Things are quite different these days for Guy Williams, thanks to Zorro. Guy had just returned from a visit to New York, his home town, his first since being cast as the star of Disney's successful Zorro series on ABC-TV. It was a trip he'd been looking forward to, but it didn't turn out entirely as he expected.
"I had so looked forward to walking through Central Park as I used to," Guy said quietly. "But I soon discovered this wasn't so easy anymore. I was okay if I kept walking, but once I stopped, it seemed kids came charging from all over, asking for autographs."
"The same was true of the Bronx Zoo, another New York spot I love to visit. Here, again, if I didn't stop, it was fine, but I happened to hesitate at the elephant house there and I was through. Sure I miss the privacy I used to have, but when I had that privacy, I also had little or no money and lots of frustrations. I'd be crazy if I objected to the attention these fans give me. Without them, where would I be?"
Most of Guy's friends in New York, many of them actors, reacted to his success in an expected manner, they were glad he got the big break, and from a personal angle, they enjoyed his good fortune. None of them was envious, and yet most of them were still waiting for that one big chance. Those friends who weren't in show business had all kinds of questions about the show to ask him. "The majority of them wanted to know how I put the "Z" in the shirt, what the sword itself is really like, is Henry Calvin as fat as he seems or is he padded (he's not padded), is Gene Sheldon a deaf mute (he's not), and things like that. There is a great deal of curiosity about Zorro, which is certainly good."
Few series have made such an impression as has this one from Disney's. And most emphatically it has made the young set sit up and take notice. Recently, the kids at the Rio Vista Grade School in North Hollywood all signed a "Z" at the bottom of their arithmetic test papers instead of their real names. They apparently pre-arranged this but it pointed up the popularity of Zorro.
Even Guy's son, Stevie, has finally been won over. At first he wasn't too interested in the show, but things have changed. At his school he noticed how enthusiastically the other kids talked about Zorro and how suddenly popular he was. However, when kids began giving him candy, he assumed it was because they liked him, which was partly right. At any rate, he began to ask his pals over to the house and promised them Guy's autograph.
Guy has taken his success in his stride. He and Dennis Weaver, who are close friends, hit the jackpot at about the same time and they compare notes. They arrived at the same conclusion. "This was no overnight thing for me or Dennis," Guy said seriously. "Six long years of disappointment, hard work and frustration came first. All the misery you went through before you hit is overlooked. People say, 'How lucky can he get?' Recognition of his work is so important to an actor, it's tough when it takes so long in arriving. And yet, the time spent in working and hoping often pays off, if you apply yourself right. For two of those six years I took lessons in fencing, primarily for more ease in bodily movement. It was certainly a good thing I did, considering all the fencing I now do on Zorro."
"I must say, though, that in my wildest dreams I never expected to get a break as a Latin. I had gone on many interviews before where a Latin type was needed. The casting director took one look at me and just laughed; said I was too American and all that. Consequently, when I got the call to go to Disney's to be interviewed for Zorro, I had little hope. I was especially sure I'd not be considered because I had just finished some Annapolis TV shows and had my hair in a crew cut. But, much to my surprise, Lee Traver, who is in casting at the studio, said to me, "I think you could look Latin all right;' I just about flipped. He passed me and so did the others. And now I'm the super-Latin type."
Guy has found the series a very pleasant chore, principally because he has been able to work with such people as Britt Lomond (who hasn't appeared in recent episodes but was in the first 13), Gene Sheldon, Henry Calvin and George J. Lewis. "I've been surrounded by a good cast and crew," Guy said sincerely.
"Britt and I, for instance, used to fence together before we ever heard of Zorro. We did sabre work then. We both learned about casting for Zorro at the same time and we agreed it would be a great idea to work together. 'We could get paid to fence,' we remarked.
It was indeed a break that we got the show. During production, we'd rehearse our dueling scenes between set-ups, and since these are grueling chores, it was even more important that we had had all that fencing before. Britt and I really got to know each other, blade-wise. As for Gene and Henry, they have a great sense of humor. In the long stretches when there's not much happening on the set, Gene keeps the whole set in good spirits by his jokes and general comments. Henry is the same in his rotund, good humor. George Lewis, too, is another who makes our Zorro set a happy one, and in a series like this, if there's not a good feeling on the set between the regulars, it's a rough deal."
No woman has been featured as a performer on Zorro, but this is to change in upcoming segments. So far, no definite girl has been selected, but by the time you read this, it is possible that the choice will have been made. The girl should create further interest on the Zorro set.
"Frankly, taking everything in consideration, I can't think of a better way to make a living," Guy commented with a smile. "Getting paid for having fun is one of the best occupations I know of."