Gavin MacLeod was once considered for two iconic TV roles that he didn’t get, but he became a TV star anyway on two of the most memorable hits in TV history.
It was just that kind of serendipity — in which one day you’re working and the next day you’re not — that led MacLeod, now 82, to his firm belief in God.
What other explanation can there be for his career? he asks now, looking back at his life in a new memoir in bookstores this week titled “This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life.”
In the book — which we’ve read and highly recommend — the actor talks about his life’s many ups and downs, including the death of his father when young Gavin was just 13, the actor’s struggles with alcohol, his moments of despair (including the time he nearly committed suicide); and his triumphs, his hit shows and the twists of fate that led to them.
“I look back at my career — being bald when I’m young, having these kind of short legs …,” he said wonderingly when XfinityTV caught up with him for a phone interview the other day.
He was referring to physical traits that, when he was much younger, he felt would hold him back in the acting business. But instead, they eventually worked to his advantage.
The way he looked helped producers envision him as the put-upon, “brown-bagging” (as he puts it) television news writer Murray Slaughter in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Later, his “mature” look made him the perfect choice to play Capt. Merrill Stubing, beloved skipper of “The Love Boat” (from which his memoir gets its name).
The two shows assured his place in TV history, even if he didn’t get the other two roles he was considered for. One was Lou Grant, the newsroom boss that would come to be played by Ed Asner on “Mary Tyler Moore.” The other role was Archie Bunker on “All in the Family,” but that job went to MacLeod’s long-time friend, Carroll O’Connor, who made history of his own.
In fact, MacLeod’s personal history in Hollywood intertwines with all sorts of famous names — from iconic movie stars such as Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and Steve McQueen, all of whom MacLeod worked with at some point or another, to the casts of “Mary Tyler Moore” and “The Love Boat,” which became famous for its guest-stars.
He took his role as captain very seriously. “As the captain, I would meet them and then give them a hug and welcome them,” he said of the show’s guest-stars, particularly the many older ones who were famous in Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1930s and ’40s, but who hadn’t worked in a while — including Ginger Rogers, Alice Faye, John Mills, Olivia de Havilland and many more.
"I just pinched myself every single day on that show thinking what a gift it was to be able to meet these people," MacLeod said. "And a lot of them hadn't worked in 25, 30 years."
He said he wrote this memoir now for a very simple reason. “We decided to do it now because I’m 82,” he said, “while I can still remember!”
XfinityTV Bonus: Watch Gavin MacLeod in these classic episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Love Boat”: