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Shapiro, Marc. "Captain Power's Battle Journal." Starlog April 1988: 37-40.

Starlog Cover

Captain Power’s Battle Journal

Power on – as Tim Dunigan leads the Soldiers of the Future out of the toy wars onto TV stardom.

by Marc Shapiro


Tim Dunigan walked out of a high-rise office building onto Hollywood Boulevard. He opened his mouth and, on this mild February afternoon, let out a blood-curdling scream.

Tourists walking by clutched their valuables. Locals, used to the unexpected that "Hollyweird" breeds, took a cursory look and went about their business. Nobody called a cop. Which was fortunate.

Because Dunigan had a number of ways in mind to celebrate the certainty that he had just landed the role of Captain Power and none of them involved jail.

"I had just given the reading of my life and was convinced I had gotten the role," recalls Dunigan of his screaming fit. "But I got a call a couple of hours later. The videotape had screwed up and I had to read again. My first reaction was 'Did I kill a nun in my last life or what?' I was going through a period where I wasn't working much and I figured the tape screwing up was just another bump in the road."

Dunigan returned to the scene of the crime, reread for the part and nailed the sucker. And now, as 1987 turns into '88 and Dunigan does one last interview before going home for the holidays, the actor, nearly a year removed from that audition, has quite literally come full circle.

The video machine whose offending tape gave Dunigan heart failure stared down at him from a nearby wall. Sketches of Soaron and Blastarr, two Captain Power foes, occupy the same positions they did the last time Dunigan was in this conference room in the Landmark Entertainment offices.

Dunigan, on his first real break from filming Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (STARLOG #128), is in town to audition for an upcoming Michael Cimino film and to gladhand LA television affiliates. And showing nothing approaching a swelled head in his new role as the futuristic savior of a world gone mechanical.

When his arrival brings out a flood of Landmark employees, the shyness and embarrassment exhibited by the 6-foot 5-inch actor seems legitimate. He's often humorous, in a reserved sort of way, and there's candor beneath his babe-in-the-woods exterior that surfaces when asked about the anti-war toy sentiment that has focused on the Captain Power arsenal.

"This show isn't harming anybody," announces Dunigan. "It's fantasy and if parents make it clear that's all it is, there shouldn't be any problem. There's a whole generation of kids who grew up with the Three Stooges and that hasn't turned them into crazy people."

Power's Battle Objectives

Early indication is that Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future might be around long enough to have a similar impact. By syndication standards (96 U.S., 20 foreign markets), the recently completed first season of Captain Power has been a success, so much so that Dunigan has suddenly had to come to grips with being recognized.

"All this attention has made me tremendously uncomfortable," Dunigan admits. "I was recently in a Detroit airport and was recognized by some kids. They came running up, wanting autographs, and I said, 'Who, me?' I didn't know what the hell to do. All of this is so new to me. But I guess I'll get used to it."

Dunigan has had more than adulation to get used to recently. The five 12-hour plus days it takes to turn out a Captain Power episode, much of those spent reacting to blank screens where effects will later be added, haven't been a walk in the park. He had underestimated the intensity of the Toronto summer but, to date, hasn't wilted in the heat. And doing the lion's share of his own stunts has resulted in only minor problems (a broken finger being the most severe). The real trial by fire has been dealing with the character of Captain Jonathan Power.

"In the first few episodes, I could barely stand to watch myself," he admits. "I felt, at times, he was a total jerk. It was driving me out of my mind because the character was too much of a goody two-shoes and, because of that, I found myself floundering and grabbing onto anything I could to get a real handle on the character.

"But as the show has progressed, I've gotten more comfortable with Power. The dialogue is occasionally a little silly, but I don't see him now as just a superhero with laser weapons.

"Captain Power has a razor-sharp mind and an obsession to preserve life. He's a moralistic, regular guy who inspires loyalty in people because he's ready to die for them if the situation calls for it."

Much like the character of, say, Tim Dunigan?

"Power and I are not very much alike," contends Dunigan. "He's quiet and reserved. I'm the type of guy who's always fooling around. Besides, I can't think of anybody who would be willing to die for me," he laughs.

A death of major proportions does occur in the first season's final episode when one series regular is killed in an explosion. Dunigan remembers a rough day on the set when the demise was filmed.

"That was a really bad scene," he says slowly. "[This person] had become a real good friend of mine since the series began. There were tears on the set that day."

But Dunigan is quick to point out that killing off a cast member is appropriate for a series that’s trying hard to appeal to both kid and adult audiences.

"I could tell from the way the ongoing story and the character's back history was outlined that Captain Power was going to be much more ambitious and mature than your normal Saturday morning cartoon. I mean, they brought Captain Power's former lover back on one show and for my money, they made it very plain what their relationship had been.

"From the beginning, we've attracted an older audience, but I look upon Captain Power as being more of a family show. Next season's shows will go further into the character and lives of the people who live in this future. But I don't see a time when the show will slip into something totally adult."

Dunigan bases his reasoning on Captain Power's emphasis on computer-generated special effects. In true Captain Power fashion, he also addresses the question of the series' primary gimmick; the interactive link between the show's battle sequences and the toy jet gun marketed by the program's financial godfather, Mattel Toys.

"I've got no problem with the interactivity for the most part. They're stretching the technical boundaries of filmmaking that other shows will most certainly follow.

"But I do get the feeling that some stories could have been better if we weren't obligated to put a certain amount of interactivity into each episode," Dunigan says. "We're doing substantial work on Captain Power and it gets awfully tempting for me to sometimes say, 'Hey, how about only 20 seconds of interactivity and a little more dialogue?' But Gary [Goddard] and the other people connected with the show are good about keeping each story's integrity and I don't think the emphasis on the effects has really cramped the show’s style."

What has cramped Dunigan's style is the Captain Power costume. The actor jokingly proclaims that "powering on is the only easy thing about dealing with the suit," designed by Robert (Cocoon) Short.

"The costume is basically tied onto my body and the binding effect results in many aches and pains after a few hours in it. I've always had a weight problem and the first time I saw the costume I told myself, 'Just cancel the pizza.' That suit is totally unforgiving. If I ever put on a couple of extra pounds, people will know it.

"Fortunately, the suit is hot and, because there's no air conditioning on the soundstages, I burn off a lot of weight naturally. But I don't leave anything to chance. Since the suit is easy to slip in and out of (15 minutes is the current mark), I use my lunch hour to run about five miles. That the running and jumping we do during a show seem to keep Captain Power in shape," laughs Dunigan.

Power’s Selective Service

Tim Dunigan was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri where, he claims, a steady diet of the Three Stooges was a contributing factor to his decision to become an actor. Dunigan went on to star in more than 12 local stage productions while earning a drama degree at Webster University.

"I've got a decent singing voice," he says, "and consequently, most of the early things I was involved in were musicals."

This trend continued when he moved to New York and landed his first professional acting job in an East Coast production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Good notices in that production led Dunigan to sign with an agent who, in turn, landed the strapping actor a development deal with CBS television.

While Dunigan's first small screen effort, a pilot called Century Hill, was stillborn, the actor went on to do guest shots on series such as The Fall Guy, The Paper Chase and Cheers. Fortune finally smiled on Dunigan in the form of a recurring role as Prince Jeffrey in the short-lived fantasy series Wizards and Warriors (STARLOG #67).

"Prince Jeffrey was such a big, broad role," recalls Dunigan. "He was a pleasure to play. Given a bit more time, I think that show would have found its audience. But Wizards and Warriors was probably one of the most expensive shows on the air at that time and I believe the expense is ultimately what sank it."

Dunigan’s next opportunity for stardom came as part of the mercenary team for hire in The A-Team pilot.

"I was the original Face," he winces. "But after I did the pilot, the producer decided that I was too young for the part and they replaced me with Dirk Benedict.

"Not getting that part hit me very hard. The A-Team was the first job, acting or otherwise, that I had ever been fired from. It screwed me up for a long time.

"I began getting apprehensive every time I would get a call to read for something. When I would do the reading, I would be nervous and uncomfortable. Suddenly, it was as if I couldn't give a good reading if my life depended on it. Things were pretty grim."

The veil lifted last year when Dunigan's agent called to inform him of an upcoming cattle call for something called Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Dunigan's reaction?

"What the hell is that?" he remembers. "And things didn't get much clearer when I showed up in this room for the audition. All these bizarre drawings were hanging on the wall and my only reaction was, 'My god in heaven, what am I getting myself into?'"

Dunigan figured it out and what he ultimately signed on for was a TV series that has a seemingly infinite number of storylines and possibilities.

"Just look at some of these sketches," says Dunigan as he inspects the latest additions to the walls. "There are all kinds of new creatures and characters that weren't here the last time I was in town. I have no idea if any of these will be introduced in Captain Power's second season. There was a rumor that a new female character would be introduced. But, to be honest, I know very little about what's going to happen."

What he does know is that a Captain Power movie is being discussed and that the series' current storyline has the potential to run two more seasons. While he likes the security that "allows me to concentrate on my craft while not having to worry about how I'm going to pay next month's rent," he's not blind to the fact that playing Captain Power could put him in a casting mold too powerful to break.

"I had some initial fears that playing Captain Power might ultimately be the end of the line," says Tim Dunigan. "And, even at this point, I'm a little bit afraid of being offered nothing but Captain Power-type roles. But I figure if I'm careful about the next thing I do, the typecasting won't get a chance to stick. I think the next thing I would like to do is play some wacked-out psychopathic killer. You couldn't get further away from a Captain Power than that," he laughs.

"But, no matter what I do in the future, for some people, I will always be Captain Power.

"It comes with the territory and I guess I'll just have to accept it."


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