Q: You played some
of your most despicable villains in Blaxploitation films where you
were usually exterminated by the black superhero. The villains in
these movies were almost exclusively white, the casts were predominately
black. They were made in the Black Power '70's. As a white
actor, did you ever feel any racial tension?
[Video clip from the final scene
in Black Samson. Bill is a drug dealing gangster.
He and his men are on the street in a Black urban neighborhood where people
on the roof are throwing things at them.]
Bill: No, not at all.
I was killed in Hammer and Boss Nigger by Fred
Williamson. We had a great time with our fights. We went down
to Arizona to film Boss with R.G. Armstrong. He had a lot
of urban, black kids on the set. They were falling off their horses
like Neville Brand did in Laredo -- only they weren't drunk, of course.
Fred and I had a great fight scene in that, more than one
Q: Was that prop
stuff they were throwing on you?
Bill reacting to
the extras who were really trying to hit him.
Bill: Oh no. They were
throwing pans, bottles, bricks, mattresses. Hell, they were throwing
refrigerators. It was all real. [Pause] Well, so I guess
there was a little bit of racial tension. Not from the other actors.
But those guys on the roof were just extras. I think they only got
about $20 a day. They were really trying to hit the white actors.
That part of the scene was real. [A clip showing the white actors
in the street] Look at me. I was so mad, man. That son
of a bitch was trying to hit me there.
Q: They were trying to hit
one of the stars?
Bill: They didn't care.
Bill: [pointing to
one of the stunt men falling off a roof] That's Terry Leonard there.
He broke his back in that scene. He came back though. Tough
Bill: Rockne Tarkington
was really a nice guy.
Q: Doesn't look as tough
as Fred Williamson though.
Bill: Oh, he was a big guy.
He weighed more than I did. And a muscular guy, a basketball player.
Weighed about 250, about 6'5". He was good in that fight scene.
Q: Good at fighting or good
at not getting hurt?
Bill: Well, there's always
a few times you get each other, but nothing like Amber. He
said that our fight scene was more fun than anything he'd ever done
Bill: [Reacting to
clip in which he's biting Tarkington's ear.] There, I'm doing a Mike
Tyson. That's probably where he got the idea.
Q: Don't you hate
it that you are always the one getting beaten up?
Bill: Only in the last scene.
I usually get to beat up enough people before the end to make it even out.
Q: In this one you even beat
up your girlfriend.
Bill: Yeah, I loved that.
Q: But she was a tiny little
Bill: But she'd been messing
with him [indicating Tarkington's character]. I had to hit her.
A little Rich Man, Poor Man aside:
Q: Some of us who
missed it the first time around, just found a copy of Rich Man, Poor
Man Book II, the series that followed the mini-series. In the
last episode, Falconetti and Jordache kill each other in an alley.
A very bleak ending. We've heard you say that some people were really
upset that you killed Nick Nolte in the original mini-series.
Bill: Oh yeah. Someone
shot at me. A woman tried to attack me with a bottle.
Some people just lose touch with reality or just don't have enough going
on in their own lives..
Q: So how did people take
it when you killed Peter Strauss in the second go-around?
Bill: Well, since he
killed me too, they couldn't blame me for it. But that ending was
criticized a lot. It was very controversial. Actually we filmed
the ending two ways. When Peter Strauss decided not to come back,
they ran the one where we both died. I guess they decided there wouldn't
be a strong enough hero if he left.
Q: Well, certainly no one
strong enough to stand up to Falconetti.