One on One with Robert Pine
The Tolucan Times: a community paper that tells you what’s going on in this neighborhood. And the ads help you know where to shop in this neck of the woods.”
Robert Pine, a most respectable actor, lives in a lovely home with his wife Gwynne and Daisy the dog, in Valley Village. And his son is not the only “Star Trek” performer in the family. (Google Robert Pine and enjoy his longtime career.)
JJ: How long have you been in Valley Village?
RP: We’ve lived in Valley Village since late 1993, just before the ‘94 earthquake. That’s (pointing to a cabinet) where all our china crashed out. Before that we lived in Studio City since ‘72. Love the area; our neighbors are great, it’s family friendly and we know everybody’s dog.
JJ: Tell us about your family.
RP: My wife, Gwynne Gilford, was an actress, and then changed careers. She taught acting at UCLA extension for ten years, now she coaches our son, Chris.
(JJ: Yes, Chris Pine of “Star Trek…”)
RP: I met Gwynne at a Hollywood party. For me, it was kind of “…at first sight.” She had a wonderful, bubbling personality. We’ll be married forty years on September 6th. She told me three things: She would never live in the Valley, and wasn’t interested in kids or jewelry. So now, it’s a Valley life, two great kids, a first grandchild on the way, thanks to our daughter Katie, and a healthy relationship with Generales and Generales (Toluca Lake’s fine jewelers).
JJ: As an experienced working actor, do you have any feelings on the SAG election?
RP: This is a very important election because it could be a sea change in the direction that the Guild is going to go. It’s no secret that I like a more moderate viewpoint, which the current leadership doesn’t have. I have two issues. One, it’s time we merge with AFTRA. Two, we need to be very creative as to how we approach our contracts as they pertain to new media and new technology that seems to be changing very fast. I think Ken Howard, as our President, and the Unite for Strength people running with his slate, reflect my attitude for the future of SAG.
JJ: How did you start being a professional actor?
RP: I did summer plays but I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in Pre-Med. I decided to go to New York to take extra med courses at Columbia but I realized I didn’t really want to do that. When my longtime friend and roommate suggested I be an actor, it was like a bulb went off in my head. I grew up in Scarsdale, New York where everyone was a professional; a doctor, lawyer, etc… But my mother, who went to Emerson College (called Ernstone [?] when she attended), had friends with connections in the theatre. I had mingled with these folks when I was a kid. At a summer party, my mom told the playwright Robert Anderson, “Buzz really likes acting.” I told him I’m Pre-Med but he said the fateful words, “If you ever change your mind…”
I changed my mind. In ‘63, not knowing it was such a big deal, and since he casually had told me to “call him if I needed anything,” I told him, “I want to be an actor.”
: Sounds like First Class dumb luck.
[JJ thought: If he were a doc, he’d be Marcus Welby.)
RP: Absolutely. Robert Anderson (“Tea and Sympathy,” “I Never Sang for my Father”), and his wife, the gifted actress Teresa Wright, had me to dinner. He took pains to tell me how miserable many of his famous actor friends were when fame and opportunities faded (except for Freddie March, who seamlessly melded into a character actor). And then he gave me a few contacts. I had no idea how important the people were that he arranged for me to meet.
JJ: How did it play out?
RP: After I completed my Columbia semester (a commitment to my parents), I met with William Morris and the Ashley Steiner agency (they asked me to sing. I didn’t sing but I did it anyway, and they signed me). I met Robert Whitehead.
(JJ: Whitehead trivia: of Lincoln Center Rep., great producer/director, married to Zoe Caldwell and cousin of Hume Cronyn).
RP: So, with no show business intelligence, raw and innocent, I worked up a scene with a friend, and did it for some agents and head of CBS casting. Robert Alan Arthur, the eminent writer and producer, introduced me to Eleanor Killgallen (Dorothy’s sister), a head of New York talent for Universal International. Did my scene and received an invitation. That was in March.
JJ: We’re you worried about becoming a ‘miserable’ actor?
RP: I checked with Robert Anderson, my first mentor, who said, “Well Buzz, you can always take an opportunity when it comes.” So, I went to Hollywood to do a screen test. They flew me out; I spent three days in a motel across from U.I., and then was picked up in an air-conditioned limo (so dazzling and cool). After the screen test, before heading back home, I told the script supervisor that I haven’t seen a star yet. He kindly took me to the next set, and there was Leslie Caron and Cary Grant. CARY GRANT!!!
JJ: That was a good one! So, what happened?
RP: By May 25th I was offered a contract. I remember thinking, “this is easy” but I found out how hard it really was. I drove back in a Thunderbird (a gift from Dad), and eased into a Beverly Hills apartment. It was so cool. Luckily, I remembered Eleanor Killgallen’s advice, “Be careful of the sunshine and the weather, it can be a trick and you’ll find yourself on the beach. Have fun, but apply yourself.”
JJ: In what way?
RP: I studied acting with Jeff Corey, the most influential teacher in Hollywood. And I took singing lessons with Patricia Baker. We sang Operas. Builds your voice. It was so great. (I almost changed my career). It really helped taking riding lessons as I did a lot of Westerns. I was so green, I used to go to auditions in a suit and tie, everyone else was in jeans, boots and crinkled hats. I learned to dress the role.
JJ: Let’s fast forward. What’s happening now?
RP: Now I’m with the House of Representatives Agency, and have great personal relations with my agents. I’ve recently worked on “Saving Grace” and “Castle.” I’m lucky to keep working in film and voice work, and I’m rehearsing a play for the Antaeus Theatre, “Cousin Bette,” opening in October. It’s L.A.’s Classical Ensemble alongside the Deaf West Theatre on Lankershim. It’s a Balzac adaptation. I love this so much.
JJ: What keeps you and your family happy now?
RP: Just being at home or in our neighborhood, going to Papoo’s Hot Dog Show, Marie Callender’s, seeing friends (like Patrick Wayne). Gwynne and I take such delight in our kids’ closeness; they make each other laugh, there’s such joy in our hearts to see them together. They are the nicest people.
JJ: Tell us a bit about the astonishing Chris Pine?
BP: It’s a privilege to be around a vital career like that. Gary Marshall cast Chris in his first big film, “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” and now with “Star Trek!” It’s a lot of fun for Gwynne and me to watch his career.
It’s a lot of fun to be with Robert Pine, a talented and charming man who brightens our community!
(For more pictures, go to Tolucantimes.com, and check Jackie Joseph under columnists. Then open this column.)
Robert Pine, peeking over The Tolucan Times in his warm and wonderful home in Valley Village.