HE HAS appeared on TV in everything from The Waltons and The Streets of San Francisco to The Rockford Files, he’s directed big screen movies including Arnold Schwarzenegger in Running Man, and now he’s about to star on stage in Fiddler On The Roof.
But whatever he does Paul Michael Glaser will forever be associated with one role – detective David Starsky in US TV cop show Starsky & Hutch.
He landed the role playing opposite David Soul back in 1975 and the series ran for just four years but it made both men international stars.
Actors can often become resentful when a character they played on television or in the cinema overshadows everything else they have done in their careers but Paul says: “I think that it finally dawned on me that I was always going to be associated with the series and I have made peace with that fact.
“I was too much on the inside of Starsky & Hutch to be able to have the necessary perspective to analyse the show and say why it was so successful.
“People said that the show worked because of the chemistry between David and me and I’m proud of what we achieved.
“Both David and I wanted to do a really good job with Starsky & Hutch but we were working for an organisation that told us that we’d be fortunate to make three or four good programmes out of the 20 or 25 we made.
“David and I felt that the proportion between good and bad should be reversed – 20 good ones and only a handful of bad ones. We worked hard to achieve some degree of truth in our relationship. Starsky was a very interesting character and I was able to play him on so many different levels. I was able to explore a whole range of possibilities with him.”
He’s enjoyed plenty of success as a director since. Apart from Running Man, he was also behind the camera for the 1992 movie Cutting Edge, and directed many TV episodes including Miami Vice, Robbery Homicide Division and Judging Amy.
“There are so many avenues for your creativity to shine,” he says of directing – but he also seems to have rediscovered his love of the stage, having started his career on Broadway in the early ’70s.
More recently, he’s been thrilling theatre audiences in the UK, playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan in Bromley before switching pantos to portray Abanazar in Aladdin in Sunderland.
“The stage is the actor’s medium and acting on stage is something I’ve started to wrap my arms around,” says Paul. “I’m so fond of it. I’d describe it as riding the wave of energy which comes from a live audience.
“One of the reasons I agreed to play Captain Hook and Abanazar was the interaction with the audience. It seemed to me to reflect the spirit of traditional American vaudeville, which was the equivalent of music hall in the UK.
“I loved playing the role of Captain Hook and having the opportunity to walk to the edge of the stage, stare at the children and growl at them ‘Excuse me. Did you say something?’”
Now he’s heading for Woking to play the central character, Tevye, in the classic musical Fiddler On The Roof, helping to bring to life all the classic songs like If I Were A Rich Man, Matchmaker Matchmaker, Sunrise Sunset, To Life and Tradition.
By coincidence, he played the part of the tutor and Bolshevik revolutionary Perchik who falls in love with Hodel, Tevye’s second daughter, in the 1971 film version of the musical.
“For years, I’d find myself humming a tune and it would be a song from Fiddler on the Roof,” reveals Paul.
Fiddler is largely a feel-good show but takes on a darker edge with the theme of Jewish persecution in the infamous Tsarist pogroms, but it’s maintained a global appeal.
“It has an amazing score,” he explains. “It’s also a universal story which everyone can understand. It’s about the everyday problems which we all have and how we manage to deal with them, how we achieve a certain sense of well-being.
“But it also means a great deal to Jewish people in particular. It’s a tale told by Tevye the milkman, a story that reflects Jewish history in a very poignant way, in particular about the Jewish diaspora, the scattering of the Jews around the world.
“But it also celebrates the spirit of mankind and the lasting desire to identify with one particular group.
“Tevye is a gigantic part and I’m really enjoying getting into training to play the role. It’s also given me an excuse to grow a beard…”
Fiddler On The Roof will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday (October 22) until Saturday, October 26 and is directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing judge and the master of the musical stage, Craig Revel Horwood.