Main > Series > Articles/Interviews > Fame's Back Again!
Our American reporter Kay Anderson tells us all about the new series due to start on BBC TV soon.
(April magazine 1983)
When the new series begins next month – as the BBC have promised us it will! – every Fame fan will notice that some changes have been made. There are some interesting new characters and lots of fresh scenery for us to feast our eyes on.
Sadly, two familiar faces from the first series have now departed from our screens. We told you in Issue 2 about the tragic death of actor Michael Thoma, who played drama teacher Greg Crandall. It was difficult for the Fame writers and producers to decide how best to handle his sudden departure from the series. They finally decided that they would refer to him in the first few episodes as though he was still alive. Then, later on in the series, the students at the Performing Arts High School are told that their teacher has died of a heart attack. In reality, Michael Thoma passed away last September.
As the school cannot function without a drama teacher, a new one is soon appointed in the shape of fair-haired, good-looking David Reardon, played by Morgan Stevens. If you think you’ve seen Morgan before, it could well have been in “The Waltons”, in which he appeared as Erin’s husband. He also played Julie’s fiancé in “One Day At A Time”, and starred in the TV film “Bare Essence”. We’ll tell you more about his background in a later issue of the magazine.
In Fame, Mr. Reardon is a man with a battle going on inside him. He can’t decide what he wants to be most, an actor or a teacher, so he is trying to do both at the same time, and burning the candle at both ends as a result! Just what effect this has on his pupils, you’ll soon be able to judge for yourself. . .
The other person we won’t be seeing any more is P.R. Paul, who played Montgomery. He has left the series and has been appearing in guest roles on other shows, such as “ChiPS”, in order to broaden his acting experience. Everyone who worked with him misses him, but being actors and performers themselves they can sympathise with his desire to do as many different jobs as possible, so that he doesn’t get typecast. In the series, his absence is explained by his having transferred to another school. Montgomery’s was always moving around anyway, as his actress mother took jobs in different towns, so his disappearance is quite easy to accept.
Although the new episodes will still centre round Bruno, Julie, Doris, Coco, Leroy and Danny, some of the other students will be getting a bit more of the limelight too, enabling various members of the Fame dance troupe to show us what they can do.
We’ll be introduced to a tall, dark, shy dancer called Michael (played by Michael DeLorenzo), and we’ll also meet a new student named Dwight (played by David Greenlee). Dwight is eager to make friends but is a bit put off by the fact that everyone seems to know everybody else, and he doesn’t know quite what to do to fit in.
The second series also features a greater variety of guest stars. Two famous American dancers, Glynn Turman and Marge Champion, appear in a couple of episodes. Jimmy Osmond appears in two, playing the role of a special student taking drama and music classes at the school.
In another of the new stories, Greg Evigan, famous for his TV appearances in “BJ And The Bear”, plays a country and western singer who has a romance with Doris! As poor Doris had such bad luck with her love-life in the last series, let’s hope she’s destined for happier things in the new one.
Another big difference between this series and the last is that there is more location shooting. Far more of the action takes place off the MGM sets, in parts of downtown Los Angeles specially chosen because they look very similar to New York City. In fact, the very first episode of the second series features a wonderful dance number, which takes place around a fountain, then right round the streets.
Going on location is a complicated and costly business for any show. First of all, the right area has to be found, and then so much is dependent on the weather, on getting permission to divert traffic, and things like that. And of course special technicians and equipment have to be brought in, too. It’s much easier to do the filming inside a studio, with all the facilities at your fingertips. For Fame, location shooting is even more difficult, because the series is supposed to be set in New York whereas it is actually filmed in Los Angeles, where the streets and buildings are all very different. L.A. has no subway trains, for a start, and it’s got lots more trees and shrubs because the climate is so much milder.
One way in which the Fame crew get round the problems of outdoor filming is by taking their own portable imitation subway entrance with them, which they plonk down wherever it’s needed! The props department can even supply a complete New York-style corner news-stand – in L.A. they normally run alongside buildings rather than sprouting up on corners. And the cameramen have to be careful not to get any palm trees or other tropical plants into the picture!
As we’ve mentioned in previous issues, all the permanent Fame sets, like the schoolrooms and cafeteria, are located on soundstage number 26. Now, at last, Fame has been allotted a second soundstage, Stage 28, and the scenery specialists have been busy building lots more sets which will allow us to see more of the insides of the homes of the various Fame characters. Just for starters, we’ll be allowed inside Doris’s house, Miss Sherwood’s and Mr Reardon’s apartments, and Bruno’s amazing basement where he keeps all his complicated electronic equipment.
Having Stage 28 also means that the show has at long last got its very own full-size theatre, which has been specially built for the production. It’s not just a set, it’s an actual working theatre, with moving scenery and backdrops, a proper sound and lighting system, and everything a real theatre would have, including an orchestra pit and an audience section which seats a hundred people!
Before they got their own theatre, the Fame actors and dancers, and the production crew, used to have to go all the way to a proper theatre, which was very time-consuming indeed, whereas now they can simply stroll across the studio set to Stage 28 every time there are any on-stage scenes to be filmed.
The bigger budget they’ve been given for the second series, and the time they’ve saved through constructing their own theatre, has enabled the Fame team to stage even bigger and more exciting production numbers in the new episodes.
A production number, as you may recall, is the name given to the major song and dance routine that they include in each episode and often incorporates lavish costumes and spectacular scenery. In the show in which Greg Evigan guest stars, there’s a fantastic country and western sequence, with a real
C & W band, Western-style dances, sawdust on the floor, a mechanical bucking bull – all in a night club setting which took up about half of the enormous soundstage.
Another episode features the Fame stars dressed as famous characters from history and literature, ranging from Napoleon to Joan of Arc! In another show, there’s a very imaginative and spooky Indian hunting dance. And in the last issue we mentioned a Wizard of Oz number in which all the Kids, and the teachers, too, take the familiar roles of the Lion, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, etc. Miss Sherwood plays the Wicked Witch, in lurid green make-up, and the school sets are transformed into the Land of Oz by the use of giant cut-out flowers, “waterfalls” made of the same type of plastic streamers used in the “Singing In The Rain” number, and green outdoor carpeting for the path.
Lee Curreri wrote one of the new episodes, called “Blood Sweat and Circuits”, and it contains just about the most bizarre sequence in the whole series, combing music and computer graphics. It was an original idea of Lee’s and he’ll be telling us about it in a future issue of the magazine.
Lori Singer, Erica Gimpel and Morgan Stevens have been bitten by the writing bug, too, and have written scripts for the new series. Actress and writer Renee Orin, who is the wife of Albert Hague who plays Professor Shorofsky, has also had a script accepted. It will be interesting to see if Gene Anthony Ray decides to do one!
You can also expect to see a slimmer line-up in the new shows! Lee Curreri decided it was time to change his eating habits, and has lost 25 lbs since he last appeared on the screen. Valerie Landsburg made such a determined and successful effort to lose weight during the first series that, for the last few shows, she had to wear extra layers of clothing so that she would still look liker the same, familiar, rather plump Doris we met in the first few shows! Carlo Imperato has been dieting, too.
So far, no one has got so thin that the camera can’t register them sideways! They’re all there, as large as life if slightly trimmer, and we certainly haven’t got very long to wait now before we can feast our eyes on Fame again.
This interview was provided to me by Elaine.
The article above is from the Official Fame Magazines from 1983. The OFFICIAL FAME MAGAZINE was published by Beat Publications Ltd. and the interviews are copyright MGM/UA Entertainment Co.