Many of you will recognize Alex Cord as the character Archangel from the TV series Airwolf, alongside Ernest Borgnine and Jan-Michael Vincent. Cord has also appeared in other hit TV series including: Mission Impossible, Simon and Simon, Jake and the Fatman and Murder She Wrote. As well as being an accomplished stage performer, Cord has appeared in over 30 movies alongside Kirk Douglas, Richard Attenborough, and Harrison Ford.
He is the author of Sandsong, A Feather in the Rain, and Days of the Harbinger.
When you make someone happy with something as simple as a smile, your heart will fill with joy
– Alex Cord
A Feather in the Rain is essentially a story about having faith in life after suffering bereavement. If you hadn’t tragically lost your son in real life, do you think you would have written the book, or even pursued a writing career?
A FEATHER IN THE RAIN was inspired by the loss of my son, Damien. So, no, I would not have written that book. However, my first novel, SANDSONG, was published by Warner Books 25 years before Damien died. It was also optioned by a film company who paid me to write the screenplay. So I had been a writer for many years. I don’t think I ever “pursued” a writing career. I think in my case, writing pursued me.
Do you think the process of writing down your thoughts and emotions in a book helps to understand life or perhaps human nature? Absolutely. Both. Isn’t “life” defined by “human nature?” I think writing is as educational as reading, sometimes more so. It seems to me that all knowledge of human nature, emotions, feelings, thought, is available to us in the depths of our beings, our souls. We need only to dig, sometimes deep, and with patience to discover what we want to know.
I remember reading Of Mice and Men when I was studying English, and I know you’ve been lucky enough to meet its author, the great John Steinbeck. I expect that was a fascinating conversation to be part of, but what did you learn from the encounter? Lucky is right. I think he was one of the very best ever. I have read every word he’s written. “To A God Unknown” at least six times over the years. Each time is like the first. He was a master story teller with enormous understanding of the human condition. An exceedingly intelligent and very kind man. Having had the opportunity to spend time with him was an indelible experience for which I am most grateful. His descriptions of nature, made trees, grass, rocks, clouds and shadows into multidimensional characters as complex as humans.
Another of your books, Days of the Harbinger, is also a story about life and the possibility that it could be so much better. If you could change one thing about the human race’s impact on the planet what would that be? Cultivate respect. Stop treating it like a trash can and do the same for people. Smile. Be kind and generous. It costs nothing. It’s a simple matter of the choices we make. Work, at letting go of anger. When you make someone happy with something as simple as a smile, your heart will fill with joy.
I would like to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am – Alex Cord
You’ve worked with so many big names during your career including Kirk Douglas, Ernest Borgnine, Harrison Ford, Angela Landsbury, Bing Crosby and Stefanie Powers. Do you find yourself mentally casting actors as characters in your books whilst writing? I do, sometimes. Mostly I concentrate on the inner workings of the character and let them develop on their own.
Ernest Borgnine, your co-star in Airwolf, is known to my children as the voice of Mermaid Man in the Spongebob Square Pants cartoons. Of all the cartoon characters there have been, which would you like to voice? Ernie Borgnine was a major human being. My life has been greatly enriched by his friendship of many years. He was truly part of my family. I thought of him as brother. Apart from Airwolf we did two films together. We shared an Italian ancestry and the love of food that comes with it. We cooked for each other at our homes. He was one of the most versatile, talented actors, this spacious world could afford. He was equally skilled at comedy and villainy. He could make you cry, laugh, and scare you half to death. I loved him and miss him very much. He had one of the best careers in all of Hollywood. I don’t know the names of many cartoon characters but I do know that I would love to play any of the great villains.
It’s been said that screen actors don’t always perform as well on stage, but you’ve managed to be successful with both. How do the two differ and what did you learn from stage performing? I was at least seven or more years on stage before ever setting foot in front of a movie camera. Whatever I know about acting I learned on the stage. The enormous work it takes to prepare, to create, to build a character, to bring him to life. To develop a history of who he is before we see him in the play. To be able to answer any question about him. I had the benefit of studying and working with some great directors and teachers. I was a very keen and eager student. I took modern dance classes to learn about using my body in motion as a means of expression. The way a person walks can be as unique as the features of their face. Voice and diction must be given attention. You bring all of it with you when you step in front of the camera. It’s your bag of tools. The main difference between stage and film is technical, hitting specific marks, realizing that you must stay in frame. Not too big a deal with a little experience.
Which book have you read, time and time again, and every time seems like it’s the first? What is it that constantly draws you back to it? TO A GOD UNKNOWN by John Steinbeck. I actually answered this earlier. It’s an epic story with flesh and blood characters of great complexity. You become a witness to the widest range of human emotions and the consequences of resulting actions. His prose is poetry. He is a master of the written word. If one cares about writing, it is imperative to read all of Steinbeck.
The next book to be published is your autobiography. You could have written one many years ago about your Hollywood adventures, so what made you wait until now? I’m still collecting adventures, gathering experiences, knowledge, information. I’m becoming increasingly aware of the truth in the phrase, “life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” So the thought occurred that I’d better get to it.
Writing an autobiography forces you to look back on your life. What would you change about yours, taking into account that every action has a reaction, and changing something has consequences later in life? I have learned, that there is tremendous value in kindness, there is joy in giving pleasure to others, to think before reacting, to see what the choices are, to smile more. Things that are so obvious to so many good people. I wish I had learned them a lot sooner. I would like to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am. I spent way too much time in ignorance with stupid attitudes. I wish I could take all that back and do it over. I would like to apologize to all the people I’ve offended in my life.
What do you do to promote your Kindle books? Are you a great believer in promotion or do you just cross your fingers and allow fate to take over? I believe in promotion. Crossing your fingers and trusting fate is stupid. I have no talent for promotion. I did have the good fortune to be introduced to a man who is extremely talented in that arena and very enthusiastic about my work. Nick Wale, has become a truly valued friend and a real asset in promoting my work.
It’s been an honour chatting with you Alex, and I can’t wait to read your autobiography…