Lost Artz: A Conversation with Daniel Roebuck

I stood on the corner of Lankershire Blvd. and Universal City Drive facing the historic gates of Universal Studios on a sunny LA morning.  As cars raced by the busy intersection I wondered if this was how a Hollywood hooker felt.  How fishy did this look?  Thankfully before the LAPD came by and charged me for solicitation, an SUV pulled up to me.  Inside sat a man with a familiar face.  Unlocking the passenger side door, I climbed in beside him.  Now this wasn’t a pick up.  I swear to god.  It really wasn’t what it looked like.  Although I had never met the man behind the wheel before, I knew who he was and that’s just where he told me to meet him.  The driver was character actor and TV personality Daniel Roebuck

“Have you had breakfast yet” Dan asked.

“No I haven’t” I replied.  Truth was, I couldn’t find a decent thing to eat for breakfast the entire time I was in Hollywood.

”Good.  I’m hungry.  Let’s eat”  Dan said to me. 

Daniel Roebuck with Andy Giffith in the role of Cliff Lewis on "Matlock"

So who is Daniel Roebuck?  Sure, his feet may not be at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the paparazzi are not parked outside of his front doors.  However, its guys like Dan who are the heart and soul of Hollywood.  You may not recognize his name, but after a career in Hollywood that has spanned over three decades everybody has seen something with Daniel Roebuck in it.  Coming to Hollywood at the beginning of the 1980’s as a comedian, impressionalist and magician, Dan has continually appeared in films and television since his first role in 1985.  However it was in 1992 that Dan made his first major mark on the pop culture radar when he was chosen by Andy Griffith to play his newest right hand man, PI Cliff Lewis, in the long running series Matlock.  Dan would stay with Matlock until it ended in 1995 but soon found himself in a very different role as scum bag cop Richard Bettina on Don Johnson’s crime series Nash Bridges.  Yet these days Dan is probably most recognized as the doomed Dr. Leslie Artz on the immensely popular Lost.  But between these three roles Dan has had numerous other notable appearances along the pop culture journey.  He was Tommy Lee Jones’ right hand man, Deputy Marshal Robert Briggs, in the big screen remake of The Fugitive, played Frankie Muniz’s father in Agent Cody Banks, has made appearances in most of Rob Zombie’s movies, starred as Jay Leno in the TV movie The Late Shift and was a part of major pop culture history when he played opposite of Leonard Nimoy during his return to TV as Spock in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Furthermore, Dan’s list of TV appearances is incredible, where he has been on every type of show imaginable including Quantum Leap, Lois and Clark, The King of Queens, The Drew Cary Show, Boston Public, The West Wing, The Parkers, Crossing Jordan, NYPD Blue, Six Feet Under, Becker, Malcolm in the Middle, ER, Cold Case, Monk, Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, Law & Order, Ghost Whisperer, Without a Trace, Bones, and CSI amongst many others.  Dan has even written, directed and produced his own series called Monsterrama, chronicling the history of the horror industry.  Dan is also active on stage, starring in productions such as The Odd Couple and No Time for Sergeants, as well as hosting his own tributes to the spook shows of days gone by as his alter ego Dr. Shocker.  As I said before, its guys like Dan Roebuck which is the heart and soul of Hollywood.  They are the ones who make things happen.

Dan Roebuck as the annoying Dr. Leslie Artz in "Lost"

After a quick meal of breakfast sandwiches and Green Tea at Penera Bakery which served the only decent breakfast I had during my entire stay in LA, and a short tour of Burbank which included the old site of Republic Studios, a drive by Disney studios and a look at Bob Hope’s house, we went back to Dan’s home where he led me to a small building in his back yard.  However the treasures that lay inside were unlike anything I could have imagined.  The building, deemed Dr. Shocker’s House of Horror, houses Dan’s monster memorabilia collection.  I was amazed and delighted by rooms and multiple display cases filled with masks, wax dummies, original costumes and props, toys, games, books, model kits, statues, movie posters, masks and garish treasures of all sorts.  I’ve seen some pretty impressive collections in my time, but never anything like this.  I could have taken hours wandering around Dan’s museum, but he reminded me that we had an interview to do.  So retreating to Dan’s office we sat down to talk about his career.  Sitting at his desk, flanked by two Planet of the Apes dummies wearing original costumes from the movie series, a beautiful display of Universal wax dummies behind me and with massive display cases filled to the brim with memorabilia on either side of us I started the tape.  But my talk with Dan would be much more then just a conversation about his career in Hollywood.  Instead we talked about a subject that both of us are very passionate about – the cross road that has occurred on the modern pop culture journey which threatens its continuation.  So come and listen to Dan tell his stories about his own personal journey that has made him a recognizable face in Hollywood, and listen to the tales of a modern character actor as




Daniel Roebuck in his memorbilia filled office in Burbank, CA

I talked to Daniel Roebuck at Dr. Shocker’s House of Horror in Burbank, CA in July 2008.

Sam:  First thing I want to ask is why do the elderly love Matlock?

Dan:  I don’t know.  They just love it!

Sam:  That’s not just a myth?

Dan:  Oh no.  They love it.  They just love it.  You know what’s great about that.  They’ll always say “Oh!  I loved you on Matlock!  Oh you were so wonderful!” and I’ll always say “Yeah.  That was a young me” and the old people always say “You look exactly the same” and the fact is I don’t.  I was thirty five pounds lighter.  I didn’t have grey hair.  My kids hadn’t aged me by then, but to an old person, how you look when your thirty five to forty five is the same.  So they are always very complimentary. 

Sam:  Have you ever been mobbed by a sea of elderly fans.

Dan:  Oh sure.  The good thing is that they turn me on a little.  Yeah, but it’s very interesting.  I got a very distinct fan base; if I would be bold enough suggest there are fans of me.

Sam:  Everybody has their fans.

Dan:  Everybody has their fans.  I mean, that is true because John Wayne Gacey has fans.

Sam:  I went to an Air Supply concert once and people were following them around like Deadheads. 

Dan:  Air Supply.  (sings) I’m all out of love.  I’m so lost without you….was that Air Supply?

Sam:  Yeah.  That was Air Supply.

Daniel Roebuck with Frankie Muniz in "Agent Cody Banks" (2003)

Dan:  So…I have the sixty and above Matlock fans.  There is the sixteen and below Quints/Shredder Man Rules/Cody Banks….like the kids movies.  And then there are other young people who watch the comedy, but the one thing that has kind of been the thing that has connected me to the most people was Nash Bridges and The Fugitive and US Marshals and bigger movies like that.  The Fugitive and US Marshals are on TV constantly.  I don’t know why US Marshals isn’t on more.  So that’s fun and a real blessing to be on those movies.

Sam:  So when did you first come to Hollywood?

Dan:  I came in February 1984.

Daniel Roebuck made his film debut in the low budget B classic "Cave Girl" (1985)

Sam:  So did you have a specific job or did you just come to give it a whirl.

Dan:  I came to give it a whirl.  No job at all.  Applied to be a magician, or something, at Disneyland.

Sam:  You do magic?

Dan:  Oh yeah.  I’ve done magic for years.  I did magic more so, obviously, when I was a kid and the idea was that I come out and get a job doing anything.  It didn’t matter.  So I came out with a first wife, who is a very nice lovely person, and we came out and she started working and I just tried to figure it out, and eventually I got a job at a video store for a few months.  But I had to leave that job because I was here for eight months and I got my first movie called Cave Girl.

Sam:  Cave Girl.

Dan:  Big hit.

Sam:  Who’s in it?

Dan:  I’m in it Sam.  Are you sure you looked me up?

Sam:  Yeah.  I promise you that I looked you up.  Some of the questions I have will surprise you.

Dan:  Good, because it seems like you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.  Cave Girl starred me! 

Sam:  You were the star.

Dan:  I was the Cave Girl! 

Sam:  You were the Cave Girl.

Dan:  No.  I was the guy trying to bed down the Cave Girl.  But you got to imagine.  Imagine this.  I’m a kid from Bethlehem Pennsylvania.  I know nothing.  I’ve never been on a set.  The first audition I had is for a film called Cave Girl so the fact that I ended up being the lead in Cave Girl was pretty good.

Sam:  Is it on DVD?

Daniel Roebuck with Jon Cryer in "Dudes" (1987)

Dan:  Oh sure.  Rhino put it out.  Oh big hit.  Your readers can buy them, burn them, and use them as coasters.  Whatever is necessary.  In fact, there is a whole coaster set of Dan Roebuck’s early films.  Cave GirlDudes.  Many people have my films right next to the bar so people can go “Oh god!  Can I put this on the bar?” and you can go “Oh, wait a second.  Let me get this copy of Dudes so you can put it on the DVD.”

Sam:  So what was your first big, non Cave Girl, production?

Dan:  How dare you ask me that?  The first non Cave Girl production?

Sam:  Yeah.  Something that blew your mind and made you realize that you made it.

Daniel Roebuck with Tommy Lee Jones in "US Marshals" (1998)

Dan:  Oh.  You know, I’m not smart enough to be able to do that.  I mean, when they put me in The Fugitive and it was with Harrison Ford I thought “Oh.  That’ll be cool.”  Well I got the movie, and we were getting ready to do the movie and we were finishing my first season on Matlock and Brynn Thayer said “Are you doing anything on hiatus: and I said “I’m just doing the remake of The Fugitive.  I’m just doing that.”  And she said “Who’s in that?”  and I said “Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford.  You know.  I mean I’m not one of the leads” and she said “Are you crazy?  You’re going to do a movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford!”  I didn’t even get how great that was just because I was in the mode of “It’s my job”  which is how I’ve always approached this.  It’s my job.  I love acting, and I have a gift for acting, and when I act I feel fantastic.  People seem to be happy.  But it’s just my job.  So I guess The Fugitive would have been the first big thing.  But to be honest, growing up watching The Andy Griffith Show and being on the set [of Matlock]and having Andy Griffith say “Danny, help me make this funny.”  That’s kind of a moment in time where you think “I never thought I’d hear that.”

Sam:  Now let’s go back to Matlock for a minute then.  In your first episode you weren’t playing Cliff Lewis.

Daniel Roebuck Cliff Lewis promo photo for "Matlock"

Dan:  My first, second, third and fourth episode I didn’t play Cliff Lewis.  I have a very strange history on Matlock.  Fans will remember that I played a doctor on my first show, which was the last episode of the first season.  I had one scene with Andy and in that scene Andy is complaining that his belly hurts.  So when we were doing the scene I pulled his belt and I shoved my hand way down into his pants, because knowing how everyone knows, that it wouldn’t be real if I didn’t and it wouldn’t be funny if I didn’t.  Well who knows what Andy said but the director came to me the next day and said “I don’t know what you did to Andy Griffith but he wants you to be on the show permanently.” 

Sam:  So you really made an impression.

Dan got the role permanent role of Cliff Lewis after shoving his hands down Andy Griffith's pants: "The director came to me the next day and said “I don’t know what you did to Andy Griffith but he wants you to be on the show permanently.”

Dan:  I did.  Then they brought me back as a character named Alex when they tried to bring me back in the third season.  The powers that be at NBC said that I was going to be on the show.  I did three different shows as that character.  One TV movie and two episodes.  And then, they were going to cancel Matlock at the end of the sixth season, so they were going to do what they thought was going to be the last show, so they did what they call an alumni show and they brought back all the actors that had been a part of the show.  So they had me play a DA in that show.  We were getting to shoot that show.  I went to the costume fitting for that show.  I came home and I got a call and my agent said to me that you’re going to be on Matlock.  I said “Their canceling Matlock” and he said “No.  ABC is picking it up and Andy Griffith is now the producer and he said he wants you to be a series regular.” 

Sam:  Now on one of your early episodes you also worked on the final Matlock episode that Andy and Don Knotts did together.

Dan:  Yeah.

Sam:  What was it like to watch those two work together, and knowing that it would be the final time they appeared on camera as a team?

Dan:  Well we didn’t know it was going to be the last time, and I didn’t have any scenes with Don but I did come down to the set to watch him work, not knowing that years later I would work with Don in Quints.  It was Don Knott’s last movie, and I got to be in it.

Sam:  What was working with Don Knotts like?

Dan:  Fantastic.  He was so clear man.  We’d rehearse and he’d say “I’m going to do the thing right here” and he knew where he was going to be able to use his explanation points to move the scene to the next level.  What a great guy.

Sam:  And he and Andy together?  Was it magic again?

Dan's first episode of Matlock was the final episode that the classic team of Andy Griffth and Don Knotts acted together. Dan would later appear in Don Knott's final film "Quints" (2000)

Dan:  Well when you watch the Matlock show, they tried to kind of capture something unique but Don wasn’t playing Barney Fife and Barney Fife was such a major character.  I watch Andy and Don in Matlock and their funny, but it’s not like watching them in The Andy Griffith Show because they weren’t playing the same characters.  See, here’s the thing.  Your writing about pop culture and the fact is, as we sit here, I am clearly not a fellow of this moment.  I am a fellow of past moments and I am a fan of everything pop culture.  All of them certainly did contribute to bring me to this place I am   When I was a kid I watched The Copycats, with the great Canadian Rich Little on TV and I would start doing voices like a little retard kid.  I liked playing ball too, but I didn’t like it as much as making people laugh so I would talk about being on TV so much, and because I loved watching TV and movies so much my parents went out and got me a cardboard TV so I could be on TV.  And I joke that my father got the first cardboard remote control so that he could change the channel and turn it off.  My daughter, who is very silly, is extremely similar to me and there are times that I have to say “Grace, comic timing isn’t about how to tell the joke.  Often it’s about when to tell the joke and, more importantly, when to stop telling the joke.” 

Sam:  So being an actor came from childhood.  Something that was just in your blood?

Dan:  Something that I just love.

Sam:  So doing the voices and the mimicking helped you later on by portraying Jay Leno and Gary Marshall?

Daniel Roebuck as Jay Leno in "The Late Shift" (1996)

Dan:  What’s strange is that it was only recently that I clued in that there was a huge connection.  But I used to do impressions.  I did talent shows and won trophies.  The first time I got paid for doing a show I was ten years old and I did impression for somebody who was a judge of a talent show, and he was having a dinner and gave me ten bucks to come over and do a routine.  I remember coming home and saying “Ten bucks!  That’s a dollar a minute!  How much do you make Dad!”  That didn’t go over well in the Roebuck house as you can well imagine.  But, yeah, it was something I’ve always done.  I’ve always been an entertainer.  Why is that?  Why did I wake up one day when other kids were thinking of being firemen and football players and I thought “Wow.  Boy.  I could make people laugh.  That’s great.”  Rich Little, who I would see perform as a child, who my mother would go to take me to see because I was such a fan and I had a book for him to sign.  And when we did The Late Shift he played [Johnny] Carson and when I took out the book that he signed when I was ten he said “My god” and he signed it again.  Rich Little seems like an odd choice for a career to follow but he made people laugh and when you’d see him perform in front of an audience, he’s unbelievable.  Think of this.  Because we are not creating, our society has opted out of art and opted into a different kind of pop culture.  Andy Griffith or Donny Osmond or The Carpenters or Barbara Billingsley – these are all people that we will remember forever. Our society has decided that nobody really wants to remember anybody forever.  They are happy just to remember them for four minutes.  So American Idol is a show that’s about giving somebody four minutes because who remembers who won last year?  That’s what cracks me up!  Who knows?  You could put a gun to my head and I’d say “Tell my wife I love her” because I’m going to be a bullet because I couldn’t tell you who won American Idol.  I would never watch crap like Survivor

Sam:  Well the problem with television today is that it is so disposable.  There is no cultural value.  Six month from now it is no longer relevant.

Dan:  Well you’re absolutely right.  Now think of that in terms of an impressionist.  Do Ben Affleck.  Do an actor that I like!  Do Matt Damon.  Do any of the movie stars.  You could maybe do Johnny Depp as a character.  You could do Forrest Gump and I think Tom Hanks is probably the closest thing we have to Jimmy Stewart.  Somebody who could play an everyman.

Sam:  Well I look at Johnny Depp as being the modern day Cary Grant.

"Clark Gable wasn’t Lon Chaney. He wasn’t saying 'Now I’ll play the guy with one arm.' No. He’d say 'I’ll play the guy who bangs the girl in this one, and then I’ll play the guy who bangs the wife and in the next one I’ll play the guy who bangs the other girl.'”

Dan:  Yeah.  Absolutely.  I certainly do see that.  George Clooney, and I’m not insulting the guy, but who doesn’t have a range but are certainly entertaining.  I mean, Clark Gable wasn’t Lon Chaney.  He wasn’t saying “Now I’ll play the guy with one arm.”  No.  [He’d say] “I’ll play the guy who bangs the girl in this one, and then I’ll play the guy who bangs the wife and in the next one I’ll play the guy who bangs the other girl.”  It is disposable but we brought it on ourselves.  With the first ATM and salad bars.  When we said “We don’t want to wait for our salads, we’ll make it” and “We don’t want to wait for our photos for an hour.”   We want things immediately.  Well that’s great.  I like that too.  However we are all at a point in culture where nobody is going to be saving copies of anything.  No time capsule is going to be getting Full House episodes.  But we will take The Honeymooners and put it in a time capsule.

Sam:  Is there anything that has been made in the last fifteen years that you do think is relevant?

Daniel Roebuck as Gary Marshall in "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Mork & Mindy' "(2005)

Dan:  Absolutely!  Absolutely!  Go see that new Batman movie.  You won’t not be entertained. I think there is plenty that is relevant but for the most part we are concentrating on something that is interesting for only a moment.  I listen to classical music and I don’t know if a lot of our music from the 80’s until now {will last}. If you pick out twenty bands and fifty songs will they live forever?  I mean how swarmy of me who makes a living doing this yet I’m badmouthing it.  That’s not my intent.  My intent is that I’ll do whatever I do.  I have two children that I have to put through Catholic school and eventually college.  I have a wife who I love madly and I like taking care of and I like giving what she needs so I do whatever I have to do.  If I have an ability to make something, and I’m trying to find some relevance in that.  But the thing that I liked doing the most, oddly enough, was playing Jay Leno because The Tonight Show is iconic.  I loved playing Gary Marshall because Gary Marshall is always something relevant.  He brought me my greatest TV Show.  What we do in this house is we sit down every night and we watch The Odd Couple.  My kids and I, my wife.  We all watch it together.  I have a movie that we are shopping around about Al Adamson, the man who brought you Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Nurse Sherri and Satan’s Sadists.  I have the rights to his story, and his partner Sam Sherman.  And Al, who I actually met, of all places Utah…I mean here’s a guy who made these horrible violent movies and he wanted to make musicals.  How did he die?  Bludgeoned to death in his own home by his handy man.  So what does that tell you about our culture?  Do we get what we deserve? If we are going to concentrate on the six people singing sixteen bars of a song on American Idol, do we think their songs will be as relevant as Jim Morrison’s songs because we’re not finding an artist but finding a pop star?  The same is true now with acting because agencies don’t go to plays.  They go looking for people at Starbucks.  People with no experience.  People with no interest.  And let me tell you another story while we are on the subject.  So I did No Time for Sergeants twenty four years ago and two years ago they were doing it at a theatre on Glendale and I [ran] into the owner of the theatre and I asked if I could go to the auditions.  Now when I did the audition to play Will Stockdale I auditioned against about two hundred people.  Maybe a hundred of them were trying to be Will Stockdale.  So when they did it this time forty people came out and four people auditioned to be Will Stockdale.  Not one of them knew that it was a comedy.  Not one of them knew it was at one point an Andy Griffith vehicle.   Nobody knew what it was.  They were so unschooled in the foundation of the job.  I was heartsick.  I left and I thought “What has become of our crop of actors.”  This is one of the great American comedies and they don’t take the time to look it up!  That’s how stupid they are!  I was dumbfounded.  They did the play twelve years ago and they went and got the guy who did it then.  But nobody wants to do the work.  They don’t want to do the work Sam.

Sam:  They don’t want to do the work.  They want it spoon fed.

Dan:  So how can we expect the world to act better if we don’t demand better talent? 

Daniel Roebuck as Leslie Artz on "Lost": "Leslie Artz was a complete a-hole and perhaps I’m the a-hole actor. They say 'We need a douche bag. Get Roebuck!'"

Sam:  Well one of the best acted programs on TV, which you were a part of, is Lost.  In fact, when I told a lot of people I was interviewing you the part most people immediately connected to was that of your Lost character Leslie Artz.  Of course Lost is a runaway hit.   Now when you took on Lost did you know that the part was going to be as brief as it was?

Dan:  Yes.  I knew I was going on for three episodes and I knew I was going to die but I didn’t know how I was going to die.

Sam:  It was probably the best death scene on the show.  The character became famous for it.

Daniel Roebuck with Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim on the set of "Lost"

Dan:  Honestly it was a joy to do.  I love any job where they just call and say “Will you be in it” which is what that job was.  Carlton Cuse was the creator and show runner of Nash Bridges and now he does Lost.  Carlton Cuse has come up with two of the best characters I got to play.  [Richard Bettina], the guy on Nash Bridges, was a complete a-hole and Leslie Artz was a complete a-hole and perhaps I’m the a-hole actor.  [They say] “We need a douche bag.   Get Roebuck!”  But we had such a good time on [Lost].  They didn’t give me a script.  I truly landed and I didn’t have any idea who I was playing or what kind of character he was.  If I were some kind of method actor I would never have been able to pull that off because it literally wasn’t until I got to the set that knew what I was playing.  And even then I only had one scene where I had to come up with this guy.  I mean, one scene!  How do you do that?  Very confusing but I love working like that.  I love working without a net and once they established who Leslie Artz was by the third show, he was so specifically weak and scared and pathetic and real.  By the end, when you see the last episode, when he’s talking from his heart, you realize what he is.  The other thing about Dr. Artz is that I came to the conclusion at some point that I was voicing the opinions of fans.  I was saying “Why are you fat if there is no food on the Island?  Why do you guys get to do all the stuff?  How come you live in the best place while there are twenty nine other people on the Island?”

Sam:  I was that was very funny and a wonderful parody.  I mean, why were the same thirteen people going to the other side of the Island?

Candid "Lost" photo from the private collection of Daniel Roebuck: (left to right) Daniel Roebuck, Terry O'Quinn, Mira Furlan and Evageline Lily

Dan:  Yeah, that was what I was saying, and after I said it they blew me up.  Maybe that’s what they thought of the opinions of the fans. 

Sam:  Now obviously actors aren’t like their characters and we obviously have a hard time separating our icons from the characters they portray.  With Lost, one of the worst parts is that I don’t know the actors names, mainly due to the fact that their characters are more iconic then the actors themselves and that there lacks any opening theme sequence.  However, could you give us any insight on who is the last like their characters, or who puts their personality into the character they do?

Daniel Roebuck with Jorge Garcia on "Lost"

Dan:  I can’t do that kind of thing.  That would be speaking like if I knew them.  I knew Jorge Garcia the best and on the show he plays a good guy and in real life he’s a good guy.  I worked with Terry O’Quinn before and he’s one of the great actors on TV today and I’m so pleased at looking at him for Emmys and things.  But the truth is…well…here’s another story.  We’re doing the A&E Biography on Andy Griffith and I spent three years with Andy Griffith. And I love talking about the actor Andy Griffith and I’m a huge fan.  So [A&E] asks “On weekends I know that Andy had a boat and lived on an island and what did you guys do on weekends?  Did you clambake on the weekends?”  I had to say “Cut cut cut.”  My Dad worked for the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for forty years.  On the weekends the last person who came to our house was somebody that he worked with all week.  So the assumption that we as actors just have to be together is wrong.  Especially when you work together.  If Andy wanted me to come to his house I certainly would have but the weekends were generally for my wife and I.  Especially when you work on a show like Lost because those people have their life there.  That’s how you stay sane.  It’s just a job.  My best friends aren’t actors.  I have a lot of friends who are actors, but my best friends have rooms full of [monster collectables] like I do.  Those are my best friends. 

Sam:  Another huge moment in pop culture you did have thought was the return of Spock on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Dan:  Oh yeah!  That was great!  How great was that!  To be standing next to Leonard Nimoy!

Sam:  So was there some kind of pressure on the set of Star Trek:TNG when they were bringing Spock back?  What was that like?

Daniel Roebuck with Leonard Nimoy in "Star Trek: TNG"

Dan:  It was really extreme.  It was very tight because he was on it [and it}was clamped down.  That was a great experience!  You go to work and their making you up next to Picard and Data one day.  I never did make up next to Spock.  How great would that have been!  I think they did him separately.  [But] it wasn’t like I was just standing next to Leonard Nimoy.  I was standing next to Spock and my ears were pointy and my hair was black and I was wearing a costume kind of like his.  And there are moments in my life where I’m like “Wow, did that really happen?”  But they call us to the set before the extras came down and he got down and I got down and we were in the pit of the stage at Paramount where the cave was built underneath the ground and it was just me and Spock.  And I’m just thinking “What else do I want in my life?  I mean…what else do I want in my life! What’s better then this?  What’s better then this moment!?”  A friend of mine came to visit me the other day and said “Why I like you Dan is that you recognize the important moments.”  That was his comment to me and I will accept it as true.  I didn’t think “Who gives a shit.”  I thought “This is Spock.”  But he was very nice when we shot and I got to stand next to him.

Sam:  Is he a quiet private man?

Dan:  There was a mutual friend we had and we kind of had that to talk about a little.

Daniel Roebuck with William Shatner on "Boston Legal"

Sam:  Now you also worked with William Shatner on Boston Legal.

Dan:  I did.  Bill’s reinvented himself so many times but here is the genius of Bill Shatner.  He realized that if he parodied himself, because he was being parodied by everybody else, that it would defuse if he was a bad actor.  Who gives a shit at this point?  He’s an Emmy award winning actor who’s damn entertaining.  I also got to do a movie with Herman Munster.

Sam:  Fred Gwynne!

Dan:  Yeah.  Fred Gwynne!

Sam:  What was he like? 

Dan:  Fantastic.  I brought my doll.  He signed my doll.  He drew me pictures.  We worked for about four weeks together up in Montana.  The bottom line is this.  If there was a lottery win tomorrow I am a satisfied happy man.  I have a great family.  I have the best friends that a guy can have.  And I have done everything I set out to do.  The only thing that I haven’t done is that I haven’t been on Broadway yet but I’m only 45.  I have time.  I’m extremely happy.  I never wanted to be a movie star.  I only wanted to be James Whitmore playing Harry Truman on Give Em’ Hell Harry.  James Whitmore is a face that everyone knows and not everyone knows his name.  He’s one of the great actors of our time.

Sam:  What do you think the secret to your success is?

Dan:  The secret to my success is that I’m happy with my life and all I do is good work.  I don’t think like I haven’t done my best.  The other thing is that I work very hard.  I never let people down.  I come to work fully prepared.  It’s not just knowing the lines but you always have a responsibility to keep the set moving and laughing.  This is something I’ve learnt from the best of them like Andy Griffith.  You also are responsible to keep them all moving and there is some who will say “Bullshit.  That’s not my problem” but I think if the crew is laughing that our day is going faster.  And I get a lot of people calling me asking me to do things four, five, six times.  I’m on Lost because when they wrote ridiculous stuff on Nash Bridges, well whatever they wrote I’d say lets do it.  They’d say “You’re going to be in a transvestite beauty pageant.”  I’d say “Let’s do it.”  They’d say “You’re going to be naked in this scene.”  “No problem.”  I never said no and look how much they would push me.  You asked me a very simple question and I’ve complicated it.  The secret to my success is that I’m living my destiny and it’s the destiny that was decided for me a long time before I came along. 

My morning with Daniel Roebuck was one of the most memorable moments during my trip to LA.  It’s no mystery why he has been a success in Hollywood.  He has a big personality, a strong sense of morality and professionalism and has a way to make people laugh.  Dan is sort of like your favorite Uncle.  A great guy to hang out with, full of knowledge and information but full of quirks and fun that makes you value the time you spend with him.  Dan was, without a doubt, one of the nicest guys I met in LA, and I’m sure as years go by that we’ll continue to see Dan on our television sets and movie screens.  I just want to thank Dan for picking me up, buying me breakfast, allowing me in his home, sharing his collection with me and talking to me about his life as an actor and his views on pop culture.  It was all more then I could have ever expected, and will always be a treasured memory of my first trip to Hollywood.

  1. Jeannie L von Salm’s avatar

    Daniel Roebuck is a great actor
    Loved him on Matlock
    Continue success to him

  2. Alita’s avatar

    What a great interview. I’ve always enjoyed Daniel Roebuck in each role I’ve seen him play, and it was great getting to know him through this article.


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