Interview : Harry Groener

To a globe full of "Buffy" fans he’ll always be best known as the deliciously evil Mayor Richard Wilkins III, but as much as actor Harry Groener loves – and will always cherish – his time as the Slayer’s enemy, he’s looking forward to concentrating on the future. Right now, he’s appearing in "About Schmidt" opposite Jack Nicholson. CLINT MORRIS caught up with The Mayor, ahem Harry, to talk about it.

How did you get involved with "About Schmidt"?
I got involved with About Schmidt the same way I do with most jobs. I auditioned for it. My agent set up the aud, I went in, met Alexander, who is great by the way, read for the part and it all worked out. My wife, Dawn Didawick, also read that day for my wife in the movie. Alexander loved her aand for the longest time it was going to be Dawn and me. But then they saw Connie, Connie Ray, and felt she was closer to their concept of the part. Alexander was great. When he called to tell me I got the part, he also explained to Dawn why she didn’t get it. He was very gracious and said it really was more about type and not talent because he loved Dawn in the part. I thought that was pretty cool. A lot of directors don’t have the balls to do that. He was terrific.

Do you still get recognized as The Mayor?
Yes, everyday. On the bus, the street, the stores, everywhere. It’s great. And boy do they love the Mayor. So do I.

Have you ever been asked to come back and play him?
Yes, for the first episode of the 4th season and for the first episode of the current season. This year most of the villians were brought back for the end of the episode where we had something to do with Spike. It was very cool and no, I don’t know if we’ll be back for more. That would be great. I would love to come back.

How was working with Jack Nicholson on "Schmidt"?
Working with Jack was wonderful, and I was very suprised to see that he was sort of shy. It took about a week to shoot the scene. By the end of the week he was kidding around a bit more and easier to talk to. I thought that was funny because he has this persona of being too cool for words and you wouldn’t think of Jack Nicholson and being shy. But he was great.

You’ve starred in some good flicks. Any faves?
You’re very kind to say so but I have’nt "starred" in any films. I’ve had some very good parts and I hope they will get even better but no starring roles. The films were all fun in one way or the other but I would say that I really loved doing a film called "Manna from Heaven". We shot that in Buffalo, NY , I had a lovely part, great people. It’s out there now released in this town and that. It was an independant film with no money at all for publicity but every one who gets a chance to see it just loves it. I liked working on "Patch Adams" because Robin Williams is the best, and I really had fun on "Day the World ended", a film for TV. My first horror film and I had blast. "Brubaker" was fun because I get to work with Robert Redford for goodness sake. It was my first movie and I was in heaven. I also liked "Road to Perdition" I only had one day on that one but Tom Hanks was wonderful to me and very generous. He’s just a great guy, a regular "Joe".

Any behind-the-scenes stories for the "Buffy" fans?
Not too many behind the scenes stuff with Buffy except I loved having spiders on my face, swords in my chest, and knives in my hand. All that tech. stuff was fun. The cast is very special I think. Sarah is so wonderful and very professional. James, who plays Spike is very funny and loves to play, Tony is also great fun. I just had the best time. In "About Schmidt", Connie and I did try to put one thing in the dinner scene which would have been great. Alexander loved it but it wasn’t in the script and a lot of things get cut because of time. But, Connie and thought it would be wonderful if, when we sat down to dinner we asked Jack (Warren) if he would care to say grace. And we wouldn’t tell Jack about it so that it would be a suprise and then he would just play it while the camera was rolling and he would say whatever he would say. It puts Warren in an awkward position and would be great for Jack to play. Well it was hysterical. Jack was great. He tried to say grace but not really knowing one he just said whatever came into his head and tried to be nice and do the right thing and he made it through. When Alexander called cut, the crew just burst into laughter, as did Alexander, and everyone thought it was so funny we took a few more takes with Jack saying grace and then moved on. Jack also loved it. But scenes do get cut because of time so that’s probably why it’s not in the movie. Too bad.

What’s next for you??
Right now I’m in NY doing a Broadway play called "Imaginary Friends". It was written by Nora Ephron, Directed by Jack O’Brien who directed "Hairspray" that’s a big hit right now, and stars Cherry Jones and Swoosie Kurtz. It’s about two wonderful writers, Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. I play all the men in their lives. I play 9 of them in this show. We opened at the Barrymore theatre on the 12th of Dec. and will run until they stop buying tickets. After that Dawn and I will go back to LA.

ABOUT SCHMIDT Is now showing across America