Bill Mumy is an actor, musician, voice-over artist, and comic book writer who is best-known for playing Will Robinson in the 1960s television show Lost in Space. We spoke at his home in the Hollywood Hills.
Q. What’s going on in your life?
A. I’m channeling the muse and I’m very grateful for that. I’m writing constantly. I have a really nice studio upstairs. I have a new album out and Barnes and Barnes made our first album in 18 years, in 2009. I’ve been very lucky to keep working in the voice over industry. That’s been my gig since Babylon 5 wrapped, pretty much. I did that show for five seasons in the ‘90s and that was a really busy time for me. I had co-created and co-wrote two seasons of a family sci-fi show called Space Cases, the band was gigging, and the kids were really little. So that was a really knuckle-down, make your money kind of time and I paid off the house and I don’t owe anybody any money which is a great feeling. I’ve got to say, if anybody’s fortunate enough to be in a position where they don’t owe anybody any money and they own what they have, it really affects decisions in a big way.
Q. How does being financially comfortable affect your decisions?
A. Playing an alien on a television show for five years and gluing foam rubber to your head at 5 in the morning for 14 hours a day is certainly not the same as being in the trenches of a war or having to work in the fields all day picking grapes or whatever, but it was like, “Wow. I’m burnt.” I was really grateful to segue into a good amount of voice-over work. As much as I like about on camera work, and I do like to work on camera and I think I’m pretty good at it, the process of getting a job as an actor over the age of 40-something is pretty heinous. I just got to a point where it was, like, thank God I was saying “Farmer’s Insurance gets you back where you belong” for 11 years or narrating Biography, or whatever. Doing that stuff, the checks continued to come in.
Q. You sound pretty turned off to the film and television industries.
A. My observation of the way things have changed in the industry, the entertainment industry, is that it hasn’t changed for the better. The deals, the contracts for actors, the union, everything has been whittled away. We’re not really getting a better deal than we used to get. We’re getting a much worse deal. If someone were to come along and offer me a good part in even a low-budget film, sure, I’d get on a plane. I’d deal with what I had to deal with if it were creatively satisfying to me, but it’s much more creatively satisfying to me to write an album’s worth of tunes and see them through with an uncompromising perspective, thank you. An actor is a chess piece, a director’s chess piece, and the director is a producer’s chess piece. In the long run an actor is very low on the level of having much creative input into a television show.