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Lance LeGault GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Some time ago Marcel Damen talked to actor Lance LeGault, btter known to Battlestar Galactica fans as Bootes in "The Lost Warrior" and Maga, the Borellian Nomen, on "The Man with Nine Lives". Lance talked about his career as a musician, playing and working with Elvis Presley. Of course we also talk about his roles on Battlestar Galactica and his role as Col. Dekker on The A-Team.

I've read you have bachelor's degree in Business Administration. At what point in your life did you decide to become an actor?

I knew I was going to be an actor and a singer, but I saw a flaw in the system. People had to hire business managers, agents, road managers and they didn't seem very knowledgeable in the business and show business. They could do the shows, but I saw the flaw that they couldn't pay their income tax, didn't know how to time shelter and didn't know how to incorporate. So by handling that, I did have a little knowledge in that. I'm certainly not an expert. It takes a little time, but it was well worth doing, because you've got to take care of your business. The show part is just as important as the business end of it. Just look at the people who end up with literally nothing.

Did you follow any former education for becoming an actor?

Yes, I did. I studied privately before I ever got into it. I started working at MGM and they had a Drama Department. By invitation there was no charge. I was working on those Elvis Presley movies back in the 1960s, so I did a lot of work at MGM. They invited me to join the group, which was by invitation only. Elvis wrapped his pictures at 6 pm and they started their class at 6 pm, so I had to be in the night club at 9 pm. I had about 3 hours between the movie we were making and the night club appearance. For 7 years I worked day and night like that.

That's were I got most of my training -- from people who actually made movies and not people who just taught drama and acting. They actually worked in movies and some in television too. Television only got super big a little later than that. There were a few things in the 1960s, but we were mostly doing features at that time. One thing lead to another and I just got lucky. There's a lot of luck involved. 

I heard you started out as the drummer of Elvis Presley. Is that true?

Yes, I played some drums with Elvis. He used to come and see me. I carried the drummer with me, but I would sit down once and a while. As a matter of fact, I carried two drummers, two guitars, base, piano and quite often I had a tenor sax and a trumpet. I was a blues singer. We did a lot of blues and Elvis was a big blues fan. He would come and see me and we did things like Tomorrow Night, One Night of Sin -- a lot of the tunes he did later on. When he did One Night of Sin, it was called One Night with You, because One Night of Sin was a little too risky for what they were playing in those days.

He knew the original song and that it was One Night of Sin, so when he'd come and see me, he'd sing the real blues and he was very familiar with. He was very complimentary and a generous guy when it came to other singers. If he liked it, he'd tell you that he dug it -- which was pretty darn nice of him.

How long did you play with Elvis?

Of and on... First picture I did with him, Girls, Girls, Girl, I played upright base -- when he sang Return to Sender. The last thing I did with him was the special for NBC. I played tambourine with him when he sat down and did that informal session with DJ [Fontana] and Scotty [Moore]. We sat down and jammed and played what came to mind. They ended up making their own special out it after he passed away. It was about a ten of twelve minute segment in the original special, but we did a whole show. They packaged that show as One Night with You. So there are two specials from that special: the original and the sit-down segment which was about 55 minutes.

You stunt doubled for Elvis Presley on Girls, Girls, Girls as well?

Yes, I was on Girls, Girls, Girls, I doubled him on Viva Las Vegas, I was the other cousin in Kissin' Cousins. We'd shoot up the scene twice: over my shoulder on him and again over my shoulder on him as the other character.

How did this came about?

He came to see me in the clubs and called me to come and play base. He wanted real musicians behind him in the club in the movie. He didn't want to fake it with actors, but wanted the real deal if he could get it. He called me and I went in to Paramount to do Girls, Girls, Girls. That was the beginning and then I started doing this choreography, doubling him, playing music together. One thing just lead to another.

I was good training and of course the money didn't hurt. We weren't making that much in the night clubs in those years. We worked a lot. We worked steady at night, but didn't make that much money. Having a day job at the studios not only afforded me an education in film, staging, camerawork and meeting a lot of people, but it was a money job too. We didn't have to rehearse in the daytime and didn't have a whole lot to do but waiting for the club to open. It worked out pretty good. We were young and inexperienced.

How come you also stunt doubled for him?

Money! We were the same size, we wore the same clothes and they just darkened my hair and I'd double him. I did the fall of  the diving board when Ann-Margret pushes him off in Viva Las Vegas. I doubled him a few times.

What did you think of Elvis as an actor?

I thought he needed better material as he got older as we all do. Material is the thing. You've got to have the right script since that's the key. Other than that... Listen: you know how bad these movies would have been without Elvis? I mean, the scripts were weak in many cases, but they all made money. They had a money making system: they made it for so much and they knew how much it was going to make. It was an automatic. He was doing 2-3 movies/year and they were all making money. Later on, everybody needs better material and scripts. That's the start.

I heard your voice also on the self-guided tour cassettes of Graceland?

I did the narrated tours for Graceland. They used to have tour guides there, but now you just put on a headset and they give you a cassette player. You don't have to stay with a group, stop and spend as much time as you want at any display. They eliminated the crowd, where you'd have to stay with the tour guide. Back in the day a tour guide would usually take around a dozen till fifteen people. Today you keep your own pace and stay as long as you like here or pass that. It's all on cassette and you get a lot more information of that cassette player.

How did it came about that they asked you for that? Did they know you worked with him before for instance?

They called me, but I'm not sure of that. This was put together by a company out in New York and you never know. Of course when you do the job they know you knew Elvis, because when you record it you talk about this set or the other. Whether they knew about it in advance, I can't say. More than likely they did know about it, but I can't be for sure.

Was it special for you, because you knew him personally and worked with him?

Well, it was nice. I flew a jet for the US Navy out of Millington Naval Air Station and that was 12 miles out of Memphis, so I was at Elvis' house while I was in school down there. I knew Graceland pretty well. I spent time there and shot pool with Elvis. As a matter of fact, he even gave me a car to use while I was there, because I had to fly there -- I had no transportation. He lent me a Thunderbird to use, which was nice of him. So yes, I knew Graceland and it brought back a lot of memories.

What's your nicest memory of him?

Just being at the house. There was food, a pool game and talk about music. Of course when you're in the military it was just like what he went through when he went to the army. He could relate to being called away from recordings, music and the business that you're in. You give all of that up when you're in the military. (laughing) You're away from home and you don't have your toys. Everybody goes through it.

On the Battlestar Galactica DVD set Glen Larson mentioned you're the only actor that has a voice that is four octaves lower than God's.

He did? (laughing) Bless his heart. Glen is a good guy. I did a lot of work for him. He's a very good producer. I haven't seen him in a few years though.

Did you know Glen Larson before Battlestar Galactica?

I did other jobs for him. He was a very hot producer then. He was doing a lot. He was involved in Dynasty and many shows at Universal and 20th Century Fox.

Can you remember how you were approached for Battlestar Galactica?

It was Don Bellisario that contacted me. The first episode I did was the kind of Shane type story -- a western. It went very well and the next thing I knew was that the phone rang and they wanted me to do Maga -- The Mean -- a totally different character. That's about all I remember, but as soon as I read the script I said: "Oh yeah, let's do this! This is a good one." There are good villains in it and we're up against robots, who were unstoppable.

The Western episode was called "The Lost Warrior". You were wearing those ridiculous foil cowboy hats. Were they uncomfortable?

I have a picture of that. They weren't very uncomfortable.

I guess you did a really did a good job on that since you're the only guest star to play in the series twice in different roles. Can you remember how this came about?

I guess, if you do good work you get more work. That's how it usually goes anyway. I did never think I was the only guest star that appeared twice though. Maga was great. It took me about an hour and a half to get that make up on. Cro-Magnon forehead, the beard, the wig and then of course the wardrobe. I had to get in about an hour and a half earlier and then at the end of the day they took all that stuff very carefully so it would be ready for the next morning. That took another hour, because it was glued on. It all made it long days, but there was no other way to do it.

Was it hard to act with the makeup on?

It was difficult. It was difficult and you couldn't really do lunch. The best thing you could do was a bowl of soup. There was so much stuff glued onto your face that it wasn't comfortable.

How was it to work with Fred Astaire?

Oh, wonderful! I had some pictures taken with him . He was great. He was quite up there in years when we worked together. I'm not sure how old he was, but he must have been 74-75, but he was a pro. He of course had a lot of experience from the MGM musicals and all that. He was an absolute conferment professional and set a terrific example for any young actor -- we were all young actors. He was always on time, he was prepared and even at his age, he put in a full day's work. He set an example that everybody should have a chance to watch or work with Fred Astaire.

How about any of the other actors like Dirk Benedict, Richard Hatch, Herb Jefferson?

Dirk and I have been friends from A-Team. We're still friends. I keep in touch with Dwight Schulz and Dirk Benedict. I even keep getting messages from Mr. T, although I never see him, because he's not out here. He's in Chicago, I think. We all still keep in touch.

How about Anthony DeLongis and Robert Feero, the other Nomen?

They did a good job -- they were good. If you look at the film, you'll see that they're really believable. They were on time and they knew their stuff. Of course when you're working for Don Bellisario, you better be on time and know your stuff or you'll be looking for a new job. He's a very professional producer. Just look at his track record.

The other thing about Don was that he was on top of that script. He knew that script and probably wrote that script or saw over the writing of most of that stuff. But just look at what he's done before and since then. He's a good producer who also did JAG and NCIS for a number of years. Good stories! He's always been really good with the scripts -- he's an excellent writer.

Were you surprised the Borellian Nomen were returning for the later episode "Baltar's Escape"? How was it to work with John Colicos on that?

Couldn't be better. He was absolutely great. I loved that scene with John were we sat down in the commissary. It was one of the best scenes I ever worked in. He was an excellent actor and his character was very interesting. If you look again at that scene, you'll see that it was just really well done. It was because of him, because all I had to do was to do Maga. That whole cast was great. There wasn't a weak spot in there.

What can you remember about these laser bolos you were throwing?

Of course we faked that, because it was mostly put in later. We just threw them and they put in the special effects later. It was a colorful weapon and the people loved it, but you know that because you know more about Battlestar Galactica than I do. (laughing)

Anything more you can remember of working on Battlestar Galactica that comes to mind?

The first show ("The Lost Warrior") was very different, because Maga was such a character -- he was so domineering. Everybody in that cast played to Maga as he had to be played to. They were well briefed on how mean and merciless he was. That's a good memory: when you're doing a guest role and the whole cast is aware on what you're trying to do and they help you. Like the scene with John Colicos. It was just wonderful to work with a professional cast like that. Since when they're all good, you're also going to be better. Therefore I remember it well, even though it's been a while back.

You later also starred as the famous Col. Decker on The A-Team. Any fun memories of working on that?

The A-Team was wonderful, because we had George Peppard. George was a great actor. I knew him from the time I was doing a picture with Elvis over at Paramount when he did The Carpetbaggers. We were next door to each other and we met -- talked a few times over a cup of coffee. So when I went on to The A-Team, I said "Hello" and revived his memory. George was awfully good. The other three guys were perfect in the roles they were cast in. Dirk Benedict was the con man and Mr. T was the tough guy. There was great humor in there, but most of it came from George Peppard. He set the precedent. Not unlike Lorne Greene. Lorne was that professional and experienced actor. George was also that professional and experienced actor. They really knew what they were doing.

The show was so popular. I think there were 28-29 million people watching it every week. Hey listen: it still runs today! Some people think we just finished making it last year or so. I still get letters from all over the world about The A-Team... and Battlestar Galactica ...and Magnum PI. Because of cable that stuff still runs twice/day here in the States. It's a whole new market.

You worked on a lot of series during the 1980s? Any favorites or things stand out in your mind?

Oh yes, I was on all of them. Probably 400-450 shows and 25-30 movies. Moviewise Stripes stands out. They run Coma, Stripes and Iron Eagle about twice/year. Those films have a popularity that goes on. People love those even though they've seen them. They just watch them again. Well, that's according to the letters I get.

TV series wise it's hard. They're so different, that it's like comparing apples and oranges. Battlestar Galactica was totally different from Magnum PI and Magnum PI was totally different from The A-Team. Once show that I did and really liked was the Peter Falk show, Columbo. I did a two hour Columbo and I loved working with Peter Falk. He's a very professional and good actor. They keep running that two hour Columbo show too! Of course Murder, She Wrote was also a nice show because Angela Lansbury is just wonderful to work with. Angela Lansbury and Peter Falk were just wonderful to work with.

They're reimagining a lot of the 1980s series, like Battlestar Galactica, they did a new The A-Team movie...

Yeah, with Liam Neeson playing George Peppard's part. Stephen Cannall was connected to it, so I knew it was going to be good. Stephen is a great writer and producer. He's also been around a long time. I went to see it. Liked it a lot.

What did you think of the new Battlestar Galactica series?

Oh, I thought it was great.

One of the concept artists of the Battlestar Galactica series is Richard Livingston from Ravenwood Entertainment who also was responsible for Tugger: The Jeep who wanted to Fly, you did voice work for.

I didn't know that, but you know more about it than I do. You're on top of it!

You're asked for a lot of voice work. Is that still your trademark?

I have quite a few voiceovers. I do medical and insurance stuff. I also do all the Burger King voiceover commercials. I don't know if you have the same ones in Europe. I did some for England, but I don't know how many I did for the States, but it was quite a few. You could call it a trademark. I've always had it.

What are you currently doing besides voice work?

I did a movie in 2009 called Stuntmen where I played the old professional stuntman. It was an independent production. I occasionally do a few low budget independent movies besides the voice over career. I also have a horse ranch so I don't have a lot of time. I haven't done a lot of television lately. They're looking for the young stud guys, not these old timers! (laughing) ...Although I still look great! (both laughing)

How is the horse ranch doing?

I have six Arabian horses and six Labrador dogs, so I put in a full day on this ranch. It keeps me out of trouble. I'm restoring a few cars, got some motorcycles, do some fishing... I have few things like that, that I enjoy doing. Main thing is still the work though. You always have to be ready to go to work. I'm ready, if they need me.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.

It was my pleasure!

 
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