City Star - Star TV & Radio
August 24 - 30, 1986
Finally Finds Perfect Role
AP Television Writer
Culver City, Calif. - Mark Linn-Baker,
co-star of ABC-TV's "Perfect Strangers," figures his first time on a
movie screen probably lasted a tenth of a second.
"I appeared for that long," he
said, snapping his fingers. "It was in Woody Allen's
'Manhattan.' But I did get a screen credit. They spelled my name
wrong. It came out 'Mary Linn-Baker.'"
The main benefit was that he got his
Screen Actors Guild card, although he had to change his name. There was
already an actor named Mark Baker, so he made his middle name part of his last
His next movie acting experience was in an
independent film made in Alabama that was never released. (Editor's
note: This was the film The End of August)
Still, he had extensive stage work, which
helped when actor-director Richard Benjamin went to New York to cast "My
Favorite Year." "Three casting agents . . . all suggested
me," Mr. Linn-Baker said. "They'd all seen my work."
He has appeared as Bertram in Joseph
Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival production of "All's Well That Ends
Well," Mark Slackmeyer in the Broadway production of "Doonesbury"
and in "Alice in Concert" with Meryl Streep.
The curly-haired, cherub-faced actor
auditioned for the "Favorite Year" role of Benjy Stone, the young
comedy writer who has to baby-sit a hard-drinking movie star (Peter O'Toole) so
he'll be sober enough to appear on a TV variety show. The movie star was
obviously modeled after Errol Flynn and the variety show host after Sid Caesar.
"I didn't have anyone in
mind when I played the role," Mr. Linn-Baker said. "But the script had someone in mind and I just
played it the way it was written. It was definitely Mel Brooks.
That's where they started, but the family wasn't his.
"Mel Brooks was one
of the co-producers of the movie. I met him once during filming. He
told me to be funny."
The movie was filmed at MGM on
the sound stage next to the one where he and co-star Bronson Pinchot now do
"Perfect Strangers" (shown at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on channels 2, 9 and
49 in the Kansas City area). The new comedy is a culture clash between Mr.
Linn-Baker as an American and Mr. Pinchot as a distant cousin, a Mediterranean
immigrant named Balki Bartokomous, who takes up residence in Mr. Linn-Baker's
Mr. Linn-Baker plays Larry
Appleton, who wants to be a photojournalist but works in a discount store.
"He's a young guy from the suburbs who's on his own for the first
time," he said. "He's trying to find his way."
Mr. Linn-Baker and Mr. Pinchot
went to the Yale Drama School, but they weren't there at the same time.
Mr. Linn-Baker also spent three years with the Yale Repertory Theatre.
He grew up in Connecticut, where
his father was a radio copywriter. "My folks were involved in
theater," he said. "My mother was dancing in a college show and
my father was directing. They were always working in the theater when I
was growing up.
"I have a strong sense of
humor in my work. That comes out in whatever I do. I don't see
things as comedy or drama. The dramatic literature isn't that
simple. Many comedies have serious parts and tragedies have humor.
"It's not a distinction you
make in training. You don't train differently for comedy. You learn
how to act. You bring your own reality and technique to it."
In TV guest roles, Mr. Linn-Baker
has played a crooked stereo salesman on "Miami Vice," a harassed
executive assistant who lost his boss' address file on "Moonlighting"
and a computer whiz on "The Equalizer."
"Perfect Strangers" is
his second TV series. His first was "Comedy Zone," a summer
series on CBS two years ago.
"The idea was to give a
showcase to off-Broadway writers," he said. "I was one of the
company. We did a lot of short pieces and I played a lot of
characters. At the time I was doing Beth Henley's play 'The Miss
Firecracker Contest.' We only did five shows for 'Comedy Zone.' It
didn't work out well. There was a lot of talent but too much