First Big Break


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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Interviewees discuss how they got their start in the entertainment industry.

Highlights
Jaclyn Smith on being a "Breck Girl" and appearing on McCloud
Norman Stiles on going to write for Sesame Street
Edie Falco on how she got her first agent
Martin Manulis on being hired by CBS
Lucy Lawless on playing "Xena" on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 
Hal Linden on making his Broadway debut in "Bells Are Ringing" with Judy Holliday
Who talked about this topic

Chris Albrecht

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Chris Albrecht on becoming President of Original Programming at HBO

Jason Alexander

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Jason Alexander on performing in "Jerome Robbins Broadway"
Jason Alexander on being cast in The Seinfeld Chronicles, the pilot to Seinfeld

Robert G. Anderson

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Robert G. Anderson on being rejected by television news stations as an on-air correspondent, and realizing he could be a producer

Dick Askin

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Dick Askin on his first job in television

Rona Barrett

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Rona Barrett on breaking into television

Rick Berman

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Rick Berman on his early days in Los Angeles going to work at Warner Bros. and Paramount

Vin Di Bona

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Vin Di Bona on his first television job at WBZ in Boston and becoming a director

Kevin Bright

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Kevin Bright on his first job after graduating from Emerson College

David Brinkley

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David Brinkley on being hired by NBC Radio

Connie Britton

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Connie Britton on being cast as "Heather" on Ellen

Harvey Bullock

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Harvey Bullock on coming to write for The Andy Griffith Show

Vince Calandra

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Vince Calandra on his big break into entertainment - getting a job in the CBS mailroom without having an Ivy League degree

David Canary

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David Canary on his first big TV role on Peyton Place, playing Mia Farrow's doctor

Jim Cantore

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Jim Cantore on being hired by The Weather Channel

Glenn Gordon Caron

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Glenn Gordon Caron on getting his big break at NBC - the unaired pilot The God Squad

RuPaul Charles

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RuPaul Charles on his breakthrough hit song "Supermodel"

Roy Clark

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Roy Clark on his first television appearance, on the local series The Hayloft Conservatory of Musical Interpretation

Alf Clausen

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Alf Clausen on being a copyist for The Carol Burnett Show  and various feature films

Barbara Corday

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Barbara Corday on pitching a series with Barbara Avedon

Pierre Cossette

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Pierre Cossette on the first music shows he produced

Douglas S. Cramer

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Douglas S. Cramer on working at Procter & Gamble

Jane Curtin

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Jane Curtin on being cast on Saturday Night Live

Tony Danza

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Tony Danza on getting his first acting job on Fast Lane Blues

Bill Davis

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Bill Davis on his first job at the Canadian Broadcasting Company

Elias Davis

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Elias Davis and David Pollock on their first big break as writers for Pat Buttram on the radio

Louis Dorfsman

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Louis Dorfsman on meeting CBS President Frank Stanton and being hired at CBS

Betty Cole Dukert

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Betty Cole Dukert on how she came to join Meet the Press  as a producer

Jeff Fager

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Jeff Fager on his first job out of college, at the NBC affiliate WBZ in Boston

Edie Falco

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Edie Falco on how she got her first agent

Julian Fellowes

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Julian Fellowes on writing the feature film "Gosford Park" for director Robert Altman

Tom Fontana

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Tom Fontana on how he came to write for St. Elsewhere  after being discovered by Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner

Albert Freedman

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Albert Freedman on his big break - writing for Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life

Harry Friedman

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Harry Friedman on moving to Los Angeles and being hired to write for Hollywood Squares

Chuck Fries

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Chuck Fries on going to work for Ziv Productions and moving to California

Paul Michael Glaser

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Paul Michael Glaser on getting cast in Love of Life,  appearing in the feature film "Fiddler on the Roof" and being put off by acting in film

Lesli Linka Glatter

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Lesli Linka Glatter on being tapped by Steven Spielberg to direct Amazing Stories, and on shadowing many directors on that show

Gary David Goldberg

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Gary David Goldberg on his mentor, Nate Monaster

Walon Green

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Walon Green on meeting David Milch and going to write for Hill Street Blues

Danette Herman

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Danette Herman on her first television job on the Dick Clark series Where the Action Is

Ellen Holly

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Ellen Holly on being discovered as an actress by Charlotte Perry
Ellen Holly on appearing as "Stephanie" in the Broadway production of "Too Late the Phalarope"

Felicity Huffman

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Felicity Huffman on appearing on an ABC Afterschool Special called "Home Run for Love" when she was fifteen
Felicity Huffman on appearing on the Stephen King miniseries Golden Years, which she considers her first big break

Kim Hunter

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Kim Hunter on playing "Stella Kowalski" in "A Streetcar Named Desire" on Broadway in on film

David Isaacs

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on selling their first script, a spec for The Jeffersons

Al Jean

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Al Jean on getting his first job in television

Geri Jewell

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Geri Jewell on how a college friend inspired her to try stand-up comedy at the Comedy Store, which led to her breaking into television

Elodie Keene

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Elodie Keene on editing Tales of the Unexpected for Norman Lloyd

David E. Kelley

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David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and interviewing to work on L.A. Law

Walter Koenig

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Walter Koenig on being cast as "Pavel Chekov" on Star Trek and making the character Russian

Lucy Lawless

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Lucy Lawless on playing "Xena" on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 

Norman Lear

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Norman Lear on how he schemed to reach out to Danny Thomas and write a bit for him that turned out to be his big break

Jack Lemmon

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Jack Lemmon on his first big break on the radio

Ken Levine

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on selling their first script, a spec for The Jeffersons 

Barry Levinson

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Barry Levinson on writing and performing with Craig T. Nelson on Lohman and Barkley

Hal Linden

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Hal Linden on making his Broadway debut in "Bells Are Ringing" with Judy Holliday

Susan Lucci

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Susan Lucci on auditioning for the character of "Erica Kane" on All My Children and finding out she got the part

Stewart MacGregory

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Stewart MacGregory on going to work for NBC television 

Robert MacNeil

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Robert MacNeil on how he came to work for NBC

Martin Manulis

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Martin Manulis on being hired by CBS

John A. Martinelli

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John Martinelli on assistant editing The Lawrence Welk Show

Rue McClanahan

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Rue McClanahan on being cast by Norman Lear as "Vivian Harmon" on Maude

David Milch

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David Milch on how he came to write for Hill Street Blues
David Milch on how he came to write for Hill Street Blues

Millie Moore

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Millie Moore on her first big break - working on the travelogue documentaries of Jack Douglas

Bob Newhart

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Bob Newhart on his big break at the local Chicago Emmy Awards and recording his first comedy album
Bob Newhart on his national big break at the 1960 Emmy Awards

Laraine Newman

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Laraine Newman on performing on The Lily Tomlin Special 

Edward James Olmos

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Edward James Olmos on being cast as "Martin Castillo" on Miami Vice

Bernie Orenstein

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Bernie Orenstein on how he got his start in show business: he dropped out of college after appearing in a University of Toronto show called "The All Varsity Revue"
Bernie Orenstein on how his first writing job on a Canadian variety show produced by Norman Jewison led to his moving to New York City and writing for Candid Camera

Alan Perris

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Alan Perris on his first television job at PBS station WVIZ in Cleveland 

David Pollock

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Elias Davis and David Pollock on their first big break as writers for Pat Buttram on the radio

Stanley Ralph Ross

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Stanley Ralph Ross on becoming in-demand as a writer after being hired to write for Batman

Marion Ross

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Actress Marion Ross on her first television role, on Life with Father starring Leon Ames

Mark Rothman

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Mark Rothman on his first professional writing job on The Mike Douglas Show

Thomas Del Ruth

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Thomas Del Ruth on his working as an assistant cameraman at 20th Century Fox and learning his way around a camera

Joseph Sargent

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Joseph Sargent on his first directing job on the series Lassie

Bob Schieffer

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Bob Schieffer on moving to Washington, D.C. and on going to work for CBS News

John Shaffner

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John Shaffner on starting out in television
John Shaffner on his big break in television in first run-syndication

Treva Silverman

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Treva Silverman on writing for the variety series The Entertainers, starring Carol Burnett

Sam Simon

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Sam Simon on how he came to write for Taxi

John Singleton

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John Singleton on getting his first agent based on the strength of the screenplay to "Boyz N the Hood"

G.E. Smith

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G.E. Smith on playing guitar for Hall & Oates and appearing with them on Saturday Night Live

Jaclyn Smith

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Jaclyn Smith on being a "Breck Girl" and appearing on McCloud

Yeardley Smith

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Yeardley Smith on how she got her first New York agent
Yeardley Smith on her Broadway debut in Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing" directed by Mike Nichols

Mark Snow

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Mark Snow on The Rookies  being the first show he worked on and getting the job through his then-brother-in-law, Georg Stanford Brown

Darren Star

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Darren Star on how his first industry job, as an assistant at the public relations firm Guttman & Pam, led to his first break: selling a film script to Warner Bros.
Darren Star on the serendipitous events early on his career that led to his first big break, including working at Showtime for Peter Chernin, who later became the decision maker on Beverly Hills, 90210 at Fox

Jeremy Stevens

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Jeremy Stevens on his first writing job for television on The Skitch Henderson Show

Norman Stiles

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Norman Stiles on going to write for Sesame Street

Jeffrey Tambor

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Jeffrey Tambor on appearing on Kojak, his first television role

Nina Tassler

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Nina Tassler on how agent David Windsor helped her to see her potential to become an agent

Daniel J. Travanti

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Daniel J. Travanti on finding out he was cast on Hill Street Blues

Saul Turteltaub

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Saul Turteltaub on forming a comedy team with a college friend and getting hired to perform at Catskills resorts
Saul Turteltaub on dating Shari Lewis (then Phyllis Hurwitz) at summer camp as a kid and calling her up for a writing job when he saw her on television in 1957

Leslie Uggams

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Leslie Uggams on how she began performing at the Apollo Theater when she was nine years-old
Leslie Uggams on getting her start in television as a child on The Milton Berle Show and other variety shows

Keenen Ivory Wayans

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; his childhood idol- and what it meant for him personally "like stepping into your dream"; on being asked to sit with Johnny after his act

Ellen Wheeler

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Ellen Wheeler on being cast as "Marley Love Hudson McKinnon" on Another World

Cindy Williams

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Cindy Williams on the effect the film "American Graffiti" had on her career and her fame

Hugh Wilson

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Hugh Wilson on going to work for Armstrong and how he started in television at MTM Productions

Ben Wolf

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Ben Wolf on his first television job as a cameraman at KLAC

Bud Yorkin

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Bud Yorkin on his big break becoming director of The Colgate Comedy Hour  at the behest of Pat Weaver

Lauren Zalaznick

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Lauren Zalaznick on working on her first feature film, "Compromising Positions"

Jeff Zucker

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Jeff Zucker on getting his first job after college, as an Olympic Researcher for NBC

Alan Zweibel

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Alan Zweibel on meeting Lorne Michaels and being hired to write for Saturday Night Live

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