1. How do you rate "The Green Hornet" role in
your long list of filmed performances? Is it the best thing
you've felt you've done, the worst, or middle-of-the-road?
I felt my role was very one-dimensional as there were two characters
that had to be dealt with. When I had my first meeting with Bill
Dozier my main complaint was that the show should have been done as an
hour. There was also lots of talk about the romance between Miss
Case and Britt that never got off the ground because of time
limits. I told Dozier that the only way I would play the role was
as straight and honest as I could make it and I would not do anything
like they were doing to Batman. I received some criticism because
of the way I played it, but that was how I felt it should be played.
2. It is unusual, even in the
1960s, that a show as dramatic as "The Green Hornet" was in the
half-hour format. Most drama shows are an hour long. Why
was "The Green Hornet" program a half-hour show?
As I said, this show should never have been done as a half-hour
show. They realized right off the bat that it was a
mistake. That is where the two-parters came in. They did
three of them just to show that was what was needed and when talk of
the next year came up, Dozier said it would only be done as an hour
show or it wouldn't be done. Our ratings were better than the two
hour shows we were against, but ABC couldn't or wouldn't find the extra
half-hour we needed.
3. Do you feel the fact that
"Green Hornet" was a half-hour program beneficial or hampering to it,
I really believe the half-hour format was the cause of the demise of
4. What do you think was your
Green Hornet's greatest attributes as a character?
Britt Reid and the Green Hornet really wanted the good guys to win and
the bad guys to lose. Maybe that is why I would later become a
cop so I could further that goal because I admired that very much.
5. What do you think was you
Green Hornet character's weaknesses? Were there any?
His life was one-dimensional in that he worked hard as a publisher and
editor and as a crime-fighter, but there were no hobbies, romances, he
didn't seem to have many friends, etc.
6. A big part of Green
Hornet's mystique is his dialogue. What was your favorite line of
dialogue as Green Hornet? For instance, my favorite was when you
said to a punk "Even a fish that smells as bad as you has a head,"
referring to the punk working for a bigger boss.
By all means, my favorite line was "Let's roll, Kato!" It has
been used many times.
7. There were a lot of great
guest stars on the Green Hornet show. Who was your favorite guest
actor(s) or actress(es) on the show?
I think my two favorites were JoAnne Dru and Jeffrey Hunter. Jeff
had been a friend of mine for years and I loved JoAnne Dru's role in
"Red River," my favorite western.
8. The show was cancelled
after one season (a real pity). What direction do you think the
show would have gone? How would the Green Hornet saga have played
out? For example, I think a serious relationship between Britt
Reid and Casey would have been alright.
If the show had gone on it would have been an hour show and everyone's
character would have been developed more. I was told from the
beginning that I would have a romantic relationship with Miss Case and
Wende was told the same thing. It never happened.
9. The Green Hornet had a lot
of gadgets. What was your favorite gadget to work with?
I am a gadget freak and I would have loved to have had a real gas gun
and sting gun, but they weren't for real.
10. This show looks like it
had an extremely good budget, especially for 1966. The explosions
and special effects, the action, the fight scenes...that stuff isn't
cheap. Did the show have a good budget or were there just clever
things done to make it look so impressive?
We had a budget that was almost the same as "Batman," but that show was
an hour and ours was a half-hour. I understand that everything
Fox was making on Batman we were losing on GH. One thing I
admired about Fox and the producers was that they never cut down on the
fights or the special effects.
11. Do you think the fact that
this show was so incredibly different from "Batman" caused its
No, I don't. As it turned out, we had a different fan base than
12. "Green Hornet" was quite
serious and grown-up for a superhero show at that time, yet kids could
still watch it. It was certainly ahead of its time. Was it
the intention of the producers to make this show different than what
had been done before in the costumed-hero genre?
No, I think the producers had a great respect for the premise of the
Green Hornet. It played for years as a radio show and some
serials in the 30s and 40s. Also, the show was a modernization of
"The Lone Ranger," which was written by the same people. In all
the interviews I have done I never had anyone critique the show or the
actors in a bad way.
13. How important do you feel
the character of Kato was to Green Hornet?
I think Kato was very important to GH and again, because of the short
production time, we never could develop the relationship between the
14. Wende Wagner, of whom I am
also a great fan, had a memorable role as Casey, yet she didn't always
get a lot of airtime. How come, do you think, people remember
Casey so fondly? There were a few episodes where she had big
parts, but for the most part she was on the sidelines.
Wende Wagner was a beautiful person and would have had a lot more to
do, but we couldn't because of the time element and it is very sad
because she and Bruce deserved better. If we had gone another
year with an hour to work with there would have been a lot more
development of Wende's and Bruce's roles.
15. Were there ever any plans
for writers to do more with the Casey character?
I think I answered that in the last question.
16. The application of the
Kato character came a LONG way from the early episodes. Still, do
you feel that Bruce Lee as Kato was used to his fullest potential in
the show by the later episodes?
We knew that Kato was a very important part of the show and the
producers did everything to utilize the character that time restraints
17. After "Hornet," did you
ever see Bruce Lee, Wende Wagner, Lloyd Gough, or Walter Brooke again?
I saw Bruce and Wende a lot, but I don't remember seeing Lloyd or
Walter after the show.
18. What were the best things
about the Green Hornet show? You can get as elaborate as you
want. What were the things that you think made Green Hornet
I guess the best thing was that we all ended up being friends.
The thing I liked the most was doing the stunts. I think Bruce
and I both enjoyed that part of the production, because both of us got
to do most of our own stunts.
19. What were the worst things
about the show that you really think should've been reworked or taken
Being the only lead in the show, I never had any time off. I was
always kept as rain relief just in case. "Rain relief" was where
the directors would hold you over on the lot or the set just in case it
rained or there was some emergency.
20. I know after your acting
heyday you started a very successful business. Please tell us
I had pretty much decided that the business was not for me. Back
in those days, the major studios ruled the acting business with an iron
hand. I was probably making as much as anyone in the business for
the role of GH, but I couldn't make ends meet with the salary I was
making. It took me a few years, but I decided to get out of the
acting business and into a business where I could control more of my
life. I started a communications business and also became a
Reserve Deputy Sheriff with Los Angeles County Sheriff. Now I was
doing cop work for real and thoroughly enjoyed the 25 years with the
department. My business was successful enough that I could do
what I wanted with my life. I was with the Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Department for 25 years. The business was called KHM
21. The Bruce Lee film biopic
"Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" was interesting in the way that we
get to see you, as a director, directing a young version of yourself
playing Green Hornet. How did that all come together? Were
you asked for that cameo?
Yes, the executive producer thought the role of Kato was a very
important part of Bruce's career. I thought it was an interesting
idea of making me the director.
22. The actor that plays the
young Van Williams in "Dragon" comes off like a doof. I know that
couldn't be what you were really like. Why did they portray you
in that way? Was it purely for comic effect? And do you
mind that they did it that way?
I couldn't have cared less. I think that reflected Linda Lee's
feelings about the show, because she didn't like Bruce being portrayed
as a servant. I did what I did on the show as an actor and was
proud of what I had done.
23. It's now been 40 years
since "The Green Hornet" came on our TV screens, and it still maintains
a loyal fan following. That's staying power. To what do you
attribute the show's long-lasting appeal? Obviously, not all
shows that last one or even three years are as remembered as well as
"The Green Hornet."
I did six series' in the business plus some 400 TV shows and movies and
the thing I am remembered for the most is "Green Hornet." It is
still playing and I still get a lot of fan mail from all over the
world. I think it has become a cult of some sort. It is
amazing how the fans remember things about the show that I had totally
forgotten. One of the things I remember most was how many cops
would come up to me and say "I became a cop because of what you did
with your life." That is something to be remembered for.
MANY, MANY THANKS TO
VAN WILLIAMS FOR HIS TIME AND WONDERFUL RESPONSES! IT WAS TRULY
AN HONOR TO INTERVIEW HIM AND ONE OF THE GREATEST THRILLS OF MY
LIFE! I HOPE ALL OF YOU CONTINUE TO ENJOY THE GREEN HORNET PAGES
OF POLAR BLAIR'S DEN!