|Robert Feero GALACTICA.TV interview|
|Thursday, 30 November 2006|
Mike Egnor caught up with Robert Feero who portrayed Bora, one of the Borellian Nomen in the episodes "The Man with Nine Lives" and "Baltar's Escape" of the Battlestar Galactica 1978 series. For the first time in 27 years, he talks about his work on the series and how it was to work with Fred Astaire. We also asked him what keeps him busy nowadays.
This is Mike Egnor, speaking for GALACTICA.TV, and I'm speaking with Robert Feero, who played the character of Bora in "The Man With Nine Lives", and "Baltar's Escape". Mr. Feero, I'd like to start by thanking you for agreeing to do this interview.
You're very welcome. It's so nice to talk with you.
It's great to hear your voice after all of these years.
I know, thank you.
I wonder if we could, start by discussing what made you decide to go into acting.
Starting from the beginning, it's pretty typical for a lot of actors. I was a senior in high school, and I had an opportunity to audition for the senior play. My thinking behind it would be "Well, I'll get out of class". Not being a great student at the time, I'd get out of class and be able to chase the girls and have fun. Well, she liked my audition so much she cast me as the lead. It freaked me out and scared me so I quit, but Mrs. Lafflerer, a fine woman, [ended up convincing me to stay]. So I ended up playing the lead in the senior play, which was Lillian, by Sign Balnar. And it was swell, people after the performances would go and say "Ooh, I cried when you did this" or "I laughed when you did this". Well, that was the hook. And the rest is history.
That sounds great. Did you go on to college or other formal training for acting after high school?
I did. I went to Stanford for a summer right after graduating high school. Then, from Stanford, I went on to Foothill College. It's a two year school, at which time I spent three years. I did a lot of theater. I never did end up with a degree. I was close to a degree, but never ended up [finishing]. Like I said, I wasn't a great student, but I think my training was just getting out there and doing it. I had some good teachers along the way, [like] Les Abbot.
Very good. From what I understand, your first television or movie experience was as a robot in a movie called THX 1138 directed by someone by the name of George Lucas?
Who? Never heard of him. (laughing)
Can you remember that?
I sure do. Because it was my first [movie], I got my screen actors guild card on that show. And being my first major movie, you know, I thought I was on my way to great fame and stardom. But alas and alack, I was merely a nuclear powered chrome robot. I actually played two parts in that picture. As you know, everyone on that picture; extras, men, women, they all had their heads shaved. For twelve weeks I had my head shaved. It was a pretty tough shoot. I'm the guy who puts the mind lock on Robert Duvall. We filmed that at a studio in Los Angeles. We were down at Los Angeles on location for two weeks. I did my own motorcycle stunts. [I] wrecked the motorcycle at one point. George is man of few words. He's quite a task master, [he] works his people hard. If you have time, I have one quick incident that happened when we were filming at Oakland Coliseum. The task was to walk down this long hallway, turn right, and find (we're chasing) Robert Duvall. Well, through these vacu-form plastic heads that we were wearing, I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. If I were to extend my arm, I could only see my wrist, I couldn't even see my hand. So I turned right, and immediately slapped right into a concrete wall. And we hear George say "Cut". Well, we wrapped it up and went home for the day. I didn't work the next day and I learned later that when you see the robot going kind of cuckoo and bouncing off the walls [in the movie]. Well my running into the walls gave George that inspiration. But he had Johnny Weissmuller Jr. do it instead of me, which kind of irked me at the time.
Robert Feero as a robot in THX 1138
So you felt you could walk into walls as well as anybody?
That's a great story. Let me go on, you also worked with Richard Hatch in the show The Streets of San Francisco?
Well, I never had a scene with him. I had a scene with Karl Malden. I [also didn't] have a scene with Michael Douglass. I didn't get to know Richard, and I didn't see any point of saying "Hi Richard, do you remember me", because we hadn't worked directly together, even though we were on the same show together.
I understand. Let's move on to Galactica. Had you heard of the show before you became involved with it?
No, I hadn't. You know, you sit down there in L.A., and you hope that your agent is working for you, and it turned out, that for a while, my agent was working for me. So they just called me up and said "You've been cast". Which is always a nice thing to hear [so that] you don't have to audition for something. So I was cast in it.
Could you explain for those of us that don't otherwise know, how a person is cast without auditioning for the part?
You mean as in this instance that I referred to?
That's right, how did your agent get you that part?
Well, they get what are called "Breakdowns" for the week. Shows that are filming, they scan through the list of each show, and each part that is to be cast, and they make a list, from their clientele. [These are the] big powerful Beverly Hills agents. It might be somewhat different now. They used to do package deals...and even handle directors. [They'd say] if you'll hire our director, then you will take this star and maybe these two co-stars. So they package the deal, and make the deal that way.
I understand. So you arrive on the set, and they tell you that you are going to be playing a Borellian Noman.
Robert Feero as Bora, the Borellian Noman in Battlestar Galactica 1978
Did they give you any background, or history of the character beforehand, or do they just give you a script?
Well, the way it works, is that the studio will send a script to my house. And then I'll look it over, I'll study my lines, and then someone will call me and they'll send me a call sheet. It'll have my call on it, and I show up, at oh dark thirty, and do what they tell me to do.
I'd like to go over with you, a list of the cast that you played with, and get your thoughts on them.
One of the other Borellian Nomen that you costarred with, was Lance LeGault, who played the character Maga.
Yes, Lance LeGault. He's got one of the great voices. He's been doing quite a bit of voiceover work. I can imitate him pretty well. (deepens voice). He talks way down here like this. (end impersonation) Yeah, he's a very good actor. A very hard working, journeyman actor. We were friendly for a while, but we've kind of lost touch.
Next is Anthony DeLongis, the other Borellian Noman, who played the part of Taba.
Yes, [I] didn't really get to know Anthony outside of work, but I do remember conversations with him while we were on the set. I did learn that he was a black belt in Kung Fu and was quite an accomplished martial artist.
Robert Feero as Bora (right), one of the Borellian Noman in Battlestar Galactica 1978
Ok. Also in the show "The Man With Nine Lives", was another actor by the name of Fred Astaire.
Aw, jeez, I never heard of him (laughing). It was my great pleasure to work with Fred Astaire. I mean, he was an icon, if you will. The epitome of what it was to be a star in Hollywood. I'll tell you a couple of quick anecdotes, [including] why Fred was in that show to begin with. You notice that he wasn't even credited...Am I correct on that, or was he credited?
I don't know for sure.
You know I don't think he was. His grandkids wanted him to be on that show. So he called up Lew Wasserman, who at the time the head of Universal Studios, and said "Lew, put me in, coach". So that's how he was on that show. Now, as I remember, between setups one afternoon, they were resetting the camera, and I sat down next to Fred. I asked him for an 8x10 glossy of himself for my mother... I said "Could you please put ‘Love from Fred'"? He paused for a moment, he looked at me and says "I never sign ‘Love' on my photographs. I save that for [something] special". He was a man of great, great integrity. And it was a pleasure working with him.
What a great story. How about John Colicos, who played the part of Baltar?
Oh yes. Dear John. He was one of the funniest! I socialized with him quite often, [and] after the shows, became pretty good friends with him. He was probably genius. His wit, and knowledge was vast, and was a greatly entertaining fellow. I miss him.
We all miss him. How about Lloyd Bochner, who played Commandant Leiter?
Lloyd, [another] Canadian actor. I also worked on Streets of San Fransico with him, but didn't have a scene or work directly with him. I didn't get to know him off the set. Seemed like a nice fellow though.
How about Herbert Jefferson Jr., who played the part of Lt. Boomer?
Herb and I would share a couple drinks after the show. A real nice guy. I haven't seen or heard from him in a long time though. I hope he's doing well.
Next is Dirk Benedict, who played the part of Lt. Starbuck.
I didn't get to know Dirk outside of the show. I didn't have an opportunity, really to get to know him. I enjoyed watching him, he had a great panache. I always enjoyed watching him work. He seemed to be full of mischief on the set. Seemed like a real good guy.
Did you know Anne Lockhart?
June Lockhart's daughter. A really, lovely, sweet gal. I got to know her pretty well. And her sister, June Junior [Elisabeth]. I briefly dated June Junior. She was sweet.
You dated Anne's sister?
Yeah, briefly. June Lockhart Junior. (laughs) A nice family, nice people.
I'm sure that Anne would appreciate hearing that. Let's go onto the directors. Rod Holcomb directed "The Man With Nine Lives". How was your relationship with him?
Strictly professional. [I] didn't really interact a great deal. Man of few words. Just came in, very professional, did his work. Do the job, get out of there.
If you can remember, and give some idea of how he directed. Would he reshoot the same scene from different angles? Do you remember how many times you would do each scene?
You know, they all work pretty much the same. You do your master shot, and you do your over your shoulder close ups, and then you move on. Sometimes you use more than one camera to do that. Specifically, I don't remember how he did it.
How was your relationship with Rich Kolbe in "Baltar's Escape"?
Kolbe. Yeah, Rich Kolbe. There again, it was strictly professional. I don't remember anything specific either of his way of working.
Let's talk about the prosthetics. You wore, from what I understand, prosthetics with extremely rough facial hair. With all of the prosthetics covering your head, it didn't give you much of a chance for facial expressions, did it?
Not a great deal, no.
How did they apply it, and what was it made of?
Well, it was made out of latex. The first makeup session took three hours. After that, it only took 45 minutes. When they first apply it, they have to do the trimming, and to get the fit just right. That's why the first session always takes the longest. It's applied with what is called spirit gum. It was very uncomfortable. I don't like wearing wigs and false beards. Very, very uncomfortable, and everybody knows they are fake anyway. But as a Borellian Nomen, of course, it didn't really matter that much, because these people are of the imagination.
So we have nothing to compare them to?
(laughing) That's right.
Do you remember how you would eat or drink with the prosthetics on?
Was there any background given beforehand about the Nomen? What the code was, what they were like?
In the script, no. They didn't give us any back story on that. You just heard, that that was the Code. I can hear Lance LeGault's voice now, saying "THE BLOOD HUNT"! "THE BLOOD HUNT"! (laughing) The blood hunt was never explained either. I always thought of it as "We're going to go out and whack somebody". Someone has broken the code, perhaps, so they have to go on a blood hunt, and whack the guy.
Sounds like a mafia thing, doesn't it?
(laughing) Yeah. Could be.
In the episode "The Man With Nine Lives", Taba pulled his bolo early and brought shame to the Nomen, especially Maga. It seemed like it was left to Bora to take charge of and to discipline Taba. Were they brothers? Were there some kind of hierarchy?
No, it was all scripted. There wasn't any backstory. It was just within the script. Not having seen the script in many, many years, I just don't remember what the relationship was, other than what you mention, the fact that Maga was the older, more experienced [Nomen]. He outranked me, as Bora, and we both outranked Taba. He was the puppy, [I] had to reign him in.
I was wondering, since Taba didn't have any facial hair, was their way of showing that he was indeed the young pup, or at least the most junior of the three Nomen.
I believe that that was the case.
I don't mean to put you on the spot with these background questions. If you were only given a script, I guess that writers would be the ones to ask for any history on the characters.
Right. That would be true. In the development of the character, we can only [guess]. I'm sure you could make stuff up, but time was of the essence. It was an hour show, and it took us, on average, seven to eight days. 12 to 14 hour days to make that one hour of television. It was at the time the most expensive television show on the air.
Was there anything that you didn't like about the show?
The prosthetics. (laughing)
What about the rush on time to do the shoot.
No, because I was being paid. Overtime is overtime, and after 12 hours you go golden. No, the time is fine, but the prosthetics, and the false beard. I just hated it.
I suppose it's hard to act when you face is covered with prosthetics.
Well, no, not really. It all depends upon the character. These characters, to my way of thinking, were pretty cerebral anyway, so you just have to use your eyes.
Do you make any friends with any of the cast in either of the episodes? Do you keep in contact with any of them?
No, unfortunately, not. I haven't seen or heard from any of the guys for years. Lance and I used to keep in touch, but after I left L.A. we just kind of lost touch with each other.
What did you do after Battlestar Galactica?
Most of the major [television] shows out of Universal. Magnum P.I., Simon and Simon. If it was out of Universal, I usually did it.
I see you have been doing some voiceover work recently. How did that come about?
Patty Johnson, at Universal. She was a friend of ours, and if she knew that we needed a little money, she'd get me in to do something like that. That was a great thing those days, between shows, when you were a little short on money. Patty would give you a call and say "Come on in, I got a little voiceover for you." So that was great.
What are you involved with these days? What interests do you have?
What I'm primarily doing are voiceovers. I have an agent, in San Francisco. I live about 45 miles south of San Francisco. I drive up there for auditions for voiceovers. [I've] been getting a lot of good auditions, but they haven't been choosing my voice. (laughing) So it's been kind of lean, I've been making too much money recently. My interests outside of my professional interests are gardening. I've got a third of an acre here, and that keeps me busy. I'm an avid sports shooter, I like to shoot trap. Are you familiar with trap shooting?
I'm familiar with skeet shooting.
Well, skeets a different field than trap, [but it's] same thing, you're shooting a little clay pigeons. I like to do that. I belong to a local gun club, it's a lot of fun.
Well that sounds more appropriate for a Borellian Nomen than gardening.
(laughing) That's right.
Let me ask you about the laser bolos
(laughing) I haven't thought of those for 27 years.
I'm wondering if you could tell me how they worked.
No, (laughing), I can't. I wish I could.
I'm wondering if there was some wire attached to a power pack that made it light up.
Gosh, I haven't seen the show in so long...Maybe it would jog my memory if I were to see an episode with one of those things in it. But no, we didn't wear any sort of battery pack or electrical source to light these things. My thinking was that it was done post production. An effect. That's the best that I can recall.
Well, this Mike Egnor, speaking for GALACTICA.TV, and I'd like to thank you Mr. Feero for taking the time to do this interview. I'm sure the fans will enjoy it.
Well I hope so. And thanks to all the fans out there. The new show looks to be a good one. And I hope it is. It was a real pleasure talking with you Mike.
Thank you very much.
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