Interviewer: Mike ? - August 1990
Ed Bishop is, if course, the man responsible for putting words into Captain Blue's mouth, and the motivating force behind one Edward Straker, perhaps Gerry Anderson's best-loved creation. Ed is also a popular and most charming guest at most Fanderson Conventions. After talking to a half-full of Fanderson 90 fans in London's Mount Royal Hotel recently, and revealing to them how Sylvia Anderson once offered to buy him a new tie because she felt the one he was wearing was so appalling, Ed graciously consented to talk to Century Twenty-One about life, the Anderson Universe, Labbatts Lager, and everything...
21: Let's begin with the Captain Scarlet series. Why do you suppose Captain Blue became such a popular, if not THE most popular character of that series?
ED: Well, I think he was the closest one to Captain Scarlet - I mean, they were more or less like partners - Cagney and Lacey, if you like, and I think the two characterizations complemented each other - my kind of delivery as opposed to Francis Matthews' delivery.
21: Were you instrumental in developing the character? Were you given only a brief outline and expected to enhance that?
ED: Yes. I think basically Gerry wisely left actors to get on with the characterizations, and , as I said in the larger meeting (Fanderson 90 - Ed.) they did the puppet adjustments after we had done the soundtrack, so that they could make the puppet do what we wanted, rather than the other way around.
21: So you would be given basic pointers... i.e. Captain Blue is blond, mid-thirties, etc.
ED: About that, yes.
21: In UFO did you ever feel the characters were playing second fiddle to the hardware? Was that a difficult balance?
ED: Well, yes. Actors always feel that they are in conflict with whatever gets between them and the camera (laughter), and I think that's a healthy thing. I think that friction between people in the creative field is a good thing. You get sparks when things scrape against each other, and of course we preferred the episodes that involved personal relationships, personal commitment, etc. When you're staring at a monitor reporting on trajectory termination or UFOs, something like that, obviously those scripts have less interest for us than ones which involve our domestic troubles or emotional problems.
21: What about the vehicles in UFO. Were they developed when you began live-action filming on the series? Did you know what a mobile looked like? What Skydiver looked like, and how important was that from your point of view?
ED: Yes, they were developed before we were brought into it. They had a good idea of what their hardware would look like... those fellows, jumping down the 'laundry shoots' we used to call them, and 'immediate launch on moonbase', and the fact the Skydiver could launch something out of its nose-cone... beyond that knowledge, that's about all we really had to know in terms of actors to respond to it.
21: If UFO had gone on to a second series, how would you have liked to have seen the character of Ed Straker further develop? Were there any particular aspects of Straker you would have liked to have built on?
Ed: In one way, if we had gone to another series I think we would still be making them, because we would have learned so much from the 16 that we shot, the with the experience of going into another series we could have really embellished it. In terms of the character of Ed Straker per se, I must say that he impressed me as being fairly well developed, so that you could put that character under different situations and he would react out of them. I think you could just put him into different situations and I think those situations could have been very imaginative if they had opened up the format a little bit. The character could have accommodated an expansion of the format - this is basically what I'm saying. I think all our characters could have... certainly (Michael) Billington and the more or less regulars... Wanda Ventham in the latter episodes.
(Look at) the history of series - M*A*S*H is one that leaps to mind - where were not popularly accepted in the beginning - M*A*S*H wasn't a socko hit immediately. It had to be nurtured. It had to be released in the right areas. It had to get the ratings reports right. And then something took hold. It's very difficult to grasp the network immediately and rivet it. Very, very few series do that. And I'd say (if UFO had achieved that fame) we'd still probably be making some permutation. Look at how many episodes of Star Trek they made. They almost got into three figures. - But that's they way the cookie crumbles.
21: Which episode of UFO, if you had to choose just one, was the most fulfilling for you?
ED: Well, I think it would have to be 'A Question Of Priorities'. I think that it established the essence of (Straker's) characterisation and his dedication to the point of even the deflection of the aircraft with its necessary medical supplies to do its duty rather than personal (consideration). It echoed the film 'Failsafe'. Anyway, there's an atomic war. Henry Fonda is the President and some American bomber gets through and bobs Russia and he gives them New York. And his wife is in New York or somebody from his family, and he lets that go. You know, that's heavy. That's really heavy. Our thing may have pared it a bit too thin, but that was the basis of it. I think it's an interesting character who can sustain that. From the character's point of view and the emotional drama I would pick that particular episode if I had to pick just one.
21: The next question links to this... Did you ever take Ed Straker home with you? Was some of the drama that the character was going through so heavy that you found it difficult to switch off at the end of the day?
ED: Not that I was aware of. What I was aware of, and this may sound comedic, is that I was working out at MGM all week and stayed in Borehamwood, I stayed because I lived forty miles away, and to dive eighty miles and do all that work was too much for me. And if I went down to London and was walking along the street, I would see all these people and I really felt they were extras. I really felt we were shooting a big outside scene, you know! Well, that's bringing something into reality. I had to say, "Well, wait, wait! We're not in a shot here, you know, this is real!" But whether or not I brought anything of Straker into my own life - you'd just have to ask my wife and kids (laughter). I really couldn't say...
21: Of course, you were in a situation where films were being made of a film-making studio with even more going on behind the scenes...
ED: That's right... that's right. It was multi-layered from that point of view. Some of the scripts got confused, I must say.
21: Quite surreal towards the end.
ED: Yes, yes, indeed. I think that was a good idea to explore and I don't mind that all the answers weren't answered. All the I's weren't dotted, all the t's crossed. I think that's great in a film, to have a little enigma. You know... 'what is that all about?'
21: Do you have any amusing anecdotes about UFO?
ED: (Extremely long pause)....No! (Laughter).
21: It sounds more of a slog than we tend to think, being on the outside.
ED: Of course, I'm sure there were, but we're going back TWENTY YEARS. As I said, if you get a lot of neurotic people together, there's bound to be some errors that result in humour, but the thing that impressed me is the hard work we did, because we had to get five minutes a day in the can, you know, and there was no nonsense. We were a very efficient machine and we didn't have a lot of fat. We were all lean and worked very hard.
21: What length of working day did UFO involve you in?
ED: Well, I started in make up at 7.30 because I was on the floor at 8.30, and we'd work through till 5.30. We went into overtime, which we often did, till 6. - 6.30 sometimes.
21: Presumably days were grouped together so you would work a length of time in the studio then work days out on location.
ED: Yes. Most of the stuff at MGM was shot in the studio. Which was very hard. It's hard work in the studio - I don't know why. But to get out into the street, suddenly you're freer, in the fresh air, and there's not so much of the lighting problem. Sitting on location in a real car in a real street puts more of an edge in your performance than a mock up with a rear projection in the studio somewhere.
21: You have answered this question for the convention guests, but could you go over it for Century 21? What are you doing now in terms of acting?
ED: Well, I've just finished a film called 'The Recruit' in Yugoslavia. I must go to Los Angeles either in June or July to finish off that piece. I'll be out there for two weeks doing that. Today's Saturday... yesterday I was sent a script. It's a play called 'The Boys In The Next Room'. It's about mental health and it's a socko success in America. I haven't read the whole play, but what I've read I'm very, very, impressed by and I like the part and if it's possible to work our the schedule with the LA thing, this play will go to Edinburgh for the Festival in August and then come to London in September. I will do that if it works out. I've got some radio work to do for Glynn Dearman on two weeks in the first part of June, plus my steady diet of voice-overs... Thank God; knock wood, touch everything for voice-overs for TV and radio commercials!
21: You're still doing the lager?
ED: Is that still running? Yes, Labbatts Lager - 'Malcolm The Mountie always gets his can!'
21: And you mentioned Clearasil?
ED: Yes, the Clearasil, and I've got a couple of others I just can't think of off the top of my head. The old voice work carries on.
21: You have a very popular voice with regard to commercials.
ED: Yes. And it's just money that makes me financially independent and I can pick and choose. 'Cause a play in Edinburgh will not pay a lot of money, I'll tell you that. Theatre, unless you're in a glitzy, West End musical or something, does not make you a lot of money.
21: And it must be extremely hard work.
Ed: Yes, a lotta hard work. So to have something like that (commercials) although our financial requirements are not as strong as they were - the family's all gone. Most of them. I've got two girls who are depending on me - but they're still a wonderful thing to have. Money in the bank (laughter), you know!
21: Ed, thanks very much for your time.
ED: Not at all, Mike.
ACCESSED FROM SPECTRUM COMPUTER FILE AS/B/32 Green.
Security rating Alpha One.
Spectrum Captains 'eyes only' information.
Real Name: Adam Svenson
Birth Date: August 26, 2035
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Captain Blue is one of the five active agents attached to the Spectrum organization.
Eldest son of a wealthy financier, Blue excelled at school, winning a full scholarship to Harvard University at age 16. Attained first-class honours in economics, technology, computer control, applied mathematics and aero-dynamics. Seemed destine for an outstanding business career.
Much to the disappointment of father, Blue enrolled with the World Aeronautic Society with a view to becoming a test pilot. It is believed the thrills and danger of this life appealed to Svenson's love of excitement and fast action. His outstanding courage and drive led to renown as a fearless pilot.
Noting Blue's limitless energy and vitality, his superiors transferred him to the security department of the service to become an active agent. At first Svenson was dismayed by this change of pace, but soon realized the challenge his new job offered as the security department of the World Aeronautic Society was constantly being infiltrated by enemy agents.
With twenty hand-picked men Svenson set about tackling this immense problem. Hampered by never knowing who was a double or double double agent, the subject suffered many set backs. Three attempts were made on his life during the first six months, but the subject finally triumphed, bringing the reign of sabotage and infiltration to an end.
Blue's considerable success story, coupled with his ability to get results whatever the odds and his strong personality attracted the Spectrum selection committee.
On duty, Blue is the ideal partner, inspiring all who work with him on tough assignments.
Off duty, he keeps his forceful personality but exhibits extreme patience. He pursues an active outdoor life, often flying down to the eastern coast of Australia, where the subject water-skies, surfs and goes deep-sea harpoon fishing.
SHADO FILE STATUS: Voiceprint access to level five information only. Further personal data security protected. Following is standard SHADO printout. Full File access can only be obtained via relevant authorization during Operation Central Park emergency, or with necessary IAC code-words.
Marital Status: Divorced. Ex-wife's name: Mary.
Children: John (File update: deceased following road accident).
LEVEL FIVE INFORMATION
In 1970 Colonel Edward Straker arrived in England where he was met by a member of the British government.
The visit followed a tour of Europe and Asia during which he had presented conclusive evidence to the world powers (please access Blue Book II).
The last call was to be on the Prime Minister - who would endorse the decisions of the other chiefs of state that fact action was needed to fight the menace from space.
In Straker's briefcase was positive proof that UFO's did exist and were making repeated, hostile visits to this planet.
Straker never reached Chequers. He was the subject of a UFO attack, and barely escaped with his life. Shortly afterwards, he was nominated by the International Astrophysical Commission as Supreme Commander of SHADO.
EDWARD STRAKER - Partner, Harlington/Straker film studios. (A division of Harlington International, the multi-national concern with interests in communication satellite development, transport, health facilities and space science).
Following a car crash in 1970, Straker, at the time a Colonel with the United States Air Force, in a shock move, announced his retirement from the service.
Straker is now a key figure in British Films, enjoying a spirited revival in the movie-obsessed world of the 80s.
The studios produce the 'Spy With A Thousand Faces' TV series starring Howard Byrn, and big-screen successes include 'Mars Is Laughing At Me', the acclaimed 'Brotherhood Of The Hand', and award-winning comedy 'Poppa Wore Waders'.
Captain Scarlet - Voice of Captain Blue
Doppelgänger - David Poulson
UFO - Ed Straker
The Protectors - Appeared in Episode Full Circle
The Day After Tomorrow - Narrator
Alien Attack (Advertisement for Jif desserts: Voice of Male assistant)
Space Police - Narrated promotional film for the pilot episode.
Include: The Warlover; Mouse On The Moon; Battle Beneath the Earth; You Only Live Twice; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Diamonds Are Forever; Pets; Brass Target; Silver Dream Racer; Whoops Apocalypse; Testimony.
Include: The Saint; The Baron; Court Martial; Man In A Suitcase; The Strange Report; Out of the Unknown; Star Trak (animated); Because The Sets Are Cheaper; The Way We Live Now; Dick Turpin; The Professionals; The Mad Death; Chocky's Children; Just Good Friends; Carrott Confidential; The South Bank Show; Whoops Apocalypse; The Fifth Missile (TV Movie); The Adventurer; Marlow - Private Eye; Two Ronnies (voice only); Land of the Eagle (narration). Plus many TV commercials.
Include Phillip Marlow; Waggoners Walk; The Caves of Steel. Plus many radio commercials
Include: Look Homeward Angel; Bye Bye Birdie; The Rehearsal; MacBird; And People All Around; The Archbishop's Ceiling; Hospitality.
Transcribed for the SHADO Library and Archives by D.A. Rorabaugh from materials donated by Amelia and Ed Rodgers.