A BAKER'S DOZEN WITH WILLIAM KATT
If you've never heard of William Katt, there's a good chance you were being held prisoner by little green men.
William Katt's career has been as unique and diverse as the characters that he's portrayed in TV and motion pictures. Making his film debut in the 1976 cult-horror classic "Carrie", Katt also went on to star in such films as "Big Wednesday" and "Butch and Sundance: The Early Years". His most memorable role might have involved a red super-hero suit, a Volkswagon bug, and a hot brunette in a little TV show called "The Greatest American Hero". From 1981-1983, Katt played Ralph Hinkley, a high-school teacher who is given a costume with extraordinary abilities by aliens from outer space in order to save the world. For three seasons, fans laughed out loud as Ralph tried to master the suit after losing the instructions to make it work properly. To this day, "The Greatest American Hero" is still remembered fondly by comic fans as a shining moment in super-hero mythology.
Katt crashed through my office window at the CCL offices for this Baker's Dozen interview. He talked about his new publishing company Catastrophic Comics and the new "Greatest American Hero" comic published by Arcana Studios and Catastrophic Comics. He also discussed his career before the alien suit, where his love for comics came from, and what it was like smooching Connie Sellecca.
Comic Collector Live: Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Katt. (Don't worry about the window. I'll clean that up later.) Let's start at the very beginning. Your mom was an actress and your dad was an actor. What made you decide that you wanted to be an actor?
William Katt: Initially the attraction for me as a kid was - no school and lots of donuts. But I really didn’t know that I'd make it a profession until I was in my twenties and realized there was something better than the donuts…the people!
CCL: You've worked in theatre as well as television and motion pictures. Which genre of entertainment was most fulfilling for you as an actor?
WK: It was assuredly "The smell of the grease paint - the roar of the crowd" - oh, wait. That was a musical, wasn’t it? No matter - it's what drew me in during college… more of a disease that you just can't shake.
CCL: Let's talk more about "The Greatest American Hero". How did you first get involved in the show?
WK: I was appearing with Diana Weist in an OffBroadway called 'Bonjour La Bonjour' and Stephen Cannell has sent me a script - I read it, thought it was extremely funny, but had no interest in doing television. My agent insisted I at least take a meeting with Stephen and so I did. Stephen flew to New York - we had dinner after a performance one evening and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Hollywood the night we closed and started work on "Hero" the next morning. (P.S. My agent insisted that it would only run 4 episodes and I'd be back in New York shortly thereafter doing theatre. Happily he was wrong, and "Hero" became an important part of my life.
CCL: Connie Selleca is one of the most beautiful women ever to walk the face of the planet, and you got to kiss her on the show. How cool are you?
WK: Connie was not only one of the most beautiful women ever, but she was also one of the smartest and funniest. I remember offering to give a percentage of my salary if the producers wrote in more kissing scenes. Little did I know Connie had a clause in her contract stipulating there would be no kissing men in spandex.
WK: I told you she was smart.
CCL: What do you remember most about wearing the red suit? Do you have one moment in all the episodes that stands out above the others when you were filming in the 'jammies'?
WK: I remember dressing up as Wonder Woman one Halloween! A pretty picture! More seriously…I got to lay down across a helicopter strut dressed in the suit and we flew over Balboa Park in the San Fernando valley once…that was pretty cool.
CCL: DC COMICS tried to sue the producers of the show when it aired, claiming Ralph's character was too much like Superman. If Ralph had to fight Superman, do you think he had a shot at taking him with no instructions to the suit?
WK: Ralph would have been too in awe of Superman to ever fight him. Now Mighty Mouse was another matter…Ralph for sure could have taken that little rodent.
CCL: Ralph had many different powers when he wore the suit, like flight, super-strength, invisibility and even precognition. What's the one power you think Ralph should have had that never made it to the show?
WK: I would have liked to explore what the symbol on the belt meant. It's something that we are going to do in the comic book. Maybe it's just a cool cookie cutter but I think we'll discover more.
CCL: Let's talk more about the comic book. You've recently started Catastrophic Comics, your own publishing company - obviously you've played a super-hero on TV, but that doesn't always equate into a love for comics. What made you decide to get into the comics biz?
WK: I've always loved telling stories - first to get out of trouble when I was a kid and later cause I had developed a knack for it as a result. I've written a number of screenplays and plays and it just seemed like a media that deserved exploring.
CCL: One of the comic titles that Catastrophic (in association with Arcana Studios) will publish is "The Greatest American Hero". What else can fans of the show expect to see in the comic that wasn't really touched upon in the TV series?
WK: We’re going to try and stay true to the integrity of the original series yet explore new terrain. I don't feel we were ready for the series to go off the air and we have more stories to tell. Hopefully, we'll capture the imagination of our fans and keep them coming back. Ultimately, we'd like to do some flash animation for the web and use all the original character's voices. That'd be cool I think, We'll see.
CCL: Will all of the main characters that were in the show return in some capacity for the new comic?
WK: We've taken a few small liberties with the storyline of the first two-hour pilot to update the characters and make it more relevant to today but by and large the original characters are all there.
CCL: You recently appeared at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, where you reunited with fellow cast members Connie Sellecca and the super-cool Robert Culp. (I wish I could have been there for that!) What was that like and how did the fans react?
WK: I remember Connie turning to me and asking if I was worried if people would show up for our panel at Comic Con? She didn't have to wonder for long because just then we walked into the conference hall and it was jam-packed with hundreds and hundreds of fans who gave us a very gracious and warm reception.
CCL: You recently appeared on an episode of 'Heroes' this season in a very 'cool' appearance, so to speak. How did that cameo happen?
WK: Greg Beeman is the executive producer of Heroes and directs many of their shows. We had worked together on "Problem Child III" a number of years ago and had a great time. He had casting call me.
CCL: Finally, if little green men showed up and gave someone a suit with special powers to save humanity, and they came to you for guidance, what advice would you give them?
WK: Make sure the instruction manual came with back-up copies.
For more information on William Katt, and Catastrophic's new "Greatest American Hero" comic, please visit the following websites:
*(Steve Boyd is the Site Director for Comic Collector Live. He would also give half his salary to kiss Connie Sellecca.)