Madman Entertainment

Interview with Kellie Flanagan, star of The Ghost & Mrs Muir

To celebrate the release of THE GHOST & MRS MUIR Series 1 and Series 2 being available for the first time on DVD anywhere in the world, we asked star Kellie Flanagan, who played 9 year old Candace ‘Candy’ Muir, Mrs. Muir’s daughter, a few questions about her time working on the show.

Today, Kellie is a writer, reporter and producer living in California.

When you were up for the part of Candy on the series, were there a lot of other girls in the audition process?

When I auditioned for the role of Candace Muir I was 8 years old. I do not remember the specific audition, but my sister Jill was about 25 then, and she remembers this: “a lot of little girls were involved in the first pass casting, it was probably a ‘cattle call.’ Went to maybe 4 – 6 auditions and then got 2 ‘call-backs’ until it was between [me] and another girl, then they had [us] both read again, then read with the major cast and we waited and waited one or two days until mom got a call that ‘YOU GOT THE PART!’” – JILL

While I don’t remember the specific audition, I have a good recollection of auditions, in general, and even now… typing certain phrases like “cattle call,” “call-back” and “You got the part!” gives me a feeling of excitement that is surprising to me after all these years. A “cattle call” meant there would be a ton of kids coming out to audition for a part, so that was sort of a roll-your-eyes and don’t-put-too-much-stock-into-it kind of a feeling. Now, “call-back,” on the other hand – that was big news. That meant someone had noticed you, and you got to go back in for a better look, more reading, up close and more personal. Two call backs would have been jackpot! Finally getting a call that says “You got the part!” – I can literally feel my chest swelling with excitement remembering those words. That would involve a lot of jumping up and down, hugging,  and inevitably some sort of homemade ice cream sundae with hot fudge. I was, and am still today, greatly motivated and rewarded by chocolate.

My mother was not a typical stage mother, as she was considerably older than most moms (she had me just before her 50th birthday) and had already raised 4 good kids. I was “how-come-you-come” baby. My mom, Geraldine, would ask this important question after every interview: “how did it feel?” Not, “How did you do?” or “What did they think of you?” or “Did they like you?”. It was “how did it feel,” and I think that’s essential and has been essential to my well-being.

Kellie (bottom left) with her TV family – the cast of The Ghost & Mrs Muir

What are you memories of working with Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare? Did you find working mostly with adults an odd environment at such a young age?

My primary memories of working with the two wonderful actors, Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare are that everyone smoked, all the time, and everyone laughed a lot. I was a little kid, so most of the action took place above my head. The set was a very happy set, with parties every Friday night, and I remember that all the ladies were swooning over Mulhare and always disappointed to find out the beard had to be applied every day. His real beard was red, was the reason I remember, and they needed that salt-and-pepper thing. Hope was extremely sweet and kind to us, though I do remember there was a period where we were not supposed to bother her – I think she may have been going through a divorce – I believe she had a daughter about my age. Hope was lovely and her voice is fabulous. Reta Shaw was a delight and Charles Nelson Reilly was hilarious. The dog annoyed me!

It was not weird to be around adults because, for one reason as I explained earlier, my parents were older and I had been already raised around a lot of adults as a result. Plus, I had been in the business since age 3, so landing a series was the next logical step. Also, what some people might not realize, is that a sound stage on a movie studio is about the best place a kid could ever be. There are sets with houses and stairs that go nowhere. Beneath the floor is a maze of tunnels allowing the grips and electricians access to the wires everywhere – we played down there sometimes. Harlen (co-star Harlen Carraher) and I had each other to play with, and there were other kids around on the lot. Darby Hinton was a friend of mine when we were kids (he was on Daniel Boone one sound stage over) – I think the studio made more of it for publicity – but the point is there were kids around and even if there weren’t – no shortage of fun stuff to do. There’s a whole art department, a construction department – a sound stage is a world of sights, sounds, smells and just a huge imagination-atorium for kids! Totally fun, all the time. Plus, you only had to go to school for 3 hours! More than enough!

Kellie (right) with her TV mother and brother Hope Lange and Harlen Carraher

Did you ever find it difficult to act as if “The Ghost” wasn’t there in a scene with you, given your character was not supposed to see him?

No, no difficulty, that was the acting part!

Can you remember any of the “special effects” which were used, such as making objects float or move, and the “The Ghost” disappearing?

The special effects in those days were crude and awesome. When Captain Gregg came and went, we “froze.” If you’ve ever played a game of freeze tag with a kid, you know kids are good at freezing. So the director would call “freeze” and Edward would walk into the scene or leave the scene and they would keep the camera rolling until they called “cut” and then they fixed it all up in editing. That was like a game and it was fun to play. In terms of objects floating around, yes, there were strings and wires everywhere, all the time! The property and special effects department must have gone mad with all they had to do. Even the sound of thunder in those days (it rained a lot at Gull Cottage, you know) – was made by two grips wobbling and popping a huge piece of sheet metal. Rain came from a garden hose. Rooms had three walls and no ceiling. Cobwebs were made of something that smelled like rubber cement being shot out of something that looked like a squirt gun! It was magical, it was awesome, and made not less so by the fact that we were busy pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes in television land… because (shhh) the ghost wasn’t real! Er, that’s what we thought, I think!

Kellie (centre) with Harlen Carraher and the Ghost himself, Edward Mulhare

Often today TV is focused on churning through a production quickly, but back in those days, can you recall on set if that was also a focus, or was the emphasis more about producing a quality program and allowing time to get things right?

Every show took a week, and at the end of every week there was a wrap party. I don’t remember any tension or sense of hurriedness, except perhaps to get finished so we could all get to lunch or the Friday wrap. There may have been rushing and temperaments flaring in the altitude above me, but I don’t remember anything except a lovely time. Lots of reading, I learned to crochet on the set, and sometimes we would go over to the park across the street for a swim. I am pretty sure the adults were working harder, though!

Kellie (left) taking some time out with co-star Harlen Carraher and Scruffy, the Muirs’ Wire Fox Terrier

With only 2 series produced, does it surprise you the series has continued to be popular and so much loved over 40 years later, and why do you think it has?

It does surprise me that people still enjoy the show more than 40 years later, and I think it’s just about the sweetest thing. I recently watched some episodes that fans who have become friends have sent me, and I believe part of the reason for the show’s continued popularity is simply that it’s a really good show. Well written, intelligent dialog, a female lead character who was living on her own as a writer, raising two kids, a sassy housekeeper and a nutty Claymore and that totally hot, hot unattainable Captain! – the mix of talent in the show is delicious. These actors were highly trained, versatile professionals who had a whole bunch of work under their belts – and it shows. It’s also just super charming in terms of the unrequited love element… chaste yet sexy… many of the fans write fan fiction so the love story between Carolyn and the Captain has gone on quite nicely!

Kellie (bottom left) looks on as Hope Lange (centre) celebrates her birthday with Charles Nelson Reilly (top left, who played town clerk, Claymore Gregg), director Gene Reynolds (who went on to co-create M*A*S*H), Harlen Carraher (bottom right, who played Jonathan Muir, Mrs. Muir’s son) and actress Reta Shaw (far right, who played housekeeper, Martha Grant).

You’re regularly in contact with fans of the series, what has their reaction been to the series finally being made available on DVD for the first time?

I have a Facebook page where I have old pictures and experiment with other things I do like writing, gardening, raising chickens, being a parent and opinionated TV watcher – it’s where you guys found me I think. Some friends and fans participate, so yesterday I asked them that question and I will just give you the answers directly. The people who commented about residuals are my goofy friends. Everyone else is an actual fan that I met through the internet. They are extremely kind, supportive, talented, diverse and funny. Sadly, I haven’t many friends from your neck of the woods. Perhaps if you post my Facebook page, I will acquire some 😉

 The below is a selection of Kellie’s fan’s responses to the news that The Ghost & Mrs Muir is finally being released on DVD:

It’s about time and WE ARE EXCITED!!! ~ Jean Yannes

Such a wonderful show! Tell him we are jealous and we’d love seeing it in the US. What a shame it’s only in Australia!! ~ Edie Wilborn Tapley

Envious of our mates down under! We need shows with clear family values her in the states! ~ Lisa Holloway

Ask him if you’re going to receive phantom payments? ~ Andrea Lawn Franklin

Tell them to use this photo to boost sales! And get distribution rights for the US ~ Stephanie Lieber Johnson

Tell him it beats having to watch bad YouTube reproductions. Hope you get residuals. ~ Gail Pyle Robson Birdnecklace

It’s about time! ~ Mara McCabe

The child actors need residuals send them quick! ~ Dotty Cramer

It’s great news. I’m with Mara. It’s about time. ~ Darrell Kastin

We want it on DVD here in the states! ~ Michele Del Valle

I am thrilled that GaMM is available ANYWHERE!!!! Hopefully it will soon come out in the USA (please) ~ Lori Lfr

It’s a wonderful show. I loved watching re-runs as a kid and rediscovered it as an adult. Too bad they don’t make family sitcoms like this anymore. ~ Carolyn Blocker

 

Madman would like to thank Kellie Flanagan both for her time for this interview and for kindly providing images from her personal memorabilia collection, seen above.

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