Interviewer: How did you get into acting?
Jay Kerr: Iíd been doing a bit of everything -- breaking horses in Montana, working in a casino for a little while, on oil rigs, water rigs. I guess the long and short of it is that I started doing stunts in a bunch of movies. After that, I did a musical called Bye, Bye Birdie, playing Conrad Birdie. I couldnít sing a lick, and yet it sold out every night. It was a lot of fun, so I decided to go to California.
I got in Los Angeles at night and drove through that damn town, huge as it is, because I was too scared to get off the freeway. I went clear past Los Angeles before I finally stopped and looked in the Yellow Pages for a talent agency. I went down there and bullshitted my way to meet with the guy. There was a girl there who took me aside and said, ĎHey, call this guy. Heís an acting coach and youíll do great.í So I go see him, guy named Vince Chase, and heís the one that got me an agent. I got my screen actorís card from doing a motorcycle commercial. After that, I played a Highway patrolman in Hard Country. That was really out of line for me. Cops do nothing but stop me, but I played one. It was a funny ordeal. I had the worst looking Highway Patrolman outfit youíve ever seen in your life. Anyway, that got me in the union. I had my first little acting parts, and then I auditioned for a job with Don Reo called A Rock and a Hard Place. Everybody was up for it Ė Carradine brothers, Bridges. I think I went back six or eight times and interviewed. It was one of my first interviews for a series, so I didnít even realize the process. Usually you only go back three or four, but I went back six or eight times. Finally, I went to the network and they told me I had this job, and told me all the money I had. I almost fainted. That was a hell of a deal.
I was this tall, skinny son of a bitch with a big nose and a bad accent and everybody said, ĎYouíll never make it.í Six months later, I had my own TV series. I called home and told my dad, ĎMan, I found my home out here. Theyíre trading bullshit for money. Iím going to stay right here.í
Interviewer: How much did growing up on a ranch help you with your roles?
Jay Kerr: Well, it helped a lot, but it also typecast me into cowboy type of roles. I have an accent and never really worked on getting rid of it. It wasnít so much the rodeoing or the horses or anything that helped me with Hollywood. I think it was growing up with a family where a sense of humor was real important and we laughed a lot. We were always joking. I found if I went out there and put humor in anything or had fun with itÖ just had a good attitude, it seemed to roll you past a lot of guys that felt under pressure a lot. I never really let the pressure get me too much on interviews. I think that was key to me getting a lot of roles.
Interviewer: Tell me about The Young and the Restless.
Jay Kerr: Iíll tell you the honest to God truth. I was offered a chance to go read for that soap opera a couple of times and never would. Everywhere I go, people donít say Five Mile Creek or Wizards and Warriors or First and Ten. They say The Young and the Restless. To me, itís funny because thatís kind of the bottom. I hate to say this, but actors really want to do everything else. The last thing they want to resort to is a soap opera, and thatís where I was. Itís kind of like playing in the Superbowl, and somebody comes and remembers you, and then talks to you about what high school you went to. I had done prime-time television, which isnít the Superbowl -- I mean, I never did film, but I had some success. I wasnít working for a while. I had a Busch beer commercial that was doing real well, but as a last resort I went to work on The Young and the Restless. God almighty, I didnít enjoy it. I was a terrible actor on it -- wore glasses and was completely miscast. My last line of the show was, ĎIíll be back in ten minutes,í and I never showed back up for years and years, and nobody seemed to care.
I thought I would never work again. I went to my friends, Don Reo and Clair Huffaker, and said, ĎThis is it for me. Iíll be heading back home, cause I think itís over.í Two weeks later, I got the Five Mile Creek job and was the highest paid TV actor in Australia for three and a half years. Things turn around pretty funny.
Interviewer: So the soap opera was after Wizards?
Jay Kerr: I did the soap opera while I was doing Wizards and Warriors. I worked at the soap opera during the day, then shot Wizards and Warriors afterwards. I had two shows going, but Wizards didnít get picked up, and the soap opera quit, and I said, ĎHell, Iíve had it, man.í
Interviewer: How did you get the role of Justin?
Jay Kerr: I think it was all Don Reoís doing. Jeff Conaway is a good guy and everything, but they were worried he was going to quit the show. Things were happening, I donít even know what, so they wrote in Justin Greystone. His middle name was Case . . . Just-in Case Greystone. "Just in case" the lead guy balks on us, weíre gonna have a replacement already built in the show. So they started casting, and Don Reo kept telling the network, ĎIíve got a guy that I think would be perfect, but heís doing another show.í They finally got me a read, and it was tailor made for me. Don knew me. He actually wrote it for me, almost. Thatís the way it went.
Interviewer: How did you approach playing Justin?
Jay Kerr: Well, I just went there, read the part, and made it me. Thatís about the only thing Iíve done on anything -- just go in and say, ĎHow can I really be truthful and put in everything that I think thatís me there and be real with it?í I knew the timing and humor and stuff because Don basically wrote my sense of humor.
Interviewer: In your opinion, was Justin a reprobate by nature and just called into action as a hero, or was he sort of a Scarlet Pimpernel type where it was all an act?
Jay Kerr: No doubt about it. Justin Greystone was good moral fiber. He just didnít get excited about the things everyone else took so serious.
Interviewer: Did you get to ad-lib a lot of your lines on the show?
Jay Kerr: Not a whole lot. Don Reo writes in such a fashion that you donít need to ad-lib a whole lot. Heís a funny guy and he writes funny parts.
Interviewer: Did you get a chance to work with the writers?
Jay Kerr: To a degree. The writers were on the staff. Don Reo hires good guys, and so you get over there and start laughing with them. Or they hear you bullshitting, and they start listening, and next thing I know they have something I said in the show. They know my terminology, and pretty soon theyíre talking just like me, so it was just easy. In fact, it was scary sometimes. Iíd see parts and Iíd just go, ĎDamn, this is supposed to be on television.í
Interviewer: Is there anything about the part you would have liked to have changed?
Jay Kerr: No, not really. Bill Bixby was directing a couple of the shows and he was a great friend and a great guy. He knew me and the writers knew me, and I donít think there would have been one complaint. Iíd have just gone in there and had fun with it. I felt in good hands with Don Reo and his writers and Bill Bixby as director.
Interviewer: What was your favorite aspect of working on the show?
Jay Kerr: Working with those people. Working with Don, the writers and the cast.
Interviewer: What was the hardest part of it?
Jay Kerr: You know, I canít think of a hard part of Wizards and Warriors. It just seemed like everything flowed. I had a nice dressing room. Paid good money. Had a great part, and I was working on a soap opera during the day which I really dreaded, and when I went over there it seemed like a vacation.
Interviewer: You worked frequently with Don Reo on Wizards, John Larroquette, and Blossom. Would you work with him again?
Jay Kerr: In a heartbeat. Heís one of my best friends, he and his wife both. God, weíve gone on such wild trips and had so much fun. Weíve been kicked off planes together. We went to Hawaii once and made a $100 bet that Iíd pick out his Hawaiian shirt and heíd pick out mine. Whoever picked out the ugliest one got the hundred. I picked out one for him that started little kids crying on the plane when he got on it. They thought heíd been puked on. I won that bet.
Interviewer: If Wizards and Warriors had been picked up for a second season, how would you have liked the role to have evolved?
Jay Kerr: I really just had in my mind that I was always going to be more and more involved with the show. Iíd have had more and more time on the show. Thatís basically it, and all the regular cast was great too. They really were. That little Duffy. Julia Duffy. Sheís just a sweetheart. Just great. Every role she did she was just great. Sheíd make me laugh every day.
Interviewer: What about your thoughts on some of the other cast members?
Jay Kerr: Terrific actors. You know, Don hired some really good actors. Really into the roles, and really did it well. I thought they were just exceptional. I mean exceptional. I was the least experienced guy in the whole bunch, so I went in there and I passed a lot around the set, and then went in there and did what I had to do, but I didnít feel superior to anyone on there at all.
Interviewer: What about the Winslow sisters? Was that something you and Don thought up together? Was it Reo knowing he was writing the part for you?
Jay Kerr: [laughs really hard] Those Winslow sisters, Iíve heard about them. I dated twins one time, and I really liked those two girls, but they werenít the Winslow sisters. Don Reo makes jokes about everything. Nothing is sacred with that damned Don Reo, so I donít how it came up with that Winslow deal. Ever since Iíve known him, heís had people like that in his mind. You know, heís a weird guy. Heís a strange guy.
Interviewer: Any funny anecdotes about the show during the filming?
Jay Kerr: That seems like another lifetime, almost. Itís been a long time, but I remember going over to Warner Brothers studio and laughing a lot.
Interviewer: Martin Lewis from Five Mile Creek mentioned that you gave him a copy of The Princess Bride. Was that one of your favorite books?
Jay Kerr: Yes, itís one of my favorite books. William Goldman wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I just always thought he was an interesting guy. Don Reo actually gave me the book and said, ĎIf you like William Goldman, read this book.í I read it and fell in love with it. I bought it for all my nieces and nephews. I gave Martin a copy. I gave Nicole Kidman a copy. Princess Bride was kind of the book of the crew of Five Mile Creek.
Interviewer: Were you surprised to find out that nearly twenty years later there is still a considerable fan base for Wizards and Warriors?
Jay Kerr: God, Iím super surprised. Iím super surprised. I liked that show, but itís just amazing. I just keep thinking, ĎWell, it canít be because of us. Itís just because of Don Reoís writing that there's still fans. People like wizards and stuff.í Well, they like Wizards and Warriors, I guess. I just donít feel any of it has anything to do with me. In fact, I apologized to Don when the show was over. I said, ĎI think they canceled it because of me.í
Interviewer: What were your thoughts on the costumes? Everyone weíve talked to thought they were one of the most special things about the show.
Jay Kerr: Well, they were pitiful. [laughs] No, they were great costumes.
Interviewer: Did you have trouble adjusting to the "swords and sorcery" storyline?
Jay Kerr: Iím not a science fiction personÖ Iím not really into a whole lot of that. But I liked the character, and Iíll tell you what, no one else in the world could write . . . When I heard I was up for the show, I asked Don Reo, I said with my accent and everything . . . He said, ĎYou donít understand. These people smoke cigarettes. Weíve taken a little bit of everything. Anything goes. Just go in there and be yourself. Have fun.í So thatís what I did. Had a lot of fun.
Interviewer: Anything else you want to share . . . about Wizards or your career prior to Wizards?
Jay Kerr: No, not really. You know, I have a soft spot in my heart for both of those shows [Wizards and Warriors and Five Mile Creek], and for everybody involved with them. I think of those people, and I think of them as they were then. Everybodyís gotten older and moved on. Some are successful and some probably arenít as much. Hopes and dreams come and go, but I always think of that as one of the greatest times of my life. Five Mile Creek hit a spot when I probably really needed it, but Wizards and Warriors is definitely a part of it.
Please click here to read Mr. Kerr's Five Mile Creek interview.
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