|Nancy Barr Interview|
Ms. Barr served as Casting Assistant for Get Smart for its last two seasons. She also served as an Executive Assistant to Don Adams for several years and worked with him on Partners and Don Adams Screen Test. Ms. Ellen was gracious enough to allow me an interview about her times with Get Smart and Don Adams.
Q: What were your duties for your two years with Get Smart?
I worked for Pat Harris as her Casting assistant and it was my job to get available list of actors/actresses for the various guest roles...had to clear the actors with Screen Actors Guild ...to make sure their dues were paid or that they were in fact, members!!! Pat put me in charge of stunt people and children...she did not like dealing with them...children changed by the minute and stunt people...not her thing....but we had a super stunt coordinator, Eddie Hice and he pretty much took care of all the stunt people...I would occasionally suggest someone for a part...i.e. Chuck Courtney...had a speaking role (many stunt people cannot act) and did a stunt...he was a good friend and still is....was a kid actor and played Dan Reed in "The Lone Ranger" series...Would see that all cast had the proper script and any and all changes for the episode they were doing. We would have the actors come in to read for the part before they were cast...so I was the person whom they saw to get the pages they were reading from...(today an actor gets the script the nite before he has to read) and then as producers/casting director were ready for them...would escort them into the reading ... and sometimes I would get to read with them...playing perhaps even 99 for a few minutes.... Also it was my job to give them their work call for the first day of their assignment....and had to be sure they had their call cause if an actor did not have a call for work...could really hold up production. I also would go to the set at least once a day to get contracts (which I had to type up) signed by the guest actors. Also did the cast list for each of the shows. I am sure I am forgetting stuff .. but was a few years ago. During the first year on GS...Don Adams never spoke to me...the entire crew would welcome me and chat, but Don would look kind of right thru me...he is so creative that his mind was elsewhere probably...when I told him about it later on he did not believe me.....the first time he spoke to me was when I was viewing dailies (previous day's filming) in the screening room or waiting for them to begin....we all went to the dailies...was really fun to see them....a lot of out takes from those days!!! Anyway, the door behind opened and it was Don McDonald, wardrobe man and I said "Hi Don" and from the row way down behind me...I heard with that nasal twang..."hello" and it was Don Adams!!! From that day on...he was my new best friend.....always a hug from him on the set...I did learn that he is terribly shy as are most comedians...which is why they become comedians....can be something else....
Q: Was it a fun set to be working on?
It was great fun to work on the show...I was not on the set all the time...but in the casting office, but it was a happy place .. all the crew got along so well cast and crew were as one. I was observing one day while they were shooting a scene and heard Maxwell say something that I thought was a mistake. It was funny, so I laughed...Don shot me a look and said...quiet that is part of the role!!! But he was not really angry, was pleased that I was enjoying the dialogue.
Q: I know you didn't watch the show when you were working on it, but instead you watched it later. What did you think?
I did not watch the show when I worked on it, do not know why I did not, but I rarely watched any of the shows I worked on..."Charlies Angels" or "Dynasty"...but Don use to have me come over to the house to work sometimes and he would run some of his favorite episodes...don't ask me which ones...well, perhaps "Treasure of C. Errol Madre"....he loved to do the voices of Bogie and others...and is sooo good at doing them. I thought the show was super...so well done. especially the first few years....and I almost did not take the job as casting assistant, had accepted another job .. but when I got a 3rd call about working for Pat Harris...felt it was meant to be....And I am truly glad I did work on it...Talent Associates was one of the nicest, if not the nicest places to work...Leonard Stern made it truly a family type place...if someone had a birthday then we had a party!!! All day long...starting with lunch out and then in the conference room later for champagne or something....
Q: Do you have a favorite memory or story about Get Smart?
Gee, that is so hard...as I said was such a super place to work and such nice people...we had a wonderful time always...I am still friendly with Don and several people who worked on the show....one of the secretaries...Edna, use to work for Howard Hughes...she passed away a few years ago...but was a super lady. Of course I had met her before at Universal Studios...we shared offices there....and she was one of the people who called me about the job with Pat Harris. One thing that might be interesting here is how the writers would spend such a long time coming up with the titles for the shows....they would pace and pace til they came up with just the right title and then they were not allowed to be used in the titles.....They said it took longer to get the right title for the episode than it did to write them!!!!
Q: You said Don Adams is really like Maxwell Smart. How?
Hahahaha...he is forgetful. When we were doing the "Don Adams Screen Test" pilot...I arrived at the studio at I don't know, probably 7 a.m. and parked next to his car which was running...I went in to the studio and said "Don, why is your car running?"...he said "IT is?...he just got to where he was going and went...another thing he did when he had the sunbeam (which he got to keep...eventually gave it to one of his daughters)...he and Dorothy lived up a long driveway and she asked him to take the trash barrels down with him...he put them in the back seat and when he arrived at the studio...the guard asked him why he had his barrels in the car!!! So ... yes, he is very much like Maxwell Smart....He also has a hard time remembering names...he can memorize an entire script in about an hour, but put a name in it and oh oh.....he use to use real names of friends so he could alleviate his blowing lines....but when he was on Merv Griffin show years ago...along with his wife Dorothy...Merv asked him about his problem with names and he said yes, has always been a problem and then kind of pointed towards Dorothy and said "uh uh she and I were at a party once"...Merv said "Don, did you just forget your wife's name?" "Yes, said Don, I did"....and when Don tried to introduce Dorothy to his makeup man on "The Partners" he could not think of it and the makeup man said...I know it is a hard name to remember .. Don....my name is Don!!!! soooo you see!!!!
Q: You worked with Don Adams on several shows. What was he like to work with?
He was fun to work with....most of the time...It was hard to get him to get to appointments on time...he loved to sleep late and still does....I would call him at 15 minute intervals to get him going on time and one day when I called him, he did not answer phone...I told service to let it ring thru....eventually, I got in my car and drove over to his apt. letting myself in after he did not answer the bell...(He loves to stay up all nite watching old movies...something he got me interested in the old movies...not staying up all nite)...I went into his bedroom and shook him gently....he opened his eyes and said "what are you doing here?....you could have been killed" ... with that he showed me a gun he kept by the bed and I remarked that if he did not hear the phone or the doorbell how was he gonna hear a burglar?....I got to travel with him to Vegas...to Chicago...NY .. Boston...got to meet other celebs (not that I did not anyway)...he is very creative...he has painted and loves to do that...writes....has composed some music or can sit at piano and just make up stuff...extremely creative...I would try to get him to concentrate on one thing at a time...cause he would start stuff and not finish it....course I have a habit of that too!!!!
Interview conducted February 28, 1997
Copyright 1995-2001 Carl Birkmeyer