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Live Chat

(c) TV Guide Online

December 12, 2000



Tonight we are chatting with Steven Culp about his role in the new film Thirteen Days and his guest appearance on the series JAG.

TV Guide Online: Hi Steven! Thanks for coming tonight!!!

Culp: Hi everybody. That's for logging on. I'm a 20th century guy. Back in my days, we had telephones.

Question: I just saw the commercial for the movie and I have to say that you look a lot like Bobby Kennedy. (You are much better looking though). Do you just happen to look like Kennedy or did you have to change a lot of your appearance to fit the movie?

Culp: Well, I had about a month between the time I was cast and the time we started shooting. In addition to all the research and working on the voice and watching tapes to sort of try to get what he was like physically, I also worked with a trainer. I was on a very strict diet for the 4 or 5 months we were shooting. I'm naturally taller. We had to whittle me down to this lean wiry body. It made me look smaller and slighter in the facial structure. Then we found a set of false teeth. The first set we found were pretty close to Bobby's teeth, but they were too big for my jaw. I had false upper teeth. Then we went through different hair coloring and combings to find the one that looked most like Bobby. It was a process of taking what I have, some people say there is a superficial resemblance The false teeth, the training the hair coloring lent to the illusion. This probably sounds a lot more intelligent when you hear it as opposed to when you read it. This was definitely we worked to get that look.

It didn't just happen. I remember there was one day where I'd been training for 2 or 3 weeks. They had to make our suits. I was standing in front of the mirror after working out for 2 weeks and I saw this skinny little torso coming out of these 60s suit pants. I said that's the guy. This was very specific with the trainer. I worked with Rory Leidelmeier. He was a former Mr. America. The whole regime and the dietary regime was meant to build me into lean muscles. It was kind of like sculpting it. And I also think the intense physical training helped me to assimilate Bobby's inner life. He was very intense and driven. So that helped me to get inside his head a little bit.

Question: Hi Steven! This is Yoko from Chicago. Will you be on any talk shows to promote the movie??? Any more Webb episodes after today???

Culp: Hello Yoko. I'm not sure what shows I'm going to be on. I've done some many interviews at press junkets, so I'm not sure who I'm talking to or where it's going to be shown. There hasn't been time to do a Webb episode in my schedule. One is airing tonight. We are talking about possibly doing on in February.

Question: What do you enjoy most about playing Clayton Webb?

Culp: From the beginning I thought he was just a wonderful interesting character. I liked that when he first started out he was written as a little bit more of jerk. I always went in playing him very unapologetically and not carrying if people thought he was a jerk or not. Sometimes he was a good guy, sometimes bad. He wasn't very serious, but he could function as comic relief. There are a great many colors and facets to him. The writers have always been very good about giving Clayton Webb all these different colors to play. I like the fact that he's developed into this mysterious spy character. I feel like over the years since Clayton started, he's gotten better at his job and he's more confident so he doesn't need to throw his weight around as much. He's more quietly powerful now. And I like that cause it's just like any human being, cause they change. It's good that he's developed at this job and he's gotten better at what he does. He's more confident.

Question: You also played Robert Kennedy in Norma Jean & Marilyn. Any connection, or just coincidence?

Culp: Just coincidence. That movie, basically, I did one scene. It was a nice little scene with Mira Sorvino. It was one scene and we basically shot it on an afternoon. It was nearly as intense as Thirteen Days was. But at the same time I remember that I did a lot of preparation for just that one scene. Even for one scene I knew I was playing an icon and I wanted to present him as a three dimensional person. I did a lot of research and did a lot of watching and listening to tapes. But the amount of preparation I did for Thirteen Days was a hundred times greater than that.

Question: What is it like on the JAG set? Who is the practical joker?

Culp: Who is the practical joker? I don't even know where to start. The crew is one of the best good natured crews to work with. Especially considering the long grueling hours they have to work. They are incredibly supportive. And fun to be with. And the cast, of course, is a joy to work with. I can't single out any one cast member as being the best. They're all wonderful in different ways. But I have a lot of respect for them all. They have to go in and do it every week, whereas I just come in every now and then.

Question: How old where you during fall of '62? Do you remember the events taking place?

Culp: I have vague memories. I'm not sure whether or not I'm making this up. But I think my stepfather, who was in the navy, and working on submarines at the time was at the base all week, or for the entire time and was not allowed to come home. And I remember my mother being very anxious and the neighbors all talking and the television being on all the time with people watching the news. My mother and stepfather aren't around to ask anymore so I'm not sure whether it's true, but I think it is.

Question: Is it harder to portray a real person versus a fictional character?

Culp: When you're playing a real person, especially someone like Bobby Kennedy or John Kennedy you do feel a great responsibility to get it right, because you know people are going to be watching you and judging your accuracy. But at the same time there are such extraordinary characters, I think they're like great Shakespearean characters. They are huge vessels that you could work your whole life on and you'd still never be able to fill them. So in a way, the onus of getting it perfect is removed, cause there is no way you're ever going to get it perfect, so you just dive in and try to get as much as you can. One advantage to playing someone like Bobby Kennedy is there is so much research material to draw on. And therefore a lot of material that can spark your creative imagination.

Question: Are there any other movie projects you're working on?

Culp: Not at the moment. I'm actually trying to clear the decks right now. And pay attention to promoting this film. But I just finished doing the play, Art at South Coast Rep, which was a wonderful project to work on.

Question: What will we expect to see in this movie that wasn't covered in previously done films?

Culp: I'm not sure what films you're talking about. There was a TV special called the Missles of October in the '70s. But there are facts we know now that we didn't know then. There's a crucial point in the movie where Bobby and the Soviet ambassador have a meeting toward the end of the movie. The details were not known at the time. They were kept secret. The other different thing we have about this movie is a wonderful portrayal from Kevin Costner of Ken O'Donnell, who was JFK's special assistant. In the movie, he serves as the character who through his eyes we observe these situations. I think it allows us to have a fresh viewpoint. You also get a brilliant performance from Bruce Greenwood as JFK.

TV Guide Online: Thank you Steven!!! Looking forward to the Thirteen Days and tonight's episode of JAG...

Culp: Thank you.

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