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Morning Man Classic: Billy Campbell!

Billy Campbell turns 65 today and his birthday present from me is an encore presentation of our 2011 interview!

Billy will always have a special place in the hearts of gay fans because of two roles: Luke Fuller on Dynasty and Dr. Jon Philip Fielding on the original Tales of the City miniseries and its two sequels.

On Dynasty, he was Steven Carrington’s boyfriend and the two had just arrived at a solid place in their relationship when they had to go to Moldavia for the wedding of Steven’s sister Amanda. Well, there was a massacre during the wedding (Amanda was marrying a prince) and one of the victims was Luke!

Poor Steven was never going to find happiness on that show!

But his 1984-85 run on Dynasty jump-started Billy’s career in television and film and he went on to star in NBC’s Crime Story series then the feature film Rocketeer. He also did a very memorable 1988 guest spot as Captain Thadiun Okona on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But it was in 1993 that another iconic gay role came his way in Tales of the City. His romance – and that kiss in the convertible! -  with Michael “Mouse” Tolliver were a highlight of the miniseries. He reprised the role in the less-magical sequels More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City.

My favorite role of all though was Billy as divorced dad Rick Sammler who melds his family with Sela Ward’s on ABC’s late, great Once and Again. It was a series that was so well-done, so special. Of course it only lasted three seasons!

He had another hit with the series The 4400 and starred in The Killing as a clean-cut politician who may or may not have something to hide.

When we spoke at the TV Critics Association gathering 13 years ago, I wondered if Billy was happy with his overall body of work at that point.

“I don’t even think of a body of work to tell you the truth,” he said. “I have as many bad things in my past as I do good. When I think about them, I think about them in terms of the people I met, the friends I have from many of those things which were good or bad. Most of why I like [acting] anyway is just having a job and going to work with people.”

There was a specific reason for my question. Billy had recently spent a year at sea and would have remained had the offer for The Killing come through.

“It literally felt like a dream,” he said of his first day at work. “I stepped onto shore and the day after I got off the ship, I was in front of a camera in Vancouver and I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was just floating. That was very, very strange and it lasted for a good, long while.”

In The Killing, it’s hard to tell whether Billy’s character is a bad guy or a good guy. I wondered which type of guy he’s prefers since he’s played plenty of both including playing a college professor rapist on an episode of Law & Order: SVU last season.

“If I had to choose I’d say I prefer bad guys,” he said. “When you think about it, a bad guy can behave any way but a good guy really only behave like a good guy. I’m really kind of excited by the notion of not knowing. I think it keeps it really interesting for all of us.”

He admits to not being as ambitious as he once was: “I’m just changing as a person. For me it’s definitely more about the journey and definitely less about the destination. I’m very much more zen about everything I think, genuinely so.”

“In the last few years, I’ve begun to be able to just kind of let things go – the disappointments – just kind of let them go and accept the things that happen with a certain amount of serenity. It just all seems to work out that much better. A lot of that has to do with having gone to sea I think.”

After The Killing, Billy played Dr. Alan Farragut in the SYFY series Helix and Det. John Cardinal on CTV’s Cardinal from 2017-20. Most recently, he’s done guest spots on Mr. & Mrs. Smith and FBI.

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