Q: You originally were hired to fill in for another actor on "NCIS," right?
A: I was taking over for a character who had been shot, but he supposedly was coming back. He didn't, and I guess it was because of me. I thought, "Man, I hope that doesn't come back karmically and bite me." But years later, the cast still seems to be clicking very well.
Q: Do you realize how huge your colleague David McCallum was during his years on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."?
A: Yeah, he couldn't go out of his hotel room in certain cities because he would be totally mobbed. That's wild, but it's also awesome. I saw a tape of him hosting this old show called "Hullabaloo," and he did this song called "Double-O Soul." It was kind of like spoken word with this rhythmic coolness to it as he strutted around talking about secret agents. It was absolutely fantastic!
Q: You made your stage debut playing an evil elf. What the what?
A: It was a play about how kids get a great gift on Christmas morning, and then 10 minutes later they're playing more with the box. So Santa gets the idea that maybe he should just give kids boxes for Christmas, and I'm the condescending elf who warns him not to do that and he didn't listen to me. He sends out empty boxes for Christmas, and I'm the one who makes him feel like crap about himself for the rest of the show.
Q: As you interview other comedians on "Inside Comedy," what are your memories of your own days as a stand-up comic?
A: When I started out, I didn't shout and holler a lot onstage, so they didn't know where to put me. I opened for jazz musicians, some of the biggest, because it was the '60s; I opened for the Modern Jazz Quartet, for Bill Evans, just incredible talents.
Other musicians would come to see these guys, and they had a language that was humorous, respectful and fun. That's what I'm trying to capture here in some way (in the series), something "inside" and interesting. The thing is to connect with everybody.
Q: It's probably not bad timing to have Billy Crystal as one of your interviewees, correct?
A: Showtime's not dumb. They said, "We're going to run that one the week before the Oscars."
Q: How do you assess the sitcoms you've directed?
A: The "Designing Women" women knocked me out; they're spectacular comedians, their timing was so great. Then you had Helen and Paul (Hunt and Reiser, on "Mad About You"), and at first I said, "You could talk faster." And they said, "You can't talk any faster than this."
I said, "Watch (the classic movie) 'His Girl Friday,' then let's talk about it next week." And from then on, we just clipped along. Those two shows, in particular, were just a pleasure to go to work and do. I love them.
Dr. Sharon Malone of 'Slavery By Another Name' on PBS
Q: You're married to Attorney General Eric Holder, and your sister, Vivian Malone, was under the protection of the Justice Department as a student who integrated the University of Alabama. What is that legacy like?
A: When she integrated the University of Alabama in 1963, my parents had to hand her over to the Department of Justice. An attorney for the Justice Department assured my mother he would take care of her, and she had federal marshals protection for the two years she was in the University of Alabama. I lost my sister six years ago. She never spoke about it in a way that was disparaging. She said, "I am a citizen and a resident of the state of Alabama, and I have just as much right to go there as anyone else."
Q: Since your parents did not speak of the family history, how did you learn?
A: I had a few names, and was able to go on ancestry.com.
Q: What prompted you?
A: Doing research for my daughter when she was in seventh grade, and five years hence I got into someone else's family tree, and they had more information, and my mother's great-grandparents' relative had written a book on the family history. They were brought as slaves from South Carolina. When they brought them to Alabama, it was just as Alabama got statehood. I am a sixth-generation Alabaman. I know my family has been there as long as there has been an Alabama.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun