Hal Landon Jr. remembers, a little painfully, the first time he played Scrooge in South Coast Repertory's annual adaptation of Dickens' holiday standby, "A Christmas Carol."
It was 1980 and the Yuletide show was only an experiment, not the acclaimed event it's become, and Landon was into a bit of experimenting himself. Near the play's end, Landon thought he'd add an exclamation point to Scrooge's physical and moral rebirth by doing an acrobatic leap out of bed.
The thing is, Landon forgot he was wearing a very lonnnnng nightgown. "I vaulted over the bed and the gown caught, landing me right on my head," the 50-year-old actor recalls. "There was an audible gasp from the audience, then I picked myself up, sort of, and wobbly continued."
There have been few mishaps since, even though Landon has reprised his role as Scrooge for 12 seasons. He's back again this year as the famous miser in the Costa Mesa theater's production that continues through Christmas Eve.
"Yes, some people do wonder how I can keep doing it, over and over again, but I just love the role," explains Landon, a Long Beach resident. "It's such a satisfying character, with all the changes Scrooge goes through. And, of course, it always gets me in the Christmas mood."
His family also helps in finding that mood. Landon's wife, former actress Janis Morissette, and their daughters Katherine, 8, and Caroline, 4, have watched the Scrooge character develop over the years and associate his rehearsals and other preparations beginning in November as a signal of the coming holidays.
"My kids, of course, are very interested in the season," Landon says, "(The show) is part of the package and I think they really like it. At least I haven't heard many complaints."
Even though Landon has been an active member of SCR's actors' troupe for more than two decades, he's found plenty of time for Hollywood. He most recently played a farmer in an episode of NBC's "Quantum Leap" and may be remembered as Ted's dad dude in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and the sequel, "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey."