Turner Classic Movies
Cole, Michael
Written by Diana Saenger   


With The Mod Squad Season One, Volume One, the groundbreaking police drama that helped define a generation, making its way  to DVD  on December 18, 2007; I was excited to interview Michael Cole for his role in the ground-breaking show about cops as Pete Cochran.  Here's what he  said about  the show and its effects on his career in general.  

Q. What Did You Think When You First Offered This Role?

Michael Cole: When I first met Aaron in his office with my agent, I was kind of rebellious. The casting director had seen me in something else. When he explained the idea of the show I said this is the dumbest ting I ever heard and I hope it never gets on the air. I said if you wanted me to be a bad guy, that would be fine, but I'm not going to be a guy who rats on his friends and I started to leave. Aaron jumped up from his desk and said, "That's exactly what I want!. That's the attitude that Pete Cochran should have."

Michael Cole in Captain Greer Call Surgery

Q. So That Convinced You to Stay?

Michael Cole: Yes. And I have to thank Aaron for that because a lot of producers would have thrown me out. But he was like the show and would say it every day, "Remember the show is about caring." And he was amenable to any idea about peace and love and he really meant it.

Q. You Can See On The Special Features on the DVD How Much The Main Cast Members Cared For Each Other; Was That Genuine?

Michael Cole: Yes. We - me, Clarence and Peggy - truly loved each other. And Tige - who we just lost. If we wouldn't have really cared for each other, we would have never had had a show. It's like the cops on the street - the partners have to love each other. That really threw a lot of people off, since racism was at its highest point.

We were all moody and didn't know what we were going to do with our lives anyway. Peggy and I had many sift moments together. Aaron wanted Peg to be a canary w a broken wing. I thought that sounded stupid but after a few scenes - he was right. You wanted to help her. It seemed like at least four shows a month we would be saying "Where's Julie?" We were always looking for her and trying to help her. But if you liked her it was easy to do.

Clarence was a total pro - having come from Broadway. And Peggy just did it. I never knew what acting was about, although I think every actor has to have some of them self in their role.

Q. What About The Stereotypes of the Characters - Was There Talk About That?

Michael Cole: Aaron had to stick to his guns to get that on the air. As much as ABC liked it, they were also a business. They might say 'They're not going to go for in say, Louisiana." It's about marketing. So when they first told him no, Aaron and the powers that be got into a row. But had enough friends at ABC to make the pilot. It rocked . And I was very proud of it, being a neophyte anyway, I just charged into it. Clarence knew a lot more, because he was a Broadway guy, And Peggy had worked quite a bit and was under contract to Paramount.

Q. I Understand You Were Pretty Down And Out When This Series Was Offered To You?

Michael Cole: True. I said, 'This is really neat. I can actually afford to live somewhere now.' And clothes. We wore jeans and jackets all the time until the last year when Clarence suggested we wear suits. So at the end of the show, I ended up with some of the stuff I wore.

Q. What's Noticeably Different In Watching This Show Again is the Pacing. It Wasn't All Quick Action. There are Many Intense Scenes Where the Audience is Allowed To Get Into the Moment, the Characters and What's Really Happening. You Don't See That Today.

Michael Cole: Thanks for noticing that. And the music was beautiful.

Q. What Was The Shoot Like? You Guys Had A Lot Of Locations.

Michael Cole: Most were in Los Angeles. It's like that great line by Butch Cassidy, 'I shoot better when I'm moving.' Some shows that shoot in New York or Hawaii, they're the star. But in L.A. we only needed ten alleys. If you used them and changed the cars and the trash cans, no one recognized them. But it was the stuff from the heart that made that show so successful.

Q. Did You Have Any Input Into The Scripts?

Michael Cole: Yes, that was one of the advantages of a smash hit, and we never had arguments. You could say, "I know what I'd say here." And we always had new directors who didn't quite know what we were doing all the ingredients we had to get in.

Q. Did You Get Any Technical Training About Police Work?

Michael Cole: No. That wouldn't have fit the show, because our characters didn't even go to the academy. We just went on our own. That's the only way we could do it. The only one (in the show) who really knew we were police was the chief, who didn't like us and said, "You're going to screw up," and we did - a lot!

The Cast in Find Tara Chapman

Q. What Was It Like To Live With Aaron Spelling?

Michael Cole: It was when the show first started and I didn't have a place to stay. I've never been in a house that, which is not like the one he has now. We had fun together. He'd have parties like Hugh Heffner, you'd go to his house and he's be sitting in bed with all of these scripts laying in front of him, and we'd sit down, read them and he ask my advice. That brought forth some interesting discussions about my character. The fact that we didn't care guns came out of that discussion and I was proud that that was my idea. Then we'd go to Beverly Hills and play pool and drink beer. He was a buddy.  

Q. How Did This Show Affect Your Career?

Michael Cole: There wasn't any before that show. I did a lot of movies of the week but after the show I mostly wanted to do plays. Then I got a chance to play Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in national tour. Ben Gazzara first did it on Broadway, and then Mr. Newman took over in the film.   But I must have down something right one night at the theater in New Orleans. There was a man who was one of Tennessee Williams' lovers who wanted to come back stage and meet me. He said, "I wanted to meet you because I know that's exactly what Mr. Williams had in mind." It made me cry. I did other plays, then got burnt out and traveled around for a while. Now things are happening again, like the role in Mr. Brooks.

You Were Very Good in That?

Michael Cole: Thank you. I did that and then E.R. Work breeds work.

Q. How Do You Feel About The Studio Bringing The Mod Squad DVD Out Again?

Michael Cole: You know, I've done a lot of wrong but if I've done anything right, it's marrying my wife, and something right to have this come out again and have this response. They (the studio) are really smart in the way they're handling the marketing.

Photo credits: Paramount Home Entertainment




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