An Interview With David Hedison by Patricia D. Ames in August, 1992
What was great about growing up in Providence?
Parents’ names and occupations.
My father’s name was Albert David Hedison. I am Albert David Hedison, Jr. My mother is Rose Hedison. She is a homemaker. My father was in the jewelry business. He had hoped I would go into the jewelry business with him, but I found greener fields, as you know. I wanted to become an actor.
What was of interest to you as a boy; what set the tone for your childhood?
Well, I think when I was much younger I used to do lots of imitations of people: teachers, relatives, aunts, uncles, and that sort of thing. And I think that’s probably why I went into the acting field because I used to love doing various voices and various imitations.
What did you study at Brown University?
I majored in English and languages. The one language was Spanish.
What motivated you to choose acting as a profession?
I think it was when I was in high school at hope high school in Providence. I was eighteen. No, I was seventeen. No, I have to go back even further. I’ll go back to junior high school. I was about fifteen I think. And it was a play called “What a Life,” and I played the principal…Mr. Bradley. I really enjoyed being on the stage for those three performances, and I thought that’s probably the kind of thing I’d like to do for the rest of my life.
Who do you respect/admire in the business?
I think I’d have to say my teachers. The ones who taught me are the ones I really admire, particularly Sandy Meisner from the neighborhood playhouse and Uta Hagen from the Herbert Berghoff School. Those are the people I respect more than anyone in the business.
What have been the most difficult jobs? The most rewarding? The most challenging? The most dreadful?
Most difficult…when I was at the White Barn Theatre doing summer stock in Irwin, Pennsylvania. It was in 1955, and I was doing fourteen leading roles in fifteen weeks. That’s probably the most difficult work I’ve ever done in the theatre, or any place for that matter.
Most rewarding…I would think working with Lee Remick in Tennessee Williams’ “Summer and Smoke.” I played John Buchanan. We got wonderful reviews. We did it in London for the BBC and the London Times gave it a really wonderful review. That was in January of 1973.
Most challenging…I think was a play called “Forty Deuce” that I had done. It was the West Coast premiere, and I did that at the Pan Andreas Theatre in Hollywood. It was a very, very difficult role, and I had a six page monologue. But I enjoyed working on it very much. Don’t know whether I’d like to play that part again because it was a very tough role, but very rewarding and terrific reviews.
Most dreadful…I would say it’s shortly after I did “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” The following year when that was finished, I did the road company of a play called “Under the Yum Yum tree.” It wasn’t a bad play, but I didn’t think I was very good, and I really didn’t enjoy it. I think it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever done.
How do you define your acting style? What do you think you “do best”?
I think I do comedy best. I think I’m very good at comedy. I’ve done a few comedy things in stock and whatever, and I’m very good at that. You wouldn’t know that from “Another World” because I’m so grim and serious, as I was as well in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, but I do like comedy. I would love to do a comedy, and I’m sure I will someday.
What have you done of which you are particularly proud?
I remember when I was at summer camp when I was around fourteen years old, I remember reading a short story by W. W. Jacobs called “The Monkey’s Paw.” In my spare time I wrote a screenplay of it. I wrote about a half-hour drama, And we put it on in the camp. We cast it, I directed it, we got the sets, and it was really a thrilling thing. I got an outstanding camper award for it. We scared the junior campers half to death, but we did a great job, and am particularly proud of that because it was the first time I… That was even before my play in junior high school…that I’d done anything like that. I just seemed thrilled by the material that I’d read, and I wanted to put it in drama form, so it really worked.
What charities have you been associated with?
The Thalians in Hollywood dealing with emotionally disturbed children. Also L.I.F.E. which means “Love Is Feeding Everyone.” I don’t believe anyone in this country should be allowed to go hungry, so something should be done about that, and I’m trying very hard to do something.
Marital status and children?
I will be married…this coming June 29th, 1993…it will be twenty-five years, and that to me is hard to believe. We’re still happily married, my wife, Bridget, and myself. We have two children, twenty-one and twenty-two…two girls. They are both going to UCLA. the oldest, Alexandra, wants to be an actress (I think), and Serena, the youngest, wants to get into the political world.
What memories do you have of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”?
The memories are quite pleasant because I loved working with Richard Basehart. He was such a great actor, and I learned a lot from him. I thought he was just terrific. I missed him very much when he died. I just wish he were back here with us.
The memories are, all in all, quite pleasant except some of those shows later, in the fourth year with the monsters. I didn’t like doing those particularly. I didn’t mind when I had to turn into one, I thought that was a lot of fun. But I didn’t like when they had things like the fossil man and the rock man and this man and that man, and God knows what else. But the four years were wonderful, and I liked working with Irwin Allen and particularly with Richard Basehart.
What type of an acting experience was it?
I learned a lot because some of the material was so bad, and Richard Basehart said, “if you can make this believable, you can do anything.” And I think he was right.
How much swimming did you really do for “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”?
Quite a bit. I did a lot of swimming, a lot of underwater stuff, particularly the first year, but then I did have stunt doubles later on. But I did a lot of the stuff myself.
Is doing a soap opera really “Another World”? What’s different about working on a soap opera than other work you’ve done? Do you like it? What are the pros and cons?
It certainly is. As I told you earlier, the most difficult thing I’ve done was summer stock in 1955 when I was just starting out. That was difficult because I had to learn those scripts every week. We’d play one show at night and rehearse another one during the daytime and open the following Monday.
This is very difficult, “Another World”, because I’m used, as a film actor, to doing an hour show in six or seven days, the way I used to do it in Hollywood. And this time, I go in with an hour script and I do the whole thing in a day! So it’s an hour show a day. So you have to be on your toes, and you really have to know your lines.
Yes, I like it. I enjoy it. It makes me work very hard. I like to work hard, so that’s not so bad.
What are the pros and cons? Having steady work is the good part, and working with people I admire. And the bad part is that sometimes I feel that I could do better in certain scenes that I play, and I just haven’t had the time to do better. I try very hard and I do my best, and I guess that’s all I can ask of myself. I can’t be too hard on myself.
Sometimes I feel that when I do a show, or play a particular scene I feel it’s a rehearsal rather than an actual performance. So I think many times my fans are seeing a rehearsal. But at this point they don’t seem to mind, and that makes me very happy.
Any “failings”? (Love chocolate, uncontrollable around pasta, etc…)?
I don’t think so. Yes, I love chocolate, but I wouldn’t call that a failing. And I do love pasta. I think I have it two or three times a week. It’s very good for you, especially without the meat.
Do you have a pet?
No, I don’t have one now. I used to when I was living in Hollywood. We had two dogs and two cats. The cats were Cactus and Blackie, and the dogs were Highway and Heather. Heather was an Australian Sheepdog, and very, very sweet.
Highway died. He was an old dog, so we had to put him down,
And Heather, unfortunately we had to give away because I was moving to New York. But she’s very, very happy, and she has a wonderful home with lots of places to run around, so that makes me very happy. Of the two cats, one is still living, but the other was eaten up by a coyote. That was unfortunate, and we’re very sad about that.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
I can’t think of one. Maybe one day when I write one, I can think of something exciting. Maybe, what?…”My life in art”? Who knows? Stanislavsky did it, why can’t I?