Brian Cutler graciously took some time out of his
busy schedule to answer some questions I posed to him about his
work before, during and after Isis.
What led you into acting?
Brian Cutler: When I was five years old, I said "I
want to be an actor," and my parents, not being in the entertainment
business at all, said, "well, let's see if you can act"
and took me [to] audtions for a repertory company in town that
was being run by Viola Spolin, of the Improv fame, who was casting
a show called "Once Upon a Clothesline" and they needed
three small children (I was five at the time) and I played a
baby grasshopper in my first professional experience.
I've been very fortunate and very blessed: I've never had
to do anything else but act, sing, perform, direct and coach
actors (which he does at his Commercial
Actors Studio in Kansas City).
While were on the subject of what led you to acting, what
are some more of your memorable early experiences?
BC: I worked with some fabulous directors [such as]
Jules Getlin, Ellen Miller and Ed Reese through the Players Ring
Theatre and Players Ring Gallery that were run by Paul Levitt
and Ted Thorpe, two of the best producers in the business.
I did theater, primarily, for the first 8-9 years of my career.
Singing, dancing, acting, a lot of differnet types of plays.
I did Clothesline, Pinochio, Bingo Bows Out, Land of the Dragon,
The Bad Seed and Dark of the Moon to name a few. Did the typical
thing in school-taking music and acting classes.
How did you come to be on Isis?
BC: I became involved in Isis via my agent Diane
Davis of 20th Century Artists. They sent me for the audition,
I went back probably three or four times and they hired me. After
they hired me, they had me audition with probably 20 to 30 women
until we found Joanna (Cameron) and then we cast the rest of
the show and started working. I was the first person cast, so
they cast around that.
What was it like working for a small studio like Filmation?
BC: Filmation was an "interesting" experience
for all of us, some good things, some bad things. Unfortunately,
one of the problems working for a small company (like Filmation)
is you don't make the kind of money you do with a larger company.
The crew that worked on all the shows was wonderful, the cast
were all great. Lou and Norm (the producers) sort of kept to
themselves, but the rest of the cast and crew was pretty good.
We put in long hours - we shot two complete episodes a week,
which means we worked Monday to Saturday. When you're doing a
show that's shot "on-location" they can work you Saturdays.
Speaking of locations, any idea where the exteriors for
the school were filmed?
BC: I don't remember the school we actually used for
the show. It was not too far from Reseda High (it was in the
Russell Bates (writer of the first episode) has told me
that the original concept of Isis was quite different than the
school setting that ended up on the screen. Did your character
have a detailed background, or was it pretty much left up to
BC: In the beginning, the show was set up to be more
of a type of "criminal investigation" thing. Some of
the early scripts would indicate that.
Probably, the show would've had a little more appeal if they'd
kept it in the mystery genre instead of the super-hero genre,
but who knows? It was successful and people certainly loved the
There was nothing specific written [for my character]. Just
a general character breakdown and then the rest was left to us.
We just had to work as quickly as we could because on a lower-budget
project, you don't have a lot of prep-time and as soon as it
was cast, we started shooting.
How did you get along with your fellow cast members?
BC: Everyone got along extremely well. Joanna Pang
was a very close and dear friend. We remained friends for several
years after the show went off the air and I sort-of kept track
of her. She was in New York travelling around doing some musical
theatre (South Pacific, for example). I've not heard from her
in several years.
Joanna (Cameron) was a little more difficult to work with
than everybody else in the cast, but all in all, everyone worked
very well together. The production team was always able to meet
with us and discuss things with us and, as I said earlier, the
crew was a great bunch of guys and gals. We all spent a lot of
time together, so the better you get along with everybody, the
better it is for everybody.
After shooting, most of us, sans Joanna Cameron, would usually
go out to have a drink or go out to dinner or something before
we all headed home to our respective families.
How did you feel about working on what is, essentially,
a children's programme?
BC: Actually, the first eight or nine years I did theatre,
the majority of the work I did was in children's theatre and
I love working with and for kids. I feel it is one of the best
things you can do.
I get dozens of e-mails a year from people all over the place,
which surprises the heck out of me! I got a wonderful e-mail
from a young man in New York not too long ago. He wanted to tell
me that his mother and father had been killed in a car accident
when he was nine or 10 and that if it hadn't been for the moral
issues and education that took place on Isis, he could
have ended up being a real tough street kid and getting into
a lot of trouble, but because of the message that was translated
on the show, he said it kept him straight. He's a very successful
businessperson now and he equates a lot of that to the show.
Whenever you can do something that can have an impact like that,
it's got to be a good thing.
I know a lot of actors don't like their work (I don't like
to see or hear myself), so to me, the actual job itself is doing
the work, shooting the show and then moving onto whatever else.
I will take a look [at tapes of the show recently sent to him]
with my lovely wife and some good friends from my production
company that are dying to sit down at our house and take
a look at it.
Do you believe the shows could capture the attention of
BC: Yes, I do believe the shows would hold up with
today's viewing audience. They're fun, the idea of the super-hero
will never die. That'll never change: people always look for
heroes, and I think probably more so today than when we were
doing Shazam and Isis. I think the world is
starved for heroes today and I think it would be nice and I think
it would fit in with the scheme of things today.
Any idea why only 22 shows were made?
BC: I don't know why so few shows were made. We pumped
them out as fast as we could. I think maybe Lou and Norm wanted
to go into the animation end of things. To do animation, they
felt, was cheaper than having live actors (which can be the case),
which is why a lot of companies never go from animation to using
human beings. It's unfortunate. I wish we'd done a hundred episodes.
I'd venture a guess Star Wars might've had something to
do with it, but you never know. I think, probably, it was a question
of dollars and cents, to get more "bang for [their] buck"
doing animation than having actors that you have to deal with.
Since Filmation was tight on budget, I was wondering if
the vehicles you drove on the show were provided or if you had
to use your own? How about wardrobe?
BC: No, we did not drive our own vehicles in the show.
The "Jeep-thing" I drove was just a pain in the butt!
I'm very tall as you might guess and there was no adjustment
for the steering wheel, so every time I got in and out of the
car, I about killed myself! Joanna drove a convertible, it was
originally red, got repainted yellow. I think that what happened
was it got sort of "messed up" in transporting it once,
so they just went ahead and repainted it or got another one that
looked just like it.
We supplied all of our own wardrobe on the show. All of the
clothes I wore on the show were my own clothes, for better or
The characters seemed to wear the same clothes most of
the time. I assume this was done on purpose by the studio?
Yeah, we had (few) variations in wardrobe so they could use
stock footage and save money.
There was one episode where you play the guitar at the
beginning? How did this get incorporated into the show?
BC: Interestingly enough about the episode where I
played the guitar, I just used to carry my guitar with me and
I'd sit and play in the park before [shooting] and they said
"why don't you do that" (on the show) and then, they
said "don't play too well make it look like
you're having trouble."
Jackson Bostwick (who played Captain Marvel
on Shazam) has related in interviews elsewhere that after a stunt
mishap in which he sustained injuries, that Filmation replaced
him while he was recuperating. When he took the studio to court,
he says they denied there even being an accident and that the
dismissal was over money [Bostwick says he had 8mm film footage
of the accident that proved his case and forced Filmation to
pay him for every episode he wasn't used in].
BC: Jackson is an old buddy of mine and
I just bumped into him. He was hunting south of here (Kansas
City). There was a stunt accident. It was very unfortunate.
I don't think that what happened to Jackson was fair. He was
doing some stunts that he probably should not have been doing
and the reason we did [things like] that was we were all eager
"hungry" actors that wanted to please and wanted to
work, help and do a good job, and maybe in that mental state,
you take some risks that, in retrospect, you wouldn't.
I don't know exactly what kind of settlement was
made. John Davey (Jackson's replacement) was a wonderful guy,
[but] I don't think he had quite the same charisma Jackson did.
What kind of impact did Jackson's dismissal
have on the Isis set?
BC: Negativity is like a disease. I would
say, probably, when Jackson was let go, it affected everybody
at the studio on all the shows, because the talent was
very, very close. Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch (both on The
Ghost Busters at the time) and everybody on all the shows
were all sharing the same three sound stages, so you get to be
very close with those people. I don't know what kind of impact
the money, if any, had on our show, but we were all unhappy and
Do you think your character was used effectively,
or should more have been done with Rick?
BC: You know, when you look back on character
involvement, I'm sure had they kept the show [in its original
detective/mystery format], that Rick would have had a lot more
to do. He was sort of Lois Lane to Isis' Superman persona. I
always got a kick out of the fact that with her glasses I didn't
know who she was and without them I didn't know who she was (laughs).
I think probably that Rick could've been used a
little more fully, but you just do the script. I'm sure there
isn't an actor in the world that didn't feel that their character
was quite good enough.
Isis hasn't been seen on American TV
since about 1980, but has been on the air as recently as 1999
(in the United Kingdom). Were you aware that the show has been
popping up around the world since it left the air here?
BC: Isis has been shown in South America
through 1982 and it was brought to my attention by a French cinematographer,
teasing me about what great Portuguese I spoke (the show was
dubbed) and (jokingly) said I was a "beeg star" in
I did not know that it had been running through
1999. As soon as I got your information, I called Screen Actor's
Guild to find out what the heck was going on and they said that
in 1982, when we were paid paltry sums for the showings in South
America that included all European showings. That's kind
of a tragedy, because, like the Gilligan's Island people, [viewers]
think they're all rolling in dough and it's a shame you're not
compensated [for reruns] after you do a series.
Did you have any idea of the large cult following
that Isis has?
BC: I did not know that the show had the
following it did up until about 2 1/2 to three years ago, when
people started e-mailing me that they loved the show, they miss
it and wish their children could see it.
We all loved making the show and had a good time
making it. We worked our butts off, but we knew it had a message
and that there was something special going on. I'm very pleased
that it has endured. It would be nice to have it come back on
Have you seen or heard from the other cast members
since the show left the air?
BC: Up until about 10 years ago, I was in
touch with Joanna Pang. I don't know what happed to her. I believe
she's still in the New York area. David Evan Kim, who was in
one of the special episodes of the show (the "Now You See
it, Now You Don't" two-parter) dated Ronalda Douglas. They
were together for quite some time.
Albert (Reed) I never really saw after the first
I'm sure most of the site's visitors would like
to know what you've been up to since Isis finished production.
BC: (laughs). That covers a lot of
time! I went on in L.A. after Isis to do several feature
films. I went on to guest-star on many, many shows (including)
a couple of times on Knight Rider, then I guest-starred
with Albert Salmi (again, on Knight Rider), who was a
wonderful character actor that I loved my whole life, but it
was just such a hoot to work with him for three weeks and it
was the second time I worked on the show, so the crew guys all
pitched in and got me my own Knight Rider crew jacket
which was a nice touch.
I went through a very difficult divorce between
1980 and '82. I came to Kansas City to star in "The Unsinkable
Molly Brown" with Joyce Boulifant in 1983, went back and
forth to L.A. and in '84 decided I needed a change of pace because
the divorce had fried me so badly and moved to Kansas City.
I went to work at the Missouri Repertory Theater
where I worked two, three or four shows a year for the next 12
years and did "Christmas Carol" there which is a big
traditional thing in Kansas City. I played Jacob Marley for eight
or nine years and played some various other roles for another
three years or so and stopped doing that in '96. I was doing
everything: acting, radio voice-over work, any kind of film work
that I could do here in the area.
A lot films are shot here - Hallmark Hall of Fame
shoots a lot of their stuff here, so there's a lot of work. I
did a couple of episodes of "real-life" drama things
(Cops, Unsolved Mysteries, etc.) because they shoot a
lot of them here.
In 1996 I got so busy with the Commercial Actors
Studio and so busy writing material and looking for scripts to
do our own features that I just stopped working at the
Rep and curtailed my other work. I've gone on to do a voice-over
for a wonderful, beautiful, fabulous jewelry store here (Tivol)
and for the last three years, I've been the spokesman for them
and I enjoy doing that.
The Acting Studio I teach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday nights from 6:00 to 8:00. I teach acting for film,
television,radio, voice-over work, industrial training films,
anything to do with audio tape, video tape or film. We really
have more than just an acting studio here. Because I used to
share space with a photographer, he shoots my people at a very
reduced rate and helps them put a portfolio together, then we
do a mailing from the Studio a couple times a year to 400 directors,
producers, ad agencies and photographers to help new people that
are starting out get work.
About two years ago, one of my students was a corporate
executive at Sprint and said he had an idea for a script, so
I said "well, let's kick it around." It's called My One and Only,
a coming-of-age comedy about a young man looking for love in
all the wrong places, as the country-western song says. It is
a fun, sort of quirky movie.We did all our pre-production from
the end of Summer till December, 2000. On January 6, 2001, we
started shooting through the beginning of April. Lawrence Brown,
a fabulous composer and musical director in L.A., scored the
film. I'm not in it, (but) I'm in the out-takes at the end. I
have long hair and an unshaven face now because I'm on the other
side of the camera. For 50 years of my life I've been in front
of the camera, for the next 50 I want to be behind the camera
(producing, directing, writing) and then the next 50 after that,
I'm not quite sure what I'll do.
We've just done a series of commercials for Brandsmart
and doing our third music video for good up-and-coming artists.
We're expanding our horizons for the studio.
In the unlikely event a revial of Isis
ever gets off the ground, would you be interested in participating,
whether it be in an active role, cameo or behind the scenes?
BC: I doubt that Hallmark (the current rights
holder) would ever do a revival of Isis. I don't know
with my schedule if I would take an active role in doing that
or not. Maybe I'd like to go in and direct some episodes.
I think that would be fun.
Isis is something that will always be a
part of my life. I know there's a big petition out there to put
Filmation (shows) back on the air again. Somebody e-mailed it
to me. Editor's note: this petition is available at http://www.petitiononline.com/mcneil/petition.html
I've heard tell that there was once a "blooper"
reel of the Filmation shows? Know anything about it?
BC: Yeah, there was a gag/blooper reel and
we showed it, I believe, at some kind of wrap/end of the shooting
season party. It was very, very funny . God knows what happened
What part of the industry is most satisfying
BC: It's all satisfying, to me. I
love teaching. The joy and experience I get from working with
new talent and people that have a burning desire to pursue this
business. I want the people who study here to understand this
business and know how it works and to be prepared for the ups
and downs and BS that they will be presented with and bombarded
with, shocked by and surprised by.
My acting coach in L.A. for 10 years, Charles Conrad,
now lives in North Carolina. He's a very close, dear friend.
We talk about books, writing, acting and life and he's the kind
of man, next to my father and grandfather, who was a very great
inspiration to me. I teach his technique. Only two people have
been given his blessing to teach that: one is Christopher O'Brien
in L.A., who I don't think is teaching right now, so I'm (currently
the only person) teaching Charles' technique.
I do love the production end of things.
I've seen our movie probably 300-400 times in the editing process.
We've done everything from conception to writing, rewriting,
all the foley sound, ADR and after adding the score, we (did)
all of the EQ and post work. If there's a way for us to get it
to HBO, Showtime, A&E or one of those places, we'll do that.
If not, we'll talk to some people who have been in the distribution
business and we'll play it by ear and see what happens.
I appreciate your support, your friendship and
your interest. Be well, God bless and all that wonderful stuff.
Thank you, Brian!
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One and Only