Main > Series > Q & A > Frank Merwald
1. What happened to the girl Alicia (Phoebe Yaden-Lewis)? It really appeared she was becoming a semi-regular, even making it into the 'cast' photo for the Lung Cancer posters.
That's a good question? I don't know what happened to Phoebe. My records tell me that she was introduced on Year 3 in the episode entitled "The Deal." The production number for that episode was # 2778. I tried to locate Phoebe on: www.IMDb.com with no success. She may have changed her last name.
2. Was it hard to get/convince Erica Gimpel to guest star in Season 4, seeing as she had only just left the previous year?
I don't recall the circumstances that brought Erica back. All I know is that we were thrilled to have her return for another show. That episode was called “Coco Returns” and the production number was # 2741.
3. Final ever episode. Were all past regulars contacted about appearing? Who, if any, changed their mind at the last moment?
I know that we tried to get as many of the past regulars as possible. I remember Nia Peeples being there the day we shot the big final production number. I have many pictures from that day. It was a very bittersweet and emotional shoot for everybody that had been working on the series.
4. What ever happened to all the costumes and props from the series?
In 1987 Ted Turner bought MGM for its film library. After he got control of the library he sold the studio property to Lorimar Productions. Around 1989 Warner Bros. bought Lorimar. I would assume that most of the costumes and props belong to Warner Bros. if they weren't sold off.
5. Why was the departure of Bruno Martelli never shown or explained?
I don't know the answer to this except maybe the producers hoped that Lee Curreri would return for future episodes, and they wanted to keep all possibilities open.
6. Thank you so much for allowing this opportunity. I watched "Fame", the entire 6 seasons. Although I was very upset to see Lee Curreri & other cast members go - I fell in love with the new ones just as much. There was a definite shift in the genre of the show from the first 2 seasons to the last 4 - was that decision something everyone agreed upon? What prompted the shift - trying to get higher ratings in the U.S.?
I think that the shift had to do with the head writing teams. Years 1,2,and 3 Bill Blinn was the executive producer and head writer. Bill brought the series successfully to television. Year 4 and 5 the head writers were Donald Reiker and Patricia Jones. The final Year 6 the head writers were Harry and Renee Longstreet. The head writers are usually the people who decide the direction of where the storylines for that season are going.
7. What was your most memorable episode or experience of the show & why?
Definitely, the most memorable experience was filming the last episode "Baby, Remember Name" production number # 2964. I mean many, many of the cast and crew were there from the entire run of the series. It was a very emotional experience. I have many photos from those final days that I will share with the fameforever.com website some day.
8. Although I know this isn't part of your department - do you happen to know the extent of the merchandising that went with the show?
I know that there was a lot of stuff. I had collected a FAME lunch box (which I gave away!) and there were two or three coloring books that are probably worth a fortune today. I think that I still have the coloring books. I also have the six original Long play albums from the series, which I will never give away!
9. Growing up watching Fame I was always blown away with the on-screen presence of Erica Gimpel who played Coco in the TV series. I was wondering if you had any funny stories or recollections of your experience working with Erica?
When I started on the series on Year Three I remember Erica sitting in dailies very intently watching the screen. I was always completely blown away by what a beautiful and talented actress she was at such a young age.
10. Also, when is Fame going to be released on DVD?.... there is a MASSIVE demand out there...and not just by us hard core fans that come to this site; everyone who I have talked to has said that they would love to get a copy of the TV show Fame in a box set. It really was a very special show to so many; we are now all in our 20's - 40's and it has been so long since we have seen Coco, Bruno, Leroy, Doris, Ms Grant et all in our living rooms for way too long.
I'm pretty sure that MGM is working on the DVD release. In July of 2003 I got a call from some negative cutting post production house in Hollywood that was looking for the negatives for the years that I worked on the series. I told them that I shipped all of the elements each year to a facility then know as Bonded Storage. They must have found the elements because I never heard from them again.
11. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I've been working as an associate producer or co-producer for most of my career. To see a complete list of the shows that I've worked on, please go to my website: www.omahafilmworks.com. There is also a link on my site to my credits on www.IMDb.com.
12. For those of us who don't know, what does the job of Associate Producer entail?
As far as the production of the show, I have to provide music and sound effects for the stage for the actual shooting of the scenes if they are needed. Basically, after the show is shot it gets turned over to me. I make sure that the film gets to the lab for processing and the film gets transferred to tape. After the editor cuts the footage, I supervised the online and color correction. I prelay the music and sound effects for the mix. I supervise the actual mix of the show. I'll oversee the making of the opticals if there are any, title the show with credits, and ship it to the network.
13. What job(s) did you have before Fame and after Fame?
Please see my website for my credits: www.omahafilmworks.com.
14. What are you doing these days?
I'm developing projects for television and cable channels with a couple of different production companies.
15. What was your most favorite job to date and why?
Seriously, it was FAME. I have been asked this question a hundred times, and I have always said FAME. When I got on this show the third season, I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. It was my favorite show at the time. It combined drama, music and dance. It was the perfect show!
16. What do you think of the success Fame had after all these years?
FAME struck a cord with a lot of people. With it being introduced in the 1980's, I think that a lot of people identified with it, and have never been able to forget that special feeling that we got out of watching the show.
17. Did you ever think the show would last as long as it did?
As far as the actual shooting of the series, I always felt that it could have run another two or three years in syndication. I knew that the audience was there to watch it, and I knew that the stories were there. As far as the success of FAME to this day with the www.fameforever.com website, I am in total shock as to the people who are so loyal to this show 17 years after it went off the air. I have never forgotten it either, and I'm thrilled to see so many people so loyal to the series.
18. Do you have a theory as to why the show was so much more successful in England?
That's a good question. All I can say is thank God for the British fans. You Brits have very good taste!
19. Have you had the opportunity to work with any of the cast from Fame since the show ended?
I haven't worked with any of them, but I hope to some day! I seem to run into Valerie Landsburg at least once or twice a year on a studio lot or in a store. I ran into Lee Curreri at Albert Hague's funeral, and Lee and I have gotten together three or four times since then. I saw Carlo Imperato acting in a play in Burbank, California. Since then Carlo and I have played golf a few times. Billy Hufsey came into audition for a part while I was working on THE TONY DANZA SHOW sitcom. Since then I've played golf with Billy a few times, but haven't seen him for a few years. I wanted to set up a golf foursome with Billy and Carlo, but it never worked out. I've also seen Debbie Allen a few times at plays and benefits that she has sponsored.
20. Do you have a favorite Fame episode and, if so, why is it your favorite?
The last show "Baby Remember My Name." It was a heartbreaker with so many of the original cast and crew from all six years of the show.
21. Would you happen to know why some episodes were shot in real locations and others (the majority) in a studio?
At the beginning of each season while I worked on the show, FAME went to New York City and shot for two or three weeks on location. By that time at least six scripts were written so we could shot exteriors on the streets of New York for those shows. Being that the last four years were shot for syndication, the show did not have the budget to shoot full-time in New York. So we had to settle for the remainder of the episodes being shot on a sound stage at the MGM Studios in Culver City, California. During my four years on FAME we shot on Stage 26, Stage 28 and Stage 29.
22. Why weren't more episodes shot in and around New York?
It was basically a money thing. We didn't have the budget to shoot in New York the whole time currently like the shows THIRD WATCH and LAW AND ORDER.
23. I'm curious about something. In your opinion, do you think that a Fame reunion movie could ever become a possibility?
I don't think that a FAME reunion "movie" is a possibility, but I think that a FAME reunion "television show" has a better possibility of happening some day.
24. For instance, do you think that the majority of the cast would come back for something like that?
Yes, I think that the original FAME cast would jump at the chance, and we would be thrilled to see them all together again.