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conducted August, 2001

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 Reseda area).

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 you?

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 show.

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 today's children?

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 worse.


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 missed Jackson.

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 South America!

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 the air.


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 season.


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


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 to it.


What part of the industry is most satisfying to you?

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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Brian's new movie, My One and Only, is now available on VHS for $15.00 plus $4.00 shipping/handling. If you'd like to order a copy, please send an e-mail to



My One and Only

Commercial Actors Studio