CCI: "The Greatest American Hero"

Sat, July 26th, 2008 at 9:25am PDT | Updated: July 26th, 2008 at 9:27am

TV/Film
Jami Philbrick, Staff Writer

Comic-Con was ground central for some major "Greatest American Hero" news

Believe it or not, the cast of the classic '80s show, "The Greatest American Hero" have not been together in public for almost twenty-five years. That all changed on Thursday at Comic-Con International as actors William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca reunite to promote the new comic based on the popular show from Catastrophic Comics, of which Katt is the CEO.

The creative team s responsible for the upcoming book were all in attendance. Co-writers Christopher Folino, Derek McCaw and Sean O'Reilly, who wrote the book with Katt, and artist Clint Hilinski were all on stage. Also on hand was stuntman Denis "Danger" Madalone, who was Katt's stunt double on the show and responsible for all of the flying and crash landings that Ralph Hinkley had.

After a few character montages from the show, including one of all of Madalone's crashes, the audience viewed a video message from show creator Stephen J. Cannell. He stated that of the forty odd shows that he has created in his illustrious career, including "The A-Team" and "Hunter", that "The Greatest American Hero" has outsold them all on DVD. He went onto explain that he is excited about the upcoming comic. "Under Bill's supervision I have no doubt that it will be outstanding," said the producer.

The comic coming out in November is a retelling of the origin story from the show with a few changes. The story takes place in present day, there will be less of a focus on Ralph's teaching job, he no longer has a son and his hair is ... not as big.

But everything else fans loved about the show is still there. "We're retelling how I got the suit and met Bill Maxwell and Pam," said Katt. He went on to say that the book is initially planned as a six issue story, but that after they've retold the origin, they have Cannell's blessing to branch off in other directions.

Connie Sellecca, who played Ralph's girlfriend Pam and looks like she hasn't aged a day since the show, talked about filming the series. "For me, this role was a joy and it was a joy working with these guys." She also mentioned that when they were filming, Culp would refer to her role on the show as "the skirt."

Together again - the cast from "The Greatest American Hero" at Comic-Con

Actor Robert Culp (Bill Maxwell) was introduced to a standing ovation from the crowd. He explained what it was that attracted him to the role and the show. "I got it when I read the pilot. This is a retelling in modern terms of the Merlin & Arthur legend. It wasn't in the script, but I knew Stephen had that in the back of his head when he wrote it because I asked him. Merlin taught Arthur how to pull the sword out of the stone and bossed him around thereafter."

"In modern terms it just made sense," continued the seventy-seven year old actor. "This was a school teacher, not a spy, and he hated wearing the suit. He even lost the book of instructions and never knew how to use the suit. And the suit was only designed for him. I couldn't take the suit and give it to someone else; it had to be him, so there was a lot of conflict there. Bill was just gung-ho about catching rotten Reds, when that was still fashionable. But above all else we had a lot of fun".

After watching another clip from the series, Katt talked about his memories of wearing the "red pajamas" on the show. "I remember the first time I put that suit on I felt mortified but ... I get it now."

"I had no idea at the time that this show would strike such a chord in the hearts of fans out there," explained the actor. "Now we're trying to reinvigorate and resurrect a franchise that we really felt we had a lot more to say and didn't get to say it. But now we're going to get to say it with the release of the comic books."

He went on to say that one of the important things that he and the writers wanted to do with the comic is make the bad guys more villainous than they were on the show. "We needed to up the ante with the villains and we start to do that with the first issue."

Katt announce that there will be a series of animated internet shorts based on the show launching in early 2009. All three actors will lend their voices to the shorts which depict a "lost episode" from the series that takes place between seasons one and two of the show. "We're going to use the suit in a new way that you've never seen before," teased the actor.

Sellecca spoke about why she thought that the show had lasted as long as it has. "I think people can relate to the fact that its about a regular guy. I always thought that the series could go on forever because there is no end to the powers of the suit. I always wanted to wear the suit," added the actress. "I begged Stephen to let us do an episode where Pam gets caught by Ralph trying it on, but we never did it."

Katt asked Culp why Sellecca had not been "The Greatest American Heroine," the failed spin off of the show about Ralph passing the suit on to a young girl and Maxwell guiding her. "Because she was working on the series 'Hotel'" answered Culp.

Culp explained the demise of the show and the failed pilot. "We shifted to Friday because ABC needed our spot on Wednesday night and we were moved opposite 'Dallas', which was the most popular show on TV at the time. We had about five episodes left to air before the show would be cancelled and we went up in the ratings every week. The audience was growing and growing and it didn't matter. It was really sad."

Culp went onto say that NBC noticed this and wanted to pick up the show but Katt had already moved on to other work as had Sellecca. So Cannell asked Culp if he would consider returning with out the rest of the cast. Culp replied, "No I won't do it with another actor but I'll do it with a girl in the suit." Cannell said that it was the worst idea he ever heard and hung up on him.

Culp was later talking to the head of NBC, Brandon Tartikoff and told him his idea. Tartikoff also said that it was the worst idea he ever heard and hung up on him as well. As the story goes, the two changed their minds and Culp agreed to come on board for the doomed pilot.

"We shot a twenty minute test film, they didn't even call it a pilot. But we were in consideration for pick up with another show and that was the one that got the nod, not us and that was it," stated Culp.

Finally, the cast was asked about the long running rumors of a feature film adaptation of the series. Katt did confirm that producer Stephen J. Cannell has a finished script for the feature film. He went on to say that he has read the script and thought it was fantastic.

He also said that Cannell currently has funding for the film but is looking for a distributor and that he is in talks with 20th Century Fox and director Steven Spielberg's company, with production beginning sometime in 2009.

Sellecca turned to Katt and asked, "Will we be making cameos?"

"Well, he's not making it with out us," replied the actor.

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TAGS:  cci2008, greatest american hero, robert culp, william katt, connie sellecca

 
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