|Michael McGreevy and Sally Field in The Way West.|
Café: You were around 11 when you starred in Riverboat. In addition to stars Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds, it featured a huge number of then-current and future stars. Are there any that you remember fondly?
|As Chip Kessler in Riverboat.|
Café: I've read where Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds didn't get along. Is that true?
MM: Oh, yeah. They were just two very different personalities. I think that Burt was insecure. It was his first job in Hollywood and Darren was a very polished actor. It was Darren's show really--he was Captain Holden. I think Burt was a little jealous of Darren and they clashed quite a bit. What finally happened was that Burt left the show. But I loved them both. Darren was very much a father figure for me and Burt was like a big brother. He had been a football player at Florida State and I was impressed with that because I was into football. The first football I ever got--in fact, I've still got it--he got me. We used to play catch. I still see Burt every once in awhile. He still says: "Don't tell people you were only 11 years old when we were on Riverboat."
Café: How did you get cast in Texas John Slaughter, your first episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color?
MM: I had done a small part in a thing called Toby Tyler, which was just a one-day shoot. My agent had said: "It's only one day, but you should do it because you might get in over at Disney and become one of the Disney kids." I thought, OK, I'll do it. After that, they called and I did the Texas John Slaughter episode. Then, I did Sammy, the Way-Out Seal, which was a big deal. I remember going for several interviews with director Norman Tokar. Bill Mumy and I got the parts. I showed up on the set and Ann Jillian was my girlfriend on the show. She became my girlfriend in real life later on, which was sort of neat. That was the beginning of the Disney run.
Café: You appeared in several multi-part Disney episodes. Which one was your favorite and why?
|Billy Mumy and McCreevey in Sammy.|
Café: What was it like working on the Disney lot while making those shows?
MM: It was wonderful, especially in the '60s when Walt was still alive. He'd come every day on the set if you were on the lot. There was a real family feeling on that lot at that point. It wasn't like the other studios. And because so many children worked there, it was a more conducive place for them in general. The crews were used to kids. Mr. Disney--Uncle Walt...I always called him Mr. Disney and he would always correct me--set the tone. It was like going to summer camp. I loved it.
Café: And did you really beat Walt Disney in ping pong?
MM: No. Actually, I never beat him. I tried. My mother said you'd better lose. Kurt Russell claims to have waxed him.
Café: Was he good at ping pong?
|Kurt Russell and McGreevey in|
The Strongest Man in the World.
Café: You and Kurt Russell made a great team in the three Dexter Riley films. Did you get along off camera?
MM: Yes, we were roommates for four years. I tell people that I could ruin Kurt Russell (laughs). We roomed together in our twenties. We're still good friends. I talked with him before I came here.
Café: What are your memories of acting in The Way West with Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Richard Widmark, and Sally Field?
MM: I think that was the most fun I ever had in a movie. I was a little disappointed in the end product. I thought it could have been a much better movie. In my opinion, they sort of ruined it in the editing room. In terms of the actual shoot and the cast, I adored Sally (Field). Director Andy McLaglen was just a wonderful man. I enjoyed that role. I met (Richard) Widmark on that film, who became my mentor. I did another film with him (Death of a Gunslinger). We spent four months in Oregon, too. I made some lasting friendships. John Mitchum was in it and Bob Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Timothy Scott, who later went on to do a lot of great work. It was just a wonderful experience.
Café: What led to your decision to enroll in UCLA and to pursue film writing and directing?
|Michael McGreevey at the 2015|
Williamsburg Film Festival.
Café: What inspired you to write the 1978 made-for-TV movie Ruby and Oswald, which became a collaborative effort between you and your father?
MM: I had started on my own to research Jack Ruby. I was fascinated with him. I went to my Dad to get some advice on how to approach the screenplay. He said it might be more interesting to parallel Ruby with Oswald. I said I'll do that. I went back and did some stuff with that and realized there was all this documentary footage with Kennedy. In reality, the movie, although it's called Ruby and Oswald, is a three-way depiction of those four days in Dallas where we cut back and forth between the documentary footage of Kennedy and the recreated story with Ruby and Oswald. Dad and I both knew a man named Alan Landsburg, who had done a lot of documentaries. We went to him with the project first and he knew Mel Stuart, who had done an Academy Award-winning documentary called Four Days in November (1964). So, Mel was attached to direct it and we went into CBS and sold it right away as a three-hour special event movie. I was very proud of that movie; it was very well done.
Café: You've written episodes for several first-rate TV series such as Fame and The Waltons. What was your favorite series to work on?
MM: Fame, by far. I started as a free-lance on one episode of Fame. I later became the story editor and then became the creative consultant--they kept moving me up. I ended up producing the show the last season. I did a total of four seasons on Fame. My background was in musical theater. It was like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland--let's put on a show every week. And they were paying me all this money to do it. It was fun. I loved The Waltons. I just finished a movie about (Waltons creator) Earl Hamner called Earl Hamner Storyteller. The Waltons were an important part of my life and I really enjoyed working on that show.
Café: Do you have any upcoming films or appearances that you'd like to share with our readers?
MM: We just screened Earl Hamner Storyteller, a ninety-minute documentary about Earl Hamner in Lynchburg (Virginia). Tuesday night, we screened it in Richmond for University of Virginia mucky-mucks and the governor of Virginia. It should appear on television in the fall. It will probably be on the Hallmark Channel. Earl is 91 and we got to screen it for him in Los Angeles in February and he got a standing ovation. It made my year.
Café: He was such a great TV writer. People think of him with The Waltons, but he also wrote episodes of Twilight Zone and created Falcon Crest.
MM: That's all in the documentary. He has been a family friend, my Dad's best friend. My Dad wrote 20 episodes of The Waltons and I wrote four. So, he's been Uncle Earl my whole life. But doing this movie was really fun, because I got closer to him and found out things I didn't know about Earl.
Café: Thank you so much for doing this interview, Mr. McGreevey.
You can learn more about Michael McGreevey at his web site www.michaelmcgreevey.com and you can "like" his Facebook page.