Friday, April 19, 2013

Flashback Friday: There Can Be Only One

Once upon a time, I got to talk with Adrian Paul, who was at the time filming the second season of Highlander: The Series. A publicist provided me with a mobile number to call at a specific time, and I did, but we were barely past greetings when he told me the phone battery was dying. Then it died. About 10 minutes later, my phone rang; he had located another phone with service in the remote area where they were shooting, and called me back. We kept it short, but I was always impressed by his effort to make the connection. The following ran in The News Herald's Entertainer section on Nov. 19,1993:

 TV's 'Highlander: The Series' fights for viewers

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. I was born 400 years ago in the Highlands of Scotland. I am immortal, and I am not alone. For centuries we have waited for the time of the Gathering, when the stroke of a sword and the fall of a head will release the power of the Quickening. In the end, there can be only one..."

So begins each episode of Highlander: The Series, a syndicated hour of action, swordplay and immortal magic based on the movies of the same name. On the big screen, Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery played deathless warriors battling for the future of the world.

On the small screen, that responsibility has fallen to Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod. A native of London, Paul divides his time between Los Angeles, Vancouver and Paris. Paul won't give his age, but said it is less than 400.

"I traveled Europe for many years, doing choreography, dance, modeling. I did a lot of different things,'" Paul said. "I studied a little bit in England, a little bit in New York, until I decided that Los Angeles was a lot easier being poor in."

Paul was interviewed by cellular phone from the "highlands" of Canada. He was on location at the top of a mountain in Vancouver, filming an episode involving MacLeod's struggle to protect an Indian woman and her baby.

The series goes on production hiatus in December, then moves to Paris for shooting the second half of the season. The show is co-produced by American, Canadian, French and Italian investors.

"It's doing very well in Europe (where the films were also hits)," Paul said. "It's actually on in prime time there on major networks. In the United States it's a syndicated market, therefore it's shown at odd times of the night. Most of the time, when people finally see the show, they say, 'Oh, I didn't know this show existed.'"


Paul previously starred in War of the Worlds, another syndicated action-adventure TV series based loosely on the 1953 movie, and he has guest-starred on shows like Murder She Wrote, Beauty and the Beast, and others.

"On War of the Worlds I was taking over somebody else's part, and that's very hard — to come in and replace somebody who has a certain amount of fans," Paul said. "People are used to a certain format on the show. If you change it drastically, then the changes have to be very good or they can be disastrous.

"In a way, there's a similarity (between the two series) because again I'm taking over a role that's already been pre-formed in peoples' minds. (Fans) have a larger vision of the Highlander from the huge production values and larger effects (of the movies). So coming into this, people really look at me and say, 'Is he the Highlander? Do we really like him?'"

Highlander's power rests on creative editing and camera work, the interweaving of past and present plotlines, the sense of history inherent in the drama, the dark humor and deep emotion balancing the violence, and Paul's obvious comfort in the character.

"I think you have to portray part of your own belief, otherwise you can't portray a character correctly. I think that there is part of Duncan in me," Paul said. "It's hard not to have a part of you in the character if you're doing 44 to 66 shows."

Paul handles a sword like he's actually used one for a few lifetimes. He said his choreography experience helped him in that aspect of the series.

"Also, I started picking up the sword before I did the series. I've had some martial arts training, and I did swordwork with the katana, which is the sword I use (in the series)."

(NOTE: The file I have breaks off here, though the interview continued. I will try to find a hard copy and post the remainder of the interview.)
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