- - Thursday, October 26, 2017

For TV fans of a certain age, William Katt will always be Ralph Hinkley, the unlikely superhero in the red suit on the beloved series “The Greatest American Hero.” Although the series only lasted three seasons in prime time, thanks to syndication, it has continued to delight its fans in reruns.

But for those a bit older, Mr. Katt will always be Tommy, the unlucky prom date to the title character in the genre-defining horror flick “Carrie.” Away from those cultural signposts, Mr. Katt also starred in the surf flick “Big Wednesday,” the ‘80s camp horror classic “House,”  the film version of the Broadway play “Pippin” and more than a half-dozen “Perry Mason” films.

And did we mention that he was almost Luke Skywalker? True story.

At the Hollywood Show, a Los Angeles-based autograph collectors convention, Mr. Katt discussed fames, family and whether or not he has a “Greatest American Hero” suit in his closet at home.

Question: Do you do a lot of these autograph shows?

Answer: I’ve done about four or five a year for a little while now. Not too much this year because I’ve been busy. I just lost my mom (“Perry Mason” actress Barbara Hale) in January, so I have been busy dealing with estate issues. I’ve had to take off work since she left us in January. We knew that is was going to be a year at least where I would not be able to do anything else.

Q: Are you planning to return to acting?

A: I have a film coming out. A while back we did “Man from Earth,” a Jerome Bixby script. It did quite well. It was low budget but it became a cult classic. With the help of our audience, our fans out there, we were able to do a sequel. We made a sequel last year, and it’s just about to come out. I just saw it, and it looks pretty good.

Richard Schenkman directed the first one. He wrote the script this time with Emerson, Jerome Bixby’s son. It was a very good follow-up. Kept the integrity and smartness of the first script. And it expanded the story.

Q: Are you nervous to make a sequel to something people truly loved?

A: People asked us, “Why did it take so long to do the sequel?” It’s because it took a lot of time to write the script. There was a lot of research that had to be done.

Q: That film was a cult classic, and another film you did, “House,” was as well. What was it like to make that film, and why has it achieved such a cult following?

A: At the time it was released, it was the first MTV [era] film. It had the pace of MTV. It was very new. It had a wonderfully wicked, dark sense of humor, due in large part to the wonderful direction by Steve Minor. He is just a twisted individual that is so much fun to be with. He brought all of that to the film.

Q: When fans meet you at these shows, are they mainly “Greatest American Hero” fans?

A: You know, it’s a mix. It’s either “Carrie” or “House” or “Greatest American Hero” typically. When I’m on the East Coast, I get a lot of fans from “Pippin,” which I did many years ago.

Q: You are able to transition between comedy and drama easily. What is the trick to that, and which do you prefer?

A: I like doing both. And I’ve done a lot of theater. It’s funny, somebody just gave me a playbill from when I did “The Days of Wine & Roses” years ago with the wonderful Mia Dillon. I’ve done a lot of stage work in my life, but not a lot of people know that.

Q: Is theater acting your first love?

A: Oh yeah. I love the theater. I started at South Coast Repertory in Orange County, California. It was a great springboard into my career. I’ve worked all over the place, but it doesn’t show on IMDB — all that theater work.

Q: But it does show in the actual acting you’ve done on TV and in film. Isn’t a theater-trained actor a better TV and film actor?

A: I would say so, yes. That is where you learn your skills. But for me, why I love the theater is because I love the rehearsal period. That’s my favorite part of the process. Solving the puzzle. How do I make this work?

Q: Do you think Hollywood will ever do a remake of “The Greatest American Hero”?

A: It has been talked about for so long. And in fact, I have read several feature-length film scripts that had been written in years past. But it never came to be. I don’t know why.

Q: Do you have one of the suits in your home?

A: I do not. I wish I had. I think there were only five suits. I saw one in a museum. [Show creator Stephen J.] Cannell’s family still has a suit. The late, great Paul Hernandez, the writer responsible for “Sky High,” he actually had one of the suits. I think his wife still has it. And then there are two more, but I don’t know where they are.

Q: Maybe someone will show up at the show in it. I imagine people have showed up in copies of the suit.

A: Oh gosh, yes.

Q: What is the most common question the fans ask again and again?

A: They ask, “Did you ever find the instruction book [for the suit]?” I said, “It was in the box set when they released the show on DVD.” (Laughs)

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