Jeff Pearlman recently did an interview with Meeno Peluce about working with Jack on Voyagers!. I contacted Mr. Pearlman and asked if he would share his interview with us, and he graciously granted us permission to post it here on Tenafly Guy. Thank you, Mr. Pearlman. This is a great interview!
By the time I was cast in Voyagers! at 12 I had been a successfully working actor for almost half my life. I was an old pro. I seem to remember somehow skipping the whole cattle call process of early interviews—I was probably shooting something else—and the casting was quickly rounded down to two kids and two swashbuckling guys, all of us dueling it out for the parts of Jeffrey Jones and Phineas Bogg. The four of us made very different pairings the day we went in to audition for the network brass. The other kid was blond and nerdy with glasses. The other guy who didn’t get the show was older, more Harrison Ford. He and I read together first and it was solid. Then Jon-Erik and the other kid went in and I’m sure they were fine.
Picture it, we’re in these stolid network offices with the decor of the 70′s aging in the cubicles around us and we’re running lines, pretending to be actors in the midst of all the other shows, eras past and present, staring down at us from framed posters. You have a sense that you’re about to have a shot at contributing to that same pantheon of telegogic puff and you’re not sure which you want to be more real, the sandy banks of the Nile River that you’re conjuring up in the scene or the nubbly brown upholstery that you’re actually sitting on. That could be high stakes, unnerving. Unless you’re just a kid and you don’t take any of it seriously, it’s all just play to you and you’ve been doing it so long that you know that if you don’t get this show today you’ll be roller skating, fast, downhill, in the tuck you’ve been perfecting all week and that’s what really matters, getting that tuck just right, and then next week you’ll probably be shooting something else. But then there’s also that possibility that there’ll be magic.
And that’s what happened. The other two went in and Jon-Erik and I started running the lines. We knew we had it licked right then. We were just too perfect together. We went in to the room full of execs with their chairs pulled into a semi-circle all staring at you, waiting on something great that they’ve certainly got all their hopes and dreams pinned on, and we gave it to them, served it up steaming, hot and golden. Jon and I looked at each other as we went out. We knew we had it and we did. It was that glance between us that the whole show was based on.
It was the most amazing working relationship I’ve ever known. We were like two jazz virtuosos constantly riffing off each other, and add to that we were total naturals. I had no formal training and he had no experience: his entire resume was faked. The first day on the set he took me aside and asked, “How come you’re on the other side of the camera?” “Jon-Erik,” I told him, “this is your close up.”
The best working relationship I ever knew (was with Jon-Erik.) The most seamless and fun interaction. The work was all pure bluff and goof and all the while we were shooting at Nazis or fighting alongside Spartacus. Towering good nonsense. The crew was infected by our special camaraderie and we all were one big family. It was an interesting situation in that it was a big production but with only two main characters. Everyone else was a guest star, coming into our uniquely working machine for a few days. Even the directors changed with every show. But the writers, producers, crew and Jon-Erik and I had this way of playing off each other. Each new person was ushered in and encouraged to engage in the same improvisational simplicity.
Most of them got it and the thing worked really well—as far as TV pap goes. It was overly broad, as was most entertainment of the 80′s. But it wasn’t overtly violent or too queasy emotional. And it had this one really cool trick, it taught kids something in a way that seems to have stuck, according to the fan mail that I still get to this day.
A big part of that was Jon-Erik’s innate charisma. You couldn’t help but love the guy. And I think most of the women who played that week’s love interest did. He was funny and magnanimous and totally self-effacing, never took himself or his gift or his luck seriously.
I can only imagine—hope—he was just fooling around when he carelessly put that prop gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was already on to his next series, Cover Up, where he played a male model who’s really an undercover dick—you’ve got to unabashedly give it up to the 80′s for that one—and the story goes that he was fooling around when he pulled the trigger. A blank is a cartridge with a little gunpowder in it so it goes pop. Instead of a bullet, there’s a wad of paper to hold the gunpowder in. At point blank that wad coming out can bruise you as many a stunt man will attest to. But against the soft of your temple …
“Something’s happened, there’s been an accident and Jon-Erik’s in the hospital,” I was woken one Saturday morning. I can remember it well. My first thought was that he’d stupidly hurt himself, the price for always kidding around, we were always hurting ourselves, and we always healed. Especially him, he was the closest thing I’d ever know to a real-life super hero.
Later that day I heard the term “brain dead” and it was the first time I’d ever heard that. I pictured him running around, with that smile, catching a football, and those blue eyes, and just no brain, but all the other happy, light heartedness still intact. And then that thought passed and I realized the first person I ever knew to die was now dead, and he was the best, least deserving to die, most full of life person I had ever known. You grow up a bit in that moment.
You can read the entire interview here, Jeff Pearlman's Blog with Meeno Peluce
One of my staff, Kim, had a chat with Meeno, to see if he could give us a story for our readers, and she got the story! Here's what happened:
I was eager to contact Meeno, to contribute a story to our site. I asked for a story of his choosing, and he responded that he was sure we could use the interview he’d just done for Jeff Pearlman. Well, I wanted a little more.
Most of Jack’s fans wonder what happened to him when we see the picture of him with his eye bandaged from an on-set accident. What happened to our poor Jack? We did some research, but could never find the answer. Did he knock himself in the eye with the Omni? Was Bogg saving a damsel in distress and get punched in the eye? I really WANTED to know. So I asked Meeno. He delivered big, and was so kind and gracious to answer my emails. Thanks again Meeno! You’re the best, and your photography is remarkable!
So here's the story about Jack’s poor eye. Oh, and to quote Meeno in his email, “Long live Jack!!" (My new motto!! ;-) )
If I remember correctly, Jon-Erik, which is what I always called him - Jack was from his pre -Hollywood, mid-west life - had gotten a speck under his contact lens and it had rubbed a little hole in his cornea. There were always explosions going off around us on the show. Or it might just have been the wind whipped up on the back lot of Universal. It can really get itself into a fury there in the backside if the Hollywood Hills, as it was this past weekend when I was shooting Gaga there.
At first Jon-Erik just had an itchy eye - remember he was superman, immune to all ills, up running in the sand in Venice before the sun was up so he could make it in his beater car to the set in time for a giant day and then the gym after. But the itching eye didn't stop and so they got a doctor out to the set. He diagnosed a bad scratch, deep and threatening if he didn't immediately tend to it. So all of a sudden he was eye patched over and we were trying to shoot scenes around him. That didn't last very long and we got a couple days off like a school holiday. And of course when there was work on Voyagers! The next day we all missed it terribly. That crew was a real family and we prided ourselves on taking care of each other.
I was easy because I was shielded from over work by child labor laws. But Jon-Erik was on constantly. Long hours shooting and then staying fit. And then there was all the attention that the women that guest starred in the show demanded, after wrap.
And there was one Universal Studios Tour guide we were both in love with. He and I even went once to one of their weekly meeting where they talked about what it meant to be a tour guide and how you brought that to bare on being a struggling actor. Jon and I just mooned over that one girl; small, pert, short cropped blond hair, a girl right out of a Hemingway novel. Wish I could remember her name. Wish I could ask Jon her name.
- M E E N O
Meeno, thank you for giving us the story, and the extra wonderful memories for our site! Check out Meeno's phenomenal photography at Meeno Photo
Kim, thanks so much for not only finding the answer to our puzzle, but for getting us this great interview with Meeno. It's priceless!