Joan Mac Trevor has investigated behind the scenes of “Rick Hunter”, the series of TF1.
Television has already well exploited the genre: Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in “Moonlighting”, Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist in “Remington Steele”, Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber in “Dempsey & Makepeace”, Tony Danza and Judith Light in “Who’s the boss?”…Take a man and a woman, put them together, stir up their charm, and give them incompatible personalities so that they can’t stand each other. Apparently, people never tire of following this little attraction/repulsion game, of predicting that the subtle feelings will evolve and being on the lookout for the inevitable moment when the sexual attraction will be stronger than reason. After all, who hasn’t ever experienced the exciting rapture of these ambiguous relations?…But, at this dangerous game, without a doubt, “Rick Hunter” carries off the endurance prize.
One of Fred Dryer’s favourite anecdotes gives speaks volumes of his relations with the pretty Stepfanie, after almost six years of shooting and about 110 episodes. It happened at the beginning of the series. They were both sitting side by side inside a car:
-“We didn’t know anything about each other yet” says Fred. “Waiting for the director say «Action!», I told her: “You are very pretty”. She shot daggers at me: “I don’t intend to sleep with you!” We looked at each other. She started to laugh, I laughed too. There are some details like this one that you have inevitably to settle when a friendship starts between a man and a woman. And progressively, we have jumped the obstacles.”
All the same, they ended up being in the same bed… in the course of one episode, because there was no other place at the hotel. A subtle way to remind the audience that the sexual attraction, the desire hadn’t said its last word, but this desire was still had a ways to go to win the battle. But, if the amorous suspense of the series holds the road so well, it’s maybe because, in reality, nobody is able to predict where the divorcee Fred Dryer and the single Stepfanie Kramer will jump off the fence.
-“I don’t go out with Stepfanie. At the very most, we have sometimes gone out to a restaurant. We have also attended some concerts together. Just one concert, if I remember correctly. In fact, I’m wondering if it wasn’t with someone else…”
Fred Dryer can joke but he can’t hide that, after six years side by side, at least 12 hours a day on a set, he still thinks her partner is just as pretty:
-“What is surprising with her, it’s that she isn’t at all like the person who appears on the screen. Made up, well dressed, she is the glamour queen. And when you see her in real life, she looks like the service station girl in working clothes…but in both cases she is very attractive!”
And she has an as bad a temper as he does according to what the writers think. Once, Stepfanie went on strike, stopping production for several days, because the her character’s fate didn’t suit her. Recently, a writer, Fred McKnight left, slamming the door: “I refuse to be one of these lackeys who follow “Mister” Dryer, a shovel in their hands, to happily scoop up his shit!”. It speaks volumes for the ambiance on the set! Sometimes there’s thunder in the air on the “Hunter” set!
-“Do you know what people want?” rages Fred Dryer. “They want to see us, both Stepfanie and I, to go on doing what we do, like we do it. We have both worked like crazy to create these characters, and I won’t let anyone destroy our work!”.
Dryer isn’t entirely wrong. Even the series producer, Stephen J. Cannell, recognizes it and gives his stars more latitude than other TV stars get.
-“Some of our best scenes have been completely improvised! It often happens that we both have a look at the scene, we look at each other and we tell the director: “We are going to manage by ourselves!”
-“The habit of improvising our dialogue came in proportion as our relationship developed. Stepfanie is very witty, very funny…why do not take advantage of her talents?”
Stepfanie has more other talents. Notably, she is able to calm her volcanic partner when he is losing his temper on the set:
- “She always intervenes to calm the discussions. It’s almost like we’re an old married couple! She tells me: “Don’t get excited like that!” I answer her: “Listen to me, I appreciate your efforts, but this time I’m really fed up!” And on that, she casts an imperturbable glance at me, probably thinking something like: “ Who has stuck me with this unbearable guy?” “It’s true that, sometimes I would need a kick in the ass!.. Someone took care of it for the first twenty years of my life. It helps to be reminded that we are not always the greatest, the best looking, and the strongest. But, apparently, nobody wants to offend stars and especially the stars of my stature!”
At 6’ 6” tall, Fred Dryer smiles at the joke. In spite of the fact that she is 5’ 6” (heels not included), Stepfanie Kramer seems to be the one who dares to raise the bar enough to put her partner’s ideas in their place. As in the series, when the opportunity presents itself, being honest makes the best of friends -“Nevertheless, I’m not as aggressive, physically and verbally, as Dee Dee in “Rick Hunter”. I consider myself to be a very normal woman who works in an extremely abnormal industry. Show business is full of seriously unbalanced and superficial people.”
That might be one of the reasons why her dog, Maggie, is still the one who shares her home in the San Fernando Valley. Not so long ago, Stepfanie, 32, still even lived at her mother’s home!
-“Success attracts some men and intimidates some others…and I’m not interested in a man who I intimidate. I don’t want someone who fantasizes and deludes himself about me. I want to be seen as a real person and not like a TV character.”
And the stars both agree to that their long work hours don’t give them time to meet someone. But between them, there is nothing else but a deep respect and a sincere friendship. Nevertheless, one day, the “Hunter” stars nearly “took the plunge
-“The director asked us if we saw an objection to McCall and Hunter becoming lovers. At the very outset, we both agreed, but we started to wonder: “What will happen, how will the scene work where we are kissing so passionately?” And we both had the feeling that it would become a problem. Ever since then, don’t talk about it anymore.”
What problem? Sometimes, there are questions that one must leave in suspense. But who knows, time can change minds…Maybe one day, they will talk about it again!
Photo 2: Stepfanie Kramer and Fred Dryer on the shooting of “Rick Hunter” last episodes. A dangerous game that’s been going on for 6 years. “You inevitably have to settle some details when beginning a friendship between a man and a woman” says the TV star.
Photo 3-4: Only one woman dares to stand up to this former champion football, 6’ 6”, when he gets angry: Stepfanie Kramer, 5’6”. “It’s true that sometimes,” admits Fred Dryer, “ I would need someone to kick me in the ass!”
Photo 5: Hard at work with the director and the crew. Fred Dryer has much more power than most stars and a plain speaking manner that doesn’t sit well with everyone. Lately, a writer left, slamming the door: “I’m not «Mister» Dryer’s lackey!”
Photo 6: To Joan Mac Trevor, Dryer revealed his attraction for his pretty partner: “I told her: “You’re very pretty”. She shot daggers at me: “I don’t intend to sleep with you!”