Actor/producer William Katt and writer and co-director Christopher Folino made the trek from the nearby Laemmle’s NoHo 7 following a screening of their new film “Sparks” to the CBR Speakeasy in North Hollywood, CA to discuss their latest venture. Katt is best known for his role as Ralph Hinkley on “Greatest American Hero,” one of the first super hero TV shows to meet with mainstream success. Folino, who grew up influenced by “Superman: The Movie” and “Greatest American Hero,” is a writer and director whose previous effort, “Gamers,” was a mockumentary loosely based on his experience as a longtime Dungeons and Dragons gamer.
The pair joined CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland in the Speakeasy to discuss the secret origins of “Sparks,” how Folino connected with one of his childhood heroes, the staying power of “Greatest American Hero” and the injury that forced Katt to change roles. They also talk about the difficulties in self-financing the movie as well as the possibility of a long-rumored “Greatest American Hero” movie coming to fruition.
Folino on bringing his super hero labor of love to the big screen: “It was an incredible experience because of the fact that when this was originally written there was no idea that it was ever going to become a movie,” said Folino. “A lot of it’s very personal, and there’s a lot of inside jokes from our previous movie that we did. It was one of those things that when it was written it was during a time that was a little bit struggling, professionally, and trying to figure out what could happen. Bill and I were working on a comic book together called ‘Mythology Wars,’ it wasn’t quite working out with the artist so it was like, ‘Gosh, man. You know I’d like to try to work on a story about exploring if people actually had super hero powers. I’m from El Monte, California and most people who ever had powers that I knew wouldn’t really be using them for good. So, kind of an interesting element.
“From there on, what you end up learning in life is that, if you ever get the opportunity you have to take a shot,” Folino continued. “And this really was it. It was completely self-financed without any Kickstarter, and it was one of those things where it started off as a little project and then Bill talked to Ashley [Bell] and Ashley came on board. And from there it sort of like — Clancy [Brown] followed, and so what [began as] a very small project became an incredible opportunity.
On the enduring legacy of “Greatest American Hero”: “We had no idea when we did ‘Greatest American Hero’ that it would turn into what it was,” Katt said. “I remember I was in New York, off Broadway, with Diane Wiest and some people from the Guthrie and Stephen Cannell sent me the script and flew out to New York and we met. The script did make me laugh out loud and my agent promised me we would only do four episodes and I could be back in New York doing theater. We aired after the Super Bowl and all of a sudden it was like crazy.
“The great thing about it is all these years later, I didn’t think I had the perspective at the time because I was a young, arrogant actor who thought that it was never gonna end,” continued Katt. “But today I meet a guy downstairs who says, ‘Man, you got me — my parents were going through a divorce, it was a really dark time for me in my life and your show, ‘Greatest American Hero,’ got me through some of the hardest times of my life.’ That’s what I take away now, all these many years later.”
On Folino’s history with superheroes: “‘Superman’ with Christopher Reeve had just a tremendous impact, and ‘Greatest American Hero.’ Those were the two. We didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have comic books,” said Folino. “And back then, too, there was never reruns. You just watched the ‘Super Friends’ and that’s [Laughs] — Michael Bell is the voice of that, which is Ashley’s father. So all the cartoons I grew up loving, he’s the voice of. It’s just amazing how all the childhood people that I idolized have been such a tremendous impact on me. Not just professionally but personally, both Michael Bell and Bill Katt, those are the two people that have influenced me the most and have helped me out the most with my career.”
On the rumors of a “Greatest American Hero” revival: I have a script on my shelf for a two-hour film that Stephen was at the helm of — he didn’t write, but he was at the helm of — that never got made, and it was quite good,” Katt explained. “At that point Stephen passed away, unfortunately, [Robert Culp] passed away. I believe 20th Century Fox still owns the licensing and the rights to the feature film and hopefully one day we’ll see it made.”