Soap Opera Digest
Meet Greg Mullavey
Mary Hartman’s Perfect Husband Tom
In the middle of dinner at the posh bistro, “Derricks,” on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, Judy the proprietor, brought me a phone, plugged it in and said: “Greg Mullavey is on the line.”
He knew we were leaving for New York the next day and since he had three more scenes to go over that night, he asked that we forgive him for not joining us for dinner and could we please talk on the phone instead. I was disappointed. I had looked forward to meeting Mary’s husband, Tom Hartman, but with pen in one hand and phone in the other and my dinner cold and forgotten on the table, I took notes, as Greg told me of his new life as “Tom Hartman.” He said: “Doing ‘Mary Hartman’ is a full schedule. Comedy is difficult. No, I don’t consider ‘Mary Hartman’ a ‘soap’ although the format is like one but we’ve spent more time than the soap opera people do. We seem to be much more involved. We are doubling up now, taping two episodes at a time.
“How did you get the part of Tom?”
“My agent heard about the show and I had studied with Joan Darling. When I read for the part with Louise Lasser, I knew I wanted to work with her. The people, the company, the producer, all so great. Louise and I get along very well together. We work so intensely. We spend so much time on the set and with each other, maybe we should move there. No, I’m kidding. My wife, Meredith (MacRae) was upset about my schedule. It was from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and she was feeling the strain. When I came home, even on weekends, I still had to study and work at my part. We were shooting ten hours a day for a while. It’s better now. We’re trying to cut down on the time but we don’t want the quality of our work to suffer. ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ has to be quality.
“I need and love my home life. We have an eighteen month old daughter and I want to spend time with her. I love to go on outings with my family, picnics and such. When I have a heavy schedule, I miss that. At times, it has been overwhelming—just the sheer weight of the work. At times, I got less than four hours of sleep a night. Before starting in the role, I took TM. Now I do it all on my own. It relaxes me.”
“What did you think of the part of Tom when you first read it?”
“They had Tom originally as a ‘beer-drinking slug;’ not very bright, not very sensitive; sort of a ‘red-neck.’ I understand the part of Tom as a factory worker. I grew up and worked in and around factories. My knowledge of those people helped me analyze Tom. I worked, but I stopped to attend Hobart College in New York, where I majored in philosophy. I was groomed as an athlete by my college coaches and by my father, a long-time Dodger coach. When I was in the Army, in the Special Services branch, I got my first taste of acting. Before ‘Mary Hartman’ I had never done a series…a lot of films, Theatre, TV Commercials, and nighttime dramas.
Greg launched his career in the off-Broadway production of Ah, Wilderness. Since then he has logged an impressive list of television and film credits. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, The Love Machine, The Hindenburg. He has made appearances as a guest-star on “All in the Family,” “McCloud,” “Streets of San Francisco,” “Cannon,” “Rockford Files,” and “Cry Rape.”
For an actor like Greg, there are two sides to the coin of quick fame and fortune. As he sees it: “The blessings are that you become known. A man stopped his car, waved to me and said ‘super.’ That I enjoy. But on the other hand, I don’t want to become ‘typecast.’ I took this job hoping to get a better profile.
“It’s been a creative experience working on this show.”
“You said that you understood the part of Tom so well. Do you at times feel that you are Tom?”
“No, I never lose sight of my own identity but I do dovetail the character and personality of Tom and Greg.”
TV’s Newest Heart Throb
Bruce Solomon could be the boy next door—smiling, curly-haired, dressed in blue jeans, leaving each day for work or college. But he not just any attractive young man—he’s Mary Hartman’s Sgt. Dennis Foley…TV’s newest heart throb. To see Bruce/Dennis is to love him.
A lucky break and a teacher’s faith in her pupil turned a fledgling actor into a household word.
A young Bruce Peter Solomon reached California via Florida and New York. While studying acting with Joan Darling and Milton Katselas, he was building his reputation as an actor; doing minor roles.
As Bruce put it: “I owe a great deal to Joan and Milton. Not only are they great teachers but they pushed me into roles that made the most of what I can do best.” And, Ms. Darling as director of the “pilot,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” remembered her pupil as a fine actor and changed the concept of the role of Sgt. Foley (who was originally to have been an overweight, middle-aged desk sergeant) to fit Bruce’s personality. He took it from there, adding his own personal magnetism and boyish charm to the part.
Bruce told us, sitting in the conference room of the Norman Lear offices—“It had always been one of my fantasies to work with Louise. I saw her in the ‘Movie of the Week:’ ‘Isn’t It Shocking?’ Louise was playing Alan Alda’s secretary. I said: ‘I want to act with that lady.’ It was six months later I got the part. She’s a pleasure to perform with. They (the writers) made more of the Sgt. Foley role. They drew a lot on my personality. Working with Louise made the scenes come alive.”
Soap Opera Digest publisher, Norman Roseman, who was with Editor Ruth Gordon during the interview, asked: “Is it as much fun doing ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ as it is to watch?”
Bruce said: “Yes it’s fun. Louise is a terrific worker and she likes what she does. The whole company is one of the strongest groups of actors. They all know what they’re doing and they enjoy their work,” he joked, “but I was ‘working out’ and staying in shape. You have to be in good condition. There’s a lot of stress when you’re on the job and you don’t have time for exercise, so you have to do it when you can. And when I have a day free, I like to sail.”
“We hope ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ goes on and on—but do you have other fields you’d like to try?” I asked.
“I’ve done over 100 stage plays: touring and in small theatre companies. I’d love to do feature films. I do like to act, I love TV—but the material for movies is more complicated—more of an exercise. Features give you a chance to work.”
But for now, Bruce and Sgt. Foley are having a great time. He received a letter from a group of office workers in New Jersey who voted him their favorite TV personality. “People keep writing in,” Bruce said smiling, “calling me sexy, attractive.” He gets lots of mail, sweet and playful, and he asked to send a message via Soap Opera Digest to all who have written to him. “Please tell them,” Bruce asked, “to be patient. I promise to answer all my mail as soon as I can.”
Bruce seems amazed at his tremendous popularity…a bit like the “pinch me, I can’t believe this is happening to me” feeling. He’s surprised when people greet him on the street—taken aback when a woman pulled up to his car, rolled down her window and said: “I love Sgt. Foley.”
Bruce is a “Leo”—August 12. As a part of his sign he says, “I’m deliberate. I always wanted to be an actor.”
Yes, ladies, Bruce is single. But it can’t be for long. He’s as sweet and engaging, full of charm and personality as Bruce Solomon as he is as Sgt. Foley. For Bruce is Dennis and Dennis is Bruce.