A few months ago I got a hold of the talented actor, writer, producer, Thom Bray for my first celebrity interviews. As a big Riptide fan I was always a fan of his and when I was able to contact him on the web I was overjoyed. This is a reposting of that interview.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a sleepy little subdivision called the Colonial Lakelands in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. An ideal childhood of bike riding, baseball and sledding in the winter.
2. How did you get your start in show business?
In ninth grade I was pulled from the school hallway and dragged into the band room by the music teacher who said, “here, sing this.” It was a song from the musical they were doing, “Guys & Dolls.” I got the part of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, made a meal of it, was hooked and never looked back.
3. How did you land the role of The Boz on Riptide? Was it a fun show to work on?
That’s a long story. I was the first one seen for the role and the last one cast, because it’s human nature not to cast the first person you see because hey–what if there’s someone better out there? <LOL> That meant the casting process was hell for me; I came back and came back and came back, always being compared to someone else. But I remember being remarkably calm about it all, because I just KNEW that I was absolutely perfect for this role. Finally, I was cast on a Friday and shooting started that Monday. My life was never the same afterwards!
Yes, the show was great fun, but very long hours and a lot of work. TV shows are for young actors! I doubt I could work that long schedule today.
4. Was Roboz the most difficult cast member to work with on the show?
Poor Roboz. Yes, he was difficult because the technology was so primitive. I often wonder what he would look like were we to do the show today.
4. You have worked on some great TV shows as a writer. Any of them stand out as your favorite?
Probably “Evening Shade” because it was just so darn fun to work with the writers on that show. We really had a blast together–we ran around pulling practical jokes on each other and having water gun fights with Harry Thomason and his producers. There was the excitement of the Clinton election, which Harry and Linda (Bloodworth Thomason) were actively involved with. We’d be running a TV show, having water fights, and see Bill Clinton and Hillary walking around our offices for a visit! Amazing.
Then there was the cast; Charlie Durning, Ossie Davis, Hal Holbrook–amazing people to work with. I’ll never forget it.
5. My info may be wrong but I think I read that you were a writer on Designing Women and Nash Bridges , two show that I became addicted to in reruns when I worked from home. Are my facts right? What episodes did you write?
Yes, I wrote on both shows. But forget about me naming episodes–I don’t remember! You’ll have to research that yourself! <LOL>
I did do some research on this and found that Thom was credited as a writer on the classic Designing Women Eps: It’s A Wonderful Life, The Emperor’s New Nose, The Pride of Sugarbakers, Last Tango in Atlanta, and Julia and Rusty, Sittin’ in a Tree.
6. You’re teaching now. Was teaching always something you were interested in or was it a calling that hit you later in life?
Later. While working on “Fired Up!” for NBC, I saw a 60 Minute sequence about a professor (Robert Thompson) who was teaching classes about television! Studying TV, like an art form, like movies or novels. I was fascinated, and called him, and we became friends. I told him that someday I was going to do what he did, and he said that when I was ready, I should call him.
After 9/11, I decided that I was getting too old to be on an active writing staff (I’ve commuted from my home in Oregon for years) and it was time to make a change in my life. I’m sure lots of people went through some soul searching after that catastrophe. So I called up Bob, and he gave me advice on how to get going. I now teach a wheel of classes about writing TV at two universities, and I also offer online classes to anyone interested at Script University.
It’s been so rewarding that I plan on returning to school for my Masters in Teaching. This will also certify me to teach in public school, where I hope to find a position teaching drama/film/TV at a high school. I love teaching; not that far from acting, is it?
7. You are doing some interesting things using the web (hooray) on Wordplay Audio Theatre. How did that start? You have already posted Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado for download, what up next?
I’m really excited about this project. Wordplay Theatre started as the result of a grant I received to develop short performances of Shakespeare targeted towards senior citizens. I discovered that there was a whole world of people who liked going to see live theatre, as long as it was performed at matinees and was easy to get to and affordable. We have a venue called The Old Church which is an historic landmark that only rents space for music concerts and readings, and is right downtown, so I hit on the notion of doing readings of short stories as well as the Shakespeare. The readings were an enthusiastic success, and I loved doing them! I hope to do more live presentations in the future, but my time is tight right now.
That’s why I hit upon the notion of an “audio theatre.” So I have begun recording performances of short stories and am posting them on our website, Wordplay Theater. We use a micropayment system called BitPass, and with your Bitpass you can buy our performances for pennies. Our first performance, Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” can be purchased and listened to in mp3 format for only $.49! We hope to have hundreds of stories posted eventually. Unlike normal audio books, these are acting, dramatic performances–the closest thing we can get to a live event!
8. Last Christmas you performed a one man A Christmas Carol in Portland, will this be a recurring show? Are you working on other plays? Has the theater always been a preference for you?
I always wanted to re-create Dickens’ readings of his story, “Christmas Carol.” Dickens toured the world with his story. He was a huge success everywhere he went, and by all accounts a great actor! This year, I finally did it! Working from Dickens’ original reading version of his story, I became Dickens and recreated this Victorian theatrical event. I used The Old Church here in town, itself a Victorian Landmark. And yes, I plan on making it an annual event! (For pictures, see www.pdxchristmas.com).
I’ll be in a play this spring at Profile Theatre Project here in Portland (www.profiletheatre.org). The combination of teaching and acting on stage is very satisfying to me! I started on the stage, and I’ll finish on the stage!