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T.J. HOOKER PRESSROOM : TJ-HOOKER.COM EXCLUSIVE!
Interview with HUGH FARRINGTON--aka Detective PETE O'BRIEN

HUGH FARRINGTON:
PETE O'BRIEN SPEAKS!
The Actor Behind the Detective Talks About His Time on T.J. Hooker

by TJ-Hooker.com's 4Adam30
Exclusive to TJ-Hooker.com
Hugh Farrington - Biography
Hugh Farrington's official Pete O'Brien publicity photo

Hugh Farrington is best known to T.J. Hooker aficionados as Detective Pete O'Brien, the tough-as-nails pal of Hooker who can sniff out evidence at a crime scene better than anyone else Hooker knows. From the middle of the show's third season on, O'Brien was to become an ever-increasing onscreen foil for Hooker.

Hugh got his acting start in college from an Interpretive Reading instructor who, unappreciative of his lack of class preparation, struck a deal with him: try out for a small role in the school play, and she'd forget about his laissez-faire attitude towards class work. The ploy worked: Hugh was cast in the largest role in "The White Headed Boy", and acting quickly became his favorite activity (beyond his athletic pursuits, which included football, baseball, track and fast-pitch softball).

A former U.S. Naval Aviator, Hugh has used his experiences both in and out of the service as source material for his many acting roles, which have included parts in movies like Coming Home and The Terminator along with television series like Alice, The Fall Guy, Airwolf, MacGyver, Quincy, The Incredible Hulk and The Golden Girls.

Currently living and working in Arizona, Hugh and his wife Elaine Farrington Smith have founded the educational film/media company Always Saturday Cinema. TJ-Hooker.com's own 4Adam30 talked with Hugh recently about his life and work, and most specifically, his time as Pete O'Brien on T.J. Hooker.


Pete O'Brien advises Hooker to "go find Stacy" in "The Obsession."

Hugh Farrington's first major film role was in the Academy Award-winning Coming Home. "A friend of mine at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, California invited me to read for a couple of small roles available for men in wheelchairs, and I was cast by Sally Dennison, the casting director," Hugh says. "After college, I became a United States Naval Aviator and was involved in an air-crash in the early Vietnam era, which caused my paralysis. No, I was not the pilot that day; I was just going along for the ride in order to get some flight time needed for the monthly flight chits. But, that's another story."

Several more roles were to follow, until eventually Hugh caught the eye of an important television producer. "I was reading for a showcase and Rick Husky, Supervising Producer for T.J. Hooker, was one of the judges. Well, my role was that of a Marine D.I. who was dressing down a young female recruit. Being a Naval Aviator who was drilled and controlled by Marine D.I.'s, I was very familiar with the role! Evidently Rick was impressed with my character, went back to Columbia, wrote a role for me and then asked that I come in and read for the character."

CREATING PETE O'BRIEN

Rick Husky apparently had some pretty specific ideas about the O'Brien. "Rick had said that he wanted Pete to be different ... so I wore turtlenecks (which were already a common dress with me), smoked cigars and drove a Cadillac." Hugh used Husky's interest in making O'Brien similar to himself to help find the essence of the character . "Pete was a lot like me: dedicated, concerned ... I refuse to be put in a wheelchair and then left to sit in front of a TV, and as a result [am] willing to 'fight the battle!' This is my approach to each day: 'I don't give any crap and I don't take any crap!'"

". . . It was apparent that O'Brien was an old buddy of Hooker's, as Romano put it."

Hugh's connection with the character eventually was picked up by the show's writers who, as Hugh explains, began to blur the distinction between actor and character. "As time went by, the writers began to use expressions that I often used on set in the development of script dialog. It was fun using dialog which had speech patterns of my own ... that certainly helped me with the character development of Pete."

However, O'Brien was no carbon copy of Hugh Farrington: "I used some of the Police officers that I had dealt with during my High School and College years. It was apparent that O'Brien was an old buddy of Hooker's, as Romano put it during a strong scene between he and I. 'You and Hooker were chasing a bad guy across a rooftop,'" Farrington paraphrases, "'you took a bullet, fell two stories through an awning and ... well, I don't know how you handle it and I don't know if I can handle it!' This was taken from a scene in a hospital after Romano had sustained an injury to his eyes, and there was a threat of him going blind!"

Although Pete O'Brien was around for the last three seasons of the show, unfortunately viewers weren't treated to much development of the character. Hugh has no regrets about this, however: "I felt O'Brien's attitude was basically the same as mine, and as a result there was no need for any change of interpretation during the show's run." However, apparently the show's writers did indeed have more planned for O'Brien; after the show moved to CBS Late Night, Hugh explains, "my role in the show was planned for considerable expansion." Alas, it was not to be; the show was cancelled before O'Brien got his chance in the limelight.

LIFE ON THE SET

Philip Weyland, William Shatner's stand-in and dialogue coach, had told us in an earlier interview that life on the T.J. Hooker set was absolutely pleasant, almost idyllic compared to most TV shows. We wondered if Hugh Farrington felt the same way.

Pete O'Brien and Hooker research the case of the Night Ripper.

"Working on T.J. Hooker was an excellent experience!" he says. Come on, Hugh ... surely there had to be some problems, right? "I suppose that all productions, for one reason or another, would have occasional conflicts or disagreements," Hugh finally admits. "There seemed to be an 'every once-in-a-while' quiet discussion off-stage with a couple of cast members, but nothing serious ever developed to the best of my memory!"

When it comes to the major cast members, Hugh (like Philip) can't say enough good things about them. "I personally enjoyed each cast member in his or her own right. Adrian, Bill Shatner and myself played catch with a football often on set." What about everyone's favorite Captain's daughter, Stacy Sheridan? Hugh describes Heather Locklear with one word: WOW. "Heather and I often spoke and chatted, [but] we didn't, however, play catch with the football!" The hardest nut to crack appears to have been Jim Corrigan: "Jimmy Darren was always friendly, but I didn't have the opportunity to get to know him very well."

As for the typical working day, Hugh says it was much easier than other shows he's worked on. "A typical day would depend on the call sheet; if the call was at 6:30 am, this would require a very early rising, normally about 5:00am." After a lengthy drive for location shooting (normally about an hour and a half), Hugh would "...report to the set, check in, pick up any script changes, go to my suite, get dressed for the first shoot, call Make-up, have a little breakfast in my quarters, study lines and prepare for my first shoot. This usually would require an hour or so. Then, after all of that activity, the day would sometimes only be two to four hours long. I have had 16 and 17 hour shoots on other shows but not on Hooker."

FOND MEMORIES

There are a couple of moments from shooting the show that seem to stick out in Hugh's mind. The first is a poignantly hilarious moment between Hugh, Bill Shatner and Adrian Zmed: "One afternoon on the old Republic Lot, we were there to shoot a funeral scene on the lawn. Now Bill, Adrian and myself were across from the lawn under the shade of one building prop and Bill turned to us and said, 'Let's go out and take a look!' We agreed and started to chat and move toward the scene area.

"It never occurred to Bill or Adrian that I had any reason to not be keeping up with them, or certainly to need any help."

 "We were walking side by side (of course, I was in the 'chair').  We were in full discussion and joking about the upcoming scene as we approached a small curb, approximately 6 inches high. Now, this is something that I would just normally rotate (on to my rear wheels) and hop. Yet the curb was slanted wrong and was irregular in shape, which caused me to stop and take a better look before trying to hop it. Well, Bill and Adrian walked on, just looking down at the grass, and continued laughing about this magnificent old picture lot we were shooting on! After about 12 feet Bill and Adrian apparently noticed that I was no longer in-between them, [and] turned and very indignantly motioned for me to come on. Then ... they both realized my little problem and we all began to just roar with laughter as comrades.

"It never occurred to Bill or Adrian that I had any reason to not be keeping up with them or certainly to need any help. Did they feel sorry for me or stumble all over themselves to get back to me? No, we all laughed so loud that we stopped everything on the set.  After the laugh, I rotated, hopped the curb, we all shrugged our shoulders and continued."

O'Brien's expert Caddy handling.

Another episode occurred during the filming of Hugh's first major scene on the show (for his debut episode, "The Lipstick Killer"), when he impressed the crew with his expert driving skills--and made one of them a little extra pocket money. "We were shooting a night scene involving a young lady's murder. I was arriving to, as Hooker put it, 'do my Brown Bag thing!' in my Cadillac Coupe Deville. The shoot began with me driving into the scene down a small road and a turn to the left to halt on my mark.

"Well, the first shot began and then was stopped because of a problem with another scene which was wrapping, which I didn't know at the time. I halted the Caddy on my mark and suddenly noticed the Cameraman and his Assistant talking and pointing at me. We were told to go back and shoot it again.

"They continued to have a problem with the concluding scene, which we were moving into as I hit my spot ... and the cameraman and his assistant did the same amount of pointing and talking again. This was beginning to concern me, but I felt if there were a problem the director would speak up. We were asked to shoot this scene over and over, approximately 8 times. Each time the same exchange occurred between the two men operating the camera. [Eventually] I noticed that they were exchanging money after each shot! This, of course, really interested me. When we finally wrapped the scene, the cameraman came over to me and said, 'Hugh, we were amazed at how on every shot you swung that Caddy around and stopped each time right on your mark. You never missed,' He said, 'so I started placing money on you hitting your spot! Thanks for all the wins, but I have never in all of the shoots I've been on, and there have been many, seen someone always hit their spot. How were you able to do that?' I responded, with a smile 'Jack, I'm a Naval Aviator!' He looked at me with the craziest look then roared with laughter."

THE END, UNFORTUNATELY

Pete O'Brien displays his sharp eye for evidence in "The Lipstick Killer."

All good things must come to an end, and T.J. Hooker was no exception. Hugh hints at some of the things that led to the show's demise. "When Hooker moved to CBS and became a Late Night [show], it seemed to have very little effect, if any, on [its] popularity. The show was canceled shortly after that, however [ed. note: it was canceled after its first full season on CBS Late Night]. Apparently there were several events taking place that few of us knew about in my early days with the T.J. Hooker cast, namely a disagreement between the executive producers and later an argument involving the network attorneys and the Columbia Film Studios. This was all passed on to me but the show did get canceled long before it should have!"

However, even with the rough spots, Hugh enjoyed his entire time on the show. "Some of my shoots were longer than others, some had more lines, some had a little more adventure and some had O'Brien being very 'COOL' but in truth, all [the] episodes were my favorites!"

Same here, Hugh. Same here.





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