Chris Hendrie (Guest Star of Little House) Exclusive Interview!
Chris! Thanks for letting PrairieFans.com interview you about your
role as "Coy" from the "Little House" episode, "He was only Twelve"
1. Little House on the Prairie has grown so much since it first aired a little over 30 years ago. The fan base is stronger than ever. What do you think of its success after so many years? Would you have thought it would still be as popular today as it was many years ago?
Michael Landon wisely chose the Laura Ingalls Wilder books for his first outing as actor, writer, director and producer because I believe he recognized the beauty and simplicity of these uniquely American stories as they affected the frontier family and knew they would touch a chord with contemporary American families. I am not surprised they are still enormously popular because Michael remained true to the spirit of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing and being an extraordinary renaissance man of many talents, he was able to consistently deliver compelling TV every week for many years.
2. Before landing your guest appearance on Little House had you ever seen the series or read the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?
Prior to my first guest appearance I was not really familiar with the series because I had spent several years as an actor working full time in regional theatres around the country and was not watching much television.
3. How did you get the role of Coy? Was it competitive?
My first theatrical agent in LA, a great guy named Gene Lesser, pitched me to Susan Sukman McCray, Michael’s casting director, as a leading actor from the Dallas Theatre Center, as I had just come from 4 seasons there. My first reading for Susan was for one of the brother parts in “He was only 12.” She called me back to read that role for Michael. After the first reading with Michael, he asked me to read the part of Coy, which I did after a quick study. Susan called within the next hour and said Michael would like to offer me the part.
4. What are your thoughts about the character of Coy? Anything you wish you could change about the character?
I was thrilled to play Coy. He was a most interesting guy, as are most baddies, enjoying himself immensely robbing banks and leading his gang of brothers. He was tough and had a rather perverted sense of humor but his saving grace was that he loved his son enough to teach him to lie, rob, cheat and steal, as well as self-reliance with a gun. Growing up in Texas on a ranch, playing the lead baddie in a high quality western with Michael Landon was a dream come true for me. I would not change a thing about the character, he remains one of my favorite creations.
5. Michael Landon directed the two part episode, He Was Only Twelve you appeared on. How would you describe working with Mike as the director?
I appeared in the first part of ‘He Was Only Twelve” and I learned that Michael had originally written the script for “Bonanza,” which he later rewrote for ‘Little House.’ As a director, Michael was an amazing force of nature on the set. Not only was he writing the 2nd part of the episode while he was directing and starring in the first, but he had assembled a crack crew (many held over from “ Bonanza”) and ran a very tight ship. My experience with him as an actor was that he was simply wonderful to work with on every level.
6. What was it like being a guest on Little House? Who would you say on the set made the biggest impression on you personally?
Guest starring on the show was a fun, high-energy experience. The family atmosphere Michael created with cast and crew alike was very relaxed and friendly and allowed the actors to take risks and do their best work. Michael himself made the most lasting impression on me. He worked like a benevolent dictator on the set and kept things moving at a breakneck pace, but he was very sure of his shots, and knew exactly what he wanted. He had short rehearsals before every scene and would try to capture everything in one or two takes. Watching him wear that many hats, all equally well was truly amazing, much like another renaissance man from television, George Clooney, whom I did “Fail Safe” with.
7. What were the kids like to work with and to be around? Jason Bateman (James) and Matthew Laborteaux (Albert).
I only had one short scene with Jason Bateman and Matthew Laborteaux during the bank robbery and didn’t really get to know them, but they were both consummate professionals.
8. What, if any, affect did your role as Coy have on your career over the years? Are you still associated with or recognized from being on Little House?
The role of Coy, along with the leading role of Deputy Pool in “Psycho II” gave me instant credibility as a serious actor and served as an entrée into many Hollywood-casting offices.
9. Many fans don't know this, but you were cast as "Brad Kearns" in the first season of Highway to Heaven in the episode "A Match Made in Heaven," Did Susan McCray cast you because of your previous work on Little House? What was it like to be working with the same crew again?
Susan McCray cast me as a guest star on “Highway To Heaven” because of my previous work on “Little House.” Michael directed me as Brad Kerns and, again, he and his wonderful crew worked fast, furious and brilliantly with great humor. I miss him. He was totally unique, went out with great courage and style, and was taken from us at much too young an age. He did however, play an angel. I’m thinking he may still be around.
10. Finally, How are things going for you these days? Any projects in the works?
Things are going well these days. Recently I played a lead, Alfred Underhill, in Sheldon Wilson’s “Shallow Ground” which is now running frequently on the Sci-Fi channel. Appearances on “Grey’s Anatomy” as Dr. Harry Victor and “Strong Medicine” as Dr. Madden, as well as a recurring role on ‘Passions” as billionaire businessman Mr. Collier, to name a few. You can see clips from all of these on www.youtube.com/chrishendrie.com and www.myspace.com/chrishendrie
Thanks very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.
Click here to view a clip from Chris Hendrie's performance as Coy.