Monday, November 27, 2017

Interview with Heather Menzies Urich

Canadian-born Heather Menzies Urich had only one acting credit when she was cast as 13-year-old Louisa Von Trapp in the 1965 box office smash The Sound of Music. It was a dynamic start to a film and television career that would span four decades. Her television work included guest appearances in popular TV shows such as Bonanza, Dragnet 1967, The Bob Newhart Show, S.W.A.T., Marcus Welby, M.D., and The Six Million Dollar Man. Heather starred as Jessica 6 in the 1977-78 TV series Logan's Run, which was based on the hit movie. It was one of several roles that caused her popularity to soar among science fiction fans. She also starred in the sci fi movies Sssssss (1973), Piranha (1978), and Endangered Species (1982). In 1975, Heather married fellow actor Robert Urich and the couple went on to have three children. Then, in 2002, Robert died at age 55 from cancer. Five years later, Heather founded the Robert Urich Foundation. She remains actively involved in the non-profit organization, having hosted a fundraiser in Canada last August.

Café:  What was your life like after starring in a blockbuster like The Sound of Music?

Heather Menzies Urich:  It was pretty normal. It’s not something that I bragged about or talked about. All of a sudden, people wanted to get to know me whereas before I was a bit of a wallflower. I was always painfully shy so the attention didn’t really sit well.

Heather, 2nd from left, with Julie Andrews and family.

Café: What is the secret to the amazing friendships you and your Sound of Music "siblings" have maintained over the decades?

HMU:  We kind of grew up together. Our families became close and there was always something to promote, hence a reason to pull us all together over the years. For example, there would be a new re-issue of the DVD, an anniversary, etc.

Café:  In Sssssss, your boyfriend transformed into a snake and in Piranha, you played a skiptracer that battled people-eating fish. What are some of your memories from these modestly-budgeted cult classics?

HMU:  The snake one was a lot of fun to do. I loved Strother Martin and he became a bit of a father figure to me. Bob and I used to go over to his house on Sundays and sit on the back porch all afternoon. You never knew who else was going to be there. He knew everyone in Hollywood. At first, handling the snakes was horrifying, but we all got used to it. Piranha was filmed almost entirely on location in Texas. Joe Dante went on to direct Gremlins for Spielberg, so working with him was pretty special. Not to mention Brad Dillman, Kevin McCarthy and Keenan Wynn. Legends!

Café:  The Logan's Run TV series was short-lived, but has a loyal following (and can be viewed now on WarnerArchive.com). How did you come to be cast as Jessica 6?

With Gregory Harrison in Logan's Run.
HMU:  I went to the audition and then screen tested with a few potential Logans. Nicholas Hammond and Dirk Benedict were in the running.

Café:  The series only lasted 14 episodes despite the involvement of veteran Star Trek writers, one of the authors of the novel Logan's Run, and Saul David, who produced the movie version. What do you think led to the show's cancellation?

HMU:  I think they needed to spend more money on the visuals. Star Wars came out around that time and we couldn’t really compete with that.

Heather and Robert Urich on the Libby's set.
Café:  I've read that you met your future husband Robert Urich while making a TV commercial. Can you provide details...and was it love at first sight?

HMU:  It was a Libby's Corned Beef Hash commercial. We actually got married in the commercial. I kind of avoided him at first because I thought that getting involved with a “chiseled jaw” actor was not something I needed.

Café:  What was it like acting opposite your husband in episodes of Vega$ and Spenser: For Hire and in the movie Endangered Species?

HMU:  We did a lot of work together in acting class (Milton Katseles), so we were used to working with each other. We had a tremendous amount of mutual respect for each other professionally. We also did a couple of plays together: The Hasty Heart at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater and The Kennedy Center as well as Barefoot in the Park on the Kenley Circuit in Ohio.

Café:  As noted above, you guest-starred in many of the most popular TV series of the 1960s and 1970s. What were some of your favorite roles and why?

HMU:  Anything having to do with horses. So, I guess that would be any Western, such as Bonanza, High Chaparral, and Alias Smith and Jones.

Café:  Can you tell us about your work with the Robert Urich Foundation?

HMU: It is a California-based Foundation. We raise funds for cancer research and patient care. You can learn more at www.urichfoundation.org.

Café:  Are you participating in any upcoming events that you'd like to share with our readers?

HMU:  I’m appearing at The Hollywood Show in LA in February.

You can learn more about Heather Menzies Urich at her website (www.heathermenziesurich.com). You can connect with her and the rest of the Sound of Music 7 (the performers who played all the children) on Twitter and Facebook. All photos are courtesy of Heather Menzies Urich.

5 comments:

  1. Strother Martin as a father figure? This was a fun read. I always liked Heather Menzies, especially as the heroine in "Piranha." She deserved better roles. I don't remember the "Logan's Run" TV series.

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  2. What a lovely interview! I found it very sweet to learn about the SOM 7 and the dear friendships that developed. It made me smile to learn what fun Ms. Menzies Urich and her husband had at Strother Martin's home. Thank you for this interview, Rick!

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  3. Really enjoyed this. I've been a fan of hers since 'Logan's Run,' and I still am even though she unfriended me on Facebook. :)

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  4. A charming and fun interview. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    On a bit of a melancholy note, in 2002 I was undergoing chemotherapy for colorectal cancer. The regulars would do our best to keep each other's spirits up. On the day we read the news of Robert Urich's passing, we didn't even try. He was one of us, and it hurt.

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  5. Great interview, Rick! Heather seems like a lovely person, and I loved her story about spending Sunday afternoons on Strother Martin's back porch.

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