Interview with Tim Reid of “A Welcome Home Christmas” on Lifetime by Suzanne 10/28/20
I really enjoyed this interview. Most people are probably familiar with his work through his many roles, starting with Venus Flytrap in “WKRP in Cinncinnati,” or Lt. Brown in “Simon & Simon,” Ray in “Sister, Sister,” Bishop Jeffries in “Greenleaf,” or his many other roles. I just loved him in those first two series, so I made sure to watch him after that. I’m a huge fan. He’s a brilliant person and activist as well as actor and filmmaker. He’s not the star of this Lifetime holiday movie, but he’s an important part of it. Don’t miss it because it’s fun, romantic and inspiring.
Suzanne: So, how did your part in this movie come about?
Tim: Someone called me, and I said, “Yes.” The old fashioned way.
Suzanne: Oh! So, do you find that you don’t have to interview so much anymore? They just call you?
Tim: No, sometimes. You know, I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a Christmas movie for the last, I guess, four or five years, and I’ve done a couple of them through Lifetime, Oprah, and a few other places, Hallmark. So, they were familiar with my work and thought that I would fit the role of General O’Toole. I said, “Yes.” I got the script, and I liked it. It was dealing with something that’s current today: soldiers and coming home and some of the angst that they go through. I thought, “Oh, it’s a nice theme; it’s a different way to do a Christmas movie.” So, I came on, and they did a wonderful job.
Suzanne: Yeah, I watched it. It was good. I enjoyed it.
Tim: I was pleased to be a part of it.
Suzanne: Were you familiar with any of the cast and crew?
Tim: Not before. Well, of course, Charlene [Tilton], I knew her from from the old days, but other than Charlene, I did not know the other actors. [They were] very nice actors and good people.
We were all under a very difficult shoot, because we one of the first movies, if not the first movie, to have to operate under the new rules and regulations from both unions, SAG-AFTRA, and DGA and APSE, and so we were sort of like the test case. It was very difficult, but that being said, I applaud the crew and the production team and, of course, the cast for putting up with these rules. There wasn’t anything that anybody could do to stop it. I mean, our businesses look different than the rest of the world, because we have not only strong unions, but we have a sense – we know our business is a very dangerous business. People don’t realize how dangerous making a movie can be, but it is, and it’s one that doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for debate. It is very dictatorial, based on you take the job, the calls for you to do a particular task, lighting, acting, whatever, makeup, and you’re told these are the rules. You have to wear a mask, and you can’t take that mask off until the director yells action, if you’re an actor. If you’re not an actor, you don’t take it off at all. And you will be tested. Every other day, someone will stick a cotton swab up your nose, and you will do that every other day.
Now you have the option of saying, “You are violating my rights,” [but] then you go home, and somebody else will come in and do that job. So, if you don’t want to do it, don’t come. If you come, these are the rules.
And I think because of that, it was very difficult when you’ve got so many people, actors and crews, and you have to be tested; the cost of that, one hundred dollars a pop. We were there three weeks. We had to stay in quarantine for one full week, because somebody did come down [with it], were tested positive, I should say. So, from that point on, I was under quarantine in a hotel in the middle of somewhere in Tennessee, where I think you’d go for witness protection, but there was nothing going on there, and the hotel was on lockdown, so I couldn’t leave. I was stuck there for several days in the middle of this pandemic, and it was a test of character for everybody.
And you’ve got to remember, when we’re shooting, you see these wonderful shots of us, and there’s no masks. The directors just yells, “Roll camera,” and everybody who’s in front of the camera takes off their mask. Everybody behind the camera, every human being, has a mask on. You know, we’re supposed to be playing winter, right? It’s 85 degrees, and I got on a coat, and we’ve got snow, fake snow, around, and you’ve got to act like it’s cold. Imagine working with a mask on at 80 something degrees, carrying heavy equipment and all of that. It wasn’t an easy job, but everybody worked hard. I think the look of it is certainly good, and the performances are good, but I give my hat to the crew and the production unit, because it was like a war. I mean, it really was difficult for them, more so than I’ve ever had to go through anything like that.
Now everybody has to do it; we were some of the first to do it, but we pulled it off. I appreciate the opportunity. I learned from it, and I applied it in my work and what we’re doing.
Suzanne: Good. Yeah, when I watched it, it was a very rough take, and I’m used to seeing the screeners ahead of time, but it seemed like there was more than usual of these little things where it said [on the screen] , “visual effects, add snow,” whatever.
Tim: Well, yeah, it was 80, 90 degrees some days, and it was for the exterior stuff. It was not easy, but even interior is hot inside. We’re in hangars and offices and, you know, air conditioning is in some of these buildings. They were not active buildings, because the quarantine closed down the city. I mean, this town was pretty much shut down. So, it was an interesting shoot.
Suzanne: I’m sure. I’m hearing that a lot from various people I’ve been interviewing. It sort of adds an interesting layer to the interviews, that people have been talking about the pandemic or the shooting.
Tim: Well, it tests your character, that’s for sure. But here’s the news: if you don’t want to do the job, go home; somebody else will do it.
Suzanne: I thought it was funny when they paired your character with Charlene Tilton. She’s so much shorter than you are.
Tim: Yes, I’ve known Charlene from way back when she was on Dallas. So, when they told me I was working with her, I said, “Oh, wonderful,” and then I thought, “Oh my god, she comes to my elbow, but we worked it out, [with] a few apple boxes here and there. We were fine. I hadn’t seen her in many, many years.
Suzanne: Yeah, she’s looking good.
Tim: Yeah, she’s hanging in there. She’s still got that vivacious character and fun sense of humor.
Suzanne: It added to the comedy of the of the characters, I think, that she’s so much shorter than you are.
Tim: Yes. It does happen in real life.
Suzanne: So, I was in high school when WKRP was on. So, I remember watching you on that, and I loved Simon & Simon, and I watched Frank’s Place, and I really loved Linc’s; I wanted to tell you.
Tim: Wow, [that’s rare] for somebody bring that up. That was my pet project.
Suzanne: I was so upset when it didn’t go longer than a couple years.
Tim: I’m upset that they won’t give me the 33 episodes. I did 33 episodes. I’m trying to get them back, because they deficit financed Viacom Productions, then they were sold to CBS. So, I’ve been trying to get them back, because I want to put them on streaming, then do maybe four more, five more episodes of today. You know, those people today, those who would come and then are recasted. But I thought now that show would be a wonderful show. Just think of the politics we could get into.
Suzanne: I think it was a little bit ahead of its time, right?
Tim: Yeah. I’m tired of being ahead of the time. Linc’s was ahead of the time. I want to be right up with what’s happening.
Suzanne: Well, that was the first time I noticed – I don’t know if it was her first role, but Golden Brooks.
Tim: It was her first role.
Suzanne: She was so great.
Tim: Also, a young man who played the cab driver from Nigeria in the first 10 or 12 episodes, he went on to do Oz and is big time actor now. That was his first job.
Suzanne: So, which role do people usually recognize your most for?
Tim: It depends on the age. I’ve been around for almost 45 years in the business, so, you know, your father and grandfather would know me from WKRP. Some baby boomers would know me from, like you say, Simon & Simon or That 70’s Show, and then the young people know me from Sister, Sister.
Suzanne: Yeah, and I guess that’s streaming somewhere too.
Tim: Yeah, it’s setting a record. I mean, it’s the most watch streaming show on Netflix of any brought back show like that. So, people are finding it, and I think the timing of what’s going on with young people, especially the Z generation, they’re seeing themselves reflected in the show in a way that normally wouldn’t take the time to watch, but because everybody’s in lock down, I think [binge-watching] is helping a show like that. Once a week, it’s hard to stay in tune to the characters, but when you watch three or four of them in a row, you are there. You’re into these characters. You watch the nuances and the pathos and all that stuff that’s happening. You don’t see on them; you forget, but when you’re in it [you do]. And I’ve had some correspondence with people who are watching, and they’re saying, basically, that they saw it in reruns, but they never knew this was going on, the lessons.
Suzanne: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of 90s nostalgia right now, too, so there’re a lot of people who grew up watching those shows that are going back and finding them.
Suzanne: Tell me about your new streaming network.
Tim: Legacy of a People Network, that’s the full title, but the logo title is LGCY of a People Network. That’s what you can find me on; if you go on our webpage, it will be LGCY of a People Network. I chose a platform and advertising based platform to put all the content on, but what you do, if you go to my webpage, is you’re one click away from any title that you see there. We are trying to create a more international view of the African diaspora wherever they may find themselves. We have production, connections and talent, behind the camera talent, writers, producers, in London, in Nigeria, and Ethiopia, and now in South Africa, and they will be providing the original content and some of their other content.
Then, of course, I’m doing original content here. We’re going to be doing some talent; we’ve got some exciting talent coming up. We’ve got a young lady from South Africa, who is in the mole of Trevor Noah. I’m giving her a show called The Theta Show. It’s a talk show, but it starts out small, 15 to 20 minutes, and then we’ll see where we go with it. She’s very funny, a great singer and opinionated, feminist, and I think there’s nothing like that in the nighttime programming in America. So, hopefully, she’ll find a spot.
All these shows, they’re organically being created. So, we’re following how people respond to them and the subject matter, but I’ve seen so far three or four episodes, and I’m very excited about where this could go and how a talent could come out of it.
We have a young lady from Ethiopia doing cooking, lifestyle, and fashion, and Sally May, she’s an international model and all that, so we’re trying to bring it in. And we can redo a fitness show from someone. Again, these are a more personality driven shows as opposed to about fitness, but she’s certainly gonna shake up a few things with what she’s doing.
And I’m doing some stuff; we’re doing a talk show. Well, actually, it’s not a talk show. I call it a documentary. It’s a combination documentary talk show. We’ve done five episodes.
So, things like that. We’ve just going out there and seeing what we can do and give a different view of culture. You know, see it through someone else’s eyes for a while.
Suzanne: Yeah, I looked it over briefly. Interesting!
Suzanne: So, what have you been doing to keep busy during the pandemic?
Tim: Just what I just explained. I think one thing I didn’t realize, is that launching a network was going to be [so] involved, other than just content as it is. I had just returned from shooting over in Ethiopia. We went on lockdown. So, that is what actually caused me to think about doing the channel once on lockdown. You know, we’ve got to finish work we do on this project. So, I thought, you know what? I got all this stuff in my library, and I know these filmmakers, emerging filmmakers, why don’t we just put up something and stream it out there? So, I got this idea probably in March. It’s been in the back of my head for a while, but, I mean, I would say the idea I got the boldness to do it in March, and we took off from there.
So, I’ve been busy, busier than I imagined to be. My studio is a media center; it’s only about 10 minutes from where I live here in Richmond. So, between this and my home, is where I’ve been, and we try to keep them safe and clean, and very few people are involved. We never have more than three or four people in our shoot or wherever it is at one time, and everybody wears masks. So, it’s been easier to adapt to that kind of working atmosphere. So, we’ve been very busy. I did travel to shoot the movie. Other than that, that’s all I’ve been doing, creating content.
Suzanne: Most of the things you’ve mentioned were nonfiction. Are you going to have fictional content as well?
Tim: Yeah, we have in the movie shorts – I call them shorter shorts – you will find a lot of fictional [content]. As a matter of fact, we just we put up a couple of sci-fi pieces from one of my associates in London, and we will be adding more movies. The movies, of course, are the hardest thing to really get, but I wanted where we just put a movie up. I want to do sort of a Turner Classic movie style. In other words, context; I want to put the movie in context. I want somebody to talk about what was going on in the world when the movie was made, how the movie either was affected by what was going on or affected what was going on, and then in the end, what happened to these people? Who were they? Even in a classic movie.
So, the ones we have up now, one of my favorite movies that fits now, is Native Son, the original Native Son, with the writer, an author playing himself in it.
Then we have a movie from London, one of my associates in London, his movie, Emotional Backgammon. That is a mystery shocker at the end, but again, deals with the issues that are in our [world] now.
Then we have two more coming. We have a movie with people Sidney Poitier and Eartha Kit and [John] McIntyre from the 50s, I think, called The Mark of the Hawk, and it deals with the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya.
So, those, and then we’re doing another movie; we’re bringing a movie from Ethiopia that will be subtitled about the war in Ethiopia, but it’s a love story. Different things that you won’t see on normal television.
Suzanne: That sounds interesting. I’m gonna have to check that out.
Tim: Yeah, it’s called “Here’s to Movies,” and if you go to our page, you’ll see a little thing, click on it, and it will take you straight there. Hopefully, I mean, what I want the page to be, is one click away from anything that we have.
Suzanne: You mentioned Native Son. Is that by Richard Wright?
Tim: Yes, Richard Wright.
Suzanne: I read that a while ago.
Tim: This was the movie that he made…It’s from the 50s; I think 52 or 53.
Suzanne: I have to watch that.
So, do you have anything else coming out that you can tell us about?
Tim: I can say I’m springing talent. We have some new programs. Every week, I put up something new, a lot of documentaries, a lot of lifestyles.
We just put up a new cooking show, I mean, a new episode of the cooking show, and we’re going to add stuff every week; there’s going to be something new going up.
I’m launching a comedian out of South Africa, probably in two weeks, putting her up, and we have a thing called “She Speaks,” which is going to be a a piece for women, spoken word artists. I’m going to have – I already shot some time ago a thing with Nikki Giovanni, she will speak. I’ve got a young lady named Gina Loring out of LA, who’s a very powerful spoken word artist. It’s a place where women can go in and say and respond the way that they feel and not become concerned about staying within any kind of format. So, I have offered it to about three women, and one of them has already sent something out, and that’s gonna go up probably in another two weeks, week after next. So, things like that.
I want to give people a voice. It’s time we see the world through other eyes instead of the standard structure of network television, or even Netflix. I mean, Netflix is gobbling up as much content as they possibly can. I understand that. But, again, context, you know?
Suzanne: It seems to be, I don’t know if it’s just a temporary thing or if it’s gonna keep going, but it does seem like the networks are all doing a lot more African American content and stars than they were before.
Tim: Yes, they are acquiring it, and I think that the talent pool is so large; it’s so great, so many different kinds of talent both in front of behind the camera, but my major push, and it’s not a complaint, it’s a reality, is until we get people within the confines of the corporations that make decisions, the green lighters, a lot of this stuff is still going to be filtered. In other words, it has to fit the format of the controlling the people who control the propaganda; let’s put it in a very direct way. So, I hope, and I know that there are people out there who want to be free of that and begin to reveal culture through their eyes and not have to put the filter, the confines of the structure of the network, or we only do things that are this kind of stuff, but we want to do stuff that relates to this and have a place where you can go and someone says to you, as I’m saying to these creative people, “Tell us your story, and explain it, and express it in the way that you feel best suits your your purpose. What’s your purpose? Who’s your audience?” And I know, in the time that I’ve produced television for network, you seldom get that. You have a structure; you have a genre. You have this, and within that.
I mean, you look back at comedies. Until recently, 95% of all comedies were written and created by white people.
Tim: Black comedies, I mean. Not just comedies. People are asking me about Seinfeld. They said, “Were you a fan of Seinfeld?” I said, “Not really.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but there were never any black people on it. Why would I sit down and watch something – [It was] one of the reasons I didn’t go to Woody Allen movies; why would I go to a Woody Allen movie? There are no [black] people. It doesn’t sound anything like the reality that I live in.
But we’re now beginning to see from all kinds of structures, you know, comedies that deal more from the propaganda point of view of the creators. I like that. I mean, that’s storytelling, I like to see people who have the ability to tell their story, their way.
Suzanne: Yeah, we need more shows like Black-ish. That’s a good one; I love that show.
Tim: I have not watched it. I think I watched one episode.
…We have a tendency in our business, and it’s a very crude way to say it, but we eat our own waste, you know what I mean? It’s like, if you’re going to be a creator, you have to be able to – first you study the masters. You learn your craft; you find a style and a master that makes you feel like this. “This is the path that will allow me to discover myself.” Once you do discover yourself, then you have to become a master. You have to begin to create the kind of things that someone else will want to follow. And I think be free to tell your story, you have to have people who will commit, to give you that freedom.
I think that Netflix, Apple Plus, and all that stuff, they are [going in] the right direction. However, when you start something, the first thing you do is bring in the old players. You go to your tried and true. So, that’s not really doing anything dangerous. Of course, Spielberg’s going to give you a good show, of course, you know, all the people – I just saw on Comedy Central, Jon Stewart has gotten a show. Great; that’s wonderful, but that’s not being daring.
Give me a show like I’m giving this young lady out of South Africa; give somebody a show who has talent and enhance the passion and see what they can come up with. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it will not. So, I don’t see that kind from the people who control the space and the time. They’ll try things, and if it works, it works, but as soon as it works, then it becomes the model for everybody else, but there’s an incredible talent pool out there in all cultures. [There’s] a great talent pool, and I think the young generation, especially z generation, are more interested now in new and interesting concepts, because they’ve got to create a new world for us, because we can’t do it, obviously. If this the world that we have created, if this is what we plan as a model, we’re in deep trouble. So, we need some young energy, some passion, that will say, “All right, I don’t like what you guys have done. I’m going to do it this way.” Now, we’re not going to like that, but out of that will come a new thing, and I think that change is a wonderful thing. We need to change more, give opportunity for change, us old timers.
Suzanne: Right. I think there should be more dramas. You see a lot of black comedies and soap operas dramas, but you don’t see shows like – well, take that one that you did a long while ago, Snoops. You don’t see any cop shows or private eyes or anything different than just, you know, soap operas, really.
Tim: Well, you know, I say, stealing from the masses, Snoops was literally The Thin Man. That’s what it was…The network just could not get their head around it, and the audience.
I remember one of the worst write-ups I’ve ever had for anything I’ve ever created for television came out of the New York Post. I can’t think of the guy’s name, but he was a serial writer for New York. He basically said, “Snoops, out there, Tim Reid, at a time when black people are struggling and living in the thing, he comes out with a show with this state department professor at Georgetown, how dare him. He’s not showing real black life,” and I’m going, “What? This is insane.” In other words, you know, Jared said a few weeks ago that we should all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and most of us don’t want to do it, but then, when you do it, you’re criticized for portraying a world that they can’t comprehend. In other words, he can’t comprehend that a black woman would be working for the State Department and a black man is a professor at Georgetown. He just couldn’t comprehend them living in in Georgetown. I was like, “Oh man, this is sad.” You know, what hurt me about the review, is he didn’t really review the show; it’s just he was so upset that I had the audacity to put a whirl in, when I’m saying, “Even then I knew black billionaires.” I knew people better than those two characters, but unless you can conceive of that –
There’s a wonderful show coming out of South Africa called Queen Sono.
Suzanne: Yeah, that’s really good; I saw that.
Tim: Is that not a wonderful show?
Suzanne: It is.
Tim: I love the writing, because I love how they have exposed apartheid. They actually pulled the curtain back and showed you the man behind the curtain, and in that way they tell the story. And I’m like, “Wow, these guys are awake.” They are writing some really interesting scenarios in a drama format, and the young lady, she’s incredible. I mean, she makes James Bond look like a wimp, but I like that, and it’s coming out of South Africa, and it’s well done. It looks good. It has great use of of camera work and lighting and wardrobe. More of those. I want to see those come from not just [there]. I certainly love this country, and now that I can’t travel anywhere else, I gotta love it more, but there are so many other cultures, including of the African diaspora, that should be exposed. Nigeria is beginning to get exposed more about fashion, out of Ghana. I mean, there’re some exciting things happening, as opposed to just what’s happening in the world of hip hop, the world in America. You know, all of entertainment in America is focused around 40 some million people, but there are 20 million Caribbean’s; there are 110 million Ethiopians. There are 180 million Nigerians. The African continent is a billion people of African descent. You got 10, 12 million Europeans. How are they living?
Suzanne: Well, I think that’s one good thing about Netflix, is they have a lot of shows that Americans wouldn’t see otherwise. They have a lot of foreign shows on there.
Tim: Yes, and they’re changing, you know, until they run out of money, and if they keep doing what they’re doing, they will do that soon, but they are the only – There are a lot of people following them that try and do [that], but they are the first ones to realize that if you just keep eating the same diet, it’s going to affect [things], because they’re global. I mean, my little thing is global. You can reach me anywhere in the world on the internet. So, I’m global.
Here is the audio version of it.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
A Welcome Home Christmas Starring Jana Kramer, Brandon Quinn, Tim Reid, Charlene Tilton, Craig Morgan
11/7 at 8pm ET/PT Repeats on Veteran’s Day 11/11
Chloe (Jana Kramer) has always supported various military organizations, including the town’s Army toy drive for Christmas. This year, she is paired up with Michael (Brandon Quinn), a vet who recently returned home, and together they recruit other veterans and active military personnel to help in the cause. As the community gears up for the Officer’s Christmas Ball, where all the kids will meet Santa Claus and receive their gifts, Michael and Chloe begin to realize the greatest gift this season has been each other’s company. Craig Morgan also stars. A Welcome Home Christmas is produced by Johnson Production Group with Timothy O. Johnson and Michael Vickerman serving as executive producers. Brian Herzlinger directs from a script by T. Booker James.
Tim Reid’s bio from IMDB
Tim Reid was born December 19, 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia and came from a troubled, impoverished childhood. He straightened out his life enough to attend Norfolk State College (now University) and graduate with a business administration degree. He worked for Du Pont in Chicago for a period of time in the late 60s and married his first wife Rita, whom he met at college. They had two children, Tim Reid II (born 1968) and Tori Reid (born 1971); both are currently involved in entertainment. His first taste of the limelight came around the turn of the 70s when he met an insurance agent named Tom Dreesen, and the two of them decided to form a nightclub act called “Tim and Tom”. Within six years, both the team and his first marriage had dissolved. At this juncture, Tim decided to focus completely on acting, took up drama classes, and worked as a comic. TV and commercial work started coming his way, finding regular placements on a number of variety series that starred Frankie Avalon, The 5th Dimension singers Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., and Richard Pryor in the late 70s.
His biggest break, however, came after nabbing the cool and very hip role of “Venus Flytrap” on TV’s WKRP in Cincinnati (1978). It is this radio disc jockey character for which Tim is still best known. Other TV series came his way, including Simon & Simon (1981) as Lt. Marcel “Downtown” Brown. Once firmly established, Tim started taking more control over his career. After fronting a number of series including Frank’s Place (1987), Snoops (1989) and, most notably, Sister, Sister (1994), he and wife, Daphne Reid, co-founded their own production studio (New Millenium Studios), the first ever built in his native state of Virginia. The short-lived program Linc’s (1998), starring both Tim and Daphne, was the first to come out of the studio. Over the years, Daphne has been a frequent partner to Tim both in front and behind the camera lens, as actress and co-producer. Toning down his slick facade over the years, the handsome, mustachioed actor has dedicated himself to films and other projects that have raised social issues as well as increase black awareness. More recently, in 2002, he released his film For Real (2003), which was made at his studio. It took an updated African-American spin on the “Pygmalion” story and starred Tim in the “Henry Higgins” role. The film opened the fifth anniversary of the Hollywood Black Film Festival.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda