By Elizabeth Gracen:
Back in the '90s, I received a call from my manager one rainy afternoon in L.A. I'm not sure how my name was thrown into the mix, but I think it had something to do with my role as Jasmine in The Death of the Incredible Hulk with the fabulous Bill Bixby. The specifics of the connection between the producers of that movie-of-the-week and the producers of Highlander: The Series are not clear, but when they offered me a flight to Paris and the opportunity to play a 1,500-year-old jewel thief in the new series, needless to say, my bag was packed. Paris!
What I never could have guessed was that that first episode, called "Lady and the Tiger," would change my life so profoundly.
Not only did I end up playing the character of "Amanda" for over six years, I was fortunate enough to forge lasting family-like friendships with the producers, writers, and cast of the show. I consider it the highlight of my acting career, and I am forever grateful for the experience, support, and love that I received from everyone involved—including the Highlander fandom.
That brings me to a very special fella who means the world to me.
Adrian Paul and I hit if off immediately when I started work on the show, and I think the fans of Highlander sensed the electric, almost instant camaraderie we shared. On the show, Duncan and Amanda were lovers and friends for centuries. They foiled the bad guys, flirted with danger, and simply adored each other. They even got to tango for real on the Eiffel Tower. It was all so much fun to play! Off screen, Adrian and I formed a strong bond and have seen each other through many twists and turns throughout our lives. I consider him one of my dearest pals.
An accomplished actor, writer, director, and producer, Adrian is also a dedicated philanthropist who created THE PEACE FUND in 1997—a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect, educate, and aid children every day. The organization has helped countless children and young people in need with an international outreach that has served children in Cambodia, Thailand, Hungary, England, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Romania, and the USA.
Adrian's newest venture, the SWORD EXPERIENCE, reflects his creativity and love for martial arts and swordplay and affords him the opportunity to interact with fans of the show and new recruits from all over the world.
Adrian recently interviewed me for his podcast, The Hollywood Experience, to talk about swordplay, stunts, and the perils of being a woman in Hollywood. In turn, he agreed to an interview with Flapper Press!
EG: Hey, friend, it was so good to talk to you about “old times” and our experiences on Highlander. It was actually a shock when you told me how long ago it was. It’s like a blink of an eye, but so much has happened to both of us since that time. When you look back on the early days of your career, what do remember the most?
AP: I think what I remember most is the excitement about being in Hollywood, and after being here for a year and then getting an acting agent from a weird meeting in a printing shop with a girl who took my phone number from the print order form and gave it to her agent. I got my first job on the Paramount lot shooting The Colbys with legends of the time such as Barbara Stanwick, Charlton Heston, and Stephanie Beecham. It was great time to be an actor.
EG: Do you have any regrets?
AP: The funny thing is that I met my first agent in the early 2000s, who wasn’t the one who got me Highlander, and when we were talking, she said that she wished I’d never gotten the role, that my career would have gone a different path. But I can’t have regrets, we are the decisions we make, and I have a great family, met some great people along the way, and have visited so many great places that I am truly thankful for my career for giving me these things.
EG: Anything you would do differently if you had the chance to start it all again?
AP: Yeah, probably. But not sure how to do those in the current climate. The business has changed so much and the priorities of surviving in Hollywood have changed.
EG: As a follow-up to that idea, we talked briefly on your podcast about the differences between what show business was like thirty years ago compared with what it’s like now. I’m always amazed that anyone would want to come to Hollywood anymore. I can’t even imagine how it will morph even more in the coming years because of the pandemic. Would you ever encourage your kids to go into show business?
AP: Yeah, if that is what they want to do. But you have to have a passion for it. They are growing up in this new norm and know no different, yet I think there will be similar pitfalls to watch out for because the nature of human beings will always remain the same no matter how we change the business structure.
EG: Tell me all about your wonderful Sword Experience. How did you decide to put this project together, and how have you adjusted what you were doing now that Mr. Covid has come on the scene?
AP: The Sword Experience came about after many years of people asking me to make videos or DVDs on sword fighting, but to be honest I didn’t think I was well enough versed in any particular style to say I was teaching that. What I did know was film and how to fight on film, even though I had many years of martial arts training. The Sword Experience was named because I wanted to also give people the experience of a film set and the locations that we went to. It became a place to escape and have fun while learning the basics of sword work, because there is no difference in the angles of attack and defense for most styles. The technique behind different styles is what changes, along with the length of weapon you use. So gradually I saw the events changing, and with it we changed the types of experiences that we offered.
Now, of course, with the pandemic we have had to change a lot of things until things begin got get back to normal. Temperature checks, social distancing (yes even sword fighting), masks, hand sanitizing, and an outside location. We are currently not running any events indoors to keep in line with health guidelines and will continue to do so until the time comes when it has been deemed safe to do so. That, however, means less events during the year.
EG: When you work with the students who sign up for the Sword Experience, I know they’re thrilled, and I know that your natural directorial instincts get a terrific workout. What do you enjoy most about the process of teaching? How does it compare with directing?
AP: I actually really like teaching. I have actually learned more in these past four years than most of the time before. When you watch people move, their angulations, their handling, it helps you learn things about your own practice. I also get a great amount of time directing because we film a small scene at the end of each event where the participants get to act out a sword fight scene. Much like a short, we have a beginning, middle, and end, and now include the spectators who sometimes even come dressed up for the theme of the event. So I get to try different things and keep my directing juices flowing by doing this. I am always amazed how we can get people with absolutely no sword experience, to learn the choreography, work with a partner learning the routine, and film the entire sequence (that usually comes out after editing to around 3–5 minutes), in only around 5–6 hours. It really gets your creative juices going to be able to work this fast. There is, of course, a lot of pre-preparation to do to get all the shots I think we need in that time, but I think people get a kick out of it, and I do, too.
EG: Please tell me about a passion dear to your heart: The PEACE Fund. You are always doing wonderful work and outreach to help young people. Can you give me a brief history of the organization and how its grown over the years? And what your focus is now with the organization?
AP: The PEACE fund started back in 1997 when, after finishing Highlander: The Series, I wanted to also focus my energies on helping and giving back. Yeah, I know it's cliché, but it was true. So I started The PEACE Fund, which then stood for, and still does, Protect Educate, Aid, Children, Every day. I was so touched by the plight of kids around the world in so many areas that I thought helping them would help us and lead to a better future. To this day, we have partnered with so many organizations that fulfill our mandate, from Thailand, Cambodia, Haiti, USA, Romania, El Salvador, England, Hungary, and Canada. In 2012, we also launched Peace Fund Radio where we interviewed celebrities and kids alike, talking to them about issues and the solutions to the problems kids face today. To date, the free podcast has aired nearly 600 hours of radio.