Buck Rogers in 2017
Actor / Raconteur Gil Gerard is Alive and Well and Coming Back to Dragon Con
Gil Gerard is best known as the wisecracking, time-travelling astronaut in the late '70s film and television series "Buck Rogers In The 25th Century." But the good-natured actor has had a number of other major roles and appearances, including "Airport '77," all the way through last year's "The Nice Guys," filmed in Atlanta.
Now based in West Georgia, the good-natured actor is set to return to Dragon Con for panels, autograph sessions and as host of an irreverent, sci-fi themed version of TV's popular Match Game. INsite caught up with Gerard by phone between recent convention appearances.
The trek to Dragon Con isn't light years away for you because you actually live in Georgia these days.
I do. I fell in love with a girl from here and she couldn't take the L.A. weather and I was sick of it out there anyway. I thought, "Well Atlanta's got an international airport," so I moved here. Now I'm about 45 miles west of Atlanta and I love it.
Your appearances at Dragon Con are becoming an annual event. Will this be your sixth visit?
Oh, I think it's even more than that. For the last six years, I've had a show I do called "Match Game In The 25th Century." And this year, I have a new three-year deal, so I'll definitely be back again.
Is your version of Match Game similar to the television game show?
Yeah, I get a lot of celebrity friends of mine to be on the panel and we just have a good time. It's like the show in that we can get a little risquÃ© and raunchy at times, but it's not dirty. Everybody loves it, and we give away great prizes, too.
After all these visits, do you still enjoy the fan interactions at the Con?
I really enjoy meeting them and Dragon Con is such a great venue, particularly for the fans. They're really committed to something they love which is so unusual these days. They go at it whole-heartedly so God bless 'em for their enthusiasm.
The trivia they carry around with them is incredible. They know more about your career than you do.
Oh I know! Many, many years ago, when I lived in L.A., they drove me down to do the San Diego Comicon. I'd never done one and I had no idea what was going on in there. I walked into this room and it's probably got 2500-3000 people in it, and sat down at the table on the podium. People were asking me so much stuff. I said, "Man, I don't know. I just went where they pointed me to go!"
There's a great clip from a recent convention Q and A and a fan is asking you about what was Buck like as a kid. These people put a lot of thought into their questions and they obviously respect your work.
Oh, yeah. The last time we shot that show was 1981. What is that, 36 years ago this year? So the fact that I can have a Q and A and there's more than just me in the room is amazing. I remember one time they scheduled me for a panel here at Dragon Con and they had it on a Sunday morning. I was like, "Oh that's great, there won't be anybody there." The place was standing room only! I think that's the first time I said to the people, "I'm surprised more than me showed up!" Especially on a Sunday morning - after what we all know is a very wild Saturday night at Dragon Con.
I've seen your interactions with fans and there's no age limit in your line. It's kids to senior citizens.
I'm always amazed. I find that I've got 15 or 16 year-old kids coming up for an autograph because they've watched the show with their parents or grandparents! It's got a whole new audience because of the DVDs. Obviously it still has legs, which is kinda nice. If I'd known people were still interested in the show this many years later, I'd have told them they were nuts.
With that age span, do you feel an obligation to be "family friendly" on your Match Game?
I'm careful. People bring their kids because Buck Rogers was a family show. I don't want to be grossing their kids out - or embarrassing the parents in front of their kids.
That would tarnish their memory of you for life.
I've been mindful of that for that for my entire career. I remember many times I'd be out travelling and people would come up to me in airports or whatever and say, "We love watching something you're in because we know the entire family can watch it." That means a lot to me. I feel like I have a responsibility to everyone to uphold that image.
There's a definite comradery of fans at the convention. Do the guests have a similar bond?
Yeah from being at cons across the country and from being at other functions and working at the same studios. It's a small kind of fraternity. I'll give you an example. When I was doing Buck Rogers, I'd go to the commissary at Universal. I'd be there with Lorne Green and Chuck Heston and we'd just be standing there talking. Heston was talking about the great set on this movie he was doing called "Grey Lady Down." Green was doing, of course, Battlestar Galactica. We were just standing there shootin' the breeze. You're just kinda all in it together.
Looking at your IMDB page, you have an impressive body of work besides Buck Rogers.
I've always prided myself on being an actor and I've tried not to be typecast. Sometimes it's worked to my benefit and sometimes it didn't. I turned down "The Right Stuff" because they wanted me to be an astronaut and I'd just finished playing an astronaut. "Enemy Mine," I turned down, again because it was an astronaut. But I've had a good run.
Your latest film "The Dragons of Melgor" co-stars another convention fave, the late Richard Hatch.
You know, I liked Richard but we weren't close until, sadly, the latter part of his life. Actually, the last time I saw him we were sitting table-to-table at Dragon Con. We were laughing and having a good time and our relationship had begun to ease into something nice. Because we really didn't know each other much before then. Even though he did a show at Universal, we were both busy. I would see him occasionally at different conventions or wherever but we never really got a chance to hang out. The last couple of years we had and damn, just as I got to know him, he passed away. It's like me standing around with Chuck and Lorne. We all kinda know where we've been, because we've been in those foxholes ourselves. It builds a natural comradery.