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Rest in Peace, Roy

October 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm
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The world became a little poorer this week. Roy Dotrice has died. He was ninety-four.

Roy first took up acting in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II, and went on to become one of the giants of British stage and screen, decorated by the Queen. He set a record for his one-man play BRIEF LIVES, and performed the key role of Mozart’s father in the film of AMADEUS, among a hundred other credits. He was a supremely gifted actor.

He was also my friend. He lived in the United Kingdom and I lived in New Mexico, so we did not see each other often, but whenever we did get together, it was a delight. I will always treasure the memory of the dinner I shared with Roy and his wife Kay (who passed away a few years ago) at his club, the Garrick, a centuries-old haunt of the legends of the British stage. That was a truly amazing evening. The last time I saw Roy was in Los Angeles, however, at the party his daughter threw him on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

Many of the news stories about Roy’s death identified him as a GAME OF THRONES cast member. He was that, of course. He played the pyromancer Hallyne in two episodes during our second season… and, as with everything he did, he played him wonderfully.

Truth be told, Roy might have had a much larger role in the series. When we first cast the show, he was our choice to play Grand Maester Pycelle, and I have no doubt that he would have been magnificent in that role. Sadly, health problems forced him to bow out. Julian Glover stepped up and performed admirably in his stead, but sometimes I still wonder at what might have been.

Roy’s association with GAME OF THRONES runs far deeper than the television series. He was also the reader of the audiobooks of all five volumes of the series… though calling him a “reader” does not truly reflect his work. Roy performed those books. He gave every character his (or her) own distinctive voice, despite the fact that there were hundreds of them. So many, in fact, that the Guinness Book of World Records recognized him for voicing the most characters in an audibook for his work on A GAME OF THRONES, a record he still holds today (though actually I suspect he broke it himself for his readings of the later books).

I loved what Roy did on the audiobooks. He did not just read my words aloud, he brought them to life, in a way few actors could. And the fans agreed. Roy did the audiobooks for A GAME OF THRONES, A CLASH OF KINGS, and A STORM OF SWORDS, to great acclaim. When it was time to record A FEAST FOR CROWS, however, he was unavailable. Off doing a play in Birmingham, I was told. So my publishers used another reader. But the fans were having none of it. After the audiobook of FEAST was released, Random House received so many complaints that they had no choice but to go back and re-record the book with Roy, and release a second version. So of course when it was time to tape A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, there was never any question as to who would read it.

With Roy gone, I have no idea who will can possibly get to do the audiobooks for THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING. But whoever it is, they will have a hard, hard act to follow.

For all the great work he did on A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, my own memories of Roy Dotrice go back earlier, to the three years we worked together on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST for CBS. Great memories, for me; that was a wonderful show, and a joy to work on. We had an amazing team of writers, and of course a terrific cast, with the likes of Jay Acovone, Linda Hamilton, Jo Anderson, the incredible Ron Perlman… and Roy, of course, as Father. It was an honor and a privilege to write for him.

Those years on B&B meant a lot to Roy as well. Just last month, he posted a farewell messages to all the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fans around the world. You can find it on YouTube:

Such a fine actor. Such a sweet man.

Everyone who knew him is sad today.

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My Days With Beauty and the Beast

March 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm
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MAX HEADROOM was not the only show I wrote for back in the 1980s.

There was also a very different sort of series, no less iconic, called BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

With the recent release of the new Disney live-action remake of their old animated classic, interest in our show has suddenly kicked up a notch or three, and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER rang me up to interview me about my time on B&B.

Here ’tis, for those who are interested in such things:

Reunions and Reboots

September 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm
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Last night I returned to one of my old haunts from my Hollywood years… and shared a wonderful reunion dinner with some old friends from my days on the staff at BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Some of them are folks I have kept in touch with regularly over the intervening years. Others I had not seen or spoken to since the show ended. Ron Perlman (Vincent), Linda Hamilton (Catherine), and Armin Shimmerman (Pascal) were there, along with composer Don Davis, producer David Schwartz, my fellow writers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon (the Lads) and their wives, and of course B&B’s creator and showrunner, Ron Koslow (who does not look to have aged a day since the show ended, and surely must have a portrait in his attic). We shared some wine and some memories, got caught up with each other, laughed a lot, drank a few toasts to the friends and colleagues no longer with us, and vowed to make the reunion an annual event.

A great time, which brought back vivid memories of a good time in my life. Very fitting, actually, since I’d made this visit to LA for the Emmy Awards… and it was as a writer/ producer on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST that I got my first two Emmy nominations. (We lost both years. But it’s an honor just to be nominated, yadda yadda).

Inevitably, one of the items of table conversation was the recent announcement that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST may be returning to the airwaves. Actually, there are TWO new BEAUTY AND THE BEAST shows in the works. One, under development for ABC, is based on the original fairy tale, and presumably will have a medieval European setting. The other, however, is a reboot of our own show.

You can read bout it here:

Now that you’ve read that, you know just as much about the reboot as I do. Actually, you know just as much about the reboot as anyone at our reunion dinner did. All of us had seen the story, in the REPORTER or on the internet, but none of us had been contacted by CBS or CW or any of the folks doing this new version. Just sayin’.

To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about this announcement. I am proud of the work I did on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, I learned a lot on the show, and I have a huge amount of affection for Vincent, Catherine, Father, Diana, and all the other characters we created in our fantasy kingdom under the streets of Manhattan (some of which were my own humble contributions). I love the idea of introducing a new generation of television viewers to the tunnel world and its denizens. After the original show was cancelled, all of us nursed the dream that B&B would return one day (how not? we had such a fabulous fanbase). A feature film was the dream, and for a while it seemed as if that would happen… but it never came to pass, years and decades went by, and we all moved on.

And now this. A reboot. Well, okay. I wish them luck, although generally speaking, I am not a fan of reboots. I don’t know the writers they have selected, but they seem to have good credentials. I hope they’ve seen the original series. I hope they love it as much as we do. I hope they keep the fantasy, the whole tunnel world, not just the Beast. I hope they keep Father and Mouse and Jamie and Pascal and all the other characters we peopled the tunnels with. And I hope they keep the poetry: the sonnets, the readings from Shelley and Keats and Kipling, the deep love of books and words and literature that was so much a part of Vincent.

Most of all, I hope they keep it smart.

But I must admit, the announcement makes me nervous. The new version will “modernize and CW-up” the love story, it says here, as well as adding a “procedural twist.” I haven’t watched enough shows on the CW to know what “CW-up” really means in this context, but the phrase rings ominously in my ears. And “modernize?” Uh… well, set it in 2012, sure… but part of the appeal of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the timelessness of the underlying love story.

But we’ll see. (Or we won’t, this is only a script at this stage, not even a pilot). Maybe this will be another BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, where the reboot is a hundred times better than the original. Or at least a STAR TREK, where the comparative merits of the original show and the new one can be debated.

But I do pity the actors they cast to play Vincent and Catherine and Father. Ron and Linda and Roy are going to be tough, tough acts to follow.

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