Child Star Keith Coogan

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What a fun interview I have the pleasure to present right now!!

I have to say that I have had so much fun with this blog and have met so many fun and interesting people who have really contributed to my life in so many ways.  

Today – and again thank you to both Lindsay Blake and Pinky Coogan for making this happen – I have the honour of chatting to actor Keith Coogan, who you will recognise as having featured in many very popular series and movies as a child through the 1980s and late 1970s as well as continuing his career into his adulthood.

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Silver Spoons or The Waltons - Keith Coogan
Keith Coogan can tell you – he was in both!

As a child, you appeared on episodes of The Waltons, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Eight Is Enough, Knight Rider, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons, Fame, and CHiPs.  What was it like to work on those shows? It must have been so much fun working with guys like Robin Williams, Rick Schroeder, David Hasselhof, etc. Do you have any favourites and were there any actors that you took mentorship from? 

From nearly destroying Walton’s Mountain, riding around in K.I.T.T., and drinking milk and Pepsi with Laverne, to chumming it up with Ponch, Ricky, and Mork, I had one of the coolest childhoods.  Not only were most of these shows ones that I watched religiously, but most of the time all of the actors and the sets were just as much fun as you would think.  Occasionally I was bummed that the Love Boat never left the soundstage at 20th Century Fox, but part of what I love about being in show business is the artifice and art that goes into bringing the show.  I always loved facades, with plaster and fiberglass standing in for brick and mortar, and I loved the technology and equipment that worked behind the scenes to bring you your favorite shows.  So, I was never really disappointed with the reality behind the scenes, rather, I was fascinated by the magic act and trickery that went into making film and television.  Sometimes there might be an actor or actress that had a big ego, but I learned early on how to “work around them”. Overall, it was a rompin’, stompin, funhouse that I got paid to play around in.

You won a Best Young Actor, Guest on a Series Award for your role in Knight Rider’s “A Good Day at White Rock”. That’s a phenomenal award for a young guy to scoop. Talk us through that experience? And was that a special job for you?

Keith Coogan Knight RiderKnight Rider was a special job for me because I was reading about this great new show coming up with a talking car in various special effects and sci-fi magazines.  I happened to shoot my episode before the series had even aired, yet I was familiar with the car’s specifications and special abilities such as turbo boost, stealth, and an ejector seat.  The best part was having “The Hoff” to play off of.  He was really just one big kid, and he had fun all the time on the set.  We would goof around, pushing all of K.I.T.T.’s buttons, and then make up different voices for his special driving modes.  My favorite was “Norm”.  David would push the “norm” button (short for normal mode), and then bust out in this nerdy office voice, “Hello, I’m Norm, how may I help you?”  This was pure magic to a twelve year old.  

As was filming a majority of our episode within Clock Tower Square on the Universal Studios’ backlot.  I also had the great honor and pleasure to work with my uncle, Don Stroud, who happened to be playing the “bad guy biker gang leader” in that episode.  Being honored with a “Youth in Film” award was just frosting on the cake for a really fun shoot.  It was also the year that my grandfather, Jackie Coogan, took home his lifetime achievement award.  We shared a nice moment at the ceremony comparing our awards.

I’ve recently watched “The Keith Coogan Experience”. Looks like such a fun thing to have done! Tell us about that and how it came about?

I was contacted by a group of graduating filmmakers who wanted to know if I would be willing to fly out to Texas and shoot for one day on their final short.  I said yes.  We wound up shooting 22 setups in just over 4 hours.  They were professional, prepared, and very driven.  I see big things for those guys in the future.

I have an interest in the golden thread of humanity which runs through us all. I believe all actors, artists, musicians and those in the public eye have the ability to tweak this,  I think that you can touch hearts across generations, across countries.How does the concept make you feel?

adventuresinbabysitting-02I feel my job is to help the writer tell his story in a relatable way.  So I like to do little human things that we all recognize in ourselves.  It’s the little choices that make up characters for me, the small details, the unseen work done off camera.  I think it’s all about creating as real of a fake person as you can, and then acting like God is watching all of the time, and I try to charm him every once in a while.

Jackie CooganYour granddad was Jackie Coogan who starred as Uncle Fester and who was a child star himself, so it’s easy to see where your talent came from!! Was he the person who inspired you to get into acting? Is there anything about him and his influence that you’d care to share?

I had started in the business without understanding who he was or what he had sacrificed by being the world’s first child film star.  We didn’t have money, as he is most famously known for never being paid for his work as his mother and business manager took and spent all of his earnings.  He never played the victim, though.  And he was very proud of his travels, and the people and sights that he had seen.  He considered himself just one of the crew, with a specific role to play, and certain lines to say at a certain time.  After I got started in television, I do know that he was very proud, and to make him laugh was one of my greatest pleasures.  He would only repeat two mantras to me, “Watch your money” and, “Be careful of mothers”.

You were Brad Anderson in Adventures in Baby Sitting. Would you say this was a defining role? It co starred Elisabeth Shue!! Chat about THAT? 

I would not say that was my defining role, more so the role that allowed me to play several other roles, with one particular stoner chef being what one might call defining.  If defining means the one role that everyone comes up
Christina-Applegate-and-Keith-Coogan-in-Dont-Tell-Mom-the-Babysitters-Deadto you and quotes from, then “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” may hold that mantle.  AIB was, very proudly, my first live-action feature film, and I had the best time shooting it, especially the subway, blues bar, chop shop, and frat house scenes.  It definitely holds a dear place in people’s hearts, and is probably one of the most re-watched films of my canon.  Like an old favorite pair of slippers you just can’t seem to toss out, you hold on to them and pull them out on a Sunday morning with hot cocoa.  Lisa treated me like she treated Brad… I’ll just chalk it up to her being a method actor.
 Toy Soldiers was also a cool movie to be involved in. 

Don’t you know it.  I have no idea how a dork like me got to be in a movie with terrorists, helicopters, C4, and machine guns.  But it is a pretty cool movie, no?  Sometimes ya just get lucky. (I don’t think it was luck or that Keith is a dork!!) 

I would think that monologues are one of the hardest things to do. Tell me about the Monologue Project? Do you write your own material and or have a favourite one I can link to?

Keith Coogan Teen BeatSitting in the tub one new year’s morning I had the idea to perform a monologue a day for as long as I could stand it.  I attained the unbelievable aggregation of 192 monologues!!!  Here’s the link to the project... And I’m still adding to them when I get inspired.  Most of the speeches are from a few monologue books I found at Samuel French, but then I ran out of material, so I turned to television, films, plays, songs, Charlie Sheen poetry, anything to keep the project going.  Learning and then performing a monologue daily taught me about my capabilities, my limits, and showed me that I had a bigger range than I thought.  That’s really the summation of an actor’s life, despicable low self-esteem and true humility coupled with braggadocio and an over-inflated ego.  I’m very proud of my monologue a day project, and I hope to bring it to fruition… with a grand total of 365.  I’ll probably be done by the time we land a man on Mars.

 Your resume is impressive and you’re still adding to it. What is current or what lies ahead for Keith Coogan?

While enjoying being a newlywed (I married Kristen Shean A.K.A. Pinky Lovejoy on October 26th, 2013 in a very pink beach ceremony in Malibu, CA) I’m also writing what I hope will be my directorial debut, editing a sizzle reel for a reality show that I’m pitching to networks (not about me), and continuing to say “yes” whenever people ask me to stand in front of a camera and do my thing.

Where can folks follow you and keep up with what you’re doing?

I have a facebook /keithcoogan and am also on twitter @keithcoogan

 What advice for young actors of today – both those breaking into the industry and those who are already in it, about surviving being a child star?

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Surviving is the key part.  Remember it’s just a job, they are only movies, they come out every Friday.  No one should get hurt, and everyone should make it out alive.  So, for young folk who are bitten by the acting bug, make the most of it, but please do not neglect getting a good education, and being prepared to grow up into a world where other adults may not give a squat that you were on an episode of Fantasy Island.  Please don’t get caught up in the “Hollywood” thing.  And always remember to drink it in while you can.  It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, preparation, sacrifice, and luck… just plain old dumb luck.  So, if you really want to give it a shot, give it all you’ve got, but not so much that that’s all you’ve got.

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