Not My Job: Three Questions For Actor Terry O'Quinn About Hair

Jan 7, 2017
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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Chicago, our home, has become a hot bed of TV productions. So much so you can go out, throw a rock, and hit a beloved actor. And stunning them that way makes it easier to drag them into our auditorium.

BILL KURTIS: Actor Terry O'Quinn, who's well-known for his role of John Locke in the TV show "Lost," forgave us for hitting him on the head and told us about his movie debut in the famous flop "Heaven's Gate."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SAGAL: And in this movie - and people may not remember this, but Michael Cimino made "The Deer Hunter," huge hit, and then this was his follow-up. And it became - it's now - when people say, like, oh, that was a disaster - if, like, you have a basketball game and it goes terribly, people say oh, it was the "Heaven's Gate" of basketball games.

O'QUINN: It was. It was infamous, that's right, yeah.

SAGAL: And what was it like to be a part of that?

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: I'll tell you what, it was fun. It was - I got there, they - I played a cavalry officer. They gave me a uniform, and they said this is your horse, this is your group. Now we want you guys to go over to the next valley and practice riding in formation. So I said that's fine. We rode over to the next valley and everybody got high and rode around in circles. It was...

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: It was - a good time was had by all.

SAGAL: I'm glad to hear it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So I want you to tell me this, but I would say that you first became well-known for "The Stepfather" movies.

O'QUINN: I suppose so, yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah.

O'QUINN: For "The Stepfather" movie. The second one was one of those - well, I'm not doing anything and yeah.

SAGAL: Well, now, "The Stepfather" was a movie - it was a sort of horror-thriller from the '80s in which you played this guy who goes around marrying into lovely families and then murdering them.

O'QUINN: They made three - I think they made one not too long ago. I didn't see it.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Well, it's a beloved theme...

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And this is true - so in the end...

POUNDSTONE: ...What with Father's Day coming up and all.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah.

O'QUINN: I think they've worn it out, right? There were some fans. I don't mean to disrespect them. And I understand I was quite good in it, so...

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: I'm OK with that.

SAGAL: Now, you said about a sequel - if I remember correctly, this was one of the things where at the end of the first film, "The Stepfather," your character is killed in a just way.

O'QUINN: He was stabbed deeply in the chest with a butcher knife, like right through the middle, so...

SAGAL: Yeah.

O'QUINN: I was surprised to hear there was another one coming.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

MO ROCCA: But it's not the same character.

SAGAL: Well, no, it is, though.

O'QUINN: It is the same character.

ROCCA: He comes back to life, or...

SAGAL: They call you up, and they say Terry, the movie did great. We're going to make a sequel, "Stepfather II." And you said but I'm dead, and they said...

O'QUINN: You were just hurt badly.

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: You're better now.

SAGAL: So you've done so many roles. You did - God, there's - hard to think of a great TV series, for example, that you're not a part of. You were in "The West Wing."

O'QUINN: Yes.

SAGAL: Is there...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I am going to say that you're probably most well-known these days for your run on "Lost." Do you think that's right?

O'QUINN: That's probably true, yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And you played John Locke, the somewhat mysterious person. Well, everybody was mysterious. So, all right, so J.J. Abrams, who created "Lost," he calls you up and he's - and how does he describe it to you, what this show's going to be?

O'QUINN: He said, I've got a good part for you. It's - these people crash on an island, and there's a part for you in it. And there's not much to begin with, but it's going to get better...

SAGAL: Right.

O'QUINN: ...Which is basically what everybody tells you...

SAGAL: Right.

O'QUINN: ...Every time that you...

POUNDSTONE: Yeah. It's sort of Trump's thing, isn't it?

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: I think he said that. Yeah, he said that to Chris Christie, right?

POUNDSTONE: Yeah.

SAGAL: Is that what they said in "The Stepfather?" Well, you get killed but it's going to get better.

O'QUINN: Yeah, yeah.

SAGAL: "Lost," for the few people who didn't see it, this group of people have an airplane crash on this island, and mysterious things start happening. Your character, for example - and I don't know if this is a spoiler - couldn't walk.

O'QUINN: We should be safe by now.

SAGAL: I guess so, it's 10 years. Get over it people.

O'QUINN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Here is my question. When they started "Lost," did they have any idea what the hell was going to happen?

O'QUINN: You know...

SAGAL: ...Or did they make it up as they went along?

O'QUINN: I don't know. These are always tough questions for me. I just - they didn't tell me that I - in the first episode or two, I was running around helping.

SAGAL: Yeah.

O'QUINN: And then the third episode, they said oh, you were in a wheelchair, by the way. We're going to shoot that - we'll shoot that in this one. And so I think they were sort of flying by the seat of their pants.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

O'QUINN: To some - only to some extent.

SAGAL: Did you ever say what the hell, guys? I'm dead, but I'm not dead. I'm The Smoke Monster in my body. What is going on?

O'QUINN: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Nope.

O'QUINN: No.

SAGAL: Nope.

O'QUINN: I said you got my address, right?

SAGAL: (Laughter).

O'QUINN: Yeah, OK.

SAGAL: You're doing direct deposit...

O'QUINN: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...That's all I care about. Is that working?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: How many people come up to you and they say oh, my God, Terry O'Quinn, what a pleasure, such a great actor. Let me complain to you about the ending of "Lost."

O'QUINN: A lot of people do that.

SAGAL: Really?

O'QUINN: Yeah, except for the Terry O'Quinn part. They're still - you're that guy, John Locke. Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah.

O'QUINN: What did that mean? Where did they go? What was that? How did that - and what was the end? And I said I didn't - and I really didn't ask anybody anything.

SAGAL: Really?

O'QUINN: No. And I didn't want - I didn't demand an explanation. I just assumed we were going to heaven, so...

ROCCA: Nice.

O'QUINN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Because that apparently was the idea that you had all died somehow and this was in purgatory.

O'QUINN: Yeah, I was afraid that the conversation was going to go this way.

SAGAL: Yeah, this is like...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This is why you don't go to dinner parties anymore. It's like oh, God.

O'QUINN: Yeah, no (laughter) - no, it - the small things - a short example is I'm in Starbucks getting a cup of coffee. And I hear this voice coming from behind me. And this voice says says, I just want you to know I don't blame you for killing Boone.

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: And I turned - I turned around, and there was a guy. And he was like that big. And he was - and I said well, OK, I didn't really. You watched it, right? I didn't kill him. I told him to come down.

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: Do you want - can I get you a coffee?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Terry O'Quinn, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling.

KURTIS: Give Me A Head With Hair - Long, Beautiful Hair.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Since you somewhat famously don't have any hair, we thought we would ask you three questions about the classic musical "Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Answer two of these questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is actor Terry O'Quinn playing for?

KURTIS: Sam Taylor of San Francisco, Calif.

O'QUINN: OK, Sam, let's go.

SAGAL: All right, Terry, here is your first question. "Hair," the musical, began as an experimental theater project performed by its two writers, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, but it changed a lot before it became the big Broadway hit. What changed from its earliest version? A, instead of being a show about hippies living in New York, it was about a group of sassy hairdressers; B, the lead character Claude was originally a space alien who wanted to be a movie director; or C, it was originally set at the time of the American Revolution and the lead character was Alexander Hamilton, who, of course had...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Long hair.

O'QUINN: Now, I did hear the album.

SAGAL: Yeah.

O'QUINN: I know there was a song, like, Claude Bukowski or something like that.

SAGAL: Yeah. Claude is the lead character.

O'QUINN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Claude remained the lead character.

O'QUINN: Yeah, he thinks he's Fellini and Antonioni...

SAGAL: That's the guy.

O'QUINN: Yeah, I think that's the one.

SAGAL: So you think that Claude...

O'QUINN: Number - the two - number two.

SAGAL: You're right. As a matter of fact, I forgot the reference in the song.

O'QUINN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: But in the original version, Claude was a space alien who wanted to be a movie director.

POUNDSTONE: Really?

SAGAL: For Broadway, they made him human. Also changed for Broadway, they added an infamous scene with full male nudity right before intermission. It garnered some interesting reactions from notable people, including which of these? A, comedian Jack Benny, who at intermission asked, did you happen to notice if any of them were Jewish?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, President Richard Nixon, who saw the show and said, it made me wish their hair was a lot longer...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, Liza Minnelli, who said, I walked out when they put their clothes back on.

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: I'm going to say it was Nixon.

SAGAL: It was not Nixon. It was Jack Benny.

O'QUINN: Jack Benny?

SAGAL: Jack Benny saw it, and that's what he said - did you happen to notice if any of them were Jewish?

O'QUINN: What a good line.

SAGAL: That's a good line.

O'QUINN: Yeah.

SAGAL: All right, you have one more chance. This is very exciting. "Hair" was, of course, a huge hit. It's been revived many times. But it was apparently the last hit for creator Galt MacDermot. His failed follow-up project was which of these? A, "Balding," a show about the same characters 20 years later...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, "Via Galactica," a science-fiction-themed musical about an extraterrestrial garbage man; or C, "Fiddler On The Roof II: Tevye's Revenge."

(LAUGHTER)

O'QUINN: I'll say it's "Via Galactica."

SAGAL: And you are right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It is a musical called "Via Galactica."

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It was so incomprehensible, they gave audience members a complete synopsis, and it still closed after seven performances. One could say it was the "Heaven's Gate" of Broadway musicals.

O'QUINN: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I told you. Bill, how did Terry O'Quinn do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Terry came back to life to win.

POUNDSTONE: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

O'QUINN: Wonderful. Way to go, Sam.

SAGAL: Congratulations, you did really well. Terry O'Quinn is an acclaimed actor. You know him from "Lost." Thank you so much, Terry, what a pleasure to have you. Thank you for being here. Terry O'Quinn, ladies and gentlemen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: When we come back, two of the biggest stars in country music and they are married to each other. It's Mr. and Mrs. Trisha Yearwood. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.