Gavin MacLeod Almost Played This Character on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’: ‘Follow Your Heart’
The late Gavin MacLeod was beloved by classic television fans for his almost 20-year run on two popular series: as Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and in the role of Captain Merrill Stubing on The Love Boat.
He revealed at one time that when he auditioned for the Moore Show, he was nearly cast in this vastly different role from that of the WJM-TV newswriter he ended up playing.
Gavin MacLeod died recently
The actor died at his home in Palm Desert, California, on May 29, 2021 at the age of 90. MacLeod, whose birth name was Allan George See, appeared on television throughout the years beginning in the late 1950s.
The recognizable character actor made appearances in several films including 1959’s Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant and The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen in 1966.
Most of MacLeod’s career, however, took place on television. Viewers became acquainted with him on various series: Manhunt, General Electric Theater, Dr. Kildare, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, McHale’s Navy, Hogan’s Heroes, The Munsters, The Andy Griffith Show, It Takes a Thief, and countless others.
Gavin MacLeod said he was considered on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ for this role first
In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, MacLeod recalled being sought by Moore’s production company for her at-that-time upcoming self-titled show.
“My agent said, ‘They’re interested in seeing you for The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” he recalled.
MacLeod was familiar with Moore from having worked with her in a guest appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
“They sent me two scripts: the pilot and “Rhoda’s Mother,” he said. “They wanted to see me for Lou Grant. What a great part. But I wouldn’t believe myself being her boss. I wouldn’t buy myself being Mary’s boss. But I liked this guy Murray Slaughter. So I go in for the day, for the interview and there’s [Moore Show casting director] Ethel Winant, fabulous human being. And there’s Ethel, and [Moore Show co-creators Allan Burns and James L. Brooks]. So we started reading Lou Grant, I was getting laughs, I felt great.”
MacLeod’s advice to actors
The future Love Boat actor then shared advice he said was “good for actors to know, to follow your heart.
“I put my hand on the door,” he said about his audition. “‘Can I tell you the truth? I really like this character, Murray. There’s something about him, I think I can do something with him.”
They had MacLeod read a few lines as Murray Slaughter and when he was done and left the room, “I see Ed Asner outside pacing the floor, Ed’s famous pace. That afternoon my agent called and said, ‘They want you to do the Mary Tyler Moore pilot.’ I said, ‘What part?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, something about a guy named Murray.'”