That is a question that I have probably answered two or three times a week over the past 30 years. Wow, it wasn’t until this year that I really got to thinking about how long my entertainment career and that of the television medium have intersected.
While I personally do not start the clock on my first comedy appearance as a six-year-old on the set of Atlanta’s children’s TV show – “Tubby and Lester.” That was the beginning though. From there I moved to appearances in school plays, choral and music productions and performances, helping to entertain the mass of parents who wanted each of their little darlin’s to excel and be something special. One of my favorite roles was a pint size Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” I still joyously remember singing and dancing or let’s say moving to “76 Trombones” over and over again as I prepared. I am sure my loving parents got their fill long before the ultimate performance.
As I grew and my musical talents expanded, I chose a variation in the conventional path of community dramatic and musical productions to organizing my own band.
Rather than Rock and Roll, I chose country and rather than mainstream country I leaned towards the then growing genres of bluegrass and gospel. Within a short period of time, our fledgling children’s novelty act with its comedy routines, musical numbers and cute just flowing in every direction was becoming a favorite at fairs, festivals and churches.
That opened the doors for me once again to television. Television stations and producers loved to have uplifting things to show on news, variety and entertainment shows. What is more uplifting than a bunch of youth musicians ranging in age from 8 to 13? Well, before long my Peachtree Pickers were doing news features for our concerts and festival appearances and then we began appearances on variety programs and musical productions for PBS. After a trip to Nashville in 1983 to appear at Country Music Fan Fair, I landed a regular role for the group on “The Country Kids TV Series,” a children’s “Hee-Haw” which was an early cable TV offering that aired internationally. Guest starring regularly for the Grand Ole Opry came within the year. So began a regular presence on cable and television that has now lasted for 30 years. With each year that passed, I continued doing special music, variety and guest appearances for various entertainment shows on PBS, TNN, CMT, and local network affiliates throughout the South and mid west.
With popularity in the music field, I was able to cross over into acting, in a way exactly where I started years before but now on a larger scale, this time in front of millions on silver theatre screens and on network television. My initial roles were small and probably unnoticed by the masses except for the country music fan base that I had accumulated. A choral singing role as a teen in the 1988 film “Desperate for Love” with Christian Slater, Brian Bloom and Tammy Lauren was really what I consider my movie start.
After that it was the producers, directors, writers and a couple of actors – Carroll O’Connor and Alan Autry of “In the Heat of the Night” which helped to forge my next five years on network television as “Officer Randy Goode.”
Since then, more movies, more entertainment shows, more news shows and another TV series.
I have not missed a week and in some periods a day without being on someone’s TV screen somewhere in the world – acting, talking, sharing comedy or performing musically.
With 30 years now behind me as people ask me that question – “How do you get started in television?” I reflect and wonder how exactly to answer it. If they are wishing to act, I tell them study their craft, participate in school and local play productions and then seek out opportunities to show what they can do in front of those who can help them. If they want to be a musical performer, the answer is much the same although the locales where they can excel at a professional level are different depending on the genre. Today, we also have reality shows and celebrities created simply by being on television in these types of shows. I can offer no advice there except just being famous is no reason to do or be seen doing the absurd or the unusual, just to be on television. Don’t give up your morals or whom you are in your soul to get such a chance.
As a kid, I often thought I would be a weatherman and even took a trip to a local station to visit with Atlanta weatherman Guy Sharpe to learn about it. As my TV career began to take off, my father, then my manager, called on Guy again to gain some needed advice about my future. So, TV news is another avenue for those who have the knack and talent and the integrity to be a good journalist.
“How do you get started in television?” – the answer today with the advent of the web is just start. When I started, you couldn’t produce a video segment that showed your talent and put it anywhere that millions of people might find it, see it, like it. Today, you can.
That’s where you start once you have found your talent, studied and can compete toe-to-toe with other people with similar talents, maybe then the doors will open. Even after 30 years, I am knocking on doors every day trying to get another opportunity to share mine. You can see some of my knocks on Randall Franks TV on YouTube. Break a leg in what you do!