Thursday, July 28, 2016

TLR Chats With Actor Stephen Manley

Actor Stephen Manley is a showbiz veteran whose career in both film and television spans over 40 years.

He may be best known as one of several Young Spock's in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock but as you will soon discover his work crosses many genres.

As a child and teen Manley appeared on classic shows such as All in the Family Emergency! The Love Boat Little House on the Prairie and The Streets of San Francisco.

As an adult he stayed quite busy over the years--but 2016/17 may his most productive period yet. The interview touches upon a lot of it.  When the chat began I promised him that I would try not to geek out with too many questions about Star Trek. I will let you guys judge whether I succeeded in doing that or not....but we started where all good stories begin...

You've been acting since you were very young. How did you get started?

My grandfather Stephen E. Soldi, had started in the silent era. His first job was as a Roman Soldier in D.W. Griffith”s film “ Intolerance:”. He worked as a character actor and stunt double for decades until his retirement in 1966. He worked on everything from “ Frankenstein” to “Singin' in the Rain”. After his wife passed he lived with my parents and he was my biggest role model, He taught me to read by giving me film scripts. when i was 5, I obtained a SAG\ Card thru him and eventually began to audition thru a wonderful agent named Dorothy Day Otis who represented young people.

You have appeared on number of TV shows from the 70's  Can you talk about that period?

The 1970’s was a wonderful period of time to be working in film and television. All of those fantastic shows which are now pop culture classic’s. I primarily worked at Universal Studios, which was an institution: Emergency, Rockford Files, Six Million Dollar Man, Earthquake, I myself worked on The Hindenburg. A great place to be. Warners had Kung Fu, which I also did some episodes, and 20th Century Fox where The Love Boat set sail from. I Cherish the period.

How were you treated by the adults you worked with?

When I was very small, many “old-timers” who knew my grandfather kept a good eye on me and helped keep my standards professional. It could be magical, creative and fun, but it was work, the jobs in every aspect of production are highly sought after , and I learned to respect that very early. I was treated on a level playing field among the adult actors and learned much from many of them which i still carry to this day.

You were on "Little House" which already had a few established young folks on set what was that like?

The Labyorteaux Brothers, Matt and Patrick, whom are still are friends to this day, were a part of that show for years. However it was not until the final season that I was fortunate enough to land a good guest star role as Italian acrobat Marco Gambini. Michael Landon was a very kind and sincere man and i enjoyed the work there very much..even the circus leotard was not too bad. I also got to work with veteran character actor Jack Krutchen who had been in so many wonderful films and shows.

How did you land the role as young Spock (age 17) on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock?

Mr. Nimoy had seen my work in an episode of “ The Secrets of Midland Heights”, a series created by my dear friend David Jacobs. In one episode my character was dealing with the death of his mother by going to a empathetic and warm gypsy fortune teller who was played by the legendary and passionate Zohra Lampert. Ms. Lampert and I played some beautiful scenes and Mr. Nimoy wanted me to bring some of that feeling to what would be “ Pon Farr Spock” with Lt. Saavik.

We lost Leonard Nimoy last year--What was he like to work with?

A wonderful and giving man. A fantastic and gifted actor himself, with that incredible voice. He never lost his temper or patience, treated everyone kindly and as a director ran a very smooth and stress free set. He wanted everyone to have a great creative environment.

Talk about filming the pivotal Pon farr scene?

Mr. Nimoy explained to Robin Curtis and myself that the Pon Farr ritual had only been hinted at in the Star Trek Universe and that now was the time to at least show the lead in to it. Robin, like Ms. Lampert, is a very warm and compassionate woman and worked hard to keep her emotions’ Vulcan-like”. The three of us created the scene under Leonards’ guidance, Robin and I reacting off each others touch, which is very strong way to work. There were more elements that we did that were not shown, for instance there is a pic of Robin touching my face as Leonard observes us. I humor my fans and tell them that it was from the Italian Bertolucci version..! However, I will always be eternally grateful to Mr Nimoy as he insisted the Pon Farr scene be kept in the film when some executives not familiar with the worlds of Star Trek wanted it cut out.

Reflect on Star Trek at 50

What can I say, Star Trek will forever be with us. It stands the test of time and perseveres. Many of the fans I meet are in their teens or early 20’s now, and have become avid fans in their youth. That says to me how strong Star Trek will always be.

Talk about your interaction with the Trek fans

Mr. Nimoy had strongly advised me about the responsibilities of Star Trek actors. He told me that Star Trek would be with me the rest of my life and how he himself took that responsibility very seriously. I assured him I would do the same as I was representing his character at a different stage of life. As a result, I always give to the fans as much as I possibly can, answering their questions and even Pon Farr-ing in pictures with my wonderful fan ladies who have shown such wonderful support. They are all great people and I am always taken with the fact that they remember me.

What is Star Trek: Progeny?

Star Trek Progeny was a high end fan based web series that was slated to begin production, however production is postponed until further notice. I have however taken part in a Star Trek Excelsior Internet Radio Program which features the voices of many Star Trek actors and actresses, Ms. Curtis and Ms. Nichols included. Enthusiasm and followings for these projects is always high and the people wonderful.

What's your take on the reboot of Trek and the latest movies?

The movies were great. A throwback to the original series which I always encourage. And now, Star Trek Discovery. Very pleased to see another series to continue the universe.

You have been really busy this year with no less than 6 projects--all at various stages in the pipeline. Of course some will bow in 2017. Can you talk about them for me? I am particularly jazzed by Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter and  Curse of the Phantom Shadow.

Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter is a Sci Fi / Action film by Director Neil Johnson and starring actress Tracey Birdsall. Also appearing are Daz Crawford from “Agents of Shield” and William Kirtcher from “The Hobbit”. Cannot give away the plot or story, but action fans and Sci Fi fans should be pleased. Neil creates incredible worlds and this is his biggest film yet, as Tracey says: “ This one is EPIC.” Curse of the Phantom Shadow is a stylised 1940’s era serial type project by filmmaker Mark Ross. In place of spaceships and robots, we have B-25 Bombers, Burma, Whiskey, Secret Agents and Varga Girls. How’s that one..!!

Sounds pretty cool. I like horror flicks Ghosthunters was released recently--talk about filming that movie and The challenges of playing Henry.

All of the characters in Ghosthunters had very high emotional stakes. I d prepared my auditions for Pearry by rehearsing with my grandpa who is now in a mausoleum…! I often visit him, but now we had a great role to prepare for, so I brought my fold up chair, a large coffee, and worked the scenes in his presence for hours. Hows that for method,,! The film was written and directed by Pearry Teo whose goal was to craft a serious gothic horror film for The Asylum which is known mostly for it’s tongue in cheek “mockbusters”. What resulted from everyone's hard work was a highly dramatic film with elements of the older Hammer films of the 1960’s but shot with Pearry’s unique style that included some SteamPunk flourishes. Francesca Santoro, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Web Crystal, Phyllis Spielman and myself found ourselves in this fantastic historic home rehearsing and acting out what was really a Gothic horror play. It was an incredible experience for all of us and a wonderful opportunity to help Pearry deliver something new for this company, who were shocked at the dailies they were seeing. I was so wrought after playing Henry that it took a couple of weeks to heal. So proud of everyone I worked with. There were no best or worst days. The whole production was first class.

 What do you like to do when you are not working?

I cannot remember, thank goodness I have been blessed with quite a lot of work recently so am focused on that. I have cherished playing in the pool lately with my little girl who is now 9. After some fear of the water, she is now swimming “ like Pac-Man” under and above the water. I am so proud of her.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be an actor?

As with any Art, find the best instructors that you can and be willing to work very hard on both yourself and the work. Being an actor, one is exposed, there is no canvas to protect you. You have to be willing and ready to open yourself up for your art. Not always easy to do for any actor or actress including the ones you admire. You will be training for the rest of your life.

Your chance to say anything else...

Thank you so much Tom. I can talk forever on these things so I better let you rest..!

I am so very grateful to Stephen. He is one of the nicest industry folk that I have met in my travels. He was so understanding about my hand injury--the interview was a bit unorthodox to say the least. He also gave me as much time as I needed so that I could do this interview for you guys. I hope at some point down the road that we will be able to chat again. In the meantime be sure to "Like" his  Facebook Page and follow him on  Twitter. Thanks again Stephen! And to you guys my loyal readers--as Spock might say: "Peace And Long Life"...

1 comment:

Brittani Burnham said...

This was a great interview, thanks for sharing. :)