The Cornuzine Interviews: Stuart Fratkin
I used to do a website called Cornuzine. These are the interviews from it.
I’ve always been a big fan of “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast,” and I attempted to inject some of that “far out” humor into this interview with actor Stuart Fratkin. I’m not sure it worked. Judge for yourself.
STUART FRATKIN SHARES A MOMENT
It’s hard to say what role defined Stuart Fratkin. Was it his turn as the conniving Stiles in Teen Wolf Too? Perhaps his interpretation of Dash in Valet Girls helped to make Fratkin a household name. Personally, I think Stuart’s professional zenith came playing straight man Abe to Dean Cameron’s wild n’ crazy Bo in the syndicated TV gem “They Came From Outer Space,” a tale of two alien brothers from the planet Crouton who crash-land on Earth for Spring Break (although some would argue that Stuart’s two guest shots on “Judging Amy” brought him more attention than that entire series). I recently had a brief conversation with Stuart over lattes at a little out-of-the-way coffee shop just east of Hamburg. Here is the transcript of that faithful meeting.
JAMES GREENE, JR: Tell me a little about your company P-Wing Productions. What exactly do you do? When did it start? Has it been your main gig as of late?
STUART FRATKIN: P-Wing Productions was born out of the necessity to have a tax shelter when I started doing steady work. I started it in 1989 right before “Outer Space.” It was very popular in the late 80’s for actors to have production companies so they wouldn’t have to pay as much in taxes. The tax laws have changed since then.
JG2: And the name?
SF: At the time, Dean Cameron and I were big fans of the Mario Bros. games and played them endlessly in Canada while we were shooting Ski School. There was a prize in Mario 3 called a P-Wing. If Mario attained it, he got to fly through the level untouched. I liked what it meant and stood for.
JG2: I can dig it [sips mocha fudge]. “They Came From Outer Space” was easily my favorite program when I was a youth. As far as I’m concerned, the comic teaming of Fratkin and Cameron was golden. Did you feel the chemistry right away? Did you think to yourself when you met Mr. Cameron, “Man, this is awesome! I have to make a movie about ski instructors with this guy!”?
SF: Here’s the scoop on Dean and I. I was a Dean Cameron fan long before I worked with him. When he became famous from Summer School, I was very impressed with his talent and knew he had a very natural comic timing. I heard plenty about him from my agents and had many funny run-ins with him at auditions. One time I was waiting to read for a FOX pilot called “Babes.” I was outside preparing when Dean finishes and walks out, right up to a trash dumpster, throws the script in and proclaims, “Won’t be needing this anymore.” It was honest and to the point.
I went in for [Dave in] Ski School. I liked it, he was the only character written with any, uhhh, comedy, so I worked very hard and thought I gave a great audition. I get a call from my agent and he says they made an offer to Dean Cameron, would I be interested in playing another role. I say, “No.” I’m really mad, because I thought this movie had the potential to be an Animal House on slopes and Dean got the best part. I get a call from the “Producers/Writers” [makes quotation signs with hands] saying they want me to play Fitz and I will help them write it.
So, after thinking it could be fun in Canada and working with Dean, I said yes. The first time I met Dean, I saw him at the airport and he remarked, “Welcome to Ski Stool.” A very Dean welcome. We went on to write several scenes and became friends. We read for “They Came From Outer Space” together, and both got the job.
JG2: Crazy, man. Dean is such a cut-up. Speaking of Ski School, why exactly weren’t you in Ski School 2?
SF: I was told I was not in Ski School 2 because they couldn’t afford both me and Dean. However, I was bummed not to be asked. How could you have Ski School 2 without Fitz or Ed???!!
JG2: You can’t. It’s utter bullshit. It gives me a migraine just thinking about it [sneezes, wipes on sleeve]. You played Stiles in Teen Wolf Too. How did it feel stepping into a role that had already been made famous by Jerry Levine? Were you intimidated at all?
SF: No, I was not intimidated by taking over for Jerry Levine, I figured I was very different then Jerry and would bring something original to the role. When I do meet people who have seen TWT, they never say anything about the two Stileses. TWT could have been much better, and dare I say better than the original, but they cut a lot of comedy to up the romance quotient between Jason [Bateman] and Estee [Chandler]. Boring. It ended up being a snooze-fest, but a great story for interviews in the future, [begins shouting] HOW THE PRODUCERS OF TEEN WOLF TOO PISSED ON THEIR SHOES AND FUCKED UP THEIR MOVIE.
JG2: [after a brif, uncomfortable pause] Whoa. Yeah, uh, I never thought that one was as good as the original. So, what’s in Mr. Fratkin’s CD player right now?
SF: I love XTC, so I always have something loaded – right now, it’s Wasp Star and Nonsuch. [Also] Incubus and Puddle of Mudd. Oh yeah, John Mayer as well.
JG2: Hmmm, no Foreigner. I’m shocked [laughs hard]. So when is Mr. Fratkin returning to “Judging Amy”?
SF: I should return sometime this season, and please stop calling me Mr. Fratkin. Stuart’s just fine. Ya make me feel like some kind of Bob Hopeish guy.
JG2: Sorry, Stu.
SF: [getting irritated] It’s Stuart, not Stu. I hate Stu!
JG2: Whoa, you’re vibin’ man, it’s cool [looks at watch]. Oh man, I’ve got to be in Berlin by nine. Thanks for the chat, Stuart. You’re a class act.
SF: [clearly still irritated] Thanks, James!
– Cornuzine.com, 12/2/02