Alan Dale Talks Acting, HOT IN CLEVELAND, ONCE UPON A TIME, His Dream Guest Role, and More

February 13, 2013 by  

Over the past decade-plus, Alan Dale has made a name for himself by playing mysterious strangers, terrible fathers, and all sorts of bad guys, but his recurring role on HOT IN CLEVELAND has taken him to a whole new depth of insanity — he’s playing an actor!

I spoke with Dale about his time on the show, adjusting to the format, ONCE UPON A TIME, and more…

How did the role in HOT IN CLEVELAND come to be? Did they reach out to you or was this something you went in to audition for?
Alan Dale: They actually did come after me, which was very nice; I guess I’ve become well-known enough for that to happen. They did ask me to come in and audition which was fun. The reason, very obviously, is because I’ve become quite well known since I’ve been in the States as the bad guy, and they wanted someone like that, but they wanted someone who could do comedy. So I had to come in and do a few scenes and allay their fears that I might fall flat on my face. [Laughs]

Was this your first experience with a multi-camera sitcom?
AD: I did a pilot of one some years ago now, about five years ago, with Lil’ Bow Wow, the rapper, and I played a gay butler. It was a lot of fun and a similar sort of character in a lot of ways. So I had that experience.

But I had done multi-cam, but in Australia for drama, which they do some dramas out there in multi-cam. So I was used to that. But this is the first major role I’ve played [in this format] for a couple of months.

What’s it like having the feedback of a live studio audience?
AD: It’s really fun. That is new; that was [the] Bow Wow [pilot] and this one. I hadn’t had that before. In 2008 when I finished UGLY BETTY, I did six months in London doing SPAMALOT in a 2000 seat auditorium. So I am used to working in front of a live audience. It was good fun getting back to that, I must admit. It was nice for a change.

And how was it for you to deal with the challenges the format poses? Often during tapings in front of a studio audience, they adjust the script as you go based on what’s working and what isn’t — was that something you were able to pick up on quickly?
AD: Oh, yes, that was something. I have to admit the first one, they did that to me two or three times and that was a bit of a shock. You don’t have time to sit down and work out your motivation, you just got to do the line. But it’s fun. It’s certainly what I’d like to do for the rest of my life if I had the chance. I think I’m more likely to be playing [serious characters] in the future, but this is so much fun.

That’s great! What can you tease about what’s coming up on the show?
AD: It’s devastating for Emmet. Things with Victoria [are going down] and then they’re interrupted, rudely. But I can’t tell you too much about it, because it will give away the story!

Fair! Do you see yourself sticking around on the series for the foreseeable future?
AD: A little bit. Shows like this don’t have huge budgets and they can’t afford to keep someone like me on all the time. They’ve got their regular cast — and what a cast they’ve got! — but I’ve been very lucky. They increased the amount of time they wanted me to be there once they saw me working with Wendie [Malick (Victoria)] because our characters really pop together. So they’ve written more of me than they were planning on originally. So I’ll be there for a while. But I don’t think I’ll become a regular cast member.

Good to hear. What’s been your favorite thing to film so far?
AD: I think it’s the second episode and we’re in the trailer pretending we’re making love. So we’re shaking the trailer and talking about the crew ringing up TMZ already.

As an actor playing an actor, do you find it a bit fun to poke fun at/pay homage to some of the actors you may have worked with in the past?
AD: Oh yeah. And myself, too, because we are awfully precious, us actors. It’s really good fun, that stuff. And Wendie is doing this now for four seasons. I’m very lucky to join her.

Is there anyone in the cast you hope to work with more going forward?
AD: I must admit, I hadn’t thought of it. I love working with Betty [White (Elka)], of course. I had an experience that was really interesting: I did a series in Australia — I was in the first scene of it and its still going after 26 years — called NEIGHBOURS. And it became very big around the world and we were invited in 1988 to go across and perform for the Royal Family in the Royal Concert and we went. And one of the other group of people that was there was the GOLDEN GIRLS. So we didn’t actually meet, but we were on the same bill for the same show in 1988. So it’s a big thrill to be working with her. She’s such a stunning lady…she’s really such a darling. She’s such a pleasure to work with. I’d love to work with her, but I’m very happy with what I get.

Do you ask the writers what’s coming up for your character?
AD: I don’t. I know some actors do do that, but I feel it must be daunting for writers to have actors come up and be in their face all the time. So I don’t do that. Maybe my career would have been bigger and better had I done that, but I just leave it to them and when I get my script, I do the best I can.

You mention your career being “bigger and better,” but at the same time, I feel like you’ve been one of the most consistently working actors on so many different shows in the past decade or so. Is there something in particular you look for when selecting a role?
AD: It’s an interesting thing because I have listened to actors talk about what motivates them, but there are very few things I won’t do. So basically my motivation is if it’s offered to me, I say yes. [Laughs] The truth is I came here when I was in my 50s, after 20 years in Australia. I came here because I thought what would happen if I died and I hadn’t been to Hollywood? So I came here to see what would happen. I said to my managers and agent, I want to play a bad guy, because I played the nicest guy in Australia for years and it would be boring. And the result has been great. I’m very glad with what’s happened.

One of the shows you are currently juggling is ONCE UPON A TIME. Is there anything you can say about when you’ll be returning to that show?
AD: No, I don’t have any news on that, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t go back, because the show has gone off in a completely different direction. I was watching it the other night with my kids, and I was booked to do three and I’ve done three, so I don’t know if I’m going back there at all. If I do, it’ll be great because I get on well with those people and I love my trips up to Vancouver to do the show.

Is there any other show you’re watching that you do hope to get on?
AD: Oh! What do we watch? We quite love watching procedurals. I love watching the serialized shows, but the trouble with them is you’re required to watch and you can’t miss [an episode] and that’s difficult. But we really like THE GOOD WIFE. I would love to be in that if ever the chance came. I’m very happy with the way things have been going and may it just continue!

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HOT IN CLEVELAND’s season finale airs tonight at 10 PM on TV Land.

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