Erik and Marko in The Rescue (3_85)

Wizards and Warriors
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Don Reo
James Frawley
Jay Kerr
Louise Huebner
Peter Wooley
Phyllis Katz
S. Bryan Hickox
Tim Dunigan


(Autographed photo courtesy of Mr. Don Reo. Photo collage by Crownhelm. Image thumb-nailed to speed load time - click on image to see it full size.)

It is our pleasure to present our interview with Mr. Don Reo, creator of Wizards and Warriors. Thrill to the behind-the-scenes stories and find out the answers to some of those perplexing "canon" questions!

Crownhelm conducted this interview in Summer/Fall 2002.


Interviewer: Thank you very much for this opportunity! First off, I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the [Aperans’] site or not?

Don Reo: Yes, I have. It’s simply amazing… really terrific.

Interviewer: Well, thank you. It was a team effort.

Don Reo: That’s really fabulous.

Interviewer: There’s a webring of ten Wizards and Warriors related sites, total.

Don Reo: Really?

Interviewer: Yes, the Aperans’ site is the main one and a number of other mailing list members have sites.

Don Reo: Good heavens.

Interviewer: I know – look what you’ve spawned. [both laugh] Is it OK if we say ‘Approved by Don Reo’ on the Aperans’ site?

Don Reo: Sure!

Interviewer: That’s OK?

Don Reo: Certainly.

Interviewer: That’s awesome. Thank you! So, how did you get started in show business originally?

Don Reo: I was working in my father’s furniture store in Rhode Island in the mid-60s… just out of high school and writing jokes. [I was] trying to sell jokes to comedians that came through town because I had read that you could get fifty dollars a joke or something like that. I thought that would be a good way to make money. I saw a comedian on the Tonight Show called Slappy White on a Wednesday night when the Tonight Show was in New York. Thursday morning I picked up the paper and he was playing a club in Rhode Island that Saturday, so I went to see him. I wrote some jokes and brought them in. He did a routine called the "First Black Vice President" which was set-up punch lines, you know… ‘Where do you stand on unemployment? – At the head of the line.’ He was using maitre d’s and bus boys to read the straight lines, so he asked me to go on the road with him as a writer and a straight man. I said ‘sure’ – so, we opened six days later at the Apollo Theatre with Jackie Wilson. I stayed with Slappy White for two and a half years - traveling around, playing clubs and stuff. Then I came to Los Angeles in ’69, basically trying to get a job as a joke writer. I got a job on a show called Jimmy Durante presents the Lennon Sisters in 1969, which is a whole ‘nother story. Then after that, I got a job on Laugh-In and was on that show for three years.

Interviewer: Were there any special bits that you wrote for it?

Don Reo: Well, we wrote so much for that show – we all did. I mean, it was 40 or 50 pages a day. I didn’t do the monologues, but I did most everything else – the joke wall, all that. But that’s hard – I really can’t isolate any one thing.

Interviewer: So that’s where all that comic sensibility comes from.

Don Reo: Well, yeah. It’s all based on jokes. It all comes down to the laugh. If you make people laugh, it’s a good thing.

Interviewer: It was a fun show. So was Wizards and Warriors, of course. One of the main W&W questions that we always ask is exactly how many episodes were shot?

Don Reo: I think we only shot the eight, as I recall. I think we wrote ten, or eleven, or twelve. I’ve actually sent someone to dig out the archives… some of the original material. But you know, it’s been awhile. I know we shot eight, but I don’t remember how many we actually had written. I think there are two or three more.

Interviewer: We’ve got nine [scripts/transcripts] – including the one called The Games, which was unfilmed. We thought twelve had been ordered, but weren’t sure.

Don Reo: I’m not sure either. The Games - I have a vague recollection of that. And there may have been others.

Interviewer: So, did this all spring from your head fully formed like Athena?

Don Reo: Well, almost. At the time my kids were small and they were into Dungeons & Dragons [RPG] and I was interested in doing an hour action/adventure, a swashbuckler kind of thing. I was thinking about pirates and that came around to knights. I was also enamored with The Princess Bride by William Goldman, actually I think all of his writing is great. All his novels were terrific. So I tried to combine those things – in Princess Bride he had a modern sensibility in a fairy tale setting. I wanted something a little more structured than that, so I came up with this concept of a deeply post-apocalyptic world where technology was in the hands of a few wizards, but in evolutionary terms we had returned, or just about reached what we think of as medieval times. So, that was basically it.

Interviewer: In the book The Princess Bride, the princess that Prince Humperdink was originally going to marry has all these hats – did that inspire you for the show?

Don Reo: Yes, absolutely. I actually had dinner with William Goldman and picked his brain about The Princess Bride before I did Wizards. The Princess Bride was my favorite book.

Interviewer: Anything else besides the hats?

Don Reo: No, not really. The tone of it was the same. You know, sort of a tongue in cheek nature of looking at fairy tales, which had always been treated very seriously before. There was sort of a contemporary humor to The Princess Bride, so that is similar. I tried to do the same thing in Wizards and Warriors.

Interviewer: So that was how you decided on a satire approach?

Don Reo: Yes.

Interviewer: How did you get to go without a laugh track?

Don Reo: Well, we never, ever considered it a comedy. We always thought of it as an adventure show. Nobody ever considered it to be comedic.

Interviewer: Some of it is so funny.

Don Reo: Oh, absolutely, it was funny. But it was only funny because everybody in it took it so seriously. Everybody always played those things as if they were life and death, as if it were totally real. And when actors are playing stuff as if it’s totally real, you can be really funny. You can be really outrageous because they’ll never wink at the camera. I’m surprised that people don’t do it more often. There are very few things like that. The Christopher Guest movies – Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show are like that. It’s the same theory, really. Where you just act as if it’s deadly serious and the most real thing in the world.

Interviewer: Who was involved with the writing?

Don Reo: Well, it was just me in the beginning. I wrote the pilot, which was aired as The Rescue. And I worked on that for probably four or five months before they ordered it. So it went through a bunch of incarnations. I write everything by hand for first drafts…and somewhere I have the actual hand-written first pilot. I’m curious myself to go back and read it and see what happened from the original script to what we actually ended up shooting. I don’t remember, so it’ll be fascinating to find out. But, I did that and then we produced the pilot. Judy Allison, Jim Frawley, Bryan Hickox – we all got together and made the pilot, and then they [CBS] ordered more. I can’t remember what the original order was – I think it was twelve – and they pulled the plug after eight because it wasn’t getting any numbers.

Interviewer: Well, I don’t think they gave it a chance…

Don Reo: No, and it ran on Saturday nights, and our audience was definitely not home Saturday night. It really didn’t get a shot. But it was expensive. I know some people have said they didn’t have much money, but that’s only the departments. We really did spend a lot of money.

Interviewer: Did the directors have a lot of input?

Don Reo: Oh, absolutely. Well, some more than others… some of them were not there as much, but certainly Jim Frawley in the beginning made a lot of contributions. And Bill Bixby was just a sensational guy… a great soul and he brought tremendous enthusiasm and fun to the whole project. I mean, he was just as excited by this… we all were… it was pretty exciting to be doing something this different and this free. And he was a real cheerleader, he was just great. He worked with me on Blossom, too.

Interviewer: It seems like everybody has worked with each other on a number of other projects.

Don Reo: Well, we’ve tried to. I’ve tried to work with Julia Duffy a few times but she’s always been busy or I didn’t have anything that she was right for… because I just loved her to death… it just didn’t work out that way. Jay Kerr, I think, is the only one who’s been in other stuff that I’ve done. He was on an episode of Blossom and he was on Larroquette.

Interviewer: So, what if there had been a second season of Wizards and Warriors?

Don Reo: We were going to continue the war. We were going to expand the families. There would have been more of Justin and Geoffrey – more of the brothers. There would have been more intrigue – in the Blackpool family, certainly Geoffrey would be trying to take over from Dirk and that would have been a split. A lot of intrigue. And I think that the Greystone/Ariel story would have continued with him [being] unsure if she was the one he wanted to marry. He probably would have fallen in love with somebody else, but have to be committed to her. And we would have had life and death situations. We had those all the time.

Interviewer: Caverns of Chaos, stuff like that…

Don Reo: Yes, great story on Caverns of Chaos. Is that the one with the tarantula crawling across Blackpool’s chest?

Interviewer: Ugh, yes. I hate spiders. That’s the one.

Don Reo: That was a real tarantula and coming down the hall were real tarantulas. And the guy… the tarantula wrangler…pulled up and he had this little car. And in the car, he had however many tarantulas we had that day… I think we had a hundred tarantulas. It was like a little Toyota hatchback and he also had a bag of rattlesnakes that he had picked up and a king cobra – the cobra that we actually ended up using later in Night of Terror. And I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if this guy got in an accident? [both laugh] You know, Jaws of Life to get into the car. He rode around with all that stuff in there.

Interviewer: That’s just scary.

Don Reo: But yes, that was a real tarantula that crawled across Duncan’s chest. They’re actually very gentle creatures, but they throw off their quills when they’re afraid and he got a rash.

Interviewer: It definitely would’ve bitten me.

Don Reo: [laughs] They don’t bite.

Interviewer: I thought they had fangs…

Don Reo: No, no. I think you’ve been watching too many movies. [both laugh]

Interviewer: Which contemporary actors would you cast if Wizards and Warriors were to be shot now?

Don Reo: That’s a good question. You know, I don’t know. It depends on what age group I was after demographically. The perfect guy for [Erik] Greystone would be somebody like George Clooney, who is the dashing leading man type but also has a real sense of humor and mischief about him. He would probably be my first choice.

Interviewer: What about Blackpool? I think that would be tough since Duncan Regehr was perfect.

Don Reo: Yeah, he was perfect. I might not go the same way if I were to do it today. I might not have the handsome leading man. I might go, you know, I might have Quinten Tarantino play Blackpool. [chuckles] I’m not sure.

Interviewer: Any other ideas for the major roles?

Don Reo: You know, I was so thrilled with the way everybody did those parts that I really can’t imagine anybody else doing them. I can imagine George Clooney playing Greystone, but other than that I really don’t know. Not unless you’re really going to go for different types. But you couldn’t play that part better than Julia Duffy did – it’s just not possible… and Clive… You know, it’s hard for me to imagine. If somebody came to me and said ‘We’re going to put you back on the air with this’ I think I’d end up with people that you don’t know… casting it pretty much the way I did the first time. Jeff was certainly known from Taxi but no one had ever heard of Duncan and Julia had done a few TV spots. So there wasn’t a whole lot of star power to it when we first did it and I don’t think there would be again. I think it would be people that you’d never heard of.

Interviewer: What about some of the character development? It seemed collaborative with the actors from the different things I’ve read.

Don Reo: Well it developed that way. In the writing of it, it was always the classic good versus evil. The only change that I made was I had the idea of making [the] Darth Vadar [type character] essentially a handsome, leading man.

Interviewer: Well, you got him. Dirk is by far the favorite character [on the list].

Don Reo: Well, the bad guy is always a more interesting part to play and by casting a leading-man type as the bad guy, I thought it set up more equal adversaries. When the bad guy is always the guy who makes your skin crawl, then you know that the hero’s going to triumph over time. In this case, you had doubt because you said, ‘Wow, this guy’s pretty formidable.’

Interviewer: Fabulous character.

Don Reo: Yes, and one of the great entrances of all time… ‘Hi.’ That was meant to be the first time you saw him and because of the way CBS chose to air the shows, it wasn’t. That was supposed to be his entrance - he cuts the rope, then the scream and ‘Hi.’

Interviewer: And ‘Bye.’ So simple, but so fun.

Don Reo: Yeah, it was a terrific moment. That was the original way that I wrote it. I remember I laughed when it came out of the pen… I thought it was amusing. That was fun.

Interviewer: Regarding that character - is Dirk really evil or was it due to his father or Vector’s influence that he was the way he is?

Don Reo: Blackpool? He was just a bad guy. He was bad to the bone.

Interviewer: [both chuckle] So that was his theme song.

Don Reo: Yeah. He was just born bad – it wasn’t his fault.

Interviewer: What about Geoffrey Blackpool – was he really that dumb or was it an act?

Don Reo: Yes, he was dumb, but dangerous dumb. In later episodes he would have caused a lot of damage. He was one of those people who think they’re smarter than they really are – and I consider that to be dumb.

Interviewer: Did you work with the actors on the filming?

Don Reo: I was on the stage all the time. Judy [Allison] and I were both on the stage. We hired a staff of writers – Bill Richmond, Paul Edwards, Robert Earll – there may have been someone else, but I can’t recall.

Interviewer: It seemed like it was a super talented crew and cast.

Don Reo: Oh, it sure was. I saw Bill Richmond the other day. He also wrote the original The Nutty Professor. He wrote seven Jerry Lewis movies. Fascinating guy. Peter Wooley and Theadora Van Runkle – those people were all just brilliant. And I was so naïve that I didn’t try to help them. [chuckles] I thought, I’ll hire a costume director, a wardrobe designer and they’ll just do it. And that’s what happened. Everybody sort of got to realize their own vision of this crazy stuff.

Interviewer: Which is what Peter Wooley [the production designer] said was so cool – he could do anything.

Don Reo: Yeah, I was just thrilled with everything they came up with. I mean, I was just so happy to be there and have a job that I was very pleased with everything that everybody did. It was a fun time.

Interviewer: You and Judith [Allison] had written quite a few [episodes], too.

Don Reo: Yes.

Interviewer: With all the writing that you’ve done, have you ever authored a book?

Don Reo: I haven’t published one. I wrote two books and they offered me a pitiful sum of money to publish them and wanted rights to six sequels for nothing. So I turned it into a screenplay. It’s called Ace Jackson: Let It Bleed. I hope to actually do it someday. It’s about vampires and the gates of hell and all that stuff, but it’s pretty funny at the same time. Sort of a film noir kind of thing. It’s a combination of Raymond Chandler and Stephen King. It’s really fun.

Interviewer: You also wrote for M*A*S*H. That was a huge hit and had an amazing run from 1972 to 1983 – any favorite memories from working on the show?

Don Reo: Well, I replaced Larry Gelbart on that show. I was only on it for a year – 1975 to 1976. The episodes have been bought for another run, actually. After that I did Rhoda.

Interviewer: You worked with Alan Katz on M*A*S*H

Don Reo: Yeah, Alan and I worked on that together. We met on Laugh-In, although we were hired independently. But, yeah, we were partners. We worked together for six and a half years, I guess.

Interviewer: Did that have any impact on casting Phyllis Katz [who is Alan’s sister] as Cassandra?

Don Reo: Yeah, I knew Phyllis and liked her a lot. I actually wrote the part [of Cassandra] for her.

Interviewer: Any special Wizards and Warriors memories or favorite episodes?

Don Reo: The pilot certainly is. The Rescue is my favorite episode. It’s the one we spent the most time on, the one we spent the most money on and we got outdoors a lot more on that one, because we had a bigger budget. Later on when you have a smaller budget you end up doing a lot of stuff on sound stages. The guys were very creative with the fog and the snakes in the trees and the lizard people – the Jenks.

Interviewer: How do you spell that?

Don Reo: J-e-n-k-s. I was driving down the Ventura Freeway and I asked my son what we should call the lizard people and he said ‘Jenks’ and I said, ‘OK, that’s it.’

Interviewer: [laughs] So he had input too. The names were wild and the creatures were amazing.

Don Reo: Well, we wanted to have this over-blown sense of drama on all of them. That’s why Night of Terror, Skies of Death, you know. We originally wanted to have ‘death’ in every episode and every title, but the Caverns of Chaos was too good to turn down.

Interviewer: That’s probably one of my favorites. I think the two favorites on the list are Caverns and Vulkar’s.

Don Reo: I don’t have a whole lot of memory on Vulkar’s Revenge. It’s divided into two sections in my head – the pilot and then the series. The series is so labor intensive. You’re writing and shooting and going to the sound stage and on location and you’ve got monsters and matte paintings… There was no computer-generated stuff then, so all of it was time consuming and fascinating, but it’s chaotic. So now, all these years later, my memory is a little mixed up as to what happened when and what the particulars of each show were. You guys know that much better than I do. I’m not even sure of the show I’m doing now. [both laugh]

Interviewer: Isn’t that My Wife and Kids?

Don Reo: Yes.

Interviewer: That’s a very funny show. Do you mind if we tell people what you’re doing now?

Don Reo: No, no. I did Action before this one and a few people were fond of that show. Another short-lived, but well-liked show.

Interviewer: The good ones don’t last and it’s sad. I realize they have to get an audience, but they just don’t seem to give it enough time.

Don Reo: Or they screw it up. I did a show called The John Larroquette Show and the first year of that was just about as good as television gets and then the network decided to come in and ‘fix it’ for me…

Interviewer: Oh, man… never let ‘em fix anything. Jay Kerr was in that, too…

Don Reo: Yes, he guest starred. I had interesting people on there – Kinky Friedman, David Cassidy, Dion DiMucci from Dion and the Belmonts...

Interviewer: You did something in Las Vegas with David Cassidy, didn’t you?

Don Reo: Yes, [it’s] called The Rat Pack is Back! We wrote and produced [it] together [and] that ran for… well, this is the third year now. We’re going to move it, so it closed on the 30th of April…

Interviewer: You keep busy don’t you?

Don Reo: I try.

Interviewer: [chuckles] I was going to ask you a couple of ‘canon’ questions for the show if you remember. Who’s older - Erik or Justin? There’s a line…

Don Reo: Where he calls him little brother. But I think that’s because of their size… Justin was taller.

Interviewer: I noticed that the character of Erik Greystone [played by Jeff Conaway] had heels on his boots and most of the other guys didn’t. We on the list have a theory about what that accounts for, but…

Don Reo: Oh, we had an entire codpiece episode…

Interviewer: Oh, man!

Don Reo: No one’s ever told you this story?

Interviewer: No.

Don Reo: We had to shut down production because Jeff was worried that his codpiece wasn’t as big as Duncan’s. [chuckles] Theadora had to make him a bigger codpiece. He said ‘The bad guy can’t have a bigger codpiece than the hero.’ So, that actually slowed down production.

Interviewer: That’s hilarious!

Don Reo: Yeah, true story! He may have been right, maybe the good guy should have a good size codpiece. Duncan was a much bigger guy. You know, he’s 6’5" – something like that. Huge. So, there was a lot of leather movin’ around.

Interviewer: We love the leather creaks.

Don Reo: We thought about taking those out. But I just liked it. I thought it was like a saddle on a horse making those kinds of noises. There was something really cool about it, so I left them all in. I remember sitting there on the dubbing stage. I got rid of all the squeaks and [then] I said, ‘Wait a minute – let me hear them.’ We put them back and for some reason, I just liked it. I don’t know. Lack of taste.

Interviewer: Well, we like it. I know [in an interview] Duncan said he worked them in [purposely].

Don Reo: Yeah, after awhile he’d get to know when he could make it creak.

Interviewer: Was anyone else considered for the roles?

Don Reo: Oh, yes. David Cassidy was the runner-up for Greystone. He went to the network the same day Jeff did. Jeff basically got the part because he looked more like a prince – he had the long, blonde hair and all that. I think that’s how the network finally came down on his side as opposed to David. And for Marco? God, I saw so many people. There was a football player named John Matusak, [he] has since died. Jake Steinfeld [Body by Jake]… he was new in town at that point and came in and read for it. Almost every big guy in the world read for it. Richard Moll [Bull on Night Court] was close for that part. For the princess, I think it came down to Julia [Duffy] and a girl named Stacey Malkin. Vector was originally Richard Libertini, who bailed 24 or 48 hours before we started shooting. He said, ‘I just can’t do this. I been thinking about it and I don’t know how to play it.’ He didn’t call me directly – his agent called. So, we were very fortunate to find Clive Revill.

Interviewer: Oh, he was perfect. I never knew he had red hair because of the hats.

Don Reo: [chuckles] The hat. He doesn’t wear a hat.

Interviewer: [chuckles] I know. We’re always trying to figure out what it is if he doesn’t wear a hat.

Don Reo: Also, I think Ted Danson was up for one of those parts. I think we were trying to get him to read for Greystone and what had happened was… I could be wrong about this but I believe Julia Duffy was the original Diane in Cheers. She made a pilot with another actor who later went on and played in the series Hunter… Fred Dryer. Well, that was Sam and Diane. They shot a pilot and decided to re-cast it, so Ted Danson became unavailable to read for Greystone. But Julia became available to read for Ariel. So, that’s how that all happened. She came in and she was so ‘it.’ She made it come alive.

Interviewer: Oh, she was great! I’m sure it’s a terrific amount of work and there’s pressure, but they made it look like so much fun.

Don Reo: It actually was a lot of fun. It wasn’t all that much pressure. It’s not real work if you’re enjoying it.

Interviewer: That’s true.

Don Reo: Patty LuPone was in reading for something. I think it might have been the queen. And Blackpool, I don’t remember anybody other than Duncan. I know that when Duncan came in, that was it. I don’t remember anybody who went on to do other things, but it’ll be interesting to look in this [archive] box. I’ll have probably the notes from the casting sessions to see who we passed on. It’s always a frightening thing. I’ve gone back and seen I’ve passed on Kathleen Turner on stuff… what do I know?

Interviewer: Here’s another couple of ‘canon’ questions… The Belldonna character – was that really just Belldonna? There’s a [list] theory that it was Bethel in disguise.

Don Reo: You know, I never answered that myself. There really was Belldonna, but I never got to decide if she was controlled by Bethel or not. We never got far enough into the series, but I was leaning that way. I think I was leaving hints that that was a possibility. Because I did want to mix it up. I did want the dark side to appear in places where you didn’t think they would. So, yes, I was leaning in that direction… Actually, Judy [Allison] said that Belldonna definitely was Bethel. She remembers that better than me.

Interviewer: Playing both sides of the fence. That’s a smart thing to do.

Don Reo: *chuckles* Yes, it is.

Interviewer: Since there were only eight episodes we have theories and threads…

Don Reo: Yes, I know. Yours are probably just as good as mine. Justin – I’m just not sure if he was older or younger. My feeling is that he was older than Erik. He was his older brother.

Interviewer: Except he didn’t want to be the one who rescues everybody.

Don Reo: Well, he was a wastrel… a playboy. I actually wrote the part for Jay Kerr. That’s what Jay was like in those days. I mean, he is that character. What was the show with the hospital scene?

Interviewer: That was Skies of Death.

Don Reo: Interesting thing with that hospital scene. I don’t know if anybody’s noticed it, but there’s a soldier with his ass in a sling. [both laugh] I said to [Bill] Bixby, it’s got this long tracking shot… and I said, ‘Well, put somebody’s ass in a sling’ so one of the guys actually [did]…

Interviewer: I’ll have to look for that.

Don Reo: We were making up all these… well, everything was made up. The hospital stuff, the treatment, the medicine and all of it. There were no rules.

Interviewer: It was great. ‘You’ll be all right, Lefty.’ [both laugh]

Interviewer: Ian Wolfe [as Wizard Traquill] was always shown seated. Was that a running gag?

Don Reo: Well, Ian was pretty feeble because of his age, so it was better for him physically to be seated. It’s tough standing around on a set all day. As far as the character of Traquill, it was also better for him to be seated because of all he knew [as a wizard].

Interviewer: This is kind of silly, but what is a tadmon? A chicken? A turkey?

Don Reo: [laughs] Whatever you want it to be.

Interviewer: Boy, that’s a good answer. We figured carpaccas were potatoes but there’s all these madeup words.

Don Reo: That’s what they are – made up words. It’s a thing that never existed so it can be whatever you want it to be.

Interviewer: What about the rule that witches and wizards can’t kill? Was that something that was decided in advance or written as the show went along?

Don Reo: I think I made up most of the rules before it started. I pretty much knew what the rules of the world were - the Book and all of that stuff. I had that pretty much planned out because the network would always ask me these questions.

Interviewer: What about the council?

Don Reo: Well, we always had a higher body that either side could appeal to on a lot of decisions.

Interviewer: Kind of the supreme court…

Don Reo: Yeah, sort of a supreme court of wizards.

Interviewer: Was there any plan for Saris Blackpool to wake up if the show had continued?

Don Reo: Oh, I think so. There were so many things to do with the addition of the brothers; we were set to expand those stories forever. And in dealing with magic, anything can happen. I mean, we could have killed people and had them come back.

Interviewer: [both laugh] Well, Vulkar did.

Don Reo: Yeah, it would have been a lot of fun to bring back all sorts of people. Specifically, I never really worked on that story line [about Saris], but I’m sure it’s one I would have gotten to.

Interviewer: Regarding that episode [Vulkar’s Revenge]… there was a comment that none of us understood. Justin asks about a chamber maid that carries around a ball of steel wool.

Don Reo: I would guess that was probably an ad-lib from Jay because, you know, that’s where he lived.

Interviewer: At the end of the episodes, it appears that there was a copyright notice from Mattel. Were they planning on merchandising?

Don Reo: I believe it was a disclaimer that we were not connected, nor meant to be connected to the Mattel game called Wizards and Warriors [which was out at that time]. So, we had to put that in and say that we weren’t that [same thing].

Interviewer: Oh, I see. Jeff Conaway’s son, Emerson, was in one of the episodes – do you recall that?

Don Reo: Well, yes he was. I’m not sure of which one it was, but it was an outdoor shot and they walked along together and talked a bit.

Interviewer: Were there any pranks, bloopers or an out-take reel?

Don Reo: There must have been, but I don’t remember it. If there was one, I don’t have it and I don’t remember seeing one, so chances are there weren’t any. I’m sure there were outtakes but I don’t think we ever collected them. It was pretty serious business most of the time

Interviewer: Phyllis Katz told us about one where her character is being dragged down the hall as she hangs onto Erik Greystone’s leg but it couldn’t be used when they saw the dailies…

Don Reo: Oh, that’s right. There was a guy standing behind one of the pillars, I believe. [laughs] One of the lighting guys.

Interviewer: Sounds like a fun set! Do you know if there is still a map [of Aperans] around?

Don Reo: As you were asking me that I was wondering the same thing. I don’t know. Warner Brother’s owns all of that stuff. [They] probably put it in some prop house somewhere. I had one of Greystone’s swords for awhile, but my kids were playing with it out in the yard and I don’t know what happened to it. But the rest of it went into… god knows where. It’s probably been recycled and became part of the Friends’ couch. We also had a couple of innovative things… ‘Wizards and Warriors will be right back’ was done by a woman. We had a woman’s voice on there, which I don’t think anybody else has ever done.

Interviewer: No, it’s usually a man on the voice-over.

Don Reo: Right. It’s a woman with an English accent and I wanted that specifically. I have no idea why I wanted that, but that’s what we did. [laughs]

Interviewer: It was great to have them freeze into a cartoon [for the commercial breaks] and then come back.

Don Reo: Yeah, I stole that from The Wild, Wild West. In fact, the device of cliff-hanger was [from] The Wild, Wild West because when it was on [the air] I loved that device. I just thought that was the coolest thing, so we did it.

Interviewer: Well, it was fun.

Don Reo: The whole show was a fun show. If it had been a hit, I would have really enjoyed continuing it.

Interviewer: We’re trying to keep it alive a little bit.

Don Reo: Well, that’s very nice of you. I’m quite amazed.

Interviewer: It was three years ago that I went online and I found the list. I never forgot Duncan Regehr as Dirk Blackpool, so I did a search and came up with the original list site.

Don Reo: He’s quite an accomplished artist, Duncan. He’s had a couple shows here in LA. Blackpool was the perfect character for him. It really was the perfect match of actor and role.

Interviewer: I agree. Of course, many of us are interested in seeing the show re-aired or released on DVD. Any suggestions for that?

Don Reo: I would write to them [Warner Brothers]. I have no idea why they don’t put it out. That would be a fun one. It should be out on DVD, but it’s up to Warner Brothers.

Interviewer: We’ve got some contact information for that, so we’ll try that for re-air or DVD. Xena and Hercules, all that is built out of the Wizards and Warriors tradition.

Don Reo: I guess it was. It was just ahead of its time or in the wrong time spot. It was enormous fun though. I put all my friends in it. John Bennett Perry was a close friend of mine…

Interviewer: Oh, Colter. That was a great character. Man of few words and big explosives.

Don Reo: Basically we had him playing that Clint Eastwood type character. Matthew [his son] was a little kid then. Matthew Perry, biggest star in the world. And he was around. And Ryeland Allison my step-son was in it. He’s now writing music for movies.

Interviewer: We had found some information about him. And I think your brother is a musician?

Don Reo: Yeah, my brother David is a musician. And Ryeland’s got a band that he plays in and he does a lot of music for movies. He does all kinds of stuff - electronic music and really interesting stuff. But, he was in it. He played the guy selling the badgers didn’t he?

Interviewer: Was that him? ‘You don’t need no stinking badgers’?

Don Reo: Yes. It was badges and we did a take off on badgers. ‘Badgers, you don’t need no stinkin’ badgers.’ I think we wrote that line on the stage. I don’t think it was in the script. As we were rehearsing it, I knew the guy was selling knives but we didn’t have the correct way of saying it. And the whole badger thing… Jay and I were goofing around and we came up with it. Just put it right in. It was pretty funny.

Interviewer: There is also a badgers related line in The John Larroquette show episode that Jay appeared in. Was there a badgers related line in the episode of Blossom that Jay appeared in also?

Don Reo: [laughs] No, there was no badger’s line in Blossom.

Interviewer: Did you work with Jay prior to Wizards and Warriors? You said you wrote Justin with him in mind.

Don Reo: Yes, we did a pilot called A Rock And A Hard Place – I don’t know if it ever aired. I think we did six episodes and it was on NBC.

Interviewer: In Night of Terror, there was a voice of the evil man who had owned the castle… was that another friend, or was that just a voice over?

Don Reo: I think it was just a voice over. It might have been Beala Neel because I think that’s who the painting [of Karnaj] was of, but I’m not sure.

Interviewer: What was your favorite thing about the show - creating it, producing it or writing it?

Don Reo: I liked it all - I loved the writing of it. I sold it to CBS, to Kim LeMasters. He bought it and originally commissioned the script. I enjoyed every bit of it. Jim Frawley was there working with us on the pilot episode, The Rescue, and we worked for quite awhile putting all the elements together. Bryan Hickox came aboard, at first at the studio’s insistence because they said, ‘We can’t give these people all this money to play with.’ So, Bryan basically came in as a hired cop. I didn’t like him at first but then I grew to actually like him a lot because we all shared this vision of doing this insane kind of…crazy show. It was just a lot of fun. It was so…

Interviewer: Out of the box…

Don Reo: Yeah, it was just different than anything else. It was totally made up. Nobody could say to me, ‘Greystone wouldn’t say that’ or ‘That’s not the way lightening hawks kill.’ I had all the answers. I made it all up. So, there was a marvelous freedom in that from the usual network notes, because there were no network notes. There couldn’t be any network notes because nobody knew. Only I did. So it was a lot of fun. And doing all that stuff - you’re basically making movies. You know, we had a panther on the stage one day…

Interviewer: Really?

Don Reo: Yes, they had a panther that turns into Bethel. I don’t know if we ever put it in the show.

Interviewer: I don’t recall that.

Don Reo: We shot it but I don’t think the transition worked. I remember looking at the tests, the transition from the cat to Randi…

Interviewer: Boy, they really didn’t do that until Willow

Don Reo: We were trying stuff that nobody knew how to do. I wanted this cat to turn into her and then she walks into a room and we just weren’t able to pull it off without computers.

Interviewer: It’d be amazing what it could look like now.

Don Reo: Yeah! Oh, the show would be much less expensive to do now. You wouldn’t need all those matte paintings and… we actually had guys painting that stuff, so it was tough. I can’t tell you the matte artist’s name… he was really good. We had all kinds of stuff that was fun… stuntmen, sword fighting, trapeze artists…

Interviewer: How did you come up with the names of the places and characters?

Don Reo: Most of it I just made up. Erik was my son’s name, so that’s where Erik came from. Dirk Blackpool just sounded like a good bad guy name. Ariel, I just thought was a pretty name. And Baaldorf was the same thing – my son Erik might have come up with that also. I think we sat around and talked about names one day, with both Ryeland and Erik, my sons. I think we came up with a lot of them between the three of us. But, Traquill I came up with and Marco was pretty simple. Justin’s middle name was Case… so it’d be just in case…

Interviewer: [laughs] Perfect! Because he always saves the day.

Don Reo: Right. And the rest of them … you say what name fits at that moment in time. Cassandra was a character we added later. It wasn’t in the pilot, but we thought the handmaiden idea was good. It really started with the idea of her [Princess Ariel] brushing her hair and then throwing it [the brush] and somebody has to catch it before it hits the ground. We were sitting around the office one day at lunch and I said ‘Well, let’s do that. Let’s give her a handmaiden who’s in mortal fear that she’s gonna drop something.’ And it was also perfectly in character with the princess to not even think about that. You know, she’s not aware of gravity or anything like that…

Interviewer: Well, especially with hats like that…

Don Reo: Those hats… god… having to carry those around all day.

Interviewer: I can’t imagine. One last question - out of all of the projects that you’ve worked on so far, which stand out as your favorites?

Don Reo: Well, Wizards is certainly one of my favorites. I had a great time and it was a lot of fun to do, even though it was a lot of work. My second favorite is the first year of The John Laroquette Show. That was tremendous fun and it was the best writing, I think, that I’ve gotten on the air of mine. I’ve got other stuff that I think is better, but that was a great deal of fun. So, I think those two.

Interviewer: Great. Well, we certainly appreciate your time. It’s been wonderful to talk to the creator of Wizards and Warriors.

Don Reo: It was a fun thing to create. I wish I could do it again, it would just cost too much money.

Interviewer: Well, we’d like it if you did. [both laugh]

Don Reo: So would I. I’ll ask – chances are they’ll say no.

Interviewer: Thank you again for this opportunity. It’s rare to be able to talk to the creator of a show and have such a great response.

Don Reo: No problem. I’m really flattered by the whole thing. You’re welcome.


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