Better Late Than Never
has one of the crazier television premises to come along in a while.
Take four pop culture living legends Ė two from television and two from
athletics: William Shatner, a/k/a Captain Kirk of Star Trek,
Henry Winkler better known as the Fonz, four-time Super Bowl winning
quarterback Terry Bradshaw and former two-time heavyweight boxing
champion George Foreman Ė and dump them far outside of their comfort
Why not, the producers (which included Winkler) thought, drop them off
in the middle of Asia for a month, with only their wits, their camera
crew, and a younger sidekick in the form of comedian Jeff Dye, to keep
them safe? Put them in lots of crazy situations and let the hijinx
occur. Oh, sure, this leads to inevitable reality TV staples like
making them eat gross stuff, including steak seasoned with dirt and
chicken vagina, but the natural gravitas and strong personalities
of the stars often make things extremely funny and often surprisingly
The mini-series (the first season has only four shows) has become a
surprise summer hit, and in the days leading up to season finale, we
were able to take part in a conference call with co-stars William
Shatner and Terry Bradshaw.
Weíre right on the 50th anniversary of
Star Trek today. Reflect back when you were a
young captain, what did you think the odds were that that show would
still be famous now? Also what did you think the odds were that 50 years
later youíd be doing a TV show where you climb 800 steps?
Well, I think the same odds that Terry and I will be icons 50 years from
now based on Better Late Than Never. After four shows you know
itís a phenomenon and itís going to last another 50 years. Those would
be the odds. We were doing a middling successful TV show for three
years. It was canceled and everybody thought thatís it. On to the next
thing. Then slowly it snowballed. Even while it was rolling down the
hill, gathering speed and momentum, nobody fully realized it. Every one
of the [Star Trek] movies that I made, six or seven movies, they
would burn the sets to have room for some other show, because they
figured that was the last movie.
The 800 steps, did you really walk up them?
Terry carried me over the 799th. He staggered up there and said, ďIíll
help you buddy.Ē I just depended on him.
Could you reflect on the success of this show? Did you know going into
it you had something special?
I had no idea that this show would be successful. Iíve been a part ofÖ I
donít knowÖ four, five, pilots that never made it. Yet we got a chance
to actually shoot this show. While we were doing it, I was so hot and
miserable and hurting, that I never gave any thought that this thing
would just be more than what it was; four shows, six shows. Then you sit
around and you go, well will it be picked up? Who knows that? You just
move on. I know it was fun. I wanted to continue because it was so much
fun. But Iím not privy and savvy enough to know what America is going to
want to watch. Thatís whatís kind of cool about this show.
agree with that. You just donít know what America is going to watch.
Itís a great phrase. We were staggering around in the monsoon season in
East Asia. Tripping over each otherís feet. Eating each otherís worms
and octopus. Unshaven, unkempt and miserable at times. Joyous at others.
We were just fending for ourselves, trying to help each other with no
thought of how this is going to sell. The fact that it is as successful
as it is comes as a surprise, certainly to me.
Going into a potential second season, how different will it be knowing
what youíre dealing with now, versus going into unknown territory the
Can I answer? As a matter of fact, Bill, I talked to Jeff Dye this
morning before I left Dallas. I said Ė and I donít know that we have the
second season Ė but if we do, now that I know Bill, George, Henry and
Jeff and the producers and the folks at NBC and I understand now what
theyíre cutting this thing up to be, the second season will be more
exciting for me. I walked into the unknown and Iíve got to tell you, it
was so humid and so miserable. (laughs) All I would want is to
make sure we donít go south again or go to Asia.
Into the snow, weíve got to go into the snow.
My God! Yes, I was miserable, just miserable.
It was miserable. I havenít watched any of the shows, so I really donít
know what theyíre doing. People have commented and Iíve listened to
their comments. But the danger is now that we know what works and what
doesnít work, weíre liable to go and do what we think is working.
Without the knowledge of what the reason that the stuff works is,
because we didnít know whether it would work or not. Is that obtuse
I donít think on a show like this though Bill, I mean, they could have
said look, hereís what we want and our stumbling, bumbling personalities
all came together as we tried to figure out what they want. That will be
the same thing here. You canít contrive this stuff. You canít make up
the dialogue. You just do it. Therefore I think it will be funny. If you
havenít watched any of it, I mean, itís funny. Seriously funny. It is
funny. It reaches my people. And my people, as you well know, talk like
I do. It reaches them, they love it.
talk like you do and Iím from Montreal.
It sounds wonderful. Keeping that spontaneous approach is critical.
Thatís what we would aim for. Yes, exactly.
Iím from Pennsylvania so I have to say go Steelers.
Yes, or Eagles. Or Eagles.
True. I know you guys really obviously didnít go to the DMZ (Korean
Demilitarized Zone) but did you really believe that you did? How did you
react when you found out it was all fake?
Nobody told me it was fake. (laughs)
Nobody told me it was fake.
Iím telling you, I was not comfortable in a lot of things we did, but
that DMZ deal... yes, I mean, you see it. Iím tall. Iím staring this
thing down and Iím going, really? I mean, really? I mean I was a little
bit nervous about it and then you know obviously Jeff sticks that thing.
Itís funny. Itís stupid funny.
When we got there, I thought that was the place. It looks very much like
it. When this North Korean officer was talking to us, I was looking at
his uniform. It was quite warm. It was like the braid was unbraiding,
and the elbows. I thought, wow, it is really a poverty-stricken nation.
Then when it was revealed as a joke, I was put out. I sat down. I
thought, ďI donít want to be part of this.Ē
was mad because I really wanted that story to be real.
Yes, we were both upset. We were both upset that it wasnít real.
Exactly. When the guy on the other side, the North Vietnamese guy says,
what? Go Pittsburgh orÖ
The fact that some people knew it was real and some of us didnít, that
stuck at me too. I mean, what is the policy? Is the policy to look like
an idiot in front of everybody else or to be in on the know? Those are
editorial decisions that had to be made like working it out. Did Shatner
and Bradshaw not know and we tell everybody else?
told you, I didnít know. When the parking lot was empty I thought man
alive, are we that stupid that weíre the only idiots that are going to
park? Then we parked God knows, out in the middle of nowhere.
We got closer and Iím like, really, are we stupid here? Weíre going to
go up to this? It looks just I suppose like the DMZ. I mean, I had no
It was very much like it and the geographical conditions... well it was
only about 20 miles away so the geography was very similar.
How about the jets? Do you remember the jets coming over Bill?
And the jets coming over.
Exactly. Nuts. Anyway, it got me.
Yes, the guy spoke better English than I did though.
We only got to see tiny bits of your trip. Was there anything in
particular that like you would have liked to have been left in the show
that they had to take out?
Well, I havenít seen the show so Terry, do you have an opinion on that?
Yes, I think thatÖ (dog starts barking in the
Is that your agent barking?
No, no, no, Iím in the corner. Iím in a cafeteria somewhere. I thought
that the editing was phenomenal. I have not given any thought to: well
where is this scene or that scene? I thought right now that there is
going with one more show. Thereís nothing Bill that you would say well,
I wish they would have added this or added that. I havenít seen that
yet. Iíll have a better understanding or a better answer for you after
seeing the next one.
And I have no opinion on that.
exactly. Why donít you watch it? You didnít watch it Bill?
Well, I donít watch it Terry because I donít like the way I look. I
donít like the way Ė it always is Ė the edit is always somewhat of a
disappointment. I just find it better not to look at what Iím doing.
Really? Iím like that about a lot of things, but I actually wanted to
see how they cut this thing up. It was just... God, youíd laugh your
butt off. It is seriously funny. It isÖ
Iíll look at it some time.
Is it as painful to watch? Is it as painful to watch film on you as a
football player? Or do youÖ
No, no, because I had to watch that.
Youíre okay with that?
Yes, I had to watch that so I could make the corrections and stuff.
Right. When you look at the football film, do you say, oh gee, I wish I
put my foot there or backed up maybe a step there?
Exactly. Why did I make that call? Why did I go to that guy? Why did I
make an audible here.
Oh thatís a stupid pass. Itís part of getting better the next time. This
show is an entertainment show. I was actually telling Dye, I said, when
watching it you donít necessarily watch yourself, which is such a
selfish thing and a very vain thing to do. You watch the whole show. You
just take in the show and that, to me, was just funny.
Well, thatís successful.
Listen, the octopus thing was hysterical. Do you remember when IÖ
Well, they tell meÖ
Oh, it was funny man.
... that I started to laugh. I remember. I remember the laugh because
you did it so well. This octopus came out of your nose. Iím still
thinking about it.
know, no you did. You were just hanging out trying not to bust up. It
That was funny.
Was there one particular moment from the trip that you both will cherish
specifically? Something that you went through that you didnít expect?
It was filled with unexpected things; both known and unknown. Probably
the best of the moments were between human beings. Five people who had
no knowledge of each other, maybe some cursory knowledge, which maybe
have been curse words, some little tiny bits and pieces here and there,
but no depth. Then we spend a month in each otherís company and had some
really meaningful talks. It was very interesting from that point of
view, getting to know these marvelous people at the top of their
Thereís two things that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed getting dressed and
doing makeup with everybody in the morning. There was more joking going
around, more slapstick comedy. It was really seriously funny and I
enjoyed that part a lot because itís like weíre all getting dressed
together to go to work. I enjoyed that everybodyís loose and cracking
jokes. Bill touched on the talking part. Bill do you recall, we had
You and I? Absolutely.
Yes, the one at the cave.
The temple cave with the monks and everything.
I enjoyed that. One thing about Bill, I accused him of studying the
night before so he knew everything that was going on the next day. I
said, how can anybody know this much about monks or Thailand? (They
both laugh.) I mean, my man is seriously educated. I tried to
pigeonhole him. I tried to catch him, but he always had an answer. Me
being uneducated about this stuff, it sounded good to me, you know? Bill
and I had some really, really good talks. He made a lot of sense about
where we were and how this all got started. I enjoyed that. I especially
enjoyed getting dressed, doing the makeup and having fun with everybody.
That to me was a blast.
And you look good in lipstick.
do. You know what, I do. Now, you didnít watch this thing but I actually
turned to my wife and I said, I look like Iím retaining a little fluid.
You had to specify what fluid.
Oh my God, man I looked like a big old blimp in this thing.
Thatís one of the reasons Iím not watching it, because we had all of
that salty food. There was a lot of water. Iíd like to think of it as
Yes, thatís what Iím going with. As a matter of fact, I still have it.
Oh man. Itís awful.
You guys have had so many life changing experiences on your show
Better Late Than Never, but if there is another
thing you can check off your bucket list, what would it be?
Well, my bucket list was to catch a pass from Terry.
And get in the ring with George Foreman.
And you did that.
And to have Henry make me laugh. He told me a great joke, so I laughed
hard. The next bucket list is, well, I wrote Terry saying, ďImagine us,
you and I Terry, with a cigar in one hand and a Cuba Libre in the
other.Ē Thatís going to be part of my bucket list.
Yes. I had never thought about a bucket list. This wasnít on my bucket
list but now I guess I could say that Iíve done a movie, Iíve done a TV
show, Iíve done a pregame football show, I played football, Iíve sung,
Iíve danced, Iíve done Vegas. Whatís next? I havenít skydived and Iím
not going to. Bucket list? Bill and I both are horse competitors. Oh
Bill, youíll love this, Tammy won the world in the age mare at the
Palomino World Show this year. How about that?
Oh, thatís fantastic.
Thatís her first world title.
Thatís wonderful Terry.
Yes. My bucket list is way over full. I would just like to continue. My
wife goes ďswim with the sharks.Ē She knows Iím petrified of the ocean.
Iím not swimming with sharks. No way is that going to happen. I just
think I would just like to keep raising really good horses and have
world champions that Iíve raised. At this stage of my life thatís it.
And avoid kicking the bucket.
Oh. Well, you know that was part of our bet on this show
was which country will Bill pass away on? I said Thailand.
Making bets as to where I would die.
thought that would be a ratings grabber right there.
fooled them all. Iím waiting for a pickup. Iím waiting for the second
season and weíll call it, Where Am I Going to
Die? (They both laugh more.)
mean, seriously, if you think about it, if this thing does a second
season and Bill is 85 now, if they donít put us back in the heat in the
tropics I think heís going to be all right. Weíve got to go cold because
old people like cold weather. I think. I mean eventually itís going to
happen, right? Itís going to happen.
Well, itís got to put the blood closer to the heart where it belongs.
See there? See there, there he goes being all smart. He said it puts the
blood closer to the heart. My wife just said it freezes up your joints.
I know at our age I know thereís a joint thatís frozen pretty good.
was going to go there but yours was better.
(They both laugh again.)
Oh my God.
If you could turn back time and teach yourself something youíve learned
from your time in Asia or maybe while working on
Better Late Than Never as a whole, what would
Well, I would go to a Pittsburgh game with Terry playing.
And I would never go to Asia. (They both
And therefore this conversation would never have taken place.
saw Henry Winkler saying you learn a lot about yourself when you travel
and you step outside of your comfort zone. What did you both learn from
pretty much a loner. Very few people get into my life. These guys and
the people traveling with them, these guys got into my life. It got
personal and loving and genuine and warm. I admired the experience of
the togetherness. Iím sitting at a desk, and in front of me is a piece
of paper. Iíve been trying to write a song about space and entanglement.
Entanglement is a word thatís being used now as the building blocks of
nature, but entanglement also refers to how weíre all connected. The
five of us got connected on this trip to one degree or another. It was
quite an experience.
You canít spend 34 days together and not work through [things]. If there
are issues, you work through them, because itís important that you get
along. That experience, that anticipation, that anxiety attack that I
had prior to leaving Los Angeles together, Iíve got to tell you, was
immediately taken away. I found out that superstars, Winkler and William
Shatner, are real people and I was so thankful for that. Then I knew
that this was going to be good. This was going to be good. It was going
to be comfortable. What I also found out, and Iím really proud of, is
that as hot and humid as it was is that I could literally live the life
like an actor. Putting in such extremely long hours, going and
showering, going to bed without eating and getting up and starting over.
I found out that I have patience and I have a durability about me at the
age of 67 when we shot this that I was kind of impressed with myself.
Well thatís great. Itís staggering to hear you say that because the rest
of us looking at you, this phenomenal athlete who was at the top of his
game during those years, better than anyone, maybe the greatest that
ever lived, is the epitome of endurance and strength and courage and
durability. Thatís amazing.
If there is a second season, if you had a choice, is there some place in
particular that you would suggest for the show?
Some place cool.
Or air conditioned.
Right. Iíve heard worse cities passed out. But, Iíve never been to
Paris. Iíve never been to Madrid. I think those cities would be
fascinating for me. Obviously Cuba would be a place that would really be
cool. Thereís just a lot. Iíve never been to Niagara Falls soÖ
No kidding? Youíre a tourist. I want to go to China. I want to go to
Let me know how it is. (They both laugh.) You really would want
to? I wouldnít mind going, but Iíd like to go at a little different time
of the year. God dang it wasÖ
Oh no. No, no, we have to go when itís cool. No, it was our death
almost. You could see the air in the monsoon season. No, but Northern
India and China in its complexity andÖ
Iíve never been there, Iíd like that. Iíd like to go to
Russia would be great.
Yes. Iíd like to do all of this before we all canít walk and talk and
And Iím very close to that.
Unless they do the show out of a wheelchair. Then weíre good, weíve got
ten more years. (They both laugh.)
And then retitle it, Too Late!
Too Late. Oh my God. Too Late. Thatís good, I like that.
Listening to you guys on this call itís hard to believe that you werenít
good friends before the series started. You have such crazy chemistry
and really good banter. How surprised were you guys by how quickly you
clicked? Have you stayed in touch since the season wrapped up?
Well, you know we havenít. Everybodyís busy and goes on. Terry and I,
for example, have a few times communicated by email to say how are you,
what are you doing? Terry comes to Los Angeles, and heíll be doing so
more often now that heís going to be doing color and the Rams have come
to Los Angeles, so Terry is going to celebrate that with me before itís
too late. (laughs)
On Monday night, yeah.
So no, we have communicated very little. But on my part with the
anticipation that now we know this show is working, we will spend more
time together. As a result, I will appreciate more emphatically the time
I will get to spend with Terry and the others. Iím looking forward to
spending the time. We ate meals together. Weíd meet in the morning,
walks and the activities that we had to do.
You and I worked out just about every day in the gym. Billís got a
workout habit. I mean, youíve got to see this guy. Itís pretty
impressive. I never saw Henry in there, but he and I were in there. And
Jeff Dye never worked out.
No, heís too thin.
Yes, yes, exactly either that or he was hung over drinking all of that
beer. George did.
Billís right. When we finishedÖ well, first of all you heard me say that
heís not real sure, or I wasnít meeting these guys. I was scared perhaps
Bill would ask me Star Trek questions to see if I was a fan. So
my wife actually Googled all of the information and gave me everything I
needed to know.
Thatís hysterical, I didnít know that.
Thatís where I came up with ďBeam me up, Scotty.Ē I didnít know that,
because I didnít watch the show.
And I had to ask people was it three or five rings?
Yes. Yes, right. I reminded you of what that was. We built the
relationship. You just donít know when you put five people together,
five total strangers, how is it going to be received. Whatís the
perception through a television? That is exactly what it was. It was
chemistry, it worked. Itís like the pregame show at Fox. You donít know
but it works. Our friendship grew and grew and grew to the point where
we could insult one another, we could make fun of one another, and we
could embrace and hug one another. When Bill did the funny thing about
George Foreman on the boat, nobody laughed and he got his feelings hurt.
We just told him, oh God thatís terrible. I mean, he was so serious and
so were we, thatís terrible. Sit down, thatís not funny. You learn these
things about people, but chemistry is just that, itís chemistry. It
either blends and comes together and everybody says, oh look, these guys
like one another. Genuinely, if you donít like one another it will show.
That was not the case. We had a blast, an absolute blast and Iíve got
all of these new friends. Iíve got all of these new friends.
agree, I concur.
Terry, the last leg of your adventure includes a celebration of your
67th birthday, so what crazy hijinx can we expect?
On the 67th birthday? Oh man, I donít think was anything other than the
shock value. I had no idea that they were having a party for me. Itís
been a year ago. I donít think itís anything too crazy. I canít remember
to be honest with you.
Well, I donít want to destroy the surprise but we did surprise him and
it was heartfelt.
Thatís for sure.
For his birthday, it was a neat occasion to celebrate this great athlete
and this wonderful American personality.
It was totally a surprise. I remember I got a call one day from Jimmy
Johnson. He said, ďBoy, you and Shatner really have some funny lines.Ē I
said, what do you mean by funny lines? Those arenít lines, we donít have
lines, thatís just [what was said]. He said, ďWhat do you mean, thatís
not written?Ē I said, no thatís not written, you canít write this stuff.
Thatís the beauty part about this. Thereís some funny people in this
thing man, I mean God dang. Bill you didnít know this I donít think, I
would come in in the morning and the first thing I would say to Henry
Winkler, Iíd go ďWhoa! Hey!Ē The third day he stopped me and he said,
ďLet me just ask you something. Are you making fun of me, or do you
really like that?Ē I said, are you kidding me? Iím wanting you to do it.
I absolutely love it. Iím not making fun of you. So then he would go,
ďWhoa!Ē I did two ďBeam me up, ScottyĒ and Bill says, ďOkay, enough of
the íbeam me up.íĒ
Iíd rather go ďWhoa!Ē Iíll do ďWhoa!Ē ďHey!Ē
Email us Let us know what you think.