Being a Character Actor
Everything I Could Ever Tell You About…
NAME: G. W. Bailey | AGE: 61 | HOMETOWN: Port Arthur | QUALIFICATIONS: Sergeant Rizzo in the M*A*S*H television series / Captain Harris in the Police Academy movies / Detective Lieutenant Provenza in TNT’s The Closer
• My mother died when I was seven, and every kid who loses a parent at that age has to find a way to cope. Going to the movies became my escape, and I watched all the stars, from Lash La Rue to Joan Collins.
• I went to Texas Tech University on a small speech scholarship, and I had to be on the debate team. But the people I really liked, the cool guys, were the theater students. They all dressed in black and didn’t bathe much, but they were a lot of fun. To me they were like Broadway actors.
• My approach to playing various roles doesn’t change a great deal. I make sure that the integrity of the character is protected and that I play the note I’m hired for.
• When I moved to L.A., I took every guest shot I could: I did Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch, and ChiPs. Nothing against Erik Estrada—he’s a very nice man—but I think ChiPs was the nadir of my career.
• My role as Thaddeus Harris in the Police Academy movies closed some doors, but it opened some as well. It took me all around the world, and it got me good seats at some pretty nice restaurants.
• The greatest single moment about being an actor is when you get the phone call that they want you. You will never match that high.
• When I worked on M*A*S*H, it was heady stuff to be in the number one show in the country and one of the greatest shows ever. I would just wave to go through the guard gate at Twentieth Century Fox. I’m from a small refinery town, and there I was, driving into the lot, waving at the guard. That was a big deal to me.
• Your passion for acting always remains the same. Only the size of the venue changes.
• You don’t get a lot of rehearsal time in television. It’s not like a feature film, where you get forty takes. You can get forty takes in television, but you’ll be working at the shoe store the following week.
• This is my thirtieth year with a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card, but I would never say that because I’ve been around the longest, I deserve this or I deserve that. That’s absolute baloney. This business doesn’t owe me anything.
• A lot of my friends say, “Why don’t they write more dialogue for you in The Closer?” And I say, “Because they’re not stupid.” If I had too much dialogue, I would be like Marlon Brando. I would have to have it written on the walls.
• If you want to be a movie star, go to Hollywood, get some great pictures made, wait tables, and try to get discovered. If you want to be an actor, then go to the theater and start studying.
• After all this time in the business, I still get a little nervous.