Transcript: Al Waxman | Feb 01, 1998

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of production assistants touching-up on a guest’s make-up in a park: “Al Waxman. Actor.”

Richard Ouzounian appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a black suit, cehckered shirt, and burgundy tie. He sits in a park, in the shade, on a sunny day.

He says I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
“ATTENTION MUST BE PAID.”
THE LINE IS SPOKEN
ABOUT WILLY LOMAN
IN DEATH OF A SALESMAN.
AND IT SHOULD
BE SPOKEN AGAIN
ABOUT THE MAN YOU'RE
GOING TO MEET.
WE'VE TAKEN HIM FOR
GRANTED FOR YEARS.
WE THINK WE KNOW HIM.
THIS LAST SUMMER IN
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
AT THE STRATFORD
FESTIVAL, WE LEARNED
A LOT MORE ABOUT HIM.
THAT'S WHY THIS DIALOGUE
IS WITH AL WAXMAN.

Al is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with receding gray hair. He’s wearing a gray suit and a khaki shirt.

Richard continues AL, I HAVE TO TELL YOU I'M
SHARING THE FEELINGS OF,
I THINK, A LOT
OF PEOPLE.
WE THINK WE
HAD YOU DOWN.
OH YEAH,
KING OF
KENSINGTON,
OH YEAH,
CAGNEY AND LACEY,
WE KNOW HIM.
DID YOU ALL ALONG FEEL YOU
HAD WILLY LOMAN INSIDE YOU?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Al Waxman. Actor."

Al says I DIDN'T THINK
OF IT THAT WAY.
I CERTAINLY WAS
IMPRESSED WITH THE PLAY
WAY BACK THERE IN COLLEGE
WHEN I STUDIED IT.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY
IT CAME UP A FEW TIMES,
INCLUDING HERE, BY THE
WAY, BACK WHEN JOHN HIRSCH
WAS HERE, AND AGAIN AT
THE ST. LAWRENCE CENTRE.
BUT I WAS ALWAYS
DOING TELEVISION.
I WAS ALWAYS INTO
SOMETHING ELSE.
I'VE ALWAYS FELT THIS WAS
A VERY IMPORTANT PLAY.
A PLAY I COULD
RELATE TO.
A PART I COULD
RELATE TO.
AND NOW, FINALLY,
THE TIME WAS RIGHT,
THE AGE WAS RIGHT,
THE PLACE WAS RIGHT.
I LOVE BEING HERE.
AND IT'S ALL
FALLEN TOGETHER.

Richard says I WANT TO GO BACK A BIT
AND GET US UP TO HERE.
A LOT OF US JUST
BECAME ACQUAINTED
WITH YOU REALLY GETTING
INTO YOUR CAREER.
BUT WHAT WAS THE BEGINNING
OF IT LIKE?
WHAT MADE AL
WAXMAN WANT TO ACT
WHEN HE STARTED OUT?

Al says I HAVE NO IDEA.
I HAVE NO IDEA, EXCEPT - I
DON'T KNOW, I JUST - ONE DAY,
RICHARD, I DON'T KNOW
HOW TO EXPLAIN IT.
WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD.
I'M 62, I'VE BEEN IN THE
BUSINESS NOW 50 YEARS
I'M PROUD TO SAY.
WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD, AND
I WAS THE KIND OF KID
THAT PLAYED BALL AND HOCKEY,
NOT THE KIND OF KID
THAT DID PLAYS,
SOMETHING POSSESSED ME,
AND I WROTE A ONE ACT PLAY
ABOUT DAGWOOD BUMSTEAD
AND BLONDIE.

Richard says REMEMBER THEM, YEAH.

Al says AND I PLAYED
DAGWOOD BUMSTEAD.
AND WE PUT IT ON
AT SOMEONE'S HOUSE
ACROSS THE STREET, THEY
HAD A RUMPUS ROOM.
AND WE INVITED ALL THE
PEOPLE ON THE STREET,
THE ADULTS FOR A NICKEL,
AND THE KIDS FOR TWO CENTS,
AND WE MADE 2.50 CENTS, AND
THAT WENT TO THE RED CROSS.
SO IN ONE STROKE, I REALLY
GOT INVOLVED AT THE AGE
OF 12 WITH SOME AVENUES
I WAS GOING TO PURSUE
FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
THAT WAS ACTING, DIRECTING,
I'M NOT A WRITER,
BUT I DID WRITE THAT,
AND COMMUNITY WORK.

Richard says RIGHT.
IT'S AMAZING.
YOU SEE THAT WHOLE
THING, AND ALSO,
YOU CAN SEE IN DAGWOOD
BUMSTEAD IS AN EARLY BIT
OF THE KING COMING IN
THERE JUST A BIT.
OKAY YOU WANT TO DO
IT AT 12, BACK THEN,
WHERE DID A GUY GO TO
TRAIN IN THIS COUNTRY?

Al says WELL, NOT A LOT.
THERE WAS AN ACTING TEACHER WHO
HAD A CLASS OF YOUNG ACTORS,
AND AN OFFSHOOT OF
HER CLASS WAS A RADIO SHOW
CALLED
DOORWAY TO
FAIRY LAND
AT THE CBC.
AND I STUDIED WITH HER, AND
I WAS ONE OF THE STUDENTS
THAT GOT ON TO
DOORWAY
TO FAIRY LAND.

Richard says AT WHAT AGE
WOULD THIS BE?

Al says 14.

Richard says OKAY.

Al says SO I STUDIED
WITH HER.
THEN I STUDIED WITH A WOMAN
CALLED JOSEPHINE BARRINGTON,
WHO I ALWAYS REFER TO
AS MY MADAM SOUSATZKA.
SHE WAS A WONDERFUL
TEACHER, AND SHE PROBABLY
WORKED OUT HERE.
SHE GOT ME MY FIRST JOB IN THE
SUMMER STOCK WHEN I WAS 18
AT THE NIAGARA FALLS
SUMMER THEATRE.
AND LIKE THAT, I WAS
ALWAYS GOING TO SCHOOL,
AND ALWAYS ACTING.
TV STARTED
HERE IN 1952.
AND I AUDITIONED
FOR EVA LANGBORD
DO YOU REMEMBER HER?
SHE WAS THE FIRST CASTING
DIRECTOR AT THE CBC.
AND WITHIN A COUPLE
OF YEARS AFTER THAT,
I WAS ON MY FIRST SHOW.
I GUESS BY 1954 WAS MY FIRST
TIME ON LIVE TELEVISION,
WHERE THERE WAS NO A.D.
THERE WAS A
LITTLE RED LIGHT.
AND I MUST TELL YOU,
THERE WOULD BE A LOT
OF PERSPIRATION IN
MY HAND WAITING
FOR THAT RED
LIGHT TO GO ON.
ANYWAY, IT'S BEEN LIKE
THAT OVER THE YEARS.

Richard says FROM THE BEGINNING, DID
YOU LEAN MORE TOWARDS
COMEDY OR
CHARACTER WORK?
WHAT DID YOU
FIND YOURSELF IN?

Al says I DON'T KNOW.
I ALWAYS THOUGHT
OF IT AS ACTING.
AND APROPOS OF
MILLER, LET'S SAY.
I DON'T THINK
THERE'S A GOOD PLAY,
NO MATTER HOW
DRAMATIC IT IS,
THAT DOESN'T HAVE
SOME COMEDY IN IT.
NOR DO I THINK THERE'S
A GOOD SERIOUS ACTOR
OR TRAGEDIAN, WHO
DOESN'T HAVE A SENSE
OF COMEDY AND TIMING.

Richard says RIGHT.

Al says SOME OF THE BEST
COMEDIANS HAVE DONE SOME
INCREDIBLY GOOD
DRAMATIC WORK.
LIKE JACKIE GLEASON,
FOR EXAMPLE.
HE WAS VERY, VERY GOOD
AS A DRAMATIC ACTOR.
SO I THINK, YOU
KNOW, IT'S LIKE LIFE.
I MEAN, NO MATTER WHAT
TERRIBLE THING HAPPENS,
THERE'S GOT TO BE SOME
HUMOUR SOMEWHERE.

Richard says SO BACK GOING ALONG THROUGH
THE '50s AND THE '60s,
WERE YOU ABLE TO MAKE A
DECENT LIVING WORKING
IN CANADIAN SHOW
BUSINESS ALL THAT TIME,
OR WAS IT STILL BECAUSE OF
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST,
A LITTLE CATCH
AS CATCH CAN?

Al says WELL, I WAS ABLE
TO PAY THE RENT,
BUT THEN I LIVED AT HOME;
IT WAS A LITTLE EASIER.
BUT, YOU KNOW, THERE
WAS NOT A LOT OF WORK
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.
EVERYBODY WANTED
TO BE OLDER.
PEOPLE WANTED TO
WEAR SUITS AND TIES.
TODAY, PEOPLE WANT
TO BE YOUNGER.

Richard says THEY WANT TO
BE YOUNGER.

Al says SO THERE WAS NOT
A LOT OF WORK.
THERE WERE NOT
A LOT OF ROLES.
BUT THERE WAS NOT A
LOT OF COMPETITION.
SO TODAY THERE ARE A LOT
OF ROLES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE,
BUT THERE'S A LOT
OF COMPETITION.
SO MAYBE IT'S SIX OF
ONE-HALF A DOZEN OF ANOTHER.
BUT I WAS ABLE
TO WORK.
BUT I HAD GONE
TO LAW SCHOOL.
AND THEN I LEFT LAW SCHOOL
TO GO TO THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
PLAYHOUSE SCHOOL, THE
THEATRE IN NEW YORK.

Richard says RIGHT.

Al says WHERE I HAD A
SCHOLARSHIP, HAPPILY.
SO I DIDN'T
HAVE TO PAY.
ONE THING LED TO
ANOTHER, AND I ACTED.
I PERIODICALLY WOULD GET
DISENCHANTED WITH ACTING.

Richard says WHAT WOULD BOTHER
YOU ABOUT IT?

Al says DIDN'T SEEM ENOUGH.
SO WHEN THAT WOULD HAPPEN,
I WOULD WANT TO TRAVEL
OR DO SOMETHING ELSE.
AND I REMEMBER GOING TO
ENGLAND AROUND 1960, '61,
AND FUNNILY ENOUGH,
A TELEVISION SHOW
I HAD DONE IN CANADA WAS ON
TELEVISION IN THE U.K.

Richard says REALLY?

Al says AND I WENT THERE
TO BE A TOURIST,
AND I SUDDENLY FOUND
MYSELF WORKING.
AND FOR THREE YEARS, I
WAS IN REP, AND IN FILMS.
AND THEN I DECIDED
TO COME BACK.
I WAS PLAYING MOSTLY
AMERICAN ROLES,
ALTHOUGH I DID GET
OFFERED BILLY LIAR TO DO
IN THE NORTH
COUNTRY, BY THE WAY.
WHICH WOULD HAVE
BEEN INTERESTING.

Richard says WERE YOU EVER TEMPTED TO
STAY THERE FOR A WHILE,
LIKE MORDECAI
RICHLER DID?

Al says I WAS THERE AROUND THE
TIME RICHLER WAS THERE.

Richard says YEAH.

Al says A LOT OF CANADIANS
WERE THERE.

Richard says AND SOME OF THEM STAYED
LONGER THAN OTHERS.
BUT YOU CAME BACK
AFTER THREE YEARS.

Al says NO, I FELT THAT I HAD TO
COMPETE IN A TOUGHER BALLPARK.
BECAUSE I WAS GETTING
A LOT OF WORK,
AND I WAS ALWAYS A TOUGH
TASK MASTER ON MYSELF.
AND I THOUGHT, I'M
GETTING AMERICAN WORK,
WHY DON'T YOU GO COMPETE
WHERE IT'LL BE TOUGHER.
SO I WENT BACK TO NEW YORK,
AND THEN TO LOS ANGELES,
AND I DID WORK IN NEW YORK,
AND I DID WORK IN LOS ANGELES.
AND THEN IN ABOUT
1967, THE CFDC STARTED.
AND I HAD, BY THAT TIME,
NOT ONLY STUDIED ACTING
AT THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
PLAYHOUSE, BUT I HAD STUDIED
DIRECTING AT THE LONDON
SCHOOL OF FILM TECHNIQUE.
BECAUSE ACTING SOMETIMES
SEEMED INADEQUATE.
I WANTED TO DO MORE.
AND I TRIED TO WRITE, AND I
REALLY WASN'T ALL THAT GOOD.
BUT IT WAS GOOD EXERCISE
TO WRITE, AS AN ACTOR,
AS A DIRECTOR, TO
EXPLORE, TO STRETCH.
AND IT WAS WORTHWHILE
STUDYING FILM THERE.
VERY GOOD SCHOOL.
SO ONE THING LED TO ANOTHER,
AND WE WERE BACK HERE IN
'67, AND I WAS ONE OF THE
FIRST PEOPLE TO GET INTO
WHAT IS NOW TELEFILM,
BUT WAS THEN CFDC,
AND I DID SOME FILM WORK
WITH THEIR ASSISTANCE.

Richard says NOW, PEOPLE WANT
TO LOOK BACK.
WAS THAT ANY KIND
OF A GOLDEN TIME?
OR WAS IT JUST THERE WAS A
LOT OF MONEY ON THE TABLE
AND PEOPLE WERE LEARNING.

Al says I THINK PEOPLE
WERE LEARNING.
THERE WAS, FOR A PERIOD, A
LOT OF MONEY ON THE TABLE
IN THAT THERE WAS
A FORMULA WHEREBY,
LET'S SAY A FILM
COST 300,000 dollars,
YOU COULD RAISE ALL OF IT
AND WRITE OFF MOST OF IT.
I CAN'T REMEMBER
EXACTLY HOW,
BUT THE DISTRIBUTOR WOULD
COME UP WITH 100 dollars,
THE CFDC 100 dollars AND THE
PRIVATE SECTOR WITH 100 dollars,
AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR
COULD CLAIM THE WHOLE 300 dollars.
SO THAT WAS A BIT OF A
GOLDEN EGG, AS YOU SAY.
BUT IT BURST PRETTY QUICKLY
BECAUSE THE PHILOSOPHY
AT THE TIME WAS RATHER
YOU WIN BY LOSING.
WHICH IS NO WAY TO
CREATE AN INDUSTRY.
I WOULD THINK A SMART
BUSINESSMAN WOULD HAVE
WANTED US TO MAKE HIS
TAX PROBLEM WORSE.

Richard says RIGHT.
THEY RAN OUT OF PEOPLE WHO
WERE WILLING TO KEEP POURING
MONEY DOWN THE HOLE.

Al says BUT WE'VE DONE
WELL OVER THE YEARS,
AND A LOT OF TERRIFIC
COMPANIES ARE NOW WORKING
HERE IN CANADA, AND
SURVIVING AND FLOURISHING.
SO THERE WERE GROWING PAINS,
BUT I THINK WE'RE DOING WELL,
PARTICULARLY IN
THE TELEVISION INDUSTRY.
THE FILM INDUSTRY
IS TOUGHER.

Richard says NOW, GOING BACK TO THOSE
TIMES IN THE '50s AND '60s,
THERE WAS STILL A CERTAIN
KIND OF COLONIALISM
GOING ON HERE.
THERE WERE PEOPLE IN
CHARGE AT CBC WHO
AT THAT POINT STILL HAD
THE BRITISH ACCENT.
AND THE PLUMMY VOICE, AND
YOU HAD TO SOUND LIKE
LORNE GREENE TO GET ON.
DID YOU FIND THAT
KIND OF A WALL?

Al says I CAN REMEMBER AS A KID,
WHEN I WAS ON THAT SHOW
DOORWAY TO FAIRY LAND,
WHICH WAS VERY EXCITING
FOR ME TO BE ON LIVE RADIO
EVERY SATURDAY MORNING,
BUT I REMEMBER
FEELING VERY NERVOUS
BECAUSE OF MY ACCENT,
WHICH WAS CANADIAN.

Richard says RIGHT.

Al says YOU KNOW, THERE WAS A BIT
OF AN ATTITUDE TOWARDS
THINGS AMERICAN, AND
FAVOURING THINGS BRITISH.
AND I THINK THAT WAS AT
THE ROOT OF SOME OF
OUR PROBLEMS CULTURALLY,
IN THAT THERE WAS A LOT
OF CONFUSION COMING FROM
THE CULTURE INFLUENCERS,
IF YOU WILL, WHO MIGHT SAY,
WELL, WE'RE NOT AMERICAN.
ARE WE BRITISH?
WELL, WE'RE NOT BRITISH,
THEY'RE 3,000 MILES AWAY.
HERE WE ARE IN
NORTH AMERICA,
NEIGHBOURS WITH AMERICA.
SO THERE WOULD BE A
CONFUSION, WE'RE NOT THIS,
WE'RE NOT THAT.
AND I'M VERY PROUD OF
KING OF KENSINGTON,
WHICH HAPPENED
MUCH LATER.
IT HAPPENED IN MID-'70s
BECAUSE I THINK WE WERE
ONE OF THE FIRST SHOWS,
WITH PERHAPS THE BLESSED
EXCEPTION OF JOHNNY WAYNE
AND FRANK SHUSTER
WHO CAME OUT AND
SAID WE ARE.
THIS IS WHAT WE ARE.
WE'RE EAST, WE'RE
WEST, WE'RE FRENCH,
WE'RE ENGLISH, WE'RE WHITE,
WE'RE BLACK, WE ARE.
YOU KNOW?
THERE WERE MANY, YOU KNOW,
I GUESS THERE WERE SOME
EPISODES, WHEN I LOOK
BACK AT THEM NOW,
COULD HAVE BEEN CRISPER,
COULD HAVE BEEN THIS,
COULD HAVE BEEN THAT, BUT
THERE WAS AN HONESTY.
THERE WAS A RAWNESS,
THERE WAS AN ENERGY,
THERE WAS A POSITIVISM.

Richard says THAT'S WHAT I WAS
GOING TO ASK YOU.
PEOPLE REMEMBER THAT
SHOW VERY FONDLY.
A LOT OF THE SHOWS FROM
THE LAST 20, 30 YEARS,
IT'S THE ONE THAT
IN PEOPLE'S MEMORY
HAS AGED THE BEST.
THEY STILL THINK
FONDLY OF IT.

Al says WELL, I THINK WE
STRUCK A CHORD.
YOU KNOW,
TELEVISION, FOR ME,
IS A MEDIUM OF
FAMILIARITY.
YOU KNOW?
IT'S A CLOSE-UP MEDIUM.
YOU GET CLOSE TO THE
PEOPLE ON THE SCREEN.
YOU LET THEM INTO YOUR
HOUSE, OR YOU DON'T.
AND SO IF YOU ARE GOING
TO LET THEM INTO YOUR HOUSE,
IT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE
TOUCHING SOME CHORD
IN YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.
AND I THINK WE
DID WITH KING.
AND THAT PERHAPS IS AS
IMPORTANT AS HOW SKILLFUL
YOU ARE AT COMEDY, WHICH
IS NOT UNIMPORTANT.
WE HAD TO BE
GOOD AT THAT.
BUT THERE ARE OTHER
SHOWS THAT WERE FUNNIER.
HOW SKILLFUL YOU WERE AT
STORYTELLING, AND PACING.
I LOOK AT SOME OF THE
SHOWS, AND I SAY, JEEZ,
THE PACE WAS OFF THERE, OR
THE ENERGY COULD HAVE BEEN
MORE HERE, WHATEVER, BUT
WHEN YOU PUT ALL THE FACTORS
TOGETHER, THE RESULT WAS A
SHOW THAT TOUCHED A CHORD.
AND IT WAS BECAUSE,
I THINK, WE LEANED
VERY MUCH ON CHARACTER.
AND WE HAD FIGHTS
EVERY WEEK.
CONSTRUCTIVE FIGHTS
WHERE SOMEBODY WOULD
COUNT HOW MANY JOKES
WE HAD ON THE PAGE.
AND THEN SOMEONE ELSE,
NAMELY ME, WOULD SAY,
I'M NOT INTERESTED
IN HOW MANY JOKES.
I WANT TO KNOW HOW
HONEST THE CHARACTER IS,
HOW BELIEVABLE THE
CHARACTER IS HERE.
AND I BELIEVE THAT
COMBINATION OF HONESTY
AND CHARACTER AND SKILL
IN PLAYING LET US SAY,
RATHER THAN TALK ABOUT ME,
LET'S TALK ABOUT FIONA,
WHO WAS SUCH A
SKILLFUL ACTRESS,
AND DID SUCH A BEAUTIFUL
JOB IN TERMS OF THE COMEDY,
IN TERMS OF THE
BELIEVABILITY.
AND THAT, I THINK, HELPED
TOUCH A CHORD WITH THE AUDIENCE.

Richard says WHEN YOU LOOK
BACK ON IT NOW,
WE ASSOCIATE YOU SO
CLOSELY WITH THE PART,
BUT WHEN THEY SET
OUT TO CREATE IT,
WERE THEY LOOKING FOR
YOU, OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU?

Al says NO.
I HAD MY FIRST MEETINGS,
I HAD JUST FINISHED
DIRECTING A MOVIE.
AND PERRY ROSEMONT, WHO WAS
THE - SUCH A POMPOUS WORD
IN TELEVISION, THE CREATOR.
HE CREATED THE STORY.
I LIKE TO SAY HE
THOUGHT UP THE IDEA.
ANYWAY, HE CAME
TO ME, HE SAID, AL,
THERE'S A SHORT LIST OF
WRITERS AND DIRECTORS
AND COMEDY IN
THIS COUNTRY.
YOU GOT TO REMEMBER, THIS
IS BEFORE
SECOND CITY,
THIS IS LONG
BEFORE
AIR FARCE,
AND GROUPS LIKE THAT.
I READ THE STUFF.
AND I SAID, FUNNY.
I'D LIKE TO DIRECT,
I'D LIKE TO WRITE,
BUT THIS SOUNDS
LIKE SOMETHING
I SHOULD BE PLAYING.
AND HE SAYS, FUNNY YOU
SHOULD MENTION THAT.
AND ONE THING
LED TO ANOTHER.

Richard says AND THEN YOU WERE
INTO IT, AND IT LASTED.
WHEN IT WAS GOING
ON, DID YOU EVER,
FIRST OF ALL EVER
THINK IT WAS GOING TO
CONTINUE AS
LONG AS I DID?

Al says YES.

Richard says YOU DID, EH?

Al says THAT MIGHT SOUND - WELL,
I'LL TELL YOU A TRUE STORY.
EVERYTHING I'M TELLING YOU
IS TRUE, BUT IF YOU RECALL,
THERE WAS
WOJECK
AT THAT TIME.
AND
WOJECK
WAS A
VERY SUCCESSFUL SHOW,
THE FIRST YEAR
OR SO OF IT.
AND I SAY THAT BECAUSE
THEY LOST JOHN VERNON.
THEY COULD ONLY DO
ONE OR TWO YEARS,
I CAN'T REMEMBER,
TWO YEARS, MAYBE.
AND WHAT HAPPENED WAS, THERE
WAS A SNOBBISH ATTITUDE
TOWARDS TELEVISION, EVEN
FROM PEOPLE IN TELEVISION.
AND WHAT HAPPENED WAS THAT
THEY ALMOST DIDN'T KNOW WHAT
IT WAS THAT MADE
WOJECK
SO SUCCESSFUL.
AND ONE OF THE KEY FACTORS
WAS JOHN VERNON'S CHEMISTRY
IN THE PART OF WOJECK.
CHEMISTRY WITH THE ROLE,
CHEMISTRY WITH THE PEOPLE,
CHEMISTRY WITH THE AUDIENCE.
HE WAS TERRIFIC.
SHOW WAS SUCCESSFUL.
AND THEY NEVER STOPPED
TO CONTRACT HIM.
HE MADE BIG IMPACT IN
THE U.S., AND SOMEONE,
AND HE JUST LEFT FOR
THE U.S., AND SUDDENLY
THEY DIDN'T HAVE A SHOW.
SO WHEN THEY CAME TO
ME, THEY SAID, LISTEN,
WE'VE LEARNED A
LESSON WITH
WOJECK,
AND WE'VE GOT TO SIGN YOU
TO A THREE-YEAR CONTRACT.
BUT DON'T WORRY,
YOU'LL DO 13 OF THESE,
AND IT'LL BE OVER.
AND I SAID, ARE
YOU KIDDING?
IF I SIGN THIS CONTRACT,
IT'S GOING TO BE
FOR THREE YEARS,
PLUS ANOTHER TWO.
I SAID, IF I DO THIS,
WE'RE GOING TO DO IT
FOR FIVE YEARS.
AND WE DID.

Richard says I REMEMBER COMING, YEARS
BEFORE I'D EVER MET YOU,
I HAD JUST MOVED
TO TORONTO,
AND MY WIFE AND I SAID, LET'S
GO WATCH THEM TAPE KING.
AND WE WENT DOWN ON A FRIDAY
NIGHT, I THINK IT WAS.

Al says WHERE WERE
YOU FROM?

Richard says WHAT?
FROM VANCOUVER.

Al says OH, REALLY.

Richard says AND I CAME OUT,
AND I THOUGHT,
LET'S WATCH
IT GO ON.
AND I WAS SURPRISED AT
HOW INTIMATE IT WAS.
AND THERE WAS A REAL KIND
OF FAMILY THING GOING ON.
AND I REMEMBER
ACTUALLY SEEING,
THERE WAS SOME KIND OF A
LITTLE SQUABBLE GOING ON
A BIT ABOUT SHOULD WE DO THIS
AGAIN, OR DO THAT AGAIN,
BACK AND FORTH,
AND I THOUGHT, WOW,
THIS IS SO CANADIAN,
IN A GOOD WAY BECAUSE
EVERYTHING IS KIND
OF HANGING OUT.
DID YOU MIND HAVING THE
PEOPLE AROUND ALL THE TIME?
DID YOU LOVE THEM?

Al says NO, IT WAS GOOD.
AND I WAS VERY PROUD
OF THE FACT THAT
THAT WAS REAL LAUGHTER
ON THE LAUGH TRACK.
IT WAS SWEETENED, I'M
NOT GOING TO LIE TO YOU.
IT MAY HAVE BEEN
HEIGHTENED HERE OR THERE.
JUST TECHNICALLY, THEY
WOULD HAVE TO DO IT
TO MAKE IT SOUND
AS LOUD AS IT WAS.
BUT THAT WAS REAL LAUGHTER
ON THE LAUGH TRACK.

Richard says AND THEY WERE
REAL PEOPLE.
I MEAN, THAT WAS
THE OTHER THING.
YOU WEREN'T WATCHING
WITH TOURISTS,
YOU WERE WATCHING
WITH KENSINGTON FANS.
NOW, WHEN IT WAS ALL OVER,
WHAT DID YOU THINK
WAS GOING TO
HAPPEN FOR YOU?
I MEAN, DID YOU
HAVE ANY IDEA?
DID YOU EXPECT YOU WOULD
HAVE GONE TO A PLACE
WHERE YOU COULD THEN
WRITE YOUR OWN BILL?

Al says I DID HAVE A DEVELOPMENT
DEAL WITH THE CBC.
AND I'M OFTEN SORRY, IN
SPITE OF
CAGNEY AND LACEY,
THAT WE NEVER PURSUED
ONE OF THE STORIES,
WHICH FRANKLY, WOULD HAVE
PUT CANADA IN A POSITION
WHERE IT WOULD HAVE
PREDATED
HILL STREET
AND SHOWS LIKE
THAT IN THE U.S.
BUT WITHOUT NAMING NAMES,
CERTAIN PEOPLE AT THE CBC
WERE KIND OF COWARDLY
BECAUSE THEY FELT
IF THE SHOW WAS
SUCCESSFUL, WE WOULD
OFFEND SOMEBODY
EVERY WEEK,
EITHER THIS ETHNIC GROUP,
OR THAT ETHNIC GROUP.

Richard says SO WHAT KIND
OF SHOW WAS IT?

Al says IT WAS CALLED
ETHNIC SQUAD.

Richard says ETHNIC SQUAD.

Al says AND THERE WAS
AN ETHNIC SQUAD,
NOW THE WHOLE POLICE FORCE
IS IDEALLY AN ETHNIC SQUAD,
BUT AT THAT TIME, IT
WAS 1980, I GUESS,
THERE WAS AN ETHNIC SQUAD
WITH REPRESENTATIVES
OF ALL THE DIFFERENT
FLAVOURS, IF YOU WILL,
OF THE COMMUNITY,
DEALING WITH PROBLEMS.
AND THEY HAD
ONE CAPTAIN,
THAT WOULD HAVE
BEEN MY CHARACTER.
THAT WAS TRUE.
AND WE HAD QUITE
A STRONG CONCEPT.
AND THE FIRST SCRIPT
WAS REJECTED BECAUSE
IT OFFENDED
CERTAIN GROUPS.
AND, YOU KNOW, YOU
CAN'T WORRY AT THAT.
THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN EVERY
WEEK ON A STRONG SHOW.
AGAIN, I THINK THEY WERE
WEAK IN THAT THEY SAID,
THEY JUST KIBOSHED
IT, I GUESS,
I CAN'T
REMEMBER NOW.
BUT IN THOSE DAYS, I
REMEMBER IN LOS ANGELES,
IF YOU HAD A GREAT IDEA
AND A BAD SCRIPT, OKAY,
SO YOU GOT RID
OF THE SCRIPT,
YOU GOT SOMEONE ELSE TO
WRITE ANOTHER SCRIPT.
BECAUSE GOOD IDEAS DON'T
HAPPEN EVERY 20 MINUTES.
SO I WAS RATHER SORRY
THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN.
BUT
CAGNEY AND LACEY
HAPPENED, AND I WAS VERY,
VERY HAPPY ABOUT THAT.
CAGNEY AND LACEY
HAPPENED
IN A REALLY INTERESTING WAY.
I HAD WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY,
TOGETHER WITH TED ALLEN.
DO YOU REMEMBER
TED ALLEN?

Richard says SURE, REST
IN PEACE.

Al says WELL, TED WAS MORE
OF IT THAN I WAS.
HE WAS A REALLY GOOD WRITER,
I WAS JUST PART OF THE TEAM.
AND WE WROTE A SCREENPLAY
BASED ON A BOOK,
A CANADIAN BOOK CALLED
THEM DAMN CANADIANS HANGED
LOUIS RIEL, BY A GUY
WHO LIVED IN VANCOUVER,
BY THE WAY, HIS
NAME IS McNAMEE
AND IT WAS A WONDERFUL
WESTERN SCRIPT.
AND WE GOT A LOT OF INTEREST
IN IT FROM PEOPLE LIKE,
ULTIMATELY, IT WAS CLINT
EASTWOOD AND A DIRECTOR
CALLED TED POST.
TED HAD JUST DIRECTED
HIM IN A PICTURE CALLED
HANG 'EM HIGH.
AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED WAS
WESTERNS FELL OUT OF FAVOUR,
AND TED DIRECTED
CLINT EASTWOOD...
TED POST THAT IS, THE FIRST OF
THE MAGNUM,
MAGNUM FORCE,
FIRST OF THE DIRTY
HARRY PICTURES.
BUT IT WAS A GOOD
AND HEALTHY WORKING
RELATIONSHIP, AND I WAS
GOING TO BE A CO-PRODUCER,
AND THE OTHER PRODUCER WAS
GOING TO BE DAVID DORTORT
WHO PRODUCED
BONANZA
AND
HIGH CHAPARRAL.
ANYWAY, GREAT RELATIONSHIPS,
AND THE KIND OF THING
WHERE THE PROJECT
NEVER HAPPENED,
BUT IT SPAWNED
OTHER THINGS.
SO FOR A NUMBER
OF YEARS LATER,
I STAYED FRIENDS WITH TEDDY
POST ALL THE WAY ALONG,
AND IN 1980, HE
MADE A PILOT, M.O.W.,
CALLED
CAGNEY AND LACEY.
AND HE SAID, COME ON, I'M
GOING TO MAKE FOR YOU
IN THE U.S. WHAT
YOU GOT HERE.
AND I GOT A PART IN THE
CAGNEY AND LACEY.
THE PRODUCER, BARNEY ROSENZWEIG,
WHO BY THE WAY IS COMING UP
HERE IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS
TO SEE - WITH SHARON GLESS -
TO SEE
DEATH
OF A SALESMAN,
HE DIDN'T WANT ME.
BECAUSE HE HAD A GUY IN NEW
YORK IN MIND FOR THIS PART.
AND TED POST PREVAILED
UPON HIM AND SAID,
I WANT YOU TO LOOK AT
SOMETHING HE'S JUST DONE
FOR MOSES ZNAIMER, AND
FOR PATRICK WATSON.
I THINK IT WAS CALLED
WITNESS TO YESTERDAY
OR
TITANS OR SOMETHING, AND
I PLAYED LOUIS B. MAYER
WITH PATRICK
INTERVIEWING ME.
AND BARNEY LOOKED AT
THAT, AND THEN I SAW HIM
AT A TENNIS TOURNAMENT THE
NEXT DAY WHERE I WAS PLAYING
WITH WAYNE GRETZKY
AND PEOPLE LIKE THAT.
AND I DIDN'T KNOW WHO THIS
GUY WAS, BARNEY ROSENZWEIG,
I NEVER SAW HIM.
AND HE CAME OVER AND
INTRODUCED HIMSELF.
I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING
TO ASK FOR AN AUTOGRAPH.
I SAID, WHO ARE YOU?
HE SAID, I'M YOUR BOSS.
I SAID, WHAT DO YOU
MEAN YOU'RE MY BOSS?
HE SAID, I JUST SAW
THAT LOUIS B. MAYER
YOU DID, AND YOU SCARED
THE HELL OUT OF ME.
WHEN I WAS A KID, I
WAS A PRESS AGENT
FOR LOUIS B. MAYER, AND YOU
SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME.
AND HE FORGOT ABOUT THE GUY
IN NEW YORK, AND I GOT IT.

Richard says AND IT WAS, OF COURSE,
TREMENDOUSLY SUCCESSFUL
AND HELPED YOU ALONG.
AND THROUGH THIS GREAT
PATH, YOU WIND UP,
LUCKILY FOR ALL OF US, AT
THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL,
DEATH OF A SALESMAN.
IT'S A TREMENDOUS
PERFORMANCE.

Al says THANK YOU.

Richard says BUT ONE THING PUZZLED ME,
AND I HAVE TO START HERE.
HOW DOES A MAN WHO'S HAS SO
MUCH SUCCESS IN HIS LIFE
KNOW HOW TO PLAY
A FAILURE SO WELL?

Al says WELL, I DON'T KNOW ABOUT
THE WORDS “SO MUCH SUCCESS.”
THAT'S RELATIVE.
FIRST OF ALL, I THINK AS
AN ACTOR, OR AN ARTIST,
AS ONE TRIES TO BE,
YOU'RE SENSITIVE
TO OTHER PROBLEMS, TO
OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS,
AND YOU CAN
IDENTIFY WITH.
AND BACK TO YOUR
VERY FIRST QUESTION.
I THINK I COULD IDENTIFY
WITH WILLY A LONG TIME NOW.
A LONG TIME.

Richard says WHAT TOUCHES YOU
IN WILLY LOMAN?

Al says WELL, YOU KNOW, WILLY
LOMAN ISN'T JUST ABOUT
THE AMERICAN DREAM.
I MEAN, THAT'S THE FIRST
THING THAT YOU SEE, OKAY?
THAT'S ON THE SURFACE.
I'M GOING TO TELL
YOU THIS NOW.
YOU'RE THE FIRST GUY I'M
TELLING THIS TO BECAUSE
NOW THE SHOW'S OPEN, I
CAN TALK THIS WAY.
MY FATHER DIED WHEN
I WAS NINE YEARS OLD.
AND I FELT THAT
HE CHEATED ME,
THAT HE SHOULD
HAVE LIVED LONGER.
I FELT HE CHEATED
HIMSELF, TOO,
BUT HE DIDN'T
DIE ON PURPOSE.
HE DIED OF A
HEART ATTACK.
BUT I WAS ONLY
NINE YEARS OLD.
WILLY LOMAN'S
FATHER ABANDONS HIM
WHEN HE'S THREE
YEARS OLD.
I HAD AN OLDER
BROTHER.
HIS NAME WAS BEN.
IN MY REAL LIFE.

Richard says REALLY?

Al says WILLY HAS AN OLDER
BROTHER WHOSE NAME IS BEN.

Richard says YEAH.

Al says IT WAS PERHAPS UNFAIR
OF ME TO TRY AND MAKE
A BIG BROTHER, IF NOT
A FATHER-FIGURE,
OUT OF MY OLDER BROTHER.
BUT HE COULDN'T
BE THAT FOR ME,
BECAUSE HE HAD HIS OWN -
HE HAD TO DEAL WITH
HIS FATHER DYING, TOO.
BUT I FELT THE FATHER
FIGURE WAS GONE,
AND THAT I COULD
RELATE TO WILLY LOMAN.
BECAUSE A FATHER FIGURE
IS GONE IN WILLY LOMAN.
AND THAT IS PERHAPS A MORE
PROFOUND, OR NOT PROFOUND,
BUT MORE FUNDAMENTAL FORCE
IN THE STORY OF WILLY LOMAN.
HE ESPOUSES THE
AMERICAN DREAM BECAUSE
HERE'S A MAN WHO IS REALLY
LOOKING FOR AUTHORITY
AND ANSWERS ALL HIS LIFE.
AND AS HE BUYS INTO
THE AMERICAN DREAM,
HE TRIES TO ACT LIKE
HE HAS AUTHORITY,
AND TRIES TO ACT LIKE HE
KNOWS THE ANSWERS WHILE
HE IS REALLY DESPERATELY
SEARCHING FOR THEM.
SO IN A SENSE, LIKE HIS SON
SAYS TO HIM AT ONE POINT,
YOU'RE A FAKE BECAUSE
THERE IS A LIE THERE.

Richard says IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE I
COULDN'T HAVE KNOWN THIS
WHEN I SAW YOUR
PERFORMANCE,
BUT THE MOMENT THAT HIT ME
THE MOST WAS WHEN WILLY
IS TALKING TO BEN AND HE
SAYS, YOU'VE GOT TO HELP ME
BECAUSE I'M FEELING A LITTLE
TEMPORARY ABOUT MYSELF.
THAT WAS YOUR FEELINGS
TOUCHING WILLY LOMAN'S.

Al says YEAH.
BUT EVEN IF THERE
WASN'T THAT,
IF THERE WEREN'T THOSE
TWO FACTORS TO MAKE
A CONNECTION, I AS AN ACTOR
AND AS ARTIST COULD RELATE
TO WILLY, AND
IDENTIFY WITH.
AND RICHARD, EVERY
TIME I PLAY A PART,
I START FROM THE
ASSUMPTION I AM THE PART.
AND I THINK, AT THE RISK OF
SOUNDING A LITTLE HAUGHTY,
FORGIVE ME, THERE'S A VERY
IMPORTANT DISTINCTION
BETWEEN ME AND WILLY, AND YOU
IMPLIED IT IN YOUR QUESTION.
I'M A WINNER.
WILLY IS NOT.
BUT I COULD STILL
RELATE TO HIM.
AND I'VE PLAYED
GUYS I AM NOT.
I'VE PLAYED BAD GUYS,
I'VE PLAYED MAFIOSOS,
I'VE PLAYED KILLERS, I DON'T
WANT TO HURT ANYONE, YOU KNOW?
YOU SOMEHOW HAVE TO IDENTIFY
WITH THE PART AND TELL
YOURSELF YOU ARE THAT PART.
AND THAT'S THE
WAY YOU WORK IT.
BUT APROPOS OF
THE WORD SUCCESS,
AND HOW MUCH SUCCESS
I'VE HAD IN MY LIFE,
THINGS ARE
RELATIVE, YOU KNOW?
I MIGHT COMPLAIN TO MY
WIFE ABOUT HOW THINGS
ARE FALLING INTO
PLACE FOR SO AND SO
AND THEY'RE JUST
NOT FOR ME.
AND THEN MY WIFE WILL SAY,
DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE
ARE OUT THERE SAYING,
LOOK HOW THINGS
FALL INTO PLACE FOR
WAXMAN, AND NOT FOR -

Richard says RIGHT.

Al says IT'S RELATIVE.
THINGS DON'T ALWAYS HAPPEN
THE WAY YOU WANT THEM TO.
BUT, YOU KNOW, I
REGARD LIFE AND MY ART
AS A NEVER-ENDING PROCESS.
RETIREMENT IS A WORD THAT
IS NOT IN MY DICTIONARY.
AND MAKING IT IS SOMETHING
I LEARNED A LONG TIME AGO
IS A NEVER-ENDING
PROCESS OF MAKING IT.
SO IF YOU COME UP AGAINST
SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T WORK OUT,
YOU SHIFT GEARS AND
YOU MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE,
AND YOU COME UP AGAINST
SOMETHING THAT DOES WORK OUT.

Richard says AL, I'M HAPPY THAT IT'S
WORKED OUT TO THE POINT
WHERE YOU ARE HERE AT
THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL
DOING WILLY LOMAN IN
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
AND I HOPE WE SEE
MORE PERFORMANCES
FROM YOU IN THE FUTURE.
IT'S A GREAT MOMENT
IN THE THEATRE.
THANK YOU.

He faces the screen and concludes
FOR DIALOGUE
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1997, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Al Waxman