Recently I was given the opportunity to interview Mr. Lee Majors in his home. Upon meeting him for the first time, I found he had a quiet, easy way about him that almost made me forget about the butterflies in my stomach, the sudden weakness in my knees and my sweaty palms. After over four decades in the business, this man is still a warm, generous and very humble human being. What follows are excerpts from my interview with him.
I visited Mr. Majors at his home in California where he resides with his wife of three years. I was very impressed with the way he’s kept himself fit after some health problems a few years back and he attributes his new found health to “good, clean livin’.” He of course is older now and has put on some weight, but he’s still in shape and his eyes and mind are just as sharp as they’ve ever been. He greeted me warmly at the front door, taking my hand gently in his and giving it a firm shake.
“How do you do?” he inquired softly in the southern drawl that I’d grown up listening to.
“I’m fine, thank you,” I say nervously, while trying not to blush and gush and failing miserably. “Thank you for agreeing to see me today.”
“The pleasure’s all mine,” he says chivalrously, and I am reminded of how many of these interviews he must have done over the years and how gracious he still is about doing them.
He escorts me into a spacious, beautifully decorated living room and though his home speaks of wealth, it is very comfortable and not at all ostentatious or showy.
“Have a seat,” he says motioning to what I find is a very comfortable chair. “Would you like some iced tea?” he asks as he heads over to a serving cart where a big pitcher of iced tea sits awaiting us.
“Yes, thank you very much,” I say. I clear my throat and try to calm my nerves as I continue to look around the room. The furniture is heavy wood and rich colors and it’s obvious that someone put a lot of thought into the color scheme and the placement of the pieces. The fire place at one end of the room is large and the mantle above it holds family portraits, some pretty ornaments, two very beautiful but simple candelabras and is that what I think it is…..a King Kong doll?
“Belongs to my grandson,” he says with a chuckle as he hands me a glass of iced tea. “I think he has more toys here than he does at home.”
“Do you see him often?” I ask, taking a sip from my glass.
“All the time,” he says easily, as he takes the chair across from mine. “I missed out with my first boy and I don’t intend to make that mistake again. I’ve invested a lot of time with my younger children, but I still have some makin’ up to do…..some dues to pay.”
“Do you ever feel guilty about it?” I ask tentatively.
“All the time,” he says meaningfully. “Kids are precious and they deserve all the love, time and understandin’ in the world. I often wish I could go back and do that part of my life over again.”
“Was your son bitter about it at the time?” I ask.
“For a while,” he says quietly, sadly. “Especially when I had to miss birthdays and Christmas’ and such. I tried to have him around me as often as I could but that wasn’t often enough. Not for him and not for me either. He’s a grown man now and we’ve talked about the past and how things were. We talk all the time now and he knows that I love him very much and that I’m very proud of him. It’s important to me that he knows that.”
“Your career, while rewarding in some ways, has cost you in other ways,” I say. “Your grandson is very young now, but what happens if he decides he wants to follow in Grandpa’s footsteps some day?”
He sits back in his chair and his eyes take on a far away look. “My son is raisin’ him right,” he says. “The boy couldn’t have a better father. The business has changed a lot since I was on TV regularly and there’s a whole new set of rules to play by now. If he ever decides he wants to become an actor, or a doctor, or a lawyer, all I can do is support him and help him in any way I can. I believe that’s what a good Grandpa is supposed to do.”
‘the business’, I say, as I pull out my pen and notepad, “Would you ever do another TV series?”
“I wouldn’t be adverse to it,” he says after some thought. “The reason I did the shows I did was because I loved actin’. I loved the craft and I still do. So many people are in it for the money now, and don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a lot of people out there who do love what they’re doin’. But when you start puttin’ a price tag on it, that’s when it becomes just another job. When it becomes a job, you sell your fans short and you sell yourself and your craft short. I’ve tried never to do that.”
“You’ve been working pretty regular lately,” I say. “Do you think that’s because you’ve found a new audience that you appeal to?”
“Well, I hope so,” he says with a laugh. “I think so. I think when you’ve been around for as long as I have, people become very familiar with you and they expect certain things from you. They trust in you and they trust in your work. It’s like a partnership where the two sides need each other in order to survive. Without those fans out there supportin’ me, I may as well go back to workin’ in the park. If I can’t deliver the goods for them, then I don’t blame them for not comin’ out (to the theaters).”
“Your fans have grown up watching you,” I say. “They’ve followed your career from ‘The Big Valley’, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and the ‘Fall Guy,’ and now, thanks to syndication and cable TV, a whole new generation has discovered you.”
“Yeah, it’s somethin’ isn’t it?” He chuckles and shakes his head in wonder. “We do conventions and hold golf tournaments to raise money for charity and we meet a lot of fans out there and half of them are my age and the other half are my kid’s age. It’s a very humbling experience to know that people still care and have introduced their own children to your work.”
“I think that’s because your work speaks for itself,” I say. “You’ve put out quality work for your fans for years and quality work will always stand the test of time.”
“Well, thank you ma’am,” he says graciously with that disarming drawl. “I think it’s important to do your best in whatever you do. If you can’t give your best performance every time, then why even bother?”
“What are you working on now?” I ask.
“We just finished post production on “T.V. The Movie. It’s a light hearted comedy about the depravity of television as it is today.”
“Do you like doing comedy?” I ask.
“I like doing anything that’s challengin’,” he says. “Early in my career, the characters I played were dramatic but as I continued to work and continued to do more series, I tried to add more comedic moments and dialogue to my character’s personas because that’s just a part of life. It’s good therapy to be able to laugh at yourself every now and then.”
“Which was your favorite series to do and why?” I ask.
He smiles knowingly and says, “The Fall Guy.”
“Why?” I ask.
“First of all, let me just say, I enjoyed playin’ Heath Barkley,” he explains. “When you watch ‘The Big Valley’ and you see Heath Barkley, you’re pretty much seein’ Lee Majors. It was no stretch for me to play that role because I always felt Heath was just an extension of myself. Growing up, I knew how it felt to want a family and to want acceptance and I just parlayed that over to the character I was playin’. I enjoyed playin’ Steve Austin because he was there at a time when kids needed somebody to look up to. A lot of our celluloid heroes were gone by then and I wanted to do something that kids and grown folks alike could identify with in a positive way. On the other hand, I liked ‘The Fall Guy’ and playin’ Colt Seavers because I had so much creative control over that show. I pretty much called the shots and was able to get the kind of scripts I wanted and I got to work with all of my friends on that show. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
“Do you have any regrets?” I ask.
“Many,” he says reflectively. “But I’ve also had many blessings in my life. I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows but I think all those things have made me the person I am today.”
“And now you have another generation coming up and getting to know you,” I say. “Does your grandson know you’re “Lee Majors?”
His blue eyes twinkle and that lopsided smile that I’d seen on TV just the other night graces his lips.
“Nope,” he says proudly. “To him, I’m just Grandpa.”