On The Cover - Richard Chamberlain
"It's a real harrowing story," says Richard Chamberlain of CBS's recent "Aftermath: A Test Of Love."
The actor, who played the father and husband of a family held hostage (in the dramatization of the horrific torture-murder-robbery that took place in Ogden, Utah in 1974), says filming proved so intense he found it hard to let go of his character at the end of a day's shooting.
"That was unusual for me. But I found we (co-star Michael Learned, Denis Heames and Zelijko Ivanck) all kind of gave our lives over to it completely. There wasn't much socializing or anything else on the set."
Chamberlain says he "carried some of the story and character with me for several weeks after we finished shooting."
He feels he couldn't have pulled off the demanding role without the help of his fellow actors. "It was a very tight, heavy schedule and everybody really had to work at full concentration and full time. We had a lot of late nights."
Despite the lack of socializing on the set, he and the rest of the cast became "a very close group. I found when we had highly emotional scenes to do together, it was like a team effort …not ‘OK, I'm going to give MY performance now.' It was like we're experiencing and doing this together - very much an ensemble."
"We all ended up so fond of each other personally. I miss Michael and the kids," admits Chamberlain somewhat ruefully.
"I'm usually a kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person," he explains. "I hate to admit it, but I am. In a way you kind of have to be to protect yourself in this business. You get kind of attached to people during these shoots, then never see them again because everybody takes off for different parts of the world."
The actor, who earned the mantle of Mr. Miniseries after starring in such projects as "The Thorn Birds," "Shogun" and "The Bourne Identity," says "Aftermath" proved "very, very rewarding. It was very much a departure for me and I found it absolutely thrilling …my favourite job in a long, long time."
Chamberlain is hoping the TV movie is another step away from leading man roles to character parts.
The 56-year-old actor says, "I've been wanting to break out into something new, something challenging and I've always looked longingly at character work. It's always been, to me, the place that was the most exciting and the most fun."
"The leading man gets a lot of glory, but it's the hardest kind of acting. There is a sort of preconceived, standard idea of what a leading man is," he goes on to explain. "And it's closely circumscribed and somewhat limiting. There's only a tiny bit of eccentricity of offbeat behaviour allowed."
"Don't get me wrong," he adds, making it immediately clear he's not slamming the door on future leading man opportunities. "I'm not complaining. But character work is so much freer. And now that I'm not a spring chicken anymore, I can play characters who are a little older. It feels good to grow up at last."
The single actor, who resides in Hawaii, where he shot last season's short-lived "Island Son" series, has several projects in various stages of readiness for his Cham Enterprises production company.
After "Island Son" was cancelled, he was hot to do another series that would focus on the Hawaiian Islands' culture - something he'd hoped "Island Son" would do.
Now he says he's developing another series, but that the only drawback is "it wouldn't necessarily be done on the Island. It lends itself more to the mainland. But I'll go anyplace if the work is interesting."
He also has two follow-up miniseries to "The Bourne Identity" in the works. He'll reprise his role as Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne character in "Bourne Supremacy" and "Bourne Ultimatum" for Warner Television and Cham Enterprises.
The name of his production company comes, he says, from his college days. "I was an art major and I used to sign my name Cham."
Since he broke into acting, his painting has been relegated to leisure hours, an, he says, "It's been a couple of years since I had a chance to do any art work. I miss it. I've been wanting to get my hands on some clay and some stone and do some sculpting. I hear there's a terrific sculpting teacher at the University of Hawaii and I've been wanting to get acquainted."
Chamberlain says he hasn't sold much of his own work - "I usually do it as a personal gift for somebody" - but he did sell a piece for major bucks to the Franklin Mint a while back.
"They were putting together a celebrity group of lithographs. They called and asked if they could see some of my paintings and said they were offering such and such…
"I said, ‘Well, I don't have anything at the moment,'" recalls Chamberlain with a laugh. "But give me three weeks and I definitely will. I did a watercolour landscape and they brought for something like $10,000. So I have a very high price - but I don't turn out many paintings."
He can, however, produce on command - on screen and off.