TA's interview with 5-time Charlie's Angels guest star, Actor Rick Casorla
Somehow there are only a few good behind-the-scenes Charlie's Angels stories out there, with which we're all too familiar. It was my intention to find a new one. Who better to ask than the only actor who guested a record FIVE times, and worked with five out of six Angels?
I was thrilled to chat with actor Rick Casorla, who not only remembers his roles well, but was kind enough to share some terrific stories about his time with the Angels.
"I was in my 20's, first time in LA, and I didn't even have an agent yet," he recalls about how he got started on the series. "I bumped into the wife of a guy I'd worked with when I was the guest star in residence at a college in Arizona. She was separated and now living with the producer for Charlie's Angels [Ed Lakso]. He got me a couple readings and I booked the jobs. That's the reason I got into the whole Angels thing."
Casorla's first appearance aired at the end of the second season, and he went on to appear at least once per every remaining season.
"I came in right after Farrah had quit, but I wound up working with all the other girls," he remembers. "In all the episodes I did, probably I spent the most time with Cheryl - she and Jackie were the ones I worked with the most."
BACKGROUND CHECKTownsend Agency original interview by Anna January 9, 2012
Casorla's first gig was Antique Angels, the second season's last episode, when he'd only been in Los Angeles for a couple of months.
"Coming from the stage and theater, I wasn't used to the hurry-up-and-wait stuff. These were long hours. We were dressed up as 30's gangsters, sitting in the car with Cheryl Ladd and waiting while they'd set up shots and lighting."
Here he plays antique car aficionado Joe Marshall, who's perfectly nice until he turns out to be one of the bad guys. When Kris Munroe stumbles on their scheme, it's time for a good old-fashioned kidnapping - wrists tied, full Keystone Cop regalia - and a climactic chase with the rest of the Angels in antique cars.
"I was always impressed with her because I thought she was very bright," Rick recalls of the real Cheryl. "She wasn't out there like some stars are. In the conversations we had, she was very calm, kind, and quite intelligent when she spoke, and that was a pleasure. And the same with Jackie - they were all very kind."
One day while filming Antique Angels, all work on the Fox set suddenly came to a stop. No one seemed to know what was happening, and there was whispering among the cast and crew as Aaron Spelling made his way down to the soundstage. "That was unusual, because we really never saw him on the set," he said.
"After a while, the prop guy came around and collected everybody's guns. I was playing a bad guy - because if you're not an Angel, you're a bad guy - so they took my gun, and we’re all going, 'What happened?' And then ten guys in suits walk in, and they start checking everybody out.
"The next thing I know, President Ford walks in! It's his favorite TV show and he wants to meet the Angels. So the secret service took away all the guns, and he went into their trailers. We didn’t get to meet him - we all stood off in the distance, watching what was happening. He kept everything shut down for about an hour. He talked to the Angels, walked around and said hello to everybody, and the next thing you know, we started shooting again. It was a bizarre kind of occurrence. That doesn’t happen very often."
Pom Pom Angels
The Angels go undercover as cheerleaders (this is serious business) and Casorla plays Timothy Asher, their talent agent's whipped son. His domineering mother forces him into seminary school in order to keep him away from her sexy cheerleader clients, but that doesn't stop him from looking, especially at Kris. She suspects he's behind some recent religious cult kidnappings, but it turns out he's not a bad guy at all, just a little creepy around the ladies.
His part is more substantial this time, and once again it's Cheryl his screen time is spent with. As with all Angel scenes, the brevity of the finished product belies the time it took to shoot - Kris and Timothy's date, for instance, lasts barely a single minute on film.
"We were all going, 'Wow, I can’t believe the amount of time we’re just sitting around waiting while they blow-dry her hair.' Whenever we got to a scene with any Angels in it, everything would slow down dramatically. The hair had to be perfect, and if it wasn’t, they had to go back and re-do it. Everybody else just waited around."
To draw upon the oft-repeated quote we're all sick of, this show was not Shakespeare. (Having gotten his start doing Shakespeare in regional theaters across the country, few would be more qualified than Rick to make a comparison.) The producers made it no secret throughout the series that the Angels' beauty was paramount, and any other aspects of the show took a definite backseat.
"Spelling's mandate was, 'I don’t care how much it costs or how long it takes, the Angels have to look beautiful in every shot. That’s why people are watching the show.' We were not there about acting, they didn’t care about any of that. If you got the words pretty much in the right order, it was a take. They just wanted to make sure the Angels looked fantastic."
He also shared plenty of scenes with Fran Ryan, the seasoned character actress who played his domineering mother, and was very much like her character.
"Boy, she wasn’t taking guff from anybody. She was a very strong woman, very opinionated, and she’d been around a long time. If there was direction she didn’t like she’d question it, and everything would come to a stop. In the world of TV, particularly Charlie's Angels, we don’t have time to talk about it - you just do it. There's no 'Can I talk about my motivation? Why is my character doing this?' You better find your own motivation. That’s basically what the director said: 'I don’t know why you’re doing it; it says on page 11 that you do it, so you do it.' It was funny to watch those conversations - they can’t believe someone's actually asking. She was funny."
"She was the one who told me to eat cabbage and twelve grapes at midnight on New Years Eve, that’s good luck in the theater if you’re Irish. I'm half Irish, so I did it for like ten years in a row. I don’t know if it really made a difference, but I did work, so I have to assume that had something to do with it," he laughs.
"I was a boy who died or something."
This is one you might have missed - Casorla provided the voice (definitely not the face) of Martin Faber, the homicidal ghost in the third season's Haunted Angels. ("Stop the meddling, I'm warning you!" )
He explained that he didn't even need to try out for that part. "I’d done two different episodes at that time, and so they knew me and they liked my voice. I didn't have to audition."
Haunted Angels must have been filmed after Pom Pom Angels, even though it aired before. Either way, this makes him the only actor to guest in two consecutive episodes without being a recurring character.
In one of those 4th Season "social issue" episodes, Kelly Garrett manages to win temporary custody of a police sergeant's battered son. Casorla plays one of three bad guys who hold Kelly and the boy hostage, demanding the release of a jailed friend.
Immediately, he mentions how much he enjoyed working with character actor Simon Oakland, who played the abusive sergeant. "That was a thrill for me, because I'd been watching him for years, and all of a sudden I got to work with him. He was around since West Side Story."
In his experience on other TV shows, like Baywatch and Profiler, the cast would meet beforehand, and it was customary for everyone to sit down together and read through the script. The director would take notes, and then rehearsals would perhaps begin the following day. But on Charlie's Angels, there was none of that.
"You just showed up on set, and started shooting. They would often shoot rehearsals. It was that fast. There's no time to talk about it, you just do it."
Other TV shows would usually have at least a month of episodes in the can, but not Charlie's Angels. "If you guest starred on the show, you’d usually work 5 or 6 days, they'd edit, and then literally it'd be on the air in 2 weeks. So they had to get people that could memorize lines, hit their marks, and get it done the first time."
Shooting became difficult when it came time for scenes with his co-star-in-crime, Michael Witney, who had played another Angels villain a year earlier. "He was a very nice guy, but he was an alcoholic," Casorla remembers. "Nobody had been willing to hire him for a long time because of the drinking."
Ed Lakso gave him another shot, with the stipulation that, due to the show's fast-paced filming, he must stay sober for the week of shooting. "Ed came up to me and said, 'Listen, you have to keep your eye on this guy - make sure he doesn’t drink, because it’ll kill us.'"
Witney behaved, and for four days filming progressed at a healthy pace. On the final day, with the end just in sight, things became difficult.
"We were in the commissary having lunch with Ed Lakso and some of the crew - and Michael ordered a half carafe of wine. And we're all going uh-oh. He drank it, seemed fine, and ordered more. Ed was looking at me, because we were almost done and everything had to go okay. I was just keeping my fingers crossed. When he ordered a third carafe, Ed got furious and walked away, and so did the camera man and the sound guy. So I told him, 'You've got to stop, you're going to start slurring.' He said 'No, it’s no problem, I can really hold my liquor.'"
The second half of the day's shooting commenced right after about a bottle and a half of wine. Master shots had been done before lunch, and now it was time to go back and do close-ups.
"The guy was just smashed. All he had to do was walk over to the window, open the blinds, and say something like, 'It’s the cops, they’re here.' But he could not remember it. He’d get up and open the refrigerator, or go turn on the water in the sink and say, 'Wait, what am I supposed to say here?' It was just getting sadder and sadder, because we were watching this poor guy deteriorate. He had done so well throughout the week and stayed sober, and now he only had a few lines, and he just couldn’t remember."
In order to get through the script, some of his lines ended up being cut or given to Casorla instead, even if they didn't match up with the conversation. A couple of Witney's slightly slurred lines did find their way into the finished show, though they've probably never raised your eyebrow.
"It was a heartbreaker because you’re sitting there going, 'Please remember, please remember.' Everybody was furious at him because they didn't want to have to do overtime, or goldentime, or any of that. That was a tough one. He died of a heart attack a couple years later, it really was sad."
Witney's third appearance on Charlie's Angels - the tiny role of a policeman in the show's final episode - was the last thing he ever filmed.
Angel on a Roll
This semi-romantic con episode calls for Kris to charm a genius thief and lure him back to Los Angeles so he can be arrested. She accompanies him on a Las Vegas gambling spree, pursued by Casorla in the form of an angry casino henchman named Hank. An actionless, low-budget solo outing for Cheryl, it left little for any of the other characters to do until the last 40 seconds, and is not among the most riveting or memorable adventures.
RC: "I don't really know what that episode was..."
TA: "You wanted to kill Cheryl Ladd and some guy because they ripped off your casino."
RC: "I don't even remember that."
Who could blame him. What he does remember is Tanya Roberts: "I was amazed at her eyes, incredible blue, just stunning. I didn't get to work as much with her though, maybe a line or two. With Tanya and Shelley, I think they basically just arrested and handcuffed me at the end."
A perfect description of his final guest spot, spent almost entirely in Angel-less scenes. At the last minute, Julie pulls a gun on his character to stop him from shooting Kris; having not even seen the other Angels throughout the episode, his only dialogue with her is to ask, "Who the hell are you?"
Rick happened to be present for another big moment: it was during the filming of Angel on a Roll that ABC officially pulled the plug on Charlie's Angels.
"That was a big moment. I happened to be working on the set when Aaron Spelling got the call - all the girls were there, and the whole crew. He stopped everything, and gathered everybody around and said something like: 'After five years of airing in X amount of countries, and all the things we’ve done with the studio and the network, I just got word ten minutes ago that we’ve been cancelled. This will be the last year. It’s been great and I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I have.'
"This show had been such a hit for so long, and it had incredible press. Any time any of the Angels moved around town, particularly Cheryl or Farrah, there was news. It was a big deal. Everybody was looking around going, 'Wow, I’m out of a job. We're unemployed!'"
Filming resumed, and Angel on a Roll aired as the 107th of 109 total episodes. On short notice, and with the show already dead in the water, the series finale was clearly afforded no frills. A clip show was the best the writers could muster, hastily ending the final season barely past its halfway point.
What's going on with Rick Casorla now?
"I haven't been in the business for 15 years. I got out of acting because the business changed. There were a lot of strikes, one after another, and I was tired of having everything out of my control. I got a little older, my type changed, and there just weren’t the roles available for me that there were before."
Instead of acting, he's been at work selling airtime for CBS radio. "I had done a lot of voice-overs and commercials, so I got into advertising. But I’ve been doing that for a long time, and I thought maybe it’s a good time to get back into acting. I’ll be a new face in town again."
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