- - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

He will forever be Oscar Goldman, the government agent he played on both “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman.” But actor Richard Anderson is so much more than that. His impressive resume reads like a Netflix queue of the greatest classic TV shows from the medium’s golden age — from “The Rifleman” to “Big Valley” to “Charlie’s Angels” to “Dynasty” to “The Fugitive” to “Love Boat” to “Perry Mason” and even “Murder She Wrote.”

Apart from TV, Mr. Anderson is a bona fide film star, having worked alongside everyone from Cary Grant to Kirk Douglas and Paul Newman. 

The 89-year-old actor called from his home in Beverly Hills to discuss his life, recent career at sci-fi conventions and his just published bio, “Richard Anderson: At Last a Memoir From the Golden Years of M-G-M and the Six Million Dollar Man to Now.”

Question: What drew you to becoming an actor?

Answer: When I was growing up we lived in New York, and I would go see movies on the weekend. I was 10 years old and saw a film, and I saw this guy in the film. He didn’t say much, but I couldn’t stop looking at him. I said, “That’s what I want to do. I want to be an actor like him!” Then I found out his name was Gary Cooper.

Years later, when I was signed to Metro Goldwyn Mayer, I was invited to Mexico City. When I got there someone said to me, “He’s here. Cooper.” I went over and I asked, “Could you kindly tell me how you do it?” He said, “What you should do is don’t say much.” There was power in that silence.

Q: What was it like to be working at MGM in the golden days?

A: I was there for five years — made over 28 movies. They were doing a lot of musicals. On one of the stages they built a giant pool, and Esther Williams did all her films there. I would walk around and see Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly. MGM was the best studio in the whole world.

Q: Early in your career you were on “The Rifleman,” “Big Valley” and “Gunsmoke.” Did you like doing Westerns?

A: I enjoyed the Westerns a lot. When I did “The Rifleman” it was supposed to be just one shot. We did the first episode, and the next week my agent called and said, “They want you to do another one.” I ended up doing a whole year’s worth of episodes. That was a very big moment in my career. From there I decided to try everything.

Q: You just wrote your biography, yes?

A: Yes, it’s called “Richard Anderson: At Last a Memoir From the Golden Years to M-G-M to the Six Million Dollar Man of Today.” It is out now. You can get it at online books store like Amazon.

Q: What do you consider your breakthrough role?

A: I never looked at it that way. My idea of acting is based on what Spencer Tracy taught me. I saw him sitting on a bench at MGM. I walked up and said, “Acting?” He said, “Acting. Learn the lyrics and don’t bump into the furniture.”

When I completed everything at MGM, the director of a film had seen me in pictures and liked what he saw. He invited me to be in the war film “Paths of Glory.” That role changed my career, led to “Perry Mason” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Q: How did you land the role of Oscar Goldman?

A: They wanted me for the role. They didn’t even ask me to read or audition. “The Bionic Woman” came after we were on the show. We were doing “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and I said, “Let’s get a woman here.”

There was this woman [Lindsay Wagner], and she did one of the episodes, and the numbers were just wonderful. One of the producers then said, “We need to get her her own show.” Then they used me playing the same part on both shows.

Q: Was it hard to do both “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Bionic Woman” at the same time?

A: You just do it. And you like it. The idea is you’re working all the time. Long hours, up at 5. With me, they gave me a car and a driver. We would shoot in various places. Beautiful Bel Air one day, Mexico City the next.

Q: Who was easier to work with, Lee Majors or Lindsay Wagner?

A: Lindsay Wagner was a wonderful, wonderful person to work with. Lee was Lee. He’s a real — athlete, shall I say.

Q: Do you have any memories from the Bigfoot episode?

A: Andre the Giant was a great guy. That fellow was a gem. The sweetest guy in the world. That episode was such a big episode.

Q: Are you still in touch with your co-stars?

A: Yes. I’ll be seeing Lee and Lindsay at [Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention] in  Maryland. I do a lot of these shows. It’s an amazing thing.

Richard Anderson will be appearing at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention September 17-19 in Hunt Valley, Maryland. His book is now available at Amazon.com.


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