Married With Children’s David Garrison,
Sometimes it is the most unexpected things that lead to interviews with talented, interesting people. I am a single father of a fifteen-year-old girl, and one day we were talking about some of our favorite shows, and we discovered that we had something in common: we both love the classic TV show “Married with Children.”
It’s not surprising, however. Who wouldn’t enjoy the antics of Al Bundy and company? Even though the cast has long since moved on, when I see Ed O’Neill on “Modern Family” or Christina Applegate in the many movies she stars in, Katey Sagal in “Sons of Anarchy,” they will always be, at least for me, Al, Peggy, and Kelly, etc. — a stereotype they may or may not like, but nonetheless a moniker that has stuck in the hearts of fans for generations. My daughter and I are living proof.
My daughter and I were watching an episode in which Al and Peggy received by accident the mail of their neighbors Steve and Marcy Rhoades. In the mail is an invitation to star on a television game show about newlyweds. The Bundy’s, of course, sabotage the Rhoades and use their name to get on the show. As we’re roaring with laughter, my daughter Hannah says: “Hey, dad, I wonder what ever happened to Steve (David Garrison)?” He just disappeared, and Marcy got a new husband who [the character, not the actor] was a lot dumber. I liked Steve better.”
I wondered the same thing and, as an entertainment journalist, I was prompted to unearth the truth in the mystery of Steve’s disappearance. What happened to him? Did he walk away from one of the most popular TV shows of all time? Did he get canned for some reason? Did he move to a ranch in Costa Rica and change his name?
I had to find out.
I soon learned that he did walk away from his role on “Married with Children.” He actually bought out his contract to return to live theatre, which turned out to be a brilliant move. He has had an amazing career starring in such notable theatrical productions as Broadway’s “Wicked,” in which he played the Wizard [pictured right]. He has starred in many other productions as well, including “Silence! the Musical,” in the role of Hannibal Lector and “Oliver Twist,” just to name a few.
After learning this I couldn’t help but request an interview with David, a brilliant actor who has had a fascinating career. He was kind enough to answer a few questions, and this is what we discussed:
I’m currently playing the dual roles of Voltaire and Pangloss in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” [pictured left] at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in upstate New York. It’s a substantial vocal workout, but I’m enjoying every minute.
Can you still believe “Married with Children” is still so popular after all these years?
I think shows that explore new territory and speak to a common experience always remain popular. “Married with Children” broke the mold of the traditional family sitcom, and stood the genre on its head. It was the first time father truly did not know best, and, perhaps, the first time that people heard and saw working stiff family dynamics in a way that was more representative of real life than what had been presented before. It was always meant to be a cartoon, and, interestingly, paved the way for popular animated family shows like “The Simpsons.”
What was your audition for the show like?
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to audition. In fact, I think I was the first person actually hired for the show. I had done a short-lived series with Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye (the creators of “Married with Children”) called “It’s Your Move,” on NBC with a young Jason Bateman. We were on the air opposite a show called “Dynasty” on ABC, so you can imagine our Nielson Ratings weren’t very high and we didn’t last beyond our first season, but Ron and Michael and I had a good working relationship, and they invited me to take on the role of Steve Rhoades in the pilot for an experiment of a show on an experiment of a network called FOX.
I once had the pleasure of playing Nashville in, I think, January of 1994, as Nathan Detroit in the national tour of the Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls.” If memory serves we flew in from Denver the day of the Northridge, California earthquake, and Nashville was struggling with an ice storm that made travel extremely treacherous and caused the strobe light silent fire alarm in the theater to go off during the performance. It was a banner day for natural disasters.
Do you consider yourself a Christian or a spiritual person and could you please elaborate?
I would say I’m a spiritual person in that I find great serenity in nature and music. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church.
What kind of music do you personally enjoy, and do you play any instruments?
I like all kinds of music, but I’m especially interested in classical and jazz. I used to play single-reed woodwinds, and I still play piano quite poorly—and usually in private!