor do I have any recommendations. Maybe some Black Comedian would be more funny….not sure but surely it is time to share the “wealth” with people of color…..right?
Is there any chance of you doing an autobiography??
Melanie….not sure about an autobiography. My life has been rich, full, and lots of very intense drama that is for sure but it is all relative. The most important thing I would not want to hurt other people in an autobiography with any new truths if you will. I know my story has lots of ups and downs but so do a lot of other people. This last episode in my life really upset me and has changed my opinion and perspective on a lot of things that I should not address. I believe that one should write an autobiography if you feel that your information might help one navigate the various choices in life and I am not sure or at least I am not 100% sure I can do that. I heard my son say to me this week…..when I announced that I had found a new job and he said….Dad, you always find solutions…..how is that. I smiled….and said…..never quit son, because you are a WILCOX and you come from good stock. This was not to be pompous but more to instill in him a sense a family pride and to instill in him like my other grown children, a good sense of solutions and work ethic. My older children will never lose as they will work until death at solutions! Let us hope my younger ones do the same. So, for now….no autobiography, but maybe someday!
I’d like to thank you for all you have done with troubled youth. have a personal connection and appreciation for people who strive to help make better futures for these children. The lack of real education and life skills offered, coupled with the government throwing welfare money at them at such a young age is a definite recipe for disaster. Money alone is not the answer; give a teen more money in a month than they have ever seen leads to bad decisions. I have a family member who sure could have used something like the Boys Republic.
You had many different types of characters that you played over the years and I have had my favourites. The first is Jon, and the second was Mike Shelby from The Last Hard Men. What was your favourite show or movie that you were in and what were your favourite characters to portray?
Thank you and may you and your loved ones have a very merry Christmas.
British Columbia, Canada
I really enjoyed carving out that weird need shaved headed character Mike Shelby. He was written in the script as kind of another bad ass hero type and I thought he was boring so I created this guy. We would go to dailies and James Coburn and Barbara Hershey and Michael Parks would ask me where I created this unique guy. He was funny and dumb and lovable and vulnerable. Andy McLaughlin was my Director and he always gave me so much latitude. Andy was a big 6’7” director and he would always joke around with me. I did about three or four films with him and he just let me do my thing each time and would smile with pure entertainment and maybe some awe in his eyes. He was a great one and I owe him so much for my acting career. His family is all now very successful in the biz.
I have moments of satisfaction with all characters I did. Sometimes it was technical stuff that no one sees that I remember and other times it was character stuff. It would take pages to discuss so I will not indulge.
I am now having a blast working with kids at risk and their subtle needs. I see myself in so many of them and wonder if they only got the helping hand I got or I created in some cases. I ran with reckless abandon at times as was a product of some hick background that I continue to try and shed or evolve from if you will. But the bottom line is I really enjoy the underdog and a kid who has some Cowboy Try in him.
My favorite movie I was in was Dirty Dozen because we filmed in Europe, and the US Dollar was very strong and I lived the life of a king and my wife Marlene accompanied me and we had a rich vacation and a shopping bonanza.
I’ve read many times that you were not really interested in being a celebrity and didn’t like it much. However, when you decided to become an actor, didn’t ever occur to you that you might end up making the big time and become famous? Isn’t that every actor’s goal?
Ted…..you know the old saying I want my cake and eat it to……I think I had visions of making lots of money and buying my island. Who knows what in the hell was wrong with me……as you are correct. Hello, you picked being a celebrity actor and you are crying about it now. I always enjoyed acting in my youth. It was a form of indulgence (sometimes called something else) and it was therapy for a youthful needy soul. As it grew it fed the ego but I soon realized that ego was not the truth….the truth is I wanted more real identity and goals and results that I had created myself vs. being chosen for some role. As an ACTOR, I wanted to be an artist not an entertainer. I do not think I did or was capable of differentiating the two and surely did not realize how they would overlap. Paul Newman used to enjoy acting but hated being a celeb or entertaining. I think I felt the same way….and therein lies the CONFLICT. Oh well, off to other goals and targets now! Thanks Ted….
I’ve always wondered, what is it like being famous? I imagine once you became rich and well known, you suddenly had friends coming out of the woodwork. Seems to me it would be quite sad, not knowing who really loves you for you and is a real friend and who is just around because of your money or connections, Was it hard for you?
For me I was still an identity searching for its own definition. During the time of my acting career I initially responded to money and wealth in ways I should not have done. I splurged and indulged and gave my soul nourishment of all kinds, acceptable and unacceptable. Then I began to have a BASE and with this BASE I began to see that this was not who I was or wanted to be. The problem is that evolution carries injury with it and scars. I had no friends during the times of CHIPS because they were all going to the same “carnival” I was….as it is where people without Identity frequent…..parties and such. I was running so fast that I made ADHD look slow and methodical. I was chasing life because I thought I had missed so much of it as a youth. The chase was futile. The friends were parasites and not one’s steeped in the simplicity of love and giving. Now, My family is my love and my support system and over time a handful of friends who have walked the talk and are TIME HONORED are what I enjoy and focus on. I try to give more than I take and I try to help the ones who need it most….when I am able to do so. At times when I had no food or gas, it was difficult to give the homeless guy a $1 and at other times it was just as difficult to give someone $100 when I had more because of my poor upbringing. Now, money is not mine, nor will it ever be mine. Power and judgment are not mine nor will they ever encamp in my brain….but I just want to be a gardener for my family’s souls and for my friends and for as many children I can help one way or the other. I just want to stay away from rhetoric and negativity and there is one nucleus of that called Hollywood that scares me. So yes, in my day, making seven figures was a big deal and I surely was not ready for it. The life skills that are needed in a family and its offspring are enormous life- long skills that need to be studied for the rest of our lives. I was and am a late comer student but….at least I came! Thank you for asking Rich. By the way the other day my son asked me why I worked so hard for some guys recently for free. I smiled and said because I could. I am thankful and I like to be a tool or mouthpiece of goodness.
I saw a magazine clipping on Ebay not long ago that showed you and your very pretty wife in a kitchen looking as if you were cooking together. Are you a good cook? What are your favorite things to make?
Ahh Lucy….no I am not but my wife is. I am too creative to be a good cook as it requires patience and reminds me of my chemistry classes. The other day I was looking at a web site called add-treatment.com and it talked about ADHD advantage and benefits. The ability to multitask; ability to focus intensely; creativity and idea generation; abundant energy and creativity; Adrenaline junkies who are great in a crisis; entrepreneurial in spirit and risk takers; and the Power of Positive Self concept.
I thought….wow….that is my rationale. On cooking, I really enjoy fresh and seasoned food. I like the smells of the fresh organic salads and the spices my wife makes. I am a big lover of FRENCH Everything….and love sauces which make the food for me. But no, I am not a good cook. My spectrum of menu consists of pancakes, eggs Benedict (biggy for me); steaks, lots of vegetables, and garlic…..the best red wines you can get from France or Pinot Noirs in Oregon and Calif…..and I am a happy camper. I love good food; good wine, and admire the art of BEAUTY.
My favorite things to make are veggies with garlic….
Thanks for the great questions. Have a great Holiday and see you next year! -Larry
To ask Larry a question, send an email to AskLarry@larrywilcox.net. He is happy to answer questions and offer advice and will answer as many letters as he can in this column each month. He regrets that he is unable to send private replies. When you send your questions in be sure to include your first name and location!
All content in this column is copyrighted and can not be copied or reproduced without permission.
Copyright 2011 Larry Wilcox