The O'Reilly Report (TV Show):
Commented Transcript of An
Interview with David Garrison

Last update January 28, 1998

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As posted by Carolyn Crapo at on January 27, 1998.

David Garrison Interview Transcript
December 4, 1997
'The O'Reilly Report', Fox News Channel

Interesting little session they had going here. Bill O'Reilly is a genial middle-aged anchorman type, who seems to know a lot about politics, but not about entertainment, aside from the most populist stuff (eg, he kept referring to 'Titanic' the musical as a 'program'; that's not an Americanism, that's just a mistake). The strange thing was how they 'teased' David's upcoming appearance towards the end of the show, never mentioning his actual name until he was introduced. Instead, they alternated before commercials showing a group picture of the Season 2 cast and some of his 'Titanic' scenes as the owner Ismay, overlaid with such questions as "Why did this actor walk away from the hit series 'Married...with Children'?" and "It's Titanic mania! We'll speak with an actor you know from MWC and is now on the Titanic every night!" and my favorite, "We'll talk with an actor who made a very bold and financially harmful decision!" I thought it was pretty funny, imagining housewives making dinner and absently wondering to themselves, "Isn't that the guy with the big nose who was married to the lesbian first? What WAS his name?"

The men sat across a large round table from each other and Rick had a clipboard he read his questions from. David was wearing a black turtleneck, slacks, and shoes, and a gray-and-brown tweed sports jacket. He usually sat back in his chair with his legs crossed, appearing relaxed, but his intrinsic shyness was betrayed by the death's grip he had on the arm of his chair at the beginning. O'Reilly seemed to be trying to make him say something scandalous or silly, but he had the wrong guy. Here's the transcript. As always, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

<> Description of action
{}  Unwarranted and intrusive comments from Carolyn

<Scene from 'The Blame', Ismay's big song, shown>

Introduction: "In the second part of the Book Segment today, the actor David Garrison. You know him from the long-running TV show MWC; he played the Bundy's next-door neighbor Steve Rhoades. After four years Mr. Garrison walked away from that role and that money <DG's smile grows broader and he murmurs 'Hmmph!'> to go back to the stage. Now, he's one of the biggest hits (sic) on Broadway in the program--in the show, I should say--'Titanic'".

David, I can't get tickets to see the show because it's sold out all the time, but I hear that you're booed at the end of the show.
If I do my job well, I get booed.

So, you're one of the bad guys.
Oh, I'm THE bad guy.

THE bad guy! The guy who sunk the Titanic!
<DG's hand relaxes and lets go of the chair's arm as he realizes this guy is not a brain trust> Well, that's what legend has, yeah. I play Bruce Ismay, who's the owner of the White Star Line. The boat was his idea. {DG always politely but firmly defends Ismay against the more outrageous allegations. According to the BuyBroadway list he, like all the other cast, has researched his character extensively and has a sort of bemused affection for this complex, tormented man.} He essentially invented the 747-the biggest, the grandest, the most luxurious thing afloat, and he wanted to get to New York in six days or bust.

And that was it.
Yeah, it was bust!

But do they really boo you though, at the end of the thing?
Well, yeah, they do. He's a pretty unlikable guy, actually.

<Laughs> Well, that means you're putting in a good performance!
Well, I hope so. I like to take it as a left-handed compliment.

Now, you're on in about an hour and ten minutes. You run right down the street from our studio, right into makeup, right onto the stage. Is that-do you need any more preparation time? Like, I have to brood for about half-an-hour before I do this program. {O'Reilly does not really look like the introspective type.}
<Cheerfully> I'm going to brood between here and the Lunt-Fontanne theater! I'll do my brooding walking.

We really appreciate your coming in. Now, one of the interesting things is that you left a program paying you a LOT of money, you said "Hey, I'll see you later, I've been on here for four years" and went to a very, very unsure project. Did you have 'Titanic' in your pocket when you left? {Seven years in advance? Sure, buddy.}
Well... no, no... <In a lightly ironic tone> I decided, though, that it was a great idea to leave a hit series where they paid me a lot of money to come back to Broadway where we work a lot harder for far less money.

Your agent must have been thrilled with that decision.
Oh, yeah, he could see his BMW payments going right out the window! <DG smilingly does a downhill motion with his hand and does not exhibit the properly befitting guilt over his agent's finances>

Why did you do it?
<With a seeming mix of surprise and exasperation> Oh, gosh! Um... it seemed like a good idea at the time, uhm, I live in New York, the show shot in LA, I was tired of commuting... also, I think that, the series had sort of a natural life to it, when it... in the early days, it was a good series, and I think MWC was {Yes! We are all vindicated!}; there's all the excitement of a new show and very good writing, and then as the years go by, you sort of peak <gestures>, and then after a while you start to recycle the jokes, the writers get pulled away to do other shows, and it's very--

<Interrupts> Did everyone recognize that? Did all the cast see it?
<Hesitates, trying to be tactful> I don't know... I wouldn't...

Did you guys all sit around the lunch counter saying, "Eh, geez, y'know, it looks like this thing is not as good as it used to be..."
<Looks at the ceiling, with a very Stevelike tilt of the head, thinks> Weeellll, there was discussion like, we've seen these jokes before. But all those people, other than me, came from Los Angeles while I came out of New York theater, and I was anxious to get back. {Not really true, Ed's from Ohio and Amanda's from Florida; however both seem to have settled happily and permanently in Hollywood.}

Right. Most of them are television actors. The show ran for eleven years?
I believe so.

It's in syndication now?
<Laughing> Yes, it'll be haunting you at two a.m. in the morning for the rest of time!

It's a controversial show...
Yeah, in the beginning, because it was kind of crude, the depiction of American family life wasn't, er... <Bill laughs> but it certainly struck a chord.

That's for sure.
It was almost like 'All in the Family', in the sense that it was a satire, as well as the next step up—or the next step down, depending on how you view that, but it certainly was pushing the envelope; the working title was called 'Not the Cosbys'.

<Heartily> And it was certainly that, David. Now as a theater guy, it's much easier to do television, I would assume, than theater, because I could...
<Interrupts> Well, it's easier on your knees!

Yeah, because you sit there, and you have a break... But you did it—you had the taping before a live audience, right?
Yeah. I came as close as I could come in television to the theatre experience—you start at the beginning, went through the middle, and got to the end. And we had a live audience there.

Now, what if you muffed your line during MWC; would they reshoot it?
They HAD to.

So you'd stop, you'd be embarrassed, everyone would make fun of you...
And they'd go 'ha ha ha' and 'Again!'. But if you muff a line now, the ship sinks without you, you can't go back...

That's what I was going to ask. In 'Titanic' then, the pressure to perform flawlessly on stage in front of people paying 75 bucks a pop must be pretty intense.
It's intense. I think that's why sometimes actors who are trained for television or film have a lot of trouble coming into theatre. Not just remembering your lines but also you have to do eight shows a week, and that's a different psychological test than doing a different show every day. {DG often says this in interviews; he also talked about MWC and TV in InTheater's special article on 'crossover' actors. If I were Christina, what he said would make me feel a little insulted.}

Do you do things differently in different performances? Cadences, things like that?
Yes. An actor would certainly have a bag of tricks to keep his mind from wandering to the laundry list as you're up there. <seriously> That can be terrifying.

What happens when you're not 'on'? See, this is a live show that people are watching on (sic) six o'clock East Coast Time, it'll be recorded for later on but it's live while we do it, and when I'm having a bad day, the audience will see you fumbling around, but once in a while that will you ever have a bad day, do you ever say, "Gee, I'm really not on my game today"...
<Big grin, being very cagey> Uh... yeah...

What do you do?
Fake it!

You fake it?

But you know, you know right away...
Oh, yeah...

It ain't going my way here...
<Shakes his head in mock dismay> It just isn't quite happening... but you got to press on. It's like running a race, sometimes you run it faster and sometimes you run it slower, but you gotta keep running.

Are you tired after you come off that show? The adrenaline rush to do it, and then... boom.
Yeah, you have to pace yourself to do eight a week.

So you're not going out to Webster Hall discoing with Madonna after the show every night?
Twenty years ago I was, but I'm not any more! <Laughs ruefully>

I'm tired after I get—I know the audience is tired of me as well, but I'm tired after I get off this show!
I give myself one big Scotch a week. On Sunday. Sunday night. {NY theatres are traditionally dark on Mondays.}

And you have to keep yourself in pretty good physical shape to do a Broadway program as well—
Especially 'Titanic' because the floor keeps moving; the angle keeps getting higher and higher as the evening goes on. <Gestures>

And that brings us to the beginning of the 'Titanic'; people said-and I was one of them-I said, "I don't know if this is gonna go because of all the electronic stuff" and it was breaking down and this and that, but you guys have ironed it out, right? How intense was it the first few weeks?
The first few weeks, I would say, were MORE than intense. This show is so complicated; there are seven computer systems running all of the hydraulics, and flying the scenery, going up to the flies and coming out of the wings, lightboards, soundboards, and all that. Those seven computer systems had to be talking to each other on a very friendly basis in order for the show to work.

So, now they're all pals?
Yeah, they're all pals now, whatever, it took a while.

When the movie 'Titanic' comes out, that's going to be a huge publicity blitz, that's gonna help 'Titanic', the Broadway show.
Yeah, I think so. These guys {Librettist Peter Stone and composer Maury Yeston} started writing 'Titanic' years ago and the timing was just perfect. We opened on the 85th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, there's all this new information, there's a CD-ROM where you can go through the ship, y'know there's this movie coming out—I think there's been a real rebirth of interest in the story.

Why? Why do people care about the Titanic after all these years?
<Pause> You know, it's one of those stories that has a hook in everybody's unconscious—

<Interrupts DG's professorial answer to blurt out:> You know what I think it is? If I were there, would I have gone down? {Whoa! Deep thinking alert! I'd MUCH rather hear that than what the interviewer thinks!}
Well, yeah!

Or would I have been a hero?
What would you do? Because there's that sense of, you know, we KNOW this is going to happen, but there's a period of time before the actual event. It's like you're in an airplane, and you know it's going down, but you've got an hour and a half to think about it. {An apt and chilling analogy of the disaster IMHO.} What are you going to do with that time?

I would have as many Scotches as I could possibly have! David, that describes it.
<Nods deeply, very Stevelike gesture again> Yes, and look for the biggest parachute.

David, we really appreciate your coming in, because we know you literally have to run down the street and start singing, do the show tonight. Thanks a lot.
My pleasure!

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