Late last year I spoke with legendary actor Monte Markham to specifically discuss his role as Clay Hollingsworth on The Golden Girls for an anniversary piece I was working on at the time for Rewind It Magazine. But with so much more material leftover from our over thirty minute long phone conversation, it felt like a waste not to print the rest (better late than never as they say).
After all, aside from his recurring role on The Golden Girls in the late ’80s/early ’90s, Markham’s acting career spans as far back as the ’60s, appearing on such shows as Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-0, The A-Team, Murder, She Wrote, and Baywatch, as well as such classic films as Midway and Airport ’77, just to name a few.
One of the questions I had asked him regarding his appearances on The Golden Girls was how he felt it compared to other TV shows he’s done. He replied; “As an actor I’ve done just about every type of performance you can do. But four-camera sitcoms in many ways are the most difficult to do because, one; it’s comedy, and two; it’s rewritten everyday at rehearsals. And the camera is in your face, but it’s about 20 or 30 yards away, so it’s like you feel like you’re on stage, but there’s an intimacy of the lens, so you have to adjust performance.I did several of them (sitcoms); The Mary Tyler Moore Show was really a good playing ground on them.”
I also asked why he felt this shows have endeared so many years later, and he stated; “Even with a movie you’ve seen numerous times before, why do you find yourself still staying with it? Because it’s a good film. It’s like with The Mary Tyler Moore show; I did the second episode after the pilot, and I can tell you, the cast were all very nervous about it because the guy who had directed the pilot wasn’t available. I remember Lou Grant coming up to me and asking, ‘Is this funny?’ (Laughs), and I reassured him, ‘No, no, it’s terrific!’ But it was that damn good, and that’s why they’re still in reruns around the world constantly. The interesting thing is, rather than just being old, a good show plays to a whole new audience.”
He also explained what he has done since many of his most memorable roles; “In ’92 I was still doing Baywatch in syndication and playing the Captain, which was great. I had an opportunity to form a company with my wife and son, and we did documentary production for A&E, which lead to doing the first shows for The History Channel. And I didn’t know from there we’d be producing, writing, and directing these documentaries for the next twenty years. It was a great ride, and I was able to travel all over the world, but I couldn’t act at that time because it was impossible to schedule anything, since we were always on the road.”
He continued; “Then in about 2010, we figured we had done about everything we could with that, and it was time to bring it in. So I went back into acting, which was very interesting…a whole different time with streaming, and the whole world being able to watch anything at any time. It’s a different business, a different world now. We just recently had a 30th anniversary party for Baywatch after they updated and remixed it, and the color and everything is spectacular. It’s a whole new looking show, but they couldn’t use the same music because it was tied up in all various kinds of licensing, so they had to re-record it.”
The last thing I wanted to know was what his thoughts were on the (embarrassing) 2017 Baywatch remake. He told me; “Well, in general the remake of Baywatch is pretty abysmal. Baywatch (the show) was what it was; sure, it was a lot of T&A and beautiful girls running in slow motion, but also had some really family-oriented, life lessons in there as well…just a lot of lightweight stuff, but it caught on. I remember back when we were doing the pilot, and looking at the real LA lifeguards around on set who were like, ‘Give me a break!’ (Laughs), even though the first two girls they cast could actually swim really well, but then they kind of got away from that. But when they do a remake these days, they throw all of what made it successful in the first place out the door, making it absurd, so it’s like just basically making fun of itself.”