Lloyd Bridges will never say never again.
He did once. In 1976, the actor vowed he would never do another TV series after his NBC police drama, “Joe Forrester,” was canceled.
Now Bridges has returned to the small screen in ABC’s drama, “Capital News,” which has a two-hour premiere Monday at 9 p.m. on ABC and moves next week to its regular slot Monday at 10 p.m. The 77-year-old actor plays Jonathan (Jo-Jo) Turner, a crusty, patriarchal editor-in-chief of a lucrative Washington, D.C., newspaper. The series also stars Michael Woods, Mark Blum, Helen Slater and William Russ. So what lured Bridges back to series TV?
“I am not quite sure,” said Jeff and Beau’s eternally youthful dad over lunch at the Polo Lounge.
“I guess any actor who loves acting, they want to keep busy doing that. Even if you’re off for a few weeks, you feel, ‘God, am I going to work again?’ You can be assured doing a TV series you will be working, at least for a while.”
“Capital News” intrigued Bridges because he thought it had “something” to say: “If I’m doing a series, I want to do something I would have a certain amount of pride in doing. I think this being a series about the media, it gives us an opportunity to address different issues of the day.”
Another selling point was the fact that as one of an ensemble cast, the weight of the show wouldn’t fall on Bridges’ shoulders. “I wouldn’t have to work as hard,” he said. “I wouldn’t have complete responsibility.” Bridges did have complete responsibility more than 30 years ago when he starred for four seasons as the intrepid underwater diver Mike Nelson in the TV series, “Sea Hunt.”
“We did the underwater stuff at a different time from the topside stuff,” he said. “We would maybe do a half a dozen underwater scenes off Nassau, and then the topside stuff we would do up and down the coast here.”
In those days, it cost $20,000 to produce one episode of the syndicated series.
“We did the pilot in color,” he said. “We actually did two pilots. It was going to cost $5,000 an episode more to do it in color, so they elected not to.”
Bridges grinned. “Jeff and Beau did guest parts on the series, even my girl, Lucinda. They literally got their feet wet acting.”
Prior to “Sea Hunt,” the actor was a familiar face on live TV. He described the Golden Age of television as a great training ground for actors and directors. “It was like opening night at summer theater, when you didn’t have enough rehearsal and had to go on and do it,” he said. “I don’t think we did our best work, but it was exciting. A lot of things happened that were frightening.”
Bridges began his Hollywood career half a century ago as a contract player with Columbia Studios. “They put me in anything and everything to get their money’s worth,” he said. “I made $125 a week. It seemed like a fortune to me at the time.”
He had small but telling parts in 1941’s “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” and in “Sahara” (1943), opposite Humphrey Bogart.
“He was so great, Bogey,” said Bridges. “He was so nice to me. I was sort of getting started, and he invited me to dinner with him and his then-wife, Mayo (Methot). They were called the TBattling Bogarts.’ She would provoke him. She would go after him and after him until finally he would hit her. He did it that night. We were having dinner out and he slapped her. She deserved it. She would get loaded and go after him. But he was such a nice guy.”
Bridges had a much bigger part in the acclaimed 1949 drama, “Home of the Brave,” about a black soldier who suffers more abuse from his platoon than from the enemy during a mission. “In those days, there was a lot more prejudice,” he said. “They didn’t feel the South would look at a picture with black actors in it. That didn’t bother (producer) Stanley Kramer.”
The actor has bittersweet memories of James Edwards, the young black who also appeared in the film. “If the film had happened later on, when black actors were more accepted, Jimmy Edwards would have been a great star,” he said. “He did that and then hardly anything else. He was such a sweet man. We used to rehearse in our apartment, and one neighbor in particular was very upset we would be entertaining a black actor. It was terrible.”
Though Jeff and Beau recently were teamed for “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and Bridges has worked with them on separate projects, the three have never worked together.
Is there a “Fabulous Baker Boys and Dad” in the fire?
“We’re always looking,” he said. “It’s tough to find a script. Also, each one of us is doing our own things. It’s hard to find a date when we are all free to do it. It’s tough enough for two of us, let alone three.”