"The Heroes' Mentor and Sage"
The X-Files Lexicon's exclusive interview with Jerry Hardin
Conducted by Matt Allair,
often with The X-Files Lexicon, situations unfold
that are most
unexpected; sometimes a hunch will lead to an opportunity that wasn't
planned well in advance. Such was the case when Sarah Stegall informed
me that she would be appearing as a panelist at Dragon Con in Atlanta,
so we made certain we found a way to cover it. We then learned that
actors Jerry Hardin and Nicholas Lea would be appearing as panelists in
a separate room of the convention, which led to a hunch that seemed
worth pursuing. I had reached out to Mr. Hardin's agent, Mitchell
Stubbs, in the past but decided to give it a new try. I got an
unexpected call from Mr. Hardin that Friday morning, and I moved
quickly to schedule an interview later in the day. The fact that the
date was September 11th held enough irony for me to not ignore that
point, but it was a random accident from all parties. For after all,
Deep Throat was an informant who warned about not taking government
narratives at face value, to be wary of agendas within agendas. While I
personally don't take much stock in 9/11 conspiracy theories, it seemed
fitting that such an interview would fall on such a date. The date
should not be trivialized by any means, but the irony is hard to escape.
There are many parts to Jerry Hardin. While many X-Philes remember him for the role of Deep Throat, his is a career that has spanned many decades. A consummate acting veteran, he is from a bygone era of television and film acting of which we might not see its kind again, when actors were expected to be a triple threat, when it seemed to be a point of pride to be a character actor. Jerry Hardin holds a certain gravitas that you don't see often with the new generation of actors. He continues to hold an easygoing Southern charm that has remained his trademark. Born in Dallas, Texas, in 1929, he grew up riding horses and attending rodeos. In high school, he was involved with speech and drama organizations. He won a scholarship to Southwestern University in Georgetown; by his senior year, he won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Europe. By 1953, he started his career in repertory theater in Arlington, Virginia, acting, writing, and assistant producing. He married Dianne Hill and had two children. He made his first inroads with Hollywood by appearing in Thunder Road. He moved to Los Angeles in 1973 and became a reliable regular of television series such as The Rockford Files, but the range of his film and television work is impressive - Gunsmoke, The Streets of San Francisco, Little House on the Prairie, Miami Vice, LA Law, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. His other film roles include Heartland, Reds, Cujo, The Falcon and The Snowman, Big Trouble in Little China, Ghosts of Mississippi, and Hidalgo. The play he wrote and performed, Mark Twain: On Man and His World, he's performed for sixteen years. His adult children, the actress Melora Hardin and Producer Shawn Hardin, are notable figures in their own right in Hollywood.
from Jerry's easygoing manner, his voice is so distinct, his diction is
also so distinct, and he holds such gravitas, it isn't surprising he
played roles of such authority, and it's hard not to be a little
intimidated. There were a few false starts during the beginning with
outside matters that interrupted the interview, but he was patient and
gracious. I found him to be charming, candid, approachable, and
relatable. The interview proceeded as follows:
Thank you for taking the
time to speak with me.
Matt: You started off doing repertory theatre in the
early 50s, in Virginia, not only with acting, but some directing and producing as
well. Did that training make it easier to transition into television
and film later on? Do you have a favorite role from that period of your
To begin with, you know,
what I do recall, it was really good to
be working as a professional actor. In those days, in the summer time,
we did summer stock, which was weekly. You'd put a new show up every
week. I was an award winner, which meant I was their guy for that
particular season the first season I was there. So, I ended up playing
lots of leads, and as I recall there were fourteen different shows that
year. It was extraordinarily good training, to get on your feet fast, a
wide variety of roles, and you had to get the material in your head and
make some choices quickly. There were lots of good roles — one doesn't
immediately pop to mind. There were a lot of shows where I spent years,
at the Barter Theatre. That's how I ended up directing, and being an
assistant producer, and what have you. The variety is extraordinary: we
toured some Shakespeare, and I remember playing Julius Caesar. I played
Cassius, which is a role I played several times in my life. I enjoyed
that, and it was my first exposure to Cassius — not to Shakespeare, as
I played Shakespeare in England.
people don't realize you won a Fulbright
study acting in Europe in the early 50s. Was the culture of acting in
London intimidating for you? Was the experience something you had to
Oh, I found it very
stimulating, not intimidating. The
amount of material that was available was mind boggling. There were all
kinds of plays on in London at that time, and as students we were
invited to all previews and all shows that were in trouble and closing,
and also the scholarship provided me with sufficient money to go on my
own if I wished. Believe it or not, if you were in desperate trouble
you could sit in popcorn heaven for 45 cents! (American money.) There
was no denying your ability to see anything that was on multiple times
if you wished. It was an extraordinarily exciting and fulfilling
experience. The original grant was for one year, and I won a second
grant, so my exposure was over two years, plus a summer off to go as I
pleased through Europe. That was a memorable time in my life.
there an acting teacher who really
impacted your thinking
I don't remember specific
ones so much as the pleasure of
knowing that most of the acting teachers — I assume that we are talking
about London — were West End actors. It felt as if you were really
getting it from the mouth from the ones who had been there, done that,
and has a pretty damn good idea about what should happen and how you
get there. There were a variety of viewpoints, of course, but I recall
being really impressed that the Royal Academy managed to get West End
actors to come teach, and often times we would get to see them working.
So, we had some idea of whether what they thought was good was really
working or not.
have spoken fondly before about James
Garner and The Rockford
Files. What was it that made the experience so enjoyable?
Well, I had a nice relationship with Garner.
My first meeting
with him, we were exchanging comments about boots. (Laughs.) I was
wearing some nice boots and so was he, and he commented on my Western
boots, so we got into conversations about why we liked boots and who we
liked, and who made them, and all of that. I would say that sort of
connected us, we felt like we knew each other's backgrounds to some
degree, and the several times that I worked for him, we never lost that
connection. I enjoyed his sense of humor. He was a nice man, and very
much available to people who worked on the show. He wasn't a guy who
went immediately into the dressing room and disappeared. He was a guy
who was around.
Matt: You worked on Spielberg's 1941
in a small part. What was your
experience with working on something with such a large scale? Did it
leave any impressions?
Not really. My recall of that is it was
really an in and out
kind of deal, you know. There were a number of other kind of things
going on somewhere along that time. There was Earthquake, was one.There
was lots of production value going on. It was just part of the
ballgame. That particular film didn't impress me very much while I was
doing it, and apparently it didn't impress the public very much.
also worked on Missing in the early eighties, which is regarded well by
many. What was your experience like working on the film?
I enjoyed working with
He's a really
fascinating man, and very available to the actors — you know, a lot of
directors aren't, but he was. And he also scared me. We had a scene
where I was driving a car and talking to the two young people involved,
and he wanted to do it in live traffic, and I said, "I can drive, and
I'm fine with that.” Except what he did was that they put the director,
the cameraman, and the lights on the front bumper of the car I was
driving. (Laughs.) And when I got in to drive, I said, "Costa, I can't
see very well out of this. I'll kill you guys!” And he said, "Oh, no
no, it's not hard.” And I said, "Let me tell you, I'm not seeing much
out of the front of this car! I'll kill you in Mexican traffic. You
guys are crazy!” And he said, "No, you are okay, you're doing fine!”
So, we did it in live traffic, but half of my mind was trying to keep
those guys alive. I thought, "Oh, my god,” but it was fun and that was
the only really stressful part of the film, but that shook me up. I
thought for sure I was going to hurt somebody.
Matt: You have
played the role of Mark Twain a number of times. What is it about the
person that holds such a fascination for you?
I was just hired to play Twain on Star Trek
but while I was
doing that, one of the producers pulled me aside and said, ”Boy, you
ought to do Mark Twain,” and I said, "Hal Holbrook will put a contract
on me — he's been doing it all of his life!” And he said, "Ah, he
doesn't own the material. You should do it!” And it sort of got my
attention, and then someone else said the same thing to me. So, between
the two shows that we did, I went back and read Twain, which I had not
read since I was a child really, and I was really struck by how funny
he was, and how contemporary he was, his concerns, sort of like they
came out of the daily newspaper. So, I thought, "You know what, maybe
I'll take a shot at that because I really like the man, and I like the
way he came to being a writer, the background, being a river boat
captain, and mining for silver in Nevada.” A lot of his stories, you
know, came from the silver miners around campfires when he was in
Nevada as a very young man. So, when I went back for the second episode
I announced on the set; "Well, you guys talked me into it: I'm going to
do Twain!” And the director said, "Good, I'll direct it. When do we
start?” (Laughs.) I said, "Whoa, wait a minute, I haven't gotten the
material together, but I'll call you as soon as I have something to
work with!” Sure enough, we did. I put together a show, and he directed
it for our first experiment, and it went very well, and I did it off
and on over fifteen / sixteen years. **
Matt: You worked
with the iconic Sydney Pollack on
The Firm. Do you
favorite memory from that project?
It was a very pleasant experience. One of the
memories I have,
when I got there he took me in to show me the set, which was the
library that belonged to the law offices of which I was the chairman.
There were over a million books that they had gotten on loan, and had
built a library to accommodate them, and I was stunned by the size, by
the immensity of that. I thought it was a really wonderful set, any
shot of that would have already made you fearful of the power there,
and what a great image. But it was nice working with him, and I met
some people that I had never met before.
Matt: I’ve heard
that Chris Carter wanted to cast you as Deep Throat because of that
film. Did Chris ever share that with you?
No, that is just something I heard as well.
Chris never said
that to me, and so I'm not even sure that's true. I've heard it several
times and from several places. People question me about it, and I've
said, "I don't know, could be.” I was delighted they hired me
for whatever the cause [of being hired].
Matt: When you first
were approached about
The X-Files, had you seen the
pilot episode, or was everything based on reading the script for "Deep Throat”?
No, I had not seen any of it, I just got a
script, and my
assumption was it was a one-time shot. The fact that they hired me
numbers of times in that first season was news to me almost every time
they called me. There was never a deal about me coming on multiple
Matt: Chris Carter
doesn’t believe in story bibles, and I understand he didn’t give
you a lot of information about Deep Throat. Did you have to create
your own character back-story? Did your thinking about the character
change as you learned more?
Absolutely. Yes, of course, initially it was
difficult to know
from whence he came because there was no indication at all whether he
was just out there, or if he was attached to the government, or was
not, or some alien prophet, who knew in the first few episodes. But it
soon became clear, at least to me, that he was in a place of some
considerable power, and certainly information, and that in order to
protect his sources, he needed to prod Mulder into doing things that he
thought needed doing. So, more and more of that came out in the kind of
things that got communicated to Mulder, I thought.
character’s role, Deep Throat, was to give a lot of exposition to
Mulder. Was that difficult? Did you find you had to pace the delivery
of such dialog with your scenes with David Duchvony?
*Missing was directed by Costa-Gavras and released in
1982. It starred Jack
Lemmon and Sissy Spacek and dealt with the disappearance of American
journalist Charles Horman as part of the aftermath of the Chilean coup
of 1973, and the efforts of Horman's father and wife to find out what
happened. The film also starred X-Files alumnus Charles Cioffi.
Incidentally, the film featured an excellent score by Vangelis.
Jerry: No, not particularly. That exposition was
something I got a lot
of in my career in film and television. People seem to think I made it
much more palatable than other actors did, so I was accustomed to
having those kind of roles. You have a page and a half of some dialog
or monolog to move the plot ahead, and you have to find a way to draw
the audience into that so that they are not aware so that they are
being stuck with iteration so the plot can move on.
Matt: A lot of fans
haven’t seen you as active in television or film. Have you been
doing theatre work?
Jerry: I haven't been working a lot. I am a month
and a half away from
being eighty-six years old. I don't get much in the way of work. I
don't get offers of work often, so that's one of the reasons why they
don't see me, and the other reason is that my energy level is less than
it used to be.
Matt: I do
understand, but a lot of fans have loved what you’ve done in the
past, and so they were naturally curious to see if there’s anything
Matt: After you were
no longer involved with The X-Files, did you follow
any of the
other shows, Millennium, The Lone Gunmen
Realm, or recently Chris’s Amazon show The After?
feel Chris Carter should be seen as this generation’s Gene
Roddenberry or Rod Serling?
Jerry: Well, I don't know, but the thing I do
believe about Chris is
that I was impressed that he was a very hands-on producer, during the
time that I was working on it, and also it was some of the best writing
that I ever got in years and years of work. It was really, very good.
At this point there was a
security alarm that started to ring over his
phone, as much as I assumed it was some home alarm, it could not help
but have it evoke a mental picture of Deep Throat standing near a
giant, thick metal security door, with a flashing red light beside it.
But we digress.
Matt: Are you
curious to see what happens with the six new X-Files
being created for January?
Jerry: (quickly) Absolutely, I'm curious to know.
I've seen in various
write ups that I'm part of it. (Laughs.) But Chris Carter hasn't told
me I'm part of it. I'm curious to know who is and who isn't [involved].
I know of some other actors who had some nice roles, and they aren't
involved either, so we're all curious to see what's going to be there.
Matt: Thank you for
taking the time to do this, I really appreciate this.
Jerry: Terrific, you're very welcome.
Jerry Hardin has earned
his iconic stature as a character actor, and
regardless of his present work status, he has certainly given us, the
viewers, a great body of work to appreciate, and it comes as no
surprise that Chris Carter more than twenty years ago would want to
cast him in such an important role. For while Deep Throat (or Ronald,
if you want to accept that, based on what's referenced in "Musings of a
Cigarette-Smoking Man",) left his mark on Fox Mulder, he also left his
mark on us as an audience. The death of Deep Throat left such a
visceral shock and changed the rules for series television, in ways we
still see today. It is a great honor for us to have had this moment
with Jerry Hardin, to get a little of his insight and humor, and I hope
these memories will cling to us as the years advance.
I wish Mr. Hardin the
very best and his legacy is very much earned.
**Les Landau was the director who worked on Star Trek: The Next
Generation on the two-part episode "Time's Arrow.” There's very little
information on his theatrical work, aside from his television credits.
Mr. Landau also worked on
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