Interview with Robert TreborJuly 1998
Bitch of Rome: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. It’s quite an honour. Could you tell me a bit about the multiple Salmoneus episode that you just filmed for Hercules?
Robert Trebor: Yeah, the tentative title is called ‘Grecians, Genies and Geeks, Oh My!’ It involves kind of syntax. I play three different Salmoneuses, kind of a malicious genie, who misinterprets the wish and turns me into three versions of myself. I actually had stand-ins to address. There’s scenes where all three of me are in the same scene. I address myself and act out the scene with my lines, and then we change the camera angle, and I would take his position and he would take my position. So you will be seeing three of my faces all over the place, and the backs of the other stand-ins. It was kind of like an interesting jigsaw puzzle.
BoR: Okay. Was that confusing for you?
RT: It wasn’t confusing, just a lot of work, and I think it will be funny for the audience. Fun to watch. You had to trust the cameraman and trust that they actually split their monitors, so at one point, I’m actually hitting myself with a hat.
RT: And it was a very technical mind of thing, more technical then some of the other episodes, but I think it’s going to look great, and it’s a huge amount of fun.
BoR: In ‘Yes Virginia…There is a Hercules,’ you played a great BS.
BoR: What can you say about the latest episode with the crew at camp?
RT: Another BS episode. It’s a very tiny cameo, with a smaller amount of screen time for me. But there’s a huge surprise which I will not reveal. But it will be a lot of fun. I come in at the very beginning and I’m involved later in the plot, so don’t think I’ve disappeared.
BoR: Well Bruce Campbell told us a bit about your added line in that one. About more Salmoneus.
RT: Yeah, yeah, oh you talked to Bruce about that, did you?
BoR: Yeah. (laughs)
RT: That was when I had to make my demands as the studio. "I want more romance. I want more action. I want more Salmoneus."
RT: I don’t know if they’re going to keep that in the final one.
BoR: Yeah, I’ve noticed a decline in the use of Salmoneus. You were only in three Hercules episodes this season.
BoR: And you weren’t in Xena at all. Was there a reason for that?
RT: I don’t know! The guys love me, they say that they will come up with some other ideas and it just didn’t pan out for me. Apparently last season they really were trying to advertise Young Hercules, so they did like, I think five Young Hercules episodes. They won’t be doing that this year. So I think I will be in more episodes this year. There’s no way Salmoneus could appear in Young Hercules because it’s a plot point that I met him during the show, selling togas, so I never knew him as a lad.
BoR: Well, will we see Salmoneus in Xena next season?
RT: I hope to; nothing firm yet. I’ve talked with Steve Sears. There are a lot of fan interest in it. So far they haven’t made me any offers, but I’m certainly available.
BoR: Well I’d love to see you again, I mean, you make the episode all worth while.
RT: Thank you. Thank you. You know, write the writers. Steve Sears is a good buddy of mine. I see him at conventions, I saw him at a Fest this weekend, at the Southern California XenaFest, and the questions always come up and he says, "We’ll see, Bob. You know, we’re certainly interested in you and we like writing for you. It’s a matter of finding the right plot."
BoR: For episodes like ‘Yes Virginia…There is a Hercules’ and ‘Les Contemptibles,’ did you enjoy playing characters other than Salmoneus?
RT: Oh yeah, yeah. I love playing Francois in ‘Les Contemptibles,’ and in this current episode I play a very anti [?] as one of the Sals. (tough, New Yorker voice) He’s the rude Sal, he’s kind of a mook, you know what I mean.
RT: (same voice) And he fights people. He’s very aggressive guy, you know.
BoR: (still laughing)
RT: (laughs) I mean, I’m wearing the Salmoneus clothing at one point. I also play a baby version of myself who’s very tender and fragile, and the rude guys talks to myself like (tough, New Yorker voice) "Hey, snap out of it! You’re Salmoneus, act like one."
RT: And I was trained on the stage so I’m used to playing a lot of different characters, and in a number of stage performances. For one show, I play eight different characters as a matter of fact. Changing costumes and acting and things very quickly, so I enjoyed doing that.
BoR: When you first met Ms. Lawless on ‘As Darkness Falls,’ what was your opinion of her? Did you ever think she would become the Warrior Princess?
RT: We never call her Ms. Lawless, we just call her Luce actually.
BoR: Well I don’t know her personally, so—
RT: (tough, New Yorker voice) Hey Luce.
BoR: (tough, New Yorker voice) Talkin’ to me?
RT: And that’s L-U-C-E not L-O-O-S-E. I want to make that real clear.
RT: Don’t get confused about that. She was a wonderful, very spunky, very friendly woman. In fact, she didn’t have a trailer, and we were shooting in November on ‘As Darkness Falls’ and it was kind of cold, so I invited her into my camper to keep warm. It’s a rule that every American actor has to have his own dressing room, where as the Kiwis just share the back of a bus somewhere. She doesn’t have that problem anymore.
RT: She does have her own camper now. I want to make that clear. She was delightful to work with. She was just funny and spunky and pretty and a lovely actress.
BoR: What do you think would be different if Vanessa Angel had played Xena?
RT: (laughs) It probably wouldn’t be as big a hit. I don’t know.
RT: I mean Lucy has that kind of fierceness. I mean, Vanessa, I never met Vanessa. I think Lucy has more fieriness that Vanessa does. Ironically, and I mentioned this in an interview before, Vanessa had her cold, and I had just been cast in the episode before Lucy had been. I was already cast to do an episode called ‘The Gauntlet,’ before they cast the Warrior Princess, and Rob Tapert took me out to lunch and asked me for some suggestions. (laughs)
BoR: (laughs) So it was your call then?
RT: It didn’t occur to me to mention Lucy. I mentioned some actresses I knew because they really were looking for an American actresses desperately. And then Lucy was literately a last minute situation. You know she was out in the outback hiking around, and they had to get to her by way of her brother, by the way of a cell phone or something. So it really was an emergency situation, and she just sold the bill terrifically.
BoR: You were amazing in ‘The Black Wolf.’ Did you enjoy playing a dramatic Salmoneus?
RT: Oh yeah, yeah. I LOVE...I mean, that’s the one of the things people are trying. That’s why they say it’s harder for them to write me in for Xena. They want to use both the comic and dramatic sides, which I’m all for. Although I’m not opposed to playing the comic side like in ‘[Here She Comes...] Miss Amphipolis.’ They really like using me in both roles on Xena especially and I love it. I mean, my big career breakthrough was playing David Berkowitz in "Son of Sam" in a movie with Martin Sheen, which had very few laughs in that one. As a theatrical actor, a trained theatrical actor, I’ve played a lot of dramas and a lot of comedy and I love doing both, especially in the same episode.
BoR: On Hercules and the Lost Kingdom you and Miss O’Connor worked very well on-screen together.
BoR: Does being friends off screen help when the cameras start rolling?
RT: Yeah! She’s terrific. She’s really, I don’t know. I met her a couple of times since she now has a house and she’s a land of lord in New Zealand, and she has a lovely mate, a partner. I don’t even know if she knows how good she is. She really is sensational. She can be utterly, truthfully, very compelling in the intense circumstances and be really effortless about it. I sensed that working with her and I worked fairly closely with her. We had a number of scenes that were actually in the final cut and some extra scenes that were cut for length of time. I think she’s just a tremendous, dramatic, very honest, honest actress.
BoR: She is amazing. How was your ‘Men in Pink’ experience?
RT: It was great. I worked with Bruce, and they obviously loved us because they paired us again in ‘Grecians, Genies and Geeks, [Oh My!]’ That is a Hercules-free episode and that one doesn’t event have Michael [Hurst]. It really was just Bruce and me, where we carry the whole show, and there’s three of me. (laughs) It takes three Bob Trebors to equal one Bruce Campbell.
RT: I’m sure he’ll be pleased by that. We enjoyed working together. In fact, as I mentioned in my newsletter for my fan club, we even improvised some stuff in this episode, which is almost like Art Carney and Jacky Gleeson. There’s like a Ralph Crandon and Ed Nortan quality to our relationship in this one. It was great fun working with Bruce, and I’m sure he told you it was a pain in the ass getting shaved all over.
BoR: Actually, he said that he couldn’t get paid enough to do the dance with you.
RT: (laughs) Is that what he said?
BoR: (laughs) Yeah.
RT: (laughs louder) I gotta tell you something about Bruce. See I’ve done a musical before onstage in major venues in Philadelphia and New York and stuff. I don’t know if he has. He really was very nervous about the dance. He was a very good student about it. He was writing down every word the choreographer said, and I looked at it for a couple minutes, and I said, "I don’t want to seem like I’m being a [?] but I, like, get the sense of what she wants." I think I may of had more confidence going in, just following the moves, taking off on them. I wasn’t as spooked by that as perhaps he was, but I think the show speaks for itself. We worked really well together and a comic by-play and we have even more of that in the new episode as I mentioned. Throughout the shooting, you know that bathing scene where I’m shaving my legs? As you may have seen on other episodes, how can I put this? Fairly hairy guy.
RT: As I think even more hirsute then Bruce. So I had to get shaved, the back of my shoulders, the back of my neck, let alone facial hair. That was the most disagreeable part of it and wearing the high heels.
RT: It was a pain for both of us, but I think it turned into my favorite comedic episode that I’ve done. I have extra copies made to send out to casting directors for sitcom work, so...
BoR: Did you enjoy having Salmoneus kick some butt in ‘The Gauntlet’?
RT: Yeah, and kick some...as I mentioned I kick some butt in this new episode as the rude version of myself. To be perfectly honest, I do the beginnings and ends of the fights in this, but I worked with the stunties and they gave me an applause afterwards this past episode. Yeah, yeah I wouldn’t mind Salmoneus being a little more aggressive, a little more martial in some of the episodes. It’s fun.
BoR: Just arm him with a pan and there you go, right?
RT: Hell yes!
BoR: I loved your singing in ‘The Gauntlet’ and ‘Here She Comes...Miss Amphipolis.’
BoR: Too bad you weren’t in the Xena episode ‘The Bitter Suite.’
BoR: Do you think you’ll sing on either show again?
RT: I would love to! The reason I wasn’t -and they knew I could sing- ‘Men in Pink’ shot at the exact same time as ‘[The] Bitter Suite.’ So as I mentioned to the fans, I guess they needed my dancing legs rather than my singing voice in that one. But I would love to. I enjoy ‘[Here She Comes...]Miss Amphipolis’ and I enjoyed making up the song in ‘The Gauntlet.’ Sure.
BoR: Could you sing Xena’s theme song?
RT: (laughs) (singing) Xena. (stops) I don’t know what...that’s hard. (singing) Xena, coming to your town. Xena, don’t you wear a frown.
BoR: (claps and laughs)
RT: Thank you. In the full version of ‘Unchained Heart,’ I made up one for Darphus too.
BoR: Oh you did?! I didn’t hear that one.
RT: (singing) Darphus, he’s your man. Darphus, (laughs) he’s got a plan. (stops) It was actually cut for the TV version, but it is restored in the one you can rent in video stores.
BoR: Oh really!?
RT: As he’s about to throw me to the dog, I say, "Wait a second! I’ll make up a theme song for you!"
BoR: (laughs) That wasn’t in the script then? You added that?
BoR: In an interview I had with Bruce Campbell, he said that you guys add a lot of lines and some are really bad. What do you think were your worst and best added lines?
RT: Well I don’t know what he’s talking about with the bad ones. I only make up good ones, so—
RT: Maybe he has a problem with bad ones.
RT: (laughs) Mine are absolutely all gold. I can’t think of any bad ones. In ‘The Black Wolf,’ that was my line where I do, "Those boots, that leather—" and I was going to say thighs, but the censors, I changed thighs to legs. That one’s quite popular. Also, the actual line was written in ‘Unchained Hearts’ "How do you like to be undressed, addressed?’ but I came up with looking at her breasts and "What is your titular, how do you like to be—" I thought that was kind of nice. Oh gosh, there’s a lot of stuff, that just fails memory right now. But I see some stuff is add lib, and some of the stuff I tend not to remember much until I actually see the show. It just comes at the moment that you’re doing it, so it’s not really planned.
BoR: Do you think there’s a difference on working on the set of Hercules to working on the set of Xena?
RT: I don’t know. I haven’t worked on Xena in so long. I know that early on, the major difference was that Hercules catering was a lot better.
RT: Better lunches. In fact, I knew many of the directors on Xena because I had worked on them on Hercules and they said, "Bob, please invite me to lunch. That way I can eat with you guys.’
RT: But Xena’s lunches have gotten a lot better since the early days. That was the major difference. Donny the DP on Xena works may be a little faster than John, but both are very good. I know actresses, like Hudson, and other people have, also they think Xena is the – since it’s run by Lucy and Renee are the leads - they think it’s a more girl friendly show. That the crew, I don’t know. The crew’s on Xena have all worked on Hercules at one time, they didn’t hire any new people. So it’s really hard for me to say. Early on the food was just a lot better on Hercules.
BoR: What’s the difference between working with Mr. Sorbo and Mr. Hurst to working with Ms Lawless and Miss O’Connor?
RT: I’ve worked longer and more often with Kevin and Michael, with Kevin especially. So it’s kind of a big brother. I’m older then him chronologically, but he’s so much taller and Salmoneus’ admiration for Hercules, it’s almost like I feel like his little brother sometimes. And I want to character’s admiration above anything, and Lucy is a flirtatious thing. I know Joxer is the one who’s a stud muffin for everybody but early on you can see in ‘The Gauntlet’ when I say, "I want to be your sew slave," or something. I mean there’s a tremendous flirtation. Lucy’s a very attractive woman and it’s not hard for me to get that into Salmoneus’ character. Salmoneus has an eye for the ladies. They’re both tremendously fun to work with and professional and it’s good just bouncing off them. Both of them.
BoR: What was your favourite Xena or Hercules episode to work on?
RT: For Xena, ‘The Greater Good’ probably gave me the most range. [Interviewer’s Note: the evil tape recorder failed for a minute here, but Mr. Trebor said that his favourite Hercules episodes were ‘The Outcast’ where he baby-sat the centaur, "The Fire Down Below" because he got the girl and the bathtub scene, in ‘Men in Pink’ and ‘Les Contemptibles.’]
BoR: What made you want to become an actor?
RT: Well the turning point for me was when I was nine or ten years old and I saw Jack Lemmon in "The Days of Wine and Roses’ and as it was a permanently comedic actor in a very serious role. I’ve kind of become that kind of actor, primarily comedic but able to do serious roles as well, And it moved me so much, I couldn’t sleep and I just got into my system. What he had done to me, I wanted then to do to other people. I wanted to move people or delight people or affect people through that kind of performance thing. And then through classes and study and junior high school plays and theater growing up, I found out that I had some talent for it. People seemed to like me, and then thought I was funny or - you know - at one point it was just literally being able to hear me because I could project and I could speak clearly and they could say, "Hey, we followed everything you were doing. It was terrific." (both laugh) I seemed to have an ability for it, that got more and more corroboration from strangers. You know, your friends and family can say anything they want, but it’s when the reviewers and strangers come up to you and say, "Hey man, I think you’re wonderful." That’s terrific, maybe it’s not just a whim or a fluke. I mean it’s not just friends being nice to me. Maybe I do have something I can share, and I’ve done a lot of training and I’m still in classes actually when I’m back in the States. There’s another class I study with Beverly Hills. We have some WONDERFUL actors, Robert Blake has been in class, Penny Fuller, Pat Hairington and Archer. These are really seasoned professionals and we will do things together that we might not be cast in. I just did a sequence from the play ‘How I Learned to Drive." It’s a character I would not normally be thought of, but it went so well that I’m actually thinking of maybe offering myself to do it in the Netherlands or in Switzerland or somewhere else in Europe, because I’m flying to the Netherlands – I don’t know if I mentioned - to Holland tomorrow to appear at the con. I’m going to be making some contacts there and I’d love to do some more live theater again. It’s the best chance to act continuously without the director or somebody yelling, "Cut!"
BoR: Is there anyone you would like to thank for getting you where you are today?
RT: Anybody I’d like to thank? Yeah, I mean the guy that comes first to mind is my first major acting teacher North Western, Bud Buyer, who (laughs) after - and I’ve repeated this before in my fan club meeting - I was doing well. I was being cast in a lot of shows and I’d made some money and I’d done summer stock and this guy came in and he took me into his office. I was studying something with him in a classroom situation and said, "Bob, you’re pretty good, and you know you’re pretty good, right? You could probably leave collage now and go to New York, go to Los Angles, and make some money as an actor. But if you really want to be a fine actor, if you really want to reach the potential, I think you have to shut up."
RT: "Stop thinking you know everything and learn a little. Open you ears. Stop thinking you have all the answers." Nobody had ever talked to me like that before, including other acting teachers I had had in the paid things and school, Saturdays and Wednesdays improve class. And I realized, yeah, I don’t know it all. If I did know it all, I should quit and could be - you know- and I’d be kind of a journeyman, okay actor. And the nicest thing was about twelve years after that talk, and needless to say I graduated from North Western, I took his advice and I became a better actor there, but twelve years afterwards, I got a call, living in New York. He called from Chicago. He’d just seen my work as David Berkowitz in the movie with Martin Sheen. I hadn’t spoken to him in the twelve years. He said, "Bob, this Bud Buyer. I want to tell you, I think you were wonderful in that movie. You are, a really fine actor and I’m proud to have taught you."
BoR: Well Mr. Trebor, I would like to thank you again for speaking with me. You’re just an amazing actor and I hope to see more of you next season.
RT: Thank you.
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