Meeting another one of my heroes: Dwight Schultz

As you might or might not know I (Liv) am a big fan of "The A-Team". I was born in 1980, so I am a true 80s kid. Besides this I have an older brother, so needless to say that I grew up with shows like: "The A-Team", "MacGyver", "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Airwolf". Over the years there have been a lot of re-runs of these shows and especially "The A-Team" remains to be immensely popular. In the last couple of years, I have met some of my childhood heroes (like Richard Dean Anderson, Dirk Benedict, Billy Dee Williams and David Hasselhoff) and when Dutch Comic Con announced Dwight Schultz for their Spring Edition, I was over the moon. Murdock has always been my favorite member of the A-Team and now I had the chance to finally meet him. I had already seen him once at the recording of a late night tv show, where I was in the audience, but I did not get the chance to shake his hand or speak to him.  In the weeks before Dutch Comic Con, I was bouncing up and down in anticipation and then the day came. I will talk about that later, but first let me tell you some more about Mr. Dwight Schultz.

Who is Dwight Schultz?

Early life and first steps in stage acting

William Dwight Schultz was born in Baltimore, Maryland on November 24th, 1946. Dwight was an only child and as a kid he was fascinated with everything that had to do with audio recordings and voices. This fascination fostered his interest in dialects and imitations.  He used to love watching television and later he used the running joke that there was a worn-out spot in the carpet, where Dwight used to sit. At au young age he imitated the voices of his television heroes. Besides this Dwight also loved going to the movies with his parents. Dwight attended Calvert Hall College High School (a private boys preparatory school), where he joined the drama club and discovered his interest for acting. He did his major at Towson State College and earned a B.A. (yes, a B.A.) in Theater Arts. While he was still a senior, his talent for stage work and improvisation gave him a chance to start teaching the lower classes at the college. From the age of 19, Schultz worked the stage for 15 years. At the age of 23 (in 1969) Dwight formed the Baltimore Theatre Ensemble, together with Lynn Summerell and Jurgen Bohl. They worked together with the theatre department of Towson State University as artists-in-residence. They performed a wide variety of theater (puppet shows, street theatre, modern and classic work and so on) for several years and built up a great reputation for themselves by the time the group folded. 

Working hard and breakthrough on Broadway

In the early seventies, Schultz was also a member of Baltimore's Centre Stage Company and later also as a member of the Alley Theatre Company in Houston. This provided him with a steady job performing in regional theatres throughout the United States.  At one point Schultz moved to New York to find an acting job, but this turned out to be quite the challenge. He had to work as a waiter and in pest control. His fascination for audio technology came in handy and he advised people about what audio systems to buy. This made him some extra money. In 1978, Dwight landed a role in "The Water Engine", an off-Broadway production for producer Joseph Papp's Public Theatre. However, the production was such a hit that it was moved to Plymouth Theatre, which marked his Broadway debut. From this moment on his career took off and in 1980 Dwight won the prestigious Drama-Logue Award for his role alongside Glenn Close, in the Sherlock Holmes drama; "Crucifer of Blood”. Between 1978 and 1989 Dwight Schultz played in 40 plays, like: "Peer Gynt", "Night and Day", "Hay Fever" and "Camino Real".

Movie &Television...and "The A-Team"

Following his stage success, Schultz decided to take his first steps in the movie and television world. During the early eighties, he got some small appearances in shows like: "Hillstreet Blues", "CHiPs" and a small role in the feature film "The Fan". In 1982 Dwight landed his first leading role in a feature film called "Alone in the Dark", starring Jack Palance and Martin Landau. In this movie he plays a therapist, whose home gets invaded by three of his psychiatric patients. One year later (in 1983), Dwight auditioned for the part of the mentally unstable Murdock in "The A-Team". In 1982 Schultz met his future wife, Wendy Fulton, on a double (blind) date. He would marry her in 1983. Back to "The A-Team".... Dwight was cast as Murdock for the pilot episode and during the filming of the episode, the producers told him that the character of Murdock would be written out of the show and he would be fired. He had to pack his things and leave his trailer to spend the rest of the shoot in the trailer of the stuntmen. However, when the pilot was shown to a test audience, they loved the part of Murdock and this forced the writers to keep Dwight on the show. There was a lot of resistance against the A-Team; the network did not like the show at all. Also, there were a lot of people that boycotted the show, because it was about Vietnam veterans, that turn out to be heroes. In the eighties the Vietnam veterans were not loved in the US. This resulted in Dwight having a lot of problems to find work, when "The A-Team" ended in 1987.

After "The A-Team"

As I mentioned Schultz had a lot of problems getting an acting job after the end of "The A-Team". This had two reasons: Schultz was identified with the character of Murdock and the actors of the show were boycotted, because the how was very unpopular among the people in the movie and tv business. In 1989, however, Dwight got the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the movie "Fatman and Little Boy". Following this, he played alongside Whoopi Goldberg in "The Long Walk Home" (great movie by the way"). At that time Whoopi played the role of Guinan in "Star Trek-The Next Generation". Dwight expressed his love "Star Trek" ever since he was a young boy. This inspired Goldberg to approach the producers of "Star Trek - TNG" to give Schultz a chance to play a role in the show. During the making of "The Long Walk Home", Goldberg had noticed what a brilliant actor he was and she thought he deserved it. At one point Schultz got a phone call from the producers of "Star Trek -TNG" that they had written a guest role just for him. Dwight's portrayal of Lt. Barclay was so successful that he became a recurring guest actor on the show and later he was asked to reprise his role in "Star Trek: Voyager" and the movie "Star Trek: First Contact". From the late nineties up until now Dwight has been doing a lot of voice over work for television and video games. Later, he also got into (talk) radio.

Dwight Schultz at HDCC

Autograph

Because we only had one day at Dutch Comic Con, we had to leave home very early on Sunday (April 1st). We really wanted to arrive at the Jaarbeurs in time, because we had 'so much to do and so little time'. When we arrived, we picked up our press bracelets and made our way to the entrance. The doors would open at 10 a.m. and we were right in time. Everything went very smooth and at 10.01 we were in. I mentioned that it might be wise to get to Dwight Schultz right away, before there was a huge line. Carola agreed and we made our way to the signing area. I made my way to the table and picked out a picture to have signed. Dwight was very nice and talkative. In the weeks leading up to Dutch Comic Con, I read about some of the things Dwight liked about the Netherlands and one of them was Calvé Peanut butter. So, the day before Dutch Comic Con I went to the grocery store and picked up a jar of his favorite peanut butter. When I gave it to him, he started laughing. He mentioned that I was not the only one with that idea and that he got a lot of jars over the weekend. He said that we should go and have a look in his hotel room and that it was full of jars of peanut butter and 'stroopwafels'. It was very cool to meet yet another one of my childhood heroes and to find out that he was as nice as I had hoped. But that was not all. I still had a Q&A and a photo op to go.

Q&A

After the autograph I couldn't wait for the Q&A to start. Well it was worth the wait, because as you might expect it was a lot of fun! Of course, Dwight talked a lot about "The A-Team" and his role of "Howlin' Mad" Murdock. But he also talked about other things, like his role in the "Star Trek" franchise and his voice over work. He talked about the fact that "The A-Team" was not well received by the networks, but that the fans loved it (especially in The Netherlands). He said that in the US people thought that there was too much violence in the show, when in fact this was not true at all. When they visited the Netherlands in the eighties, the TROS-director (TROS is the Dutch television network, that aired the show) told them that The Netherlands loved the show, because there was no violence in it. Dwight joked that he fell to his knees and almost kissed his feet. He says the people in The Netherlands got it, they knew what the show was about. One of the funniest moments of the Q&A was when someone asked how Billy (the invisible dog) was doing. Dwight put on a very high-pitched voice and told the audience that Billy was in the room, but he could not find a place to poop. He also talked about (and imitated) Mr. T. and his friendship with Dirk Benedict. The whole Q&A was very entertaining and unfortunately time flies when you are having fun. I could have listened to Mr. Schultz talking for hours and hours, but all good things come to an end. Below is a video with our coverage of the Q&A.

Photo op

As always there wasn't much time to talk at the photo op, so I was glad I already talked to Mr. Schultz during the autograph moment. For me the photo op was just a bonus. There was a funny moment, during the photo op and it involved the photographer. After he took the photo, the photographer mentioned that he loved my shirt and I was quite nervous, so I mumbled something back, while I was still grasping on to Dwight. 

 

 

To make a long story shorter, I was so happy when Heroes Dutch Comic Con announced yet another one of my childhood heroes. Besides the excitement I do always have a bit of fear. There is always a chance that the guy turns out to be not as great as you thought. Luckily this wasn't the case with the amazing Dwight Schultz. The man is a legend!

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