Monday, October 01, 2012

Butch Patrick tells BRBTV about his visit to "Mockingbird Lane" -- and his planned return

Butch Patrick is known and loved by fans of classic TV as little Eddie Munster on "The Munsters." This former child star grew up in the limelight, for sure, navigating through numerous roles on TV titans such as "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "Mister Ed" and more before he was even 20 years old. Even "The Real McCoys," "General Hospital" and "My Three Sons," as well as seven motion pictures -- Patrick has done a huge variety of roles. Now, he's seeing a remake of the show that made him famous. Titled "Mockingbird Lane," NBC's new take on the beloved classic "Munsters" might surprise some viewers, but it will most definitely delight them, Patrick tells BRBTV.

Patrick recently visited the set of "Mockingbird Lane" and got a chance to spend time with the cast, and he offers the BRBTV News Blog a real treat with these personal photos. And -- best of all -- Patrick will be appearing on the new show, which is scheduled to premiere in early 2013. We talked with him more about that, and about the show's fresh approach. Soooooo .... in honor of the Halloween season (it's always been our second favorite holiday!) we offer up the goods on Butch Patrick and the new "Munsters" reboot ...

"I think this TV show will be hugely successful," Patrick tells BRBTV. "Kids who turn on 'The Munsters' for the first time now just love it. I think they're on to something big. And the characters and the way they've done it. The dynamic and the interactions and the character establishment. It is dead-on, right where it should be, in my opinion."

"Mockingbird Lane" is being developed by "Pushing Daisies" creator Bryan Fuller, with Bryan Singer of "X-Men" fame also on board. The show will explore the origins of the Munster family but in a darker and edgier fashion than the original. The characters will look more human, however, with toned-down costumes and makeup for the characters.

The news about the show broke two years ago, then it sputtered a bit, then about a year ago it headed back into development. NBC gave the green light last November. Was Patrick surprised to see Bryan Fuller's name attached to this project?

"No, I thought he was perfect," he says. "I loved 'Heroes.' 'Pushing Daisies,' I didn't see that often, but it got great reviews. He's attached to 'Hannibal,' too. So, no Bryan's a good guy for it. He seems to have a real feel for these sort of dark dramas. I was more surprised by Bryan Singer doing it, because he's a feature director, dropping down to TV."

But he adds that the industry is changing in that way. "A lot of feature film people are taking on some TV projects, which is great."

The cast for "Mockingbird Lane" has a pretty high wow factor, with Jerry O'Connell as Herman Munster, Portia de Rossi as Lily Munster, Eddie Izzard as Grandpa, Charity Wakefield as Marilyn Munster, and Mason Cook as Eddie Munster. And of course, Patrick got the chance to meet his young counterpart in his time on the set.

"He's a great guy, a great kid. I met him and his mom on the set. And he and I started tweeting back and forth a bit afterward. I said the character's in good hands. He's been working over at Disney. Just a great little guy. Good actor."

What about Jerry O'Connell as Herman? Can he pull it off?

"He can," Patrick says. "In fact, the way this thing is done, it's really sheer genius on Bryan Fuller's part. Fuller and Singer are both big fans of 'The Munsters,' so they want to do it right. They don't want to out-Herman Herman Munster. They want to bring the drama to the screen utilizing the tools we have today, almost 50 years later. What we're doing is we're not going after the makeup aspect. There is one scene with full Bram Stoker, old-school makeup. But as far as Jerry goes, it's all about the love between him and Lily."

He continues, "They all have more of a base of themselves, as five individuals. Eddie is the grandpa and is the strong character of the family. Kinda like in the original. Portia de Rossi -- she's just beautiful. Everyone always talks about Marilyn being so attractive on the original show, but when you think about it, Lily was really the top beauty of the show."

He says, "Grandpa sorta steals the show. Jerry is a little bit more reserved. What they've done, they established that he's been put together by Grandpa's laboratory."

Patrick was impressed by the $10 million sets for the show.

"It takes up two separate soundstages. Big ones. Every room is gigantic," he says. "It looks a little like a feature film staging much more than a TV show staging. For some reason NBC didn't pick it up for the fall, I can't imagine why they didn't. If for some reason they don't pick it up later, I can't imagine it will fall by the wayside, because there's just too much there."

NBC took the pilot for "Mockingbird Lane" out of the fall 2012 schedule, reportedly to give it more attention, indicating that the pilot will air in 2013. And the choice of name won't hurt its chances, Patrick explains.

"What happened was, the last day of shooting, a friend of mine named Kevin Burns, he was asked by Bryan Singer and Bryan Fuller, the director and the writer, his opinion on the 'Munsters' show," Patrick tells BRBTV. "They had trouble with people participating in the casting, because the actors didn't want to be pigeonholed into roles like that. Kevin suggested to them, why don't you change the name to 'Mockingbird Lane'? The 'Munsters' fans will know instantly what it is about, but it will be unique and will appeal to everyone else."

Patrick notes, "The fans today that are watching 'Walking Dead' and 'Twilight' are much different than the fans who were watching 'The Munsters.'"

And since Patrick is the key surviving member of the core "Munsters" cast (besides Pat Priest) ...

"They asked Kevin if I wanted to be in it. He told them, it would be good for you to talk to Butch. Their concerns were, what if he doesn't like it? To be honest with you, I've said Hollywood should leave a lot of those old shows alone, because a lot of the remakes they've done haven't been good and have been no better than the originals."

But, Patrick says, "Kevin told them, 'He will certainly act professionally even if he doesn't like it, but I know he will like it.' The last day of shooting, they invited me out."

Patrick was also asked to introduce a clip of the show at San Diego's Comic-Con in July. He tells BRBTV a little bit about the role he'll have in the series, though he hasn't taped his scenes yet:

"They're going to have me in there as a Scoutmaster for Eddie's troop. There are plans for the character to be further developed. They seem to time these werewolf situations for Eddie around a camping trip. So hopefully I'll have a recurring role."
Could be the start of an exciting "Munsters" resurgence, and why not? Everything old is new again, in Hollywood, and nostalgia is big. For Patrick, though, life is not dull, anyway. He runs the official "Munsters" website and has made a whole lot of convention appearances over the years (BRBTV has been seeing him at shows for the past decade, for sure). Fans will always know and love him, wherever he goes. And he speculates for BRBTV that had the producers of the new show decided to take a different route -- perhaps a continuation of the original storyline similar to what TNT's "Dallas" has done -- Eddie Munster's life these days might mirror his own.

"Back in the '80s, I actually wrote a script where Herman took Grandpa back to Transylvania, and Eddie was left back home and formed a rock band to pay the bills. That's what Eddie was doing, being a punk rocker." Patrick once formed his own band, "Eddie and the Monsters," and put out a single, "Whatever Happened to Eddie?"

And there are other Munster-like pursuits in his life. "I just built my Harley that looks like a two-wheeled Dragula, the car that Grandpa had in the series. The bike is very Marlon Brando 'Wild One'-looking. So Eddie would be tinkering with hot rods and cars and that sort of thing, and maybe music."

A Harley Dragula. Seriously. We wanna see that. Please. And Patrick has appeared at a couple events in Detroit with a replica of the Dragula car from the series, as we've reported on this blog! Below, he signs the Dragula in front of the Redford Theatre at Halloween time last year.

Beyond all the fun and frolic, though, this Eddie Munster has found a sense of peace in recent years. And a cause to firmly believe in.

"Twenty-two months ago, I went into the Oasis Center for a lifelong substance abuse situation, got clean and sober, and the past two years have been the best of my life," he says.

The Oasis Treatment Center, founded by Jim and Kathy Antonowitsch, combines group therapy, one-on-one counseling, exercise, recreation therapy, spiritual and family counseling, and other elements in its recovery program. The facility is half a mile away from Disneyland in California.

"I'm trying to put together a program where people are on vacation at Disneyland, if they want to take a tour with me, I'll educate them on one of the best-kept secrets there is," Patrick says.

"They laid off a couple counselors recently. I told him, give me a week or two, I'm going to put my thinking cap on and come up with an awareness campaign for your program. I'm a Disney kid. Wouldn't it be cool ... Once you're done with Disneyland, you're still here in Southern California -- what are you going to do for a few days?"

It's a cause that keys in even more strongly when you consider the Hollywood in which he was raised.

"I am running into so many quality people in the industry who are 20 years sober, and you don't even know it. But they become allies. All these people rally around a good cause for others," he says.

"It's run like a grandma's house," he says of Oasis. "It's a big old house. It's very much a family situation. It's not sterile like other treatment centers."

Thus, a life remade. Rebooted. Kinda like a beloved classic TV series. We'll be watching, Mr. Patrick.

First three photos courtesy of Butch Patrick; please do not copy without permission
Bottom photo courtesy of Motor City Reel Rides; please do not copy without permission.

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