INTERVIEW WITH KEITH SZARABAJKA‏

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How were you chosen to play the role of Mickey Kostmayer?

I auditioned and they hired me, originally for just one episode.

You played in 47 episodes and The Equalizer was one of the first series to have so many participants who come and go. Who decided for instance that Mickey Kostmayer was the character to play in a story?

I have no idea how they made such decisions, but I imagine it was a combination of the producer/writers in NY and LA. I know Edward and I got along well, so I'm sure he had some say in the matter. I know after his heart attack, he insisted they bring Mickey back.

When people watch The Equalizer, they can feel (I do) that Edward Woodward was a sympathetic actor. How was it to shoot an episode with Mr Woodward?

He was a terrific actor, and a very kind man. He once argued all day to get a long speech cut, but at the end of the day, when he lost the argument with whomever, he went out and did the speech like it was Shakespeare.

Could the series still be produced nowadays? Could one say that the series is ‘politically incorrect’ nowadays?

Sure. Why not? And I'm not certain what is so politically incorrect about it. If anything, it probably fits into the tenor of the times.

What is your best memory of the shooting on The Equalizer?

The time we had a fraud present himself as a director. It turned out he never directed before, but because of DGA (Director's Guild of America) rules, he couldn't be fired. Geoff Erb (our DP), Edward and I really directed the episode ourselves. (Don't ask me which one, but it was crazy and fun.)

How many episodes were shot simultaneously?

Usually one at time, though we worked for thirty-four weeks, pretty much in a row, to shoot all 22 each season.

What are your favourite episodes and why?

China Rain. I thought it best exemplified Mickey's relationship with McCall and also was the purest Mickey as a character episode.

Was your participation on The Equalizer a turning point in your career?

I guess so. It put my name in the hat as a television actor, but I have always struggled. I have never really achieved that sublime level where work just comes my way easily. I almost always have to audition.

Was it different to play on The Equalizer than in other series you played in such as Golden Years, Law & Order, Profit or Cold Case? There are many Angel fans on our French forum. I’m not but what could you tell them on your participation in these series?

That's a book, I'd say. They were all different in their own ways, yet they were all the same. The hardest was Golden Years, because of the ten hours of make-up required each day, though I had to do that make-up for the last three episodes of ANGEL as well. They were all fun, but my favorite characters were Holtz in ANGEL and Mickey in THE EQUALIZER.

What do you think of the film The Equalizer planned for next year?

I hate it. They didn't ask me to be in it, even as a cameo. I hope the best for them though.

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INTERVIEW WITH CARLETON EASTLAKE‏

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How were you chosen to write stories for the series? Why did you work only for the first two seasons, in fact, mainly on the second season?

I broke into television by writing a freelance episode for the original “V”. The staff gave me something like a one paragraph story and 5 days to write the script - the show was in just a little bit of trouble. They thought they had a deal to use the “Red Dawn” attack helicopter and so wanted me to tell a story where the publishers of an underground Resistance newspaper were rescued from a Visitor prison camp inside the Santa Monica College stadium. So I did. But then they lost their budget and substituted a pickup truck raiding - really! - the studio’s actual print shop.

However, Universal read the original script and decided I was a terrific helicopter writer and so gave me an assignment on “Airwolf". Since the Airwolf helicopter was piloted by a former government pilot or whatever turned vigilante, the thought eventually came up that I could write for the new former-government-agent-turned-vigilante show, “The Equalizer”.

The first season I did a freelance script. That got me hired for the second season as a staff story editor. The show was on CBS. When the President of CBS left to run Warner Brothers Television later that season, he gave me an overall deal at Warners. My agent negotiated an early release from The EQ and I moved to the Warner’s lot. And ended up working on “A Man Called Hawk”, which was Warner’s version of The EQ.

Which episode is your favorite one? Why?

I loved them all. “Nocturne” predicted today’s NSA controversy in the U.S. I had McCall (the title character, who was played by the amazing Edward Woodward) track down the rapist of a blind woman by using his contacts at the NSA to computer-match an artificial voice print she’d composed against all phone calls on the long-distance lines on the U.S. East Coast.

CBS Broadcast Standards told me I couldn’t claim the NSA was tapping long distance calls unless it was true. So I gave them a copy of James Bamford’s “The Puzzle Palace” which documented that NSA was likely using that capability all the way back in the 1980s. And so CBS let me do the story. It’s amazing to me that three decades later it’s still news to much of the world that the NSA does this - they always have.

On the other hand I shared in an Edgar Award for “The Cup”. And “Prelude”, my most political story, established the EQ’s backstory as the man who had engineered the fascist coup in Chile and was now atoning for that sin, while my last episode of the season, “A Place To Stay” was my experiment with doing an Equalizer without any overt violence. The Powers That Be, however, when they caught me at it, asked for the compromise that The EQ at least fire his gun in the air to get everybody’s attention at the climax - not hearing a gunshot in the entire episode seemed too strange to them.

Well, I could go on - but as I said, I loved all of them.

The Equalizer was one of the first series to have so many participants who come and go. Who decided for instance that Mickey Kostmayer was the character to play in a story or Harley Gage disappeared without notice?

It was always a question of who was available and whether the production could afford them. We would often write a part for a recurring character; sometimes we got them, sometimes we had to rewrite for a different character or a new one filling a similar role.

One limitation was that we could never show the EQ’s ex-wife again. She’d been played by the wonderful - and well-paid and famous screen actress - Sandy Dennis. There was no way to recast the part and not much hope of getting her back for another episode.

Were there any writing imperative rulings to write a story of The Equalizer?

Writers were much more independent in that era than they are now. The show was mostly written by three of us supervised by a fourth writer, Ed Waters, and an Executive Producer in New York, Jim McAdams. And, of course, we had studio and network notes.

Still, each of us wrote very different pieces. I wrote McCall as a sort of New Testament Christ, sacrificing himself to redeem his sin and the sins of our society in part by leading the victim of the week into playing a role in their own redemption. Coleman Luck, I felt, tended to write him as an Old Testament prophet or avenging angel. Scott Shepherd seemed to like writing lighter episodes that made more use of younger supporting characters.

But, as I mentioned above, if there was one rule, it was that McCall really had to shoot his gun at least once per episode.

Did you have any contacts with the actors while writing in LA? Did they have their say in the matter?

I traveled to New York with my first two episodes and so worked directly with Woodward and McAdams. Woodward, however, was a professional actor out of the British tradition so he more often had interpretation questions than anything like a demand for changes. Later, on other shows, I dealt with far less professional actors who, of course, having little training and experience to fall back on, found all sorts of reasons to fight over scripts, usually as a way of dealing with their fear.

What is your best memory on writing for The Equalizer?

Well, aside from the big ones, like winning an Edgar, the most amusing one was when I was working alone on a Saturday in this terrible almost-abandoned hulk of a building without air conditioning on Times Square putting my first script into shape to meet the budget for Monday’s shooting. I drank bottle after little green bottle of Perrier from the office’s refrigerator and finally, looking up at all the free bottles of Perrier I’d had, thought, wow, I’d finally arrived in glamorous Hollywood! Free French water! What other joys awaited?

I was young then.

Was your participation on The Equalizer a turning point in your career?

Yes. It was my first staff job, got me an overall deal and many of my later shows, won me an Edgar, and gave me a taste for Perrier.

Was it different to write on The Equalizer than in other series involving law and justice such as Booker?

Yes. Sadly The EQ was the best experience I had in TV! Working with a professional British actor and casting almost entirely from the New York pool of stage actors was an experience I never had again. The network was sane, the studio was sane, Jim McAdams and Ed Waters were sane - that too was an experience I never had again. Most of Hollywood is driven by fear and confusion and, often, by back-stabbing rivalry. Something somewhere is usually poisonous even if nearly everything and everyone else are terrific. So “The Equalizer” that year was unique.

You wrote for many sci-fi TV series such as SeaQuest DSV, The New Outer Limits, The Burning Zone. Did you prefer to write stories on science-fiction series?

When I was tested in high school, the results showed I wanted to work in the arts, sciences, or politics - and never in accounting or agriculture. True to the test, I first work as a government lawyer dealing with issues of public policy often on matters effecting public health. Likewise, most of my science fiction work was what I would call social-science fiction, dealing with issues I thought technology would create or dealing allegorically with contemporary social and political issues. So science fiction was very satisfying.

What do you think of the film The Equalizer?

I don't know a thing about it, other than Denzel Washington is in it - he’s the perfect actor to capture McCall’s strength and sense of seeking redemption, so I”m hoping that’s what the film will be showing. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing it!

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