Q: The character was created by Robert B. Parker, the novelist. How does he feel about it?
A: I know Bob pretty well, and he really likes these movies, and he said, "The only thing that can't change, because it's part of my franchise, is Jesse has to remain hung up on his ex-wife and continue to struggle with his drinking." And what that freed us up from, particularly on television, is lecturing people about whether it's good or bad to drink too much. He doesn't think it's good to drink too much, and we're not advocating that, but we don't do AA lessons every time we do the movie. It's just something he struggles with and he hasn't come to grips with. If Jesse's working and he gets involved, he tends not to drink. And if he's not working and he's idle, um, you've got a problem. Because this guy's a brooder, and his roommate is his dog.
Q: You spent time in the National Guard, right?
A: I was in the Army National Guard, in the infantry, yeah. I was also in active duty. I was at Fort Ord, which no longer existsit's up in Monterey, California. I did six years altogether and I'm proud of that.
Q: Didn't I read that you were called in during the Watts riots?
A: My unit was activated in the Watts riots; I wasn't in it. I was activated for the Isla Vista riots.
Q: That was the protest in 1970 involving students from UC Santa Barbara.
A: Yeah. It was happening all over the country. That's one of the main reasons I didn't go to Vietnam. My unit was the top priority unit for civil disturbance in the state of California, so we were always being called in to be ready to go somewhere. It was getting very fashionable to be politically activein not a very profound way. We went up to Isla Vista and got out of trucks to enforce the curfew in the riot zone, and my post was the Bank of America, where the riots had started. And you know what ended those riots? It started to rain. All the kids went inside and threw parties in their apartments, and we stood out in the rain for two nights. Which made me question the level of commitment of some of the students who were demonstrating.
Q: You definitely paid your dues.
A: Everybody thought the business came easy to me, which it didn't. I really got my first big break when I was 35with Magnumand in retrospect, that was fortunate.
Q: But in the early eighties, when Magnum was hitting TV screens, you didn't seem very happy.
A: It was a weird time. I had split up with my wife a year and a half before that. The press was blaming it on the show. I went to Hawaii, and the Screen Actors Guild went on strike. In between selling Magnum and doing the pilot, I got offered Raiders of the Lost Ark, and CBS wouldn't let me do it. So now I'm in Hawaii and I can't afford the house I've rented, so I worked for my landlady to pay the rent. I did that for 10 weeks, knowing that once Magnum started, my life was going to change. To top it off, guess who came to Hawaii to finish his movie while I was working for seven bucks an hour? Steven Spielberg and Raiders.