Randy Suhr’s work as a Director and First Assistant Director spans genres as well as decades. He has transitioned from television to motion pictures and back again, always taking a key role in the creative process. Some credits: the sitcom Cheers, a collaboration with screen legends Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men, a stellar adventure with Star Trek 6 The Journey Home, and a long and fruitful team effort on TV classics like Everybody Loves Raymond and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Randy is a showbiz veteran who has blazed a unique trail and has provided countless hours of entertainment for kids and families along the way.
You have been part of some of TV’s biggest shows. When you’re on the set, do you get an idea of how important the shows might become?
Unfortunately no. At the time you are concentrating on your job and helping others concentrate on theirs. It’s hard to see a big picture.
One of the few time we realized how important TV can be was after 9-11. Our cast on Everybody Loves Raymond, had just returned from New York and we were preparing to rehearse but just couldn’t concentrate. But then the topic came up that what we do, what our job is, is to help people laugh and to take their minds off their troubles for 30 minutes. So we realized that perhaps we can serve a purpose,we would be able to help people, even if it was for only 30 minutes our show could help. That helped us to go on.
What is the most important aspect of your career? Preparation? Teamwork?
Both. Preparation is very important. You try to anticipate very type of situation that may come up. Try to solve them before they become a problem.
But teamwork is equally important. Actually I guess perhaps it is more important. With a good team you can catch or solve problems that you don’t anticipate. A big part of the teamwork is to lay out parameters for your team and let them pursue their own course of solving problems. This way they own the problems and solution. Giving them satisfaction and a sense of worth.
You have worked with some amazing actors; what do they bring to their roles that makes them stand out from the others?
There are actors that look at acting as a job and those that look at acting as a sense of entitlement. Those that look at acting as a job are usually the actors that are the most prepared and better at their craft. They realize everything about acting is part of a larger universe. Without the Writer there are no words for the actor. Without the Director they may have no concept of the overall story they are trying to tell. Without the Cameraman there is no recording of their scenes. Without the Editor their story may not make sense. Actors who view acting as a job are more professional, and in most cases are better actors. They bring to their roles a heighten awareness of the character. This comes from preparing, from working on their roles.
Actors with a sense of entitlement believe that everyone is there to further their vision and thus their careers. Usually to the detriment of the project.
When you direct, do you see your role as more of a guide or a leader? In other words, do you want the crew to achieve your vision or are you more or less trying to help propel a group effort?
I try to get the crew and cast to see my vision. When I direct you are both a guide and a leader. You are guiding everyone through the uncharted waters of your vision. But you are also a leader. If you are not strong someone will take that leadership away from you and the project will no longer be yours. Being prepared and in charge allows you to accept ideas from others. You want to keep the project one of corroboration but you can only do that if you know what you want and can keep your crew and cast focused on that goal.
What were some of your favorite shows when you were a kid? Did they have an impact on your decision to become an entertainment industry professional?
I loved science fiction and comedies. Twilight Zone was a huge favorite of mine. I also loved Mr. Ed, Wild Wild West, Star Trek, and the Smothers Brothers comedy hour. Saturday morning cartoons were also a favorite of mine. Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner were big for me. Unfortunately for my parents I could sit all day on saturday watching cartoons.
- ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ star lands new sitcom ‘When the Balls Drop’ (digitalspy.co.uk)