Astin, who would block the side of his face when he passed a car while driving the Los Angeles freeways during the TV show's heyday ("I didn't want to create an accident"), almost didn't become Gomez. He was initially considered for the part of Lurch. Executive producer David Levy then saw Astin's potential at the head of the clan.
The actor helped develop a key ingredient in the TV show, the relationship between Gomez and Morticia.
"One day over drinks at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where I liked the martinis, I said, 'David, the romance between these two people should be in the grand manner,'" Astin said. "This relationship is filled with love and lust, all the good stuff. He warmed to that thought."
The end result was one of the most amorous duos to appear on the little screen.
"We used to do joke promos for the show, where I'd say 'My wife and I are the best-adjusted couple on television,'" Astin said. "I think we influenced the tone of the '60s with that kind of freedom and warmth — you know, peace and love. But the fact that Gomez and Morticia got obviously excited about one another was something the studio got letters on, which was kind of stupid."
The sizzling marriage and all of the other memorable aspects of the televisual family represented a considerable leap of imagination from the source material. The members of the not-exactly-normal clan in the Charles Addams cartoons did not even have names until the TV series was being created; the cartoonist suggested most of the names that were used.
Astin, who had discovered the cartoons while a student at Hopkins and decorated his room on 34th Street with them, took a deeper look at Addams' work when he joined the TV show.
"There was nothing morbid about them, in my view," Astin said. "The cartoons implied violence against a cliche or a habit of modern human beings. There's a line in 'Waiting for Godot': 'Habit is a great deadener.' My conclusion — I never discussed this with him — was that Charlie was trying to wake us up to the joy and wonder of life, which is so much more than what we experience through stale habit."
Backstage at the Hippodrome, Astin discussed this philosophy with cast members. One of those listening intently was Sara Gettelfinger, the bosomy Morticia in the musical.
"You have so much joy, too," Gettlefinger she said to Astin. "We take you in spirit onstage."