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Gotta love Ted Lange!

Every week for ten solid years, landlubbers would look forward to vicariously climbing aboard the best cruise ship to have ever sailed, The Love Boat. The ABC-TV hour-long hit sitcom, that centered around the adventures of a captain and his crew had one affable bartender, who always managed to keep his customers happy, Isaac Washington, played by actor Ted Lange.

Ted began his acting career on the Broadway stage in the hit musical Hair. He made his first film debut in the 1972 blaxploitation crime-drama, Trick Baby, where he played the role of Melvin, a pimp. Ted also appeared in the 1974 classic martial arts film Black Belt Jones, which starred Jim Kelly and Scatman Crothers. Next, he appeared in the memorable 1975 action film Friday Foster with Pam Grier, a beautiful and fierce actress.

Soon Ted segued into television appearing for two seasons on the mid-seventies, ABC-TV comedy, That’s My Mama, starring Clifton Davis and Theresa Merritt. He played the irrepressible street philosopher, Junior. The character’s huge welcoming smile and hip street prose oftentimes made him a scene-stealer. Junior’s tag line, ‘Ooh wee, I got it, I got it and I’ve got to report it’ is a classic line we will never forget and one, we all probably ran into the ground back-in-da-day when we had some juicy gossip to report!

Ted landed the role of Isaac on The Love Boat not long after That’s My Mama was canceled. The move made his face a favorite on one of television’s most beloved family shows. The show featured a laundry list of celebrities, but he counts actress Diahann Carroll amongst his favorites. As a matter of fact, Ted shared his first on-screen kiss with the elegant beauty on the show. During his Love Boat run, Ted also served as a director and writer on numerous episodes.

After the cancellation of The Love Boat, Ted worked his fair share of guest appearances on many popular TV series. But soon, the London Royal Academy graduate was being pulled in another direction as a playwright and director. Ted has a very impressive body of work and is a renowned award-winning director and playwright. He has been directing and writing plays, 26 to be exact, with both historical and comedic themes for over 40 years. Ted refers to himself as a ‘footnote historian.’ He has pointed out that sometimes the African-American participation is only a footnote and that there are heroes we know nothing about. He has gone back and resurrected people he knew little or nothing at all about.

Ted seems to be living his best life, directing and producing his plays with high hopes of turning them into films one day. Ted is also married to Mary Ley since 2001 and has two grown sons from his first marriage.

For many of us, Ted Lange will always be the world’s friendliest cruise mixologist with a beaming smile that will always warm our hearts. Ooh wee, we are honored Ted took time out of his hectic schedule to chat with us.

50BOLD: You were born in Oakland, California. Yes?

Ted: Correct.

50BOLD: Tell us about your beginnings. What was life like in the Lange household?

Ted: Well, you know, we’re talking late 50s into the 60s, my mom was a single mother.  She, however, lived with her parents—my grandparents. My grandfather was a big influence on me. I named my youngest son after my grandfather whose name was Turner Wilson. He was kind of like retired. He had been a cook in the service, and I would sit next to him and watch him cook. And to this day, I love cooking.

50BOLD: Oh, that’s so sweet!

Ted: Yeah, I’d watch him cook and he was marvelous. He called me ‘The Professor,’ which meant I was a teacher. I was also referred to as ‘Hambone’ which meant I was an actor because I could mimic things on TV and did so all the time. And TV in the fifties was a big, big deal. We watched cowboy-themed TV shows like The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, The Roy Rogers Show, and The Gene Autry Show. One of the greatest things that happened to me as an adult was when I got to meet Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore. I also got to meet Clint Walker who played Cheyenne Bodie in the western series Cheyenne. I directed Clint on a Love Boat episode, and I was a big, big, big Cheyenne fan.

When I was in high school in Oakland, ‘they’ wanted me to be an auto mechanic, and this is what they had planned for me to be. I had done two plays while in the 9th grade.  I wanted to become an actor, so I went to the school counselor, and I said, “Hey I want to be an actor,” and was told that I could be one later.

After accidentally walking into the school auditorium while a play was going on and watching the rehearsal, I knew I wanted to act! I marched right into my counselor’s office and insisted he place me into a school production at that point. And that’s what he did! So, in the 10th grade, I got a taste of drama and it changed my life. The camaraderie I shared with my high school drama teacher and the students in the class, placed me on a path toward wanting to have a career in show business.

Ted Lange and Pam Grier in the film Friday Foster

50BOLD: You LOVED those westerns for sure! Now, I LOVED the show, That’s My Mama!

Ted: Oh, you remember that show? Okay, so they were skeptical about hiring me for the show because they were afraid my character would behave too much like a pimp. I said to the powers-that-be at Columbia, ‘He’s only 17 years old. He can’t be a pimp!’  But I had the moves of a very hip guy. But I was told that I moved like a pimp. So, we went back and forth.  First, I was told I was going to be on the series, then they said I’m off the series. We went back and forth about 8 times. And so finally, the final call was, they weren’t going to take the chance.

Well, my agent informed the folks at Columbia that I was going to appear on the American Film Institute (AFI) salute to the great actor, James Cagney. My agent mentioned, how I was getting a special mention because I was a director. He also let it be known how I was looked upon as having great potential as a director. So, the That’s My Mama producers watched the AFI salute which aired on a Monday night. So many Hollywood heavyweights appeared on the tribute– Frank Sinatra, Cicely Tyson, John Lennon; and me. The very next night after the tribute had aired, I received a call from one of the show’s producers and was told, I got a role on the That’s My Mama series.

50BOLD: Now, speaking of That’s My Mama, what was it like working with such a wonderful cast–Clifton Davis, Theresa Merritt, and Theodore Wilson?

Ted: Well, I was one hundred percent theater, and knew nothing about television. Working in television was a big great learning curve for me.  I was taught by Clifton and Theresa how television works. So, on the first day you read a script. You then block the script in rehearsal hall. Two, three days later you do camera blocking. Well, when we were doing camera blocking, I fully acted my part. I came in one hundred percent as the character. Well, I was reminded that we were just blocking the camera. We had to just move to the spots that we were supposed to be in and NOT get into the full character. I had to pull it back a little bit and save my energies for the next day when we taped the show.

50BOLD: Ok, you were learning.

Ted: Yeah, I didn’t know anything. I also learned that I could make a suggestion with respect to my character. If I saw something that was more ethnic or more idiosyncratic to the character, I could talk to the producer.  I started making suggestions. I also didn’t know that I could wear my own clothes if the clothes that the costumer gave me were not right for the characterizations. One day, I brought in some Stacy Adams shoes. Ever hear of Stacy Adams?

50BOLD:  Of course, I’ve heard of them, yes. (laughs)

Ted:  Okay, so I went to the producer and said I’d like to wear Stacy Adams shoes. He said, ‘You don’t want to wear these tennis shoes?’  I did not want to wear tennis shoes. The character, Junior, lived in a Washington DC ghetto. So, he would wear Stacy Adams shoes. The producer approved my request. And so then one day the director said, ‘Wow look at those shoes.’

When cornrows were popularized in the ghetto, no other Black male actor wore their hair this way on television. I did. I was the first guy to sport braids on television. I introduced the style to the That’s My Mama series. I was always trying to figure out how to bring a little bit of what was really going on in our world to the television audiences. We had no Black writers for the first season of That’s My Mama. And about three months into the show’s production, Clifton questioned, why we didn’t have any Black writers on the show. Well, the producer told Clifton they could not find Black writers. I was taking writing classes at the time. My teacher was also a Black comedy writer who worked on Sanford and Son.

Clifton Davis and Ted Lange in That’s My Mama

50BOLD:  Did he contact your teacher? Did your teacher begin writing for you guys?

Ted:  No. Two months later Clifton said, ’Hey, how come we don’t have any Black writers working on this show?’ And the producer again told Clifton they couldn’t find any Black writers. They claimed to have looked for the writers. I asked if they had contacted my suggestion and I even provided them with my teacher’s number! Well, they asked for my teacher’s number again and never called!

50BOLD:  They never called him?

Ted:  They never called him!  The third time Clifton questioned the producer again about not having Black writers, he was again told they could not find any. I said, OK, these guys are full of crapola! It was 1974, and they’d hire their white friends before they would hire a Black man!

50BOLD:  Isn’t that something!

Ted:  Yeah, so, That’s My Mama was my initiation into show business. I learned the do’s and don’ts of show business from Clifton and Theresa.

50BOLD:  Now how long were you on that sitcom?

Ted:  Two years.

50BOLD:  Now you mentioned your grandfather earlier, did your mom have anything to do with your creative DNA?

Ted:  Of course, my mom was always questioning and encouraging us; she was our light. When I’d tell my mom I want to be an actor she’d be encouraging. My mother was the first one who planted the seed about my becoming a director, you know. She’d say that if you’re the director, you get to play all the parts. If you’re an actor, you only get to play one part. At first, I didn’t know what she meant until I began directing. So yes, my mother was very encouraging.

My father was encouraging as well. There was an LA theater in the 50s called the Ebony Showcase where white plays with Black actors were produced. So, my dad, who was a plasterer and actor, would take me down to the theater during the summer when he was in a play. My Dad was in Los Angeles, and the rest of the time we would be back in Oakland. I told my dad when I was 17 how I wanted to be an actor.  He told me that anytime I needed advice about acting to let him know and he would oblige. But he would have preferred that I had a skill to fall back on like learning to become a plasterer or teacher.

50BOLD: Were you making much of a steady income as an actor back then?

Ted:  In the 50s and the early 60s, if you were Black…well…. Once in a blue moon a movie would come along that you could be in but there wasn’t any work. Nobody knew there was going to be this explosion of Blaxploitation films when I came around. Or that there would be Sanford and Son, That’s My Mama, Good Times, The Jeffersons. So, the way you could sustain yourself as a Black actor in the late 50s and early 60s was to perhaps become a teacher and then at night, you’d do a play. My father was a plasterer and then at night, he’d do a play. That’s just how it was done. And so there I was this kid, all gung-ho; I was not going to settle.

50BOLD:  Unfortunately, it was rough for Black actors back then.

Ted:  You couldn’t have a house with a swimming pool. Now, you could have gotten a dinky-ass studio apartment with a swimming pool in the courtyard, you know what I’m saying!

50BOLD: Well, there wasn’t a steady income.

Ted:  No there wasn’t a steady income, and a show could close at any time. The income that you did make couldn’t fully support you.

50BOLD: Exactly.

Ted: I lived at my father’s house like the first five years of my career you know.

50BOLD: Your father sounds exactly like my father. Because I always wanted to be this television reporter, and he said ‘No, you’re not going to do that, because you need to learn a skill. You need to learn a trade. You need to be able to take care of yourself. Worry about a TV reporting career on the side after you’ve learned a skill.’ So, your dad being a plasterer, and his wanting you to fall back on a career that was more secure, I could totally understand where he was coming from. My dad wanted me to do the exact same thing, to learn a trade.

Ted: Right, learn a trade, you’ll have to have something to fall back on.

50BOLD: But how wonderful that your mom and dad supported you on your career choice. That was fantastic!

Ted: Oh yeah, and I knew, as long as I wasn’t making any money in Los Angeles I could stay at my Dad’s house. And damn it, that’s exactly what I did, stay at my Dad’s house! Sometimes he’d have to take me to a theater and drop me off, or I had to get up real early to catch three different buses to get from Watts to Hollywood to do a play. I never did drugs. And in the 60s, everybody was doing drugs! I never smoked dope, never did cocaine, or heroin. I didn’t do any drugs because I was focused on trying to get ahead in show business.

50BOLD: Which means you were fully committed to your craft.

Ted: One hundred percent! Ever seen what a plasterer does?

50BOLD: No, I’ve never seen what a plasterer does.

Ted: It’s hard work, Rosalyn! It’s hard, hard, work! And I wasn’t going to do that work, if I didn’t have to do that work. I’d rather walk into a theater, and tell actors where the entrances and exits are! (laughs)

50BOLD: I can only imagine what a plasterer does. So, you worked at your craft?

Ted: I learned acting. I took writing classes. I learned how to be a director. And when I was in Hollywood on That’s My Mama, I’d sit next to the director to see how he worked the cameras. Then, I would go watch Herbert Kenwith, the director over at Good Times. I’d go over to All In the Family to observe John Rich directing. I started balancing my acting with directing.

There was a theater in Watts called the Watts Writer’s Workshop, and I became a director there. I read a script called The Iron Hand of Nat Turner which was more in praise of Nat Turner, it made him a hero. I was directing the play, but the writer had overwritten it. I went through the whole play, cut it down, refocused it, and this was one of my first experiences in Los Angeles as a director.

50BOLD: Oh OK. Your first professional acting gig was on stage correct?

Ted: Yes.

50BOLD: We’ve touched upon the lack of acting jobs for Black performers at the time. The pickings were really slim?

Ted: Zero, zilch! Zero zero! I got very lucky after I graduated high school. There was this couple named Rick and Wilma. Wilma was a director, Rick was a producer. They created a production company that was first called Shakespeare’s Sixty-Seven.  I graduated in ’66, and in ’67, I got casted as Romeo in the Shakespearian production of Romeo and Juliet and remained for two years. Now, the part wasn’t equity. I made no money playing Romeo, nothing, zero, but I learned how to be an actor. And Wilma was a wonderful director and teacher. After my two-year Romeo stint, I attended the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. I then head back to San Francisco to appear in the stage play Big Time Buck White directed by the jazz musician, Oscar Brown Jr.

50BOLD: Really, Oscar Brown Jr.?

Ted: He recorded a lot of jazz tunes. Anyway, I was very lucky to get cast in the stage play Big Time Buck White which had an all-Black cast. But I couldn’t sing a lick, Rosalyn! When I tell you I’m the worse singer! Do you know who Rex Harrison is of My Fair Lady fame?

50BOLD:  Honestly, I am not familiar with the name Rex Harrison.

 Ted: Well, the actor Rex Harrison of My Fair Lady pioneered talk-singing. He did not really sing, but talked through a song. In a sense, it was a kind of early rap, you know. Anyway, I sounded like a white man talk-singing. (laughs) Well, the play’s producers wanted to fire me, but Oscar said, ‘No, no, no, I can teach this guy.’ So, Oscar wrote a song for me that I could talk-sing. I did it! The show ran for nine months in San Francisco and was a huge hit. It eventually made it to Broadway and starred Muhammad Ali. The show was Ali’s first and only Broadway acting credit.

(l-r) The stars of The Love Boat–Ted Lange, Gavin MacLeod, Jill Whelan, Bernie Kopell, Lauren Tewes, and Fred Grandy

50BOLD: Wow! What a great story!

Ted: I didn’t make it to New York because I butted heads with Oscar Brown’s wife. I wanted to stay true to myself and so anyway, I left San Francisco and headed out to pursue an acting career.

50BOLD: You appeared in classic films such as Trick Baby in ‘72, Black Belt Jones in ‘74, and Friday Foster in ’75. These classic films were released during the blaxploitation era?

Ted: Yep.

50BOLD: What is your overall opinion about the kinds of films that were produced during the blaxploitation era. Did you have a favorite movie, and how did you feel about acting in these kinds of films?

Ted:  During that time in the 70s, we just wanted to be in a movie. There were no real acting jobs for us. I played a pimp in Trick Baby. I played a pimp in Friday Foster. I could play a pimp for you, and no problem, you know. But we weren’t saying like, ‘Oh well, I don’t want to play a pimp anymore!’  We were saying, ‘You want a flamboyant pimp? You want the low-down pimp? What kind of pimp are you looking for, cause I’m going to give you a pimp!’ (laughs) And one of Morgan Freeman’s first acting jobs was that of a pimp! He was a pimp along with Christopher Reeves! Did you know that?

50BOLD: Well, it was work; you had to take what you could get!

Ted: So, I played a pimp and think I did a damn good job doing so as a matter of fact. Let me tell you about this one audition. I was in New York on Broadway doing a play called Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death. I went on an audition where there was one line to read,’ I haven’t seen him!’ After I read the line, I asked if there were any other parts I could read for and was told, they were looking for a pimp. Well, they thought I wouldn’t fit the bill because I was dressed, you know, regular.  But I was told, I could read for the director anyway and was given a callback. I went up to Harlem and purchased a burgundy hat with a gold medal band around the brim. You know, one of those big, wide-assed brimmed, pimp hats! (laughs)

50BOLD: Did it have a huge feather sticking out of it? (laughs)

Ted: No, it had everything but a feather! (laughs) I had a burgundy suit to go with the burgundy hat. Now, I have to admit, the suit was mine. I was matching the hat to the suit and not the suit to the hat. (laughs) I showed up for the callback and I was dressed like a pimp. And the casting people asked me, if I was there for the role of the pimp. Oh yes, I was there for the role of a pimp! I got the job!

The way I went for the role was all part of the hustle, you know. The hustle was that I could have very easily just done the guy who had the one line, or go for the bigger role of the pimp. Well, I showed them that I could look like a pimp. You know, it was all part of the hustle.

50BOLD: Well, alright now! When you were making these films, and this is for our male readers, what was it like working with the foxiest Black actress at that time, Ms. Pam Grier?

Ted:  Oh, she was a sweetheart. She was darling. She was wonderful! And when I was acting with her, she was a little bit surprised that she kept receiving acting calls. They kept calling her for roles–Foxy Brown, Coffy, Friday Foster, you know. And Pam was happy because she could deliver. She could certainly deliver those roles! She was really nice. I remember when I tried to get her to be one of my hoes. (laughs)

50BOLD: In which film?

Ted:  Friday Foster. In Friday Foster I played a pimp. And I’m wearing my own clothes again. And so, I was speaking to Friday Foster and I said, ‘Hey, come on baby, you would be wonderful in my stable.’ And I had these other little girls and they were not the greatest looking women in the world. They looked like they had been on cocaine for years you know. (laughs) Pam Grier looked at my hoes, (laughs) and of course she out classed them. And so, I said, ‘Come on and join my stable.’ Pam goes, ‘No, no, no, I’m not doing that!’ I loved working with Pam.

50BOLD:  We adored you as the lovable bartender Isaac Washington in The Love Boat! Did the role change your life and if so how?

Ted:  The role changed my life 100 percent! It was the first time I made real money. Real money, you know what I mean, real money! (laughs) I was on the show every week. I was making a good salary, and did 26 shows a season. That’s a lot of money!  In the summer, I made half of what I was making before on the reruns. First of all, the role took me from driving a Datsun to driving a Mercedes Benz! I had always lived in an apartment and after the show, I was able to buy a house!

50BOLD: Oh yesss! How wonderful!

Ted: Yeah, yeah, it really changed my lifestyle. And then, The Love Boat also opened the door for me to become a professional director. I directed episodes on the series. The show also opened the door for me to become a writer because I also wrote some episodes. The Love Boat not only made me famous as an actor, but it helped me creatively as an artist, as far as directing and writing. It really changed my life!

50BOLD:  Now, when people see you on the street, are you referred to as Isaac?

Ted:  You know what happens now, Rosalyn, the people who recognize me on the street are older. They might be with a grandchild who won’t know me and think their grandparent is bothering me.

50BOLD:  I watched The Love Boat when I was younger, did you guys actually take real cruises?

Ted:  Yes, we took cruises. So, what they would do is shoot for nine months, okay. Then we’d take a cruise and air specials. So, if we went to Japan, Greece, or China, they’d write specials around the cruise. So, the rest of the time when we were doing the shows that were an hour, those would be two hour shows when we took the cruise. But when we did just a regular hour show, we were at a Los Angeles studio stage that had been converted into a boat. There was a swimming pool and all of that at a 20th Century Fox stage. And then at a certain time of the year, we’d actually take a cruise and be on a real ship.

So, anytime you’d see us at some exotic locale, we were actually there. We went to Egypt. The Egyptians were huge Love Boat fans. And they had everything laid out for me when I got there, you know. And they tell me, ‘We love Issac! Issac! We love Issac!’ I got me a room that had a view of the great pyramids. It was really a wonderful time to be traveling and to be famous. The show was an international hit!

50BOLD:  How long did the show run, for how many years?

Ted: The show ran for ten years.

Isaac Washington, you will always have a warm spot in our hearts!

50BOLD:  Wow, The Love Boat was on for a long time! You went on to make many countless appearances on episodic TV shows. You appeared on one of my favorite TV shows, Martin. I loved your particular episode on the show; it was hilarious! I remember saying to myself, ‘That’s Isaac from The Love Boat!’

Ted:  Yes, I do remember the role. Martin took a cruise.

50BOLD:  Hilarious! So, you are a writer, producer, and director of many projects. You eventually segued into writing and directing theatrical plays.

Ted: Yes, I’ve written 26 plays. If you go on Amazon, you can buy some of my plays.

50BOLD: Oh, Ok, I’ll visit the Amazon site to check out some of your plays.

Ted: I’ve got a book of three plays called The Footnote Historians Trilogy. And there are three historical plays–American Revolution, pre-Civil War, and Civil War. There are three plays in the book, a trilogy. In order to write about the Black characters in the plays, I had to go through a lot of books, read the footnotes, and then put a story together.

50BOLD: What was the impetus or driving force that made you change your focus from acting to writing and directing stage plays?

Ted: ‘They’ wouldn’t hire me as an actor! Let’s say there are 10 choices, I used to be in the top three. And later, they’ve got 10 choices and now, I’m at the bottom three. I don’t want to not be in show business, so I pivoted, and began directing. Sometimes they’d have a director, so I couldn’t direct. If I couldn’t direct, I’d write something to be in, or direct; this is what I needed to do.

50BOLD: Do you have a favorite play?

Ted:  No, I’ve got 26 plays, and they cover everything. The three that I told you about are historical plays, I’ve got three Shakespearean plays that are very interesting. I’ve got a comedy about four Black women meeting to play the card game, Bid Whist. Do you know how to play Bid Whist?

50BOLD:  I sure do! My parents taught me. They used to play every weekend with their friends at our house. My mom and dad would seat me at the table and teach me how to play the game. And so now, a few of my friends and I get together to play the game.

Ted:  Well, that’s what the play is about. It’s about four Black women who meet every Friday to play Bid Whist and the play is called Four Queens No Trump. And each one of the women represents a card. So, the queen of clubs is the person whose house they play at. The queen of diamonds has a lot of money. The queen of hearts is the divorcee looking for love. And the queen of spades is the ultimate Black woman. It is a comedy and won ‘Best Play’ here in Los Angeles when we produced it. I think you would have a good time reading it!

50BOLD:  Out of all the awards you’ve received thus far which one do you hold most near and dear to your heart?

Ted:  You know what, I’m going to tell you this. I fly back and forth to New York, but I’m based in Los Angeles. AUDELCO is an organization that acknowledges and honors Black theater and its artists in New York City and they gave me a Lifetime Achievement Award for my work as an actor, director, and playwright. And I’m not from New York! I don’t live in New York. But they still recognized me for what I’ve done over the span of my career. I’m proud of the award and honor.

50BOLD: Very impressive!

Ted:  Yes, it’s very, very nice.  It was a sweet gesture.

50BOLD:  I want to get your opinion on a hot button issue. Actress Taraji P. Henson is in the news discussing the disparities in compensation when it comes to Black actors. What is your feeling on the matter and do you agree with her?

Ted:  First of all, I totally agree with Taraji! That’s the first thing, Taraji is a woman. White guys there don’t give a shit about a woman, and that’s manifested in this guy, the Republican nominee, what’s that guy’s name, the one with the orange hair?

50BOLD:  Oh, do we even want to mention his name!

Ted:  Yeah!  Well, that guy is typical of how white men feel about women. And a Black woman on top of it! Listen, I’m going to tell you a story. First of all, when I was a film student, we’d have seminars with film guys. And this one film guy wanted to do a movie called Truck Turner, which they ended up doing with Isaac Hayes. You won’t remember this movie, but the film guy said it was cheaper to do a Black movie because you don’t have to pay them what you’d pay a white actor. Beverly Hills Cop was written for Sylvester Stallone. Sylvester rewrote the movie, then said, he’d do it. It was given a read-through then deemed too expensive. So, they got a Black guy, Eddie Murphy.

50BOLD:  Incredibly sad…

Ted: They always pay less. By the time I got to The Love Boat, well, first of all, I was more famous than Fred Grandy (Gopher) but they put me in a later position, you know. They put him ahead of me. Now, I know, I was making less money because I was the only Black guy on the show. So, I made less than anyone.

50BOLD:  Of course, you did.

Ted:  Yeah, so in your contract, you’re good with the Screen Actors’ Guild, or you’re good with SAG-AFTRA which is the union. Your contract might mention favored nations. So, if your contract terms are granted on a most favored nations basis, then none of your fellow performers can have better contract terms than yours.

Okay, so I’m going to tell you a story. Understand that on the show, I’m the low man on the totem pole because I’m Black.

50BOLD:  Right.

Ted: They’re not going to give me, the same thing they give white actors. So, they made a mistake and signed me to a five-year contract because they didn’t think The Love Boat was going to be successful. In the fourth year they said, ‘Hey, we want to re-sign you to a new contract.’ If they sign me in the fourth year, I can’t hold them up in the fifth year. You know what I’m saying?

On the show, Gopher, Doc, and Isaac, are all on the same level contract-wise. And they go, ‘Yeah, yeah. The Captain gets the most, and the girl gets the most.’ The three of us guys are on the same level. I let them know, ‘Well, all I want is favored nations with those other two guys.’ And they say, ‘Well, don’t you want something else? Don’t you want this or that?’ I said, ‘Nope. I just want the same thing you are giving the other two guys.’ Cause if I received what the white guys were making, then, I’d become the highest paid Black actor at that time. Well, I got them to agree to favored nations.

50BOLD: Well, alright now!

Ted:  So, we’re sitting in the dressing room and Bernie Kopell says, ‘I deserve more money than you guys. I’ve been around longer than you. I’ve done more work, more television series than you. I’m going to get more than you guys get.’ And I said, ‘Bernie, take them for as much as you can take them for.’ Well, whatever he received, I was going to also get because that’s the deal I made!

50BOLD:  Right, right!

Ted:  So, Taraji is not lying when she says, they don’t pay her, what they pay the white girls. Viola Davis and Meryl Streep don’t get paid the same…

50BOLD:  No, they don’t! I read Viola’s book. I can’t think of the title, but it was such a good book. She discusses in her book, how Black actresses doesn’t get paid the same as white actresses.

Ted:  Viola’s book is called Finding Me. Now, look on page 63 of her book. Do you know who her hero was?

50BOLD:  I don’t remember right off hand.

Ted:  Junior from That’s My Mama!

50BOLD:  What!

Ted:  I’m mentioned in Viola’s book on page 63. I couldn’t believe it! I went out and got the book.

50BOLD:  Oh, yeah, I mean it’s an excellent book. I really enjoyed it.

Ted: Tough life huh. What a fucking life…

50BOLD: Oh, my God!

Ted:  She breaks your heart, man! They owe Viola and Taraji. When have they been bad? Where have they failed in a role?  If they decide to pick them, you fucking owe them! Give them their money! Because you know they’re going to deliver. It ain’t like a question!

I studied acting. I studied directing. I studied writing. I’ve interviewed and worked with producers so now, I can produce my own plays if I want. I’m learning as much as I can about the gig I’m in. About the industry I’m in. You have an obligation as a Black person in show business to learn as much as possible about any gig you’re doing.

50BOLD: Yeah, you’ve got to know your craft, the ins and outs of it.

Ted:  Yeah, that’s right.

50BOLD:  As a creative, is there anything you’ve yet to tackle? Is there anything left on your bucket list that you want to accomplish?

Ted:  Well, yeah, I want to do movies of my plays. I’ve got 26 plays. I could do a movie a year, and not repeat. But I don’t think I’m going to last 26 years. I did Othello on film. I did it on stage at the Inner City Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and then I made a movie of it. When I made the movie, the industry wouldn’t release it and so, I went bankrupt. After that situation, I never tried to finance a movie again. I did, however, write plays that told the stories I wanted to tell. I could go to any city in the country and there’s usually a Black theater there.

I’ve got a play now that I’ve been going around trying to get theaters to look at, it’s called Blues in my Coffee. It’s a Black Lives Matter play. It talks about survival. It’s a comedy until the very end of the play. I’d love to do the play as a movie. But you know, I don’t have movie money. And with many of these industry guys, it’s a closed shop. If you’re not a Tyler Perry, they don’t want to hear you.

50BOLD: Got it.

Ted:  Yeah. So, the thing I’d like to do is turn my plays into movies; this is on my bucket list.

50BOLD: I pray it happens for you! So, how do you de-stress?

Ted:  How do I de-stress? Well, I like to read. I’m reading the Sly Stone memoir, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). I also like backgammon. If I’m really stressed, I go to the gym because I believe, you’ve got to sweat to keep from hurting yourself. You know what I mean?

If I ever get filled with tension, like if I’m at the studio, I’ll walk around the block. When I was on The Love Boat, Fred Grandy and I would go to the gym and play racquetball. And it wasn’t about winning. It was about hitting that ball as hard as you could hit it, you know. Working out a sweat.

50BOLD:  My last question for you, and this is how we usually end our interviews. When Ted Lange arrives at those Pearly Gates what will God say to you?

Ted: God will say to me, What do you mean you want to go back!’ (laughs) And I will respond, ‘I can’t complete my bucket list. I’ve got 26 plays. I’ve got to go back, Lord. I’ve got to go back! I just want to save a couple of things here you know. I’ve got to talk to some of these white people because they got the wrong idea you know, about you and me!

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