Alison today

Alison today

Alison Grooms played “Charley” in “Movin’ On” season 2 episode “Will The Last Trucker Leaving Charlotte, Please Turn Out The Lights”. In a post on our Facebook page, I marveled at the incredible ability of the unidentified five year-old child playing the part. That post got our fan community in gear and with the help of “Amazin’ Bazen”, Fred and Christopher, the little actress was identified and located. Barry’s wife was the first to make contact with Alison. Heather has a comfortable and charming Southern accent and we thought an out-of-the-blue phone call, forty years after the show aired from Heather was less likely to creep Alison out. It turns out we need not have worried. Alison was happy to talk to us and answer every question we put to her. She even supplied us a few photos that had never been seen outside her family.

I posted the interview with Alison over three Facebook posts. Below are the photos Alison shared and the entire interview I did with Alison.

How were you able to act so natural? Did you have any training? Do you recall following instruction from the director or others?

Alison in the newspaper

Alison in the newspaper

  • I had no professional experience prior to this. Though my mother says, “it just came naturally to me”, I owe her many thanks for her time spent and dedication in helping me with this early start to my years of acting. Mom said I listened well, but she did too. We forever remembered all the valuable direction that came from the crew, director and cast after every take and every rehearsal. I do recall hearing from the director that my mom was not the typical “stage mom”… she stayed out of the way and let me do my thing. It came “naturally” because cast and crew made it easy!

You were five years old, yes?



  • Yes, I was five years old when I auditioned but was 6 years old at the time of filming. My mother does remember the director being concerned about my young age in this large role.

You were so bold, so calm. How did that happen? What were you thinking?

  • It was the environment the cast and crew created that made my performance go well. In addition, my mom’s dedication to rehearsing the lines with me made me very comfortable in front of the camera.
Alison Grooms and Claude Akins

Alison Grooms and Claude Akins

How did get the job?

  • A neighbor dared Mom to take me to audition! I had no experience but Mom thought it would be fun to see how a TV audition works. She grabbed a school picture of me, a deck of cards, and we headed downtown. I remember sitting in a large room with many other girls waiting to be seen. My mother recalls most of the other girls had portfolios and composites, so she just treated it as a neat experience, a fun afternoon taking part in the selection process. She did not prepare me for the audition since she was unaware of what to expect. What she did tell me was to, “just be myself”.  When we got the next few call backs, I remember how excited she was but I did not realize the magnitude of the follow up calls. Finally, we were notified I got the part and we got to work!


Who cared for you on set?

  • My mother and grandmother were with me for most of the filming. At night, my Dad and Mom would go over the next day’s lines and I remember rehearsing in my dressing room a lot. On set I felt like I had even more “Moms”, as the ladies whose characters worked at the truck-stop were extremely nice and generous with their help.

Do you remember Barry Weitz, Claude Akins, Frank Converse or the director?Alison and Claude between takes

  • I remember all of them! They created such a fun (but professional) atmosphere and made me feel very comfortable. Claude Akins gave me a gold bangle with the inscription “Movin’ On”  which I still have today. Claude and Frank were very protective of me and I remember that if any of the actors or the crew used a bad word they had to pay a penalty. I also remember getting a toy “Movin’ On” truck.
Alison Grooms and Claude Akins

Alison Grooms and Claude Akins

How did you feel around the trucks? Were you impressed? Did you sit behind the wheel? Blow the horn?

  • The trucks were intimidating, there were so many buttons and knobs. I was fascinated by the sleeping cabin. I couldn’t believe people really slept in a truck. I did get to sit in the “Movin’ On” Kenworth, though the steering wheel was too big for me to be able to see anything over it. The scene where the truck is stolen while I sleep and I then have to wake up and try to blow the horn made me nervous because  “a bad guy” was driving and I knew the horn would be loud if I pulled it. Another time, Claude Akins, Frank Converse and I were acting like we were driving when we weren’t really moving at all. The truck was completely covered in a black drape and I could not believe the number of men physically shaking the truck to make it look like we were moving. I felt like I might mess up my lines or miss a cue because I was mesmerized by the logistics of it all.

Do you have other memories or stories of being on set or what it was like?

  • It is amazing how many memories I still have of being on set more than 40 years later. I remember I got to hold a kitten much of the time (the kitten was part of a segment in the episode). My dressing room was very “fancy”. There was food available anytime you wanted to eat and I had my very own director’s chair to sit in. I felt like a princess.
Alison Grooms, Claude Akins and Frank Converse

Alison Grooms, Claude Akins and Frank Converse

Did you do any acting afterward? Community Theater? Any wish that you had continued acting?

  • This opportunity led me to further jobs. I signed with several talent agencies and my jobs included national commercials, voice overs, and print ads – working with people like Peter Graves and Nancy Sullivan. Disney’s Mouseketeers wanted me but my parents decided against moving to California. I’m told they pursued me quite persistently. Imagine where that could have led! “Movin’ On” was an exciting start and my first great experience in acting. I am truly blessed to have been provided the opportunity.

If you have recently watched the episode, what do you think of it and yourself? What were your kids reactions?

  • It all came back to me. I even recall some things I said while filming that were not in the script. I was afraid I would get in trouble but my “ad-libs” ended up in the show. In one scene Claude Akins was carrying me, walking downtown, and I said, “It’s raining.” I said, “please” and “thank you” a few times when it was not in the script. My parents obviously taught me manners well. I also remember when I said the line, “Grits give me gas.” Everyone thought it was very funny but I did not understand. Mom had to explain the phrase to me. I recall the shower scene was confusing because I could not understand why I wasn’t really going to get a shower when people kept telling me to take a shower! My children were thrilled to see their five year-old Mom performing on a real TV show. And they especially like the memories I shared about the experience.





Actor Earl Billings Remembers Movin’ On

Phillip Michael Thomas and Earl Billings

Phillip Michael Thomas and Earl Billings

Thanks to Bill “Amazen” Bazen for connecting with actor Earl Billings and getting Earl to share a great story. Earl Billings played the heavy in the episode “No More Sad Songs”. The basic plot is that Sonny and Will unknowingly carry a small time hustler’s loot to Pensacola. The bad guy, Phillip Michael Thomas, promises his boss that he has everything under control but the boss sends Choo-Choo along with him to make sure either he gets his loot or someone pays with their life. Earl Billings, as Choo-Choo, is a very believable enforcer. Ironically, Earl’s story shows what a sweetheart he is in real life. Here’s Earl’s story with an introduction from Bill, and followed by Barry Weitz’s memory of the episode:

“Amazen’s Introduction:

I have a special treat for our Facebook group members today. Mr. Earl Billings, who appeared in the episode “No More Sad Songs” has agreed to share with us his memories from 1975 of working on the Movin’ On production. This is an exclusive interview for Movin’ On fans. As we all remember, Earl’s character was named Choo-Choo and he was Mr. Flick’s bodyguard and henchman. Take it away Earl!…………..

Earl’s Story

There were two things that have stuck with me after all these years. One had to do with the episode’s guest star, Phillip Michael Thomas, and the other with Claude Akins, himself. I had seen Phillip’s work on TV, so I knew who he was. This was long before “Miami Vice” when he became a household name.

I had brought my then wife up from New Orleans where we were living at the time to the location, which was in Mobile, I believe. The night before we began working, the three of us had dinner together and Phillip asked had I read the last scene, the capture scene. During our escape with the loot we drive off the uncompleted freeway into the Gulf. I said that I had read it and thought nothing of it because it was a stunt and all we had to do was surface from the water and get captured. The worst that could happen was that we would get wet.

All week Phillip kept asking me, “Have you met or seen the Stunt Men who would double us?” I said no, that was not my worry. The day of the scene, I went into my dressing trailer and among my clothes was a full wet suit to wear under my wardrobe. Being ex-Navy, I knew that the wet suit was to help us float. There was a knock on the door. It was Phillip holding up his wet suit and frantically asking, “What’s this for?” I explained it was for our safety, in case something happens. He screams, “LIKE WHAT?”

They drove us to the location, which was under the unfinished freeway. A State Trooper and a Diver took us by boat out into the Gulf. For some reason, Phillip brought along a long tree branch. They shoot the stunt, the car going off the freeway. There’s a big splash and then Phillip drops the bomb. “Earl, I can’t swim.” The State Trooper looks at me, I look at the Diver, he looks at Phillip. And from way up on the unfinished freeway the Assistant Director says, “Okay, Phillip, you and Earl get in the water and count to ten, then let the stolen money float up and then you guys surface and that’s a cut.” Phillip sticks the branch in the water checking to see how deep it is but the branch doesn’t touch bottom. Pandemonium!

The Director wants to know what’s the hold up? The Diver and I finally got Phillip in the water and he was holding onto the boat for dear life. Then the Assistant Director called action and the Diver and I pulled Phillip under with us. I let the money go, the Diver pulled away, to stay out of the shot, and Phillip lost his mind. I’m trying to pull him to the surface and he’s fighting like a crazy man. I’m holding him up when the Director calls cut. The Diver comes back and we get Phillip into the boat and we hear the Director say over the bullhorn, “Phil, that was great, you really looked like you were drowning.” The State Trooper, the Diver, and I could not stop laughing.

I had been a fan of Claude Akins ever since “From here to Eternity” and didn’t know his name until “The Caine Mutiny”. During our shoot I got to ride in his trailer to a different location and we talked for about an hour. We talked about how we got started, family and how black actors were now getting good breaks in the business. When I told him that he was big star in black communities, he was taken aback until I told him that he played bad guys and we identified with his guys. They wanted the booze, broads and money, while the guy in the “White Hat” kissed his horse and rode off into the sunset. What the hell was that? His laugh was huge, and warm, and real, and he understood the compliment.

–Earl Billings

Earl also had something nice to say about Barry and Phil, “Weitz and D’Antoni are some of the best in the business. Great guys!”


Movin’ On creator Barry Weitz’s memory of “No More Sad Songs”:

I don’t have any special behind the scenes memories of “No More Sad Songs” other than that we never shot in New Orleans or Pensacola. There may have been some second unit done in New Orleans, but we never shot there with Claude and Frank. The opening shot of the New Orleans harbor was stock footage that we bought and cut in to “establish” the location.

I had a vague recollection of shooting in Mobile, AL. Bill “Amazen” Bazen confirmed that we did use Mobile to “double” for New Orleans and Pensacola. Bill also states, and I believe him, that we used Daphne, AL as the location for Aunt Bess’ house. Bill further states that in a later episode, “Sing It Again, Sonny” we again used Mobile to double for Nashville.

After viewing the episode… 40-years later, I’m comfortable talking about what just might be my biggest problem with the series as a whole. It has to do with edginess, or lack thereof. Our pilot, In Tandem, was edgy. It was raw. It was rough and it was tough. We made In Tandem to appeal to a 10pm audience. Network TV in the seventies was a different beast than today. Nowadays, almost anything goes at any time during prime time. In the seventies, raw, adult themed programs did not air at 8pm or even at 9pm. I created and always saw Movin’ On as a 10pm show but NBC wanted it at 9pm and that is when it ran in season one.

To accommodate the more genteel 9pm audience we had to take out a good deal of the edge and grit. In season two, NBC wanted us on at 8pm and all the edge went away. Did someone say Disney Movie? I was happy to have a show on the air, but I sure wish we could have had the 10pm show that I had imagined.

“No More Sad Songs” is an example of the soft, family style content we were forced into by our time slot. You may notice that “No More Sad Songs” is the second story of a precocious, gambling child. In season one we did an episode called “Roadblock” with Mackenzie Phillips. Mackenzie played a similar role to Maggie, the girl in “No More Sad Songs”. Maggie is younger, sweeter, and more innocent than Chessie, Mackenzie Phillips’ character. That’s the difference an hour makes on network television. My preference would have been, if we were doing another child older-than-her-years episode, to do it more like Jodie Foster in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. But I knew it would never fly with the network.

–Barry Weitz

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Hey Mister, did you lose your dog?

Claude Akins, Frank Converse and Shadrac the dog

Claude, Frank and Shadrack

The hound is Shadrack.

Claude loved the dog!  Frank loved the dog!! I loved the dog!!! Yet, the director of our pilot, In Tandem, Bernie Kowalski knew the dog was going to be trouble one day. He warned me….. “Livestock can’t be directed, Barry”. It was only a matter of time….. Shadrack would take up way too much production time, actor time, script supervisor time…. and general well being….. way, way too much time to be worth it. Bernie was right. I remember Claude taking me aside and saying, “Thanks, Barry, Frank is a great co-star, but I don’t think I can handle the dog as another “co-lead”. That’s when Shadrack was gone. The idea of Shadrack was better than the reality of Shadrack. 

By the by, one of the reasons we selected Bernie to direct the pilot was that he had done “N.Y.P.D”, a series that starred Frank as a New York City policeman. I thought that Akins, Converse, and Kowalski would get on nicely. They did and the pilot was a big success, which allowed us to make the series, “Movin’ On”…. which makes us all smile!!

The photo is of Shadrack on his best behavior.

— Barry Weitz

Movin’ On’s Beginnings

During the filming of The Seven-Ups we spent a lot of time at the Bronx Terminal Market. I watched the comings and goings of an endless stream of independent truckers…. dropping their loads…. and movin’ on to other jobs – anywhere in the country – anywhere that someone was willing to pay them to move their goods. It occurred to me that this world would be a great idea for a T.V. series. So, I sat down and created the characters of Sonny and Will and the beginnings of Movin’ On. Once the concept was sold to NBC and the script approved, we were on the way to production of the pilot. Of course, first things first. We needed to have a Sonny and Will. Who would that be?

Working on the concept for the series I had the actor, Ward Bond, in mind for Sonny. As I got deeper into writing the characters, I knew I wanted Frank Converse for Will. I was a big fan of the T.V. series N.Y.P.D. which Converse had starred in. So casting began and my casting director recommended that I meet with Claude Akins. The moment Claude walked into my office I knew he was Sonny and I made the offer to him immediately. He thought the role was wonderful and the possibility of shooting a series which traveled around the country would be challenging and very exciting. I flew to NYC where Frank lived, met with him and made the deal.

Once we had these two very fine actors the fun began. You see, they had to drive very big 18 wheelers and neither of them  had ever done so. In fact, Frank didn’t drive a car…. much less a semi. Truck driving lessons were on the schedule ASAP. Claude took to truckin’ like a fish to water. Frank…. not so much. So our “Movin’ On” adventure began in the cab of a truck…. with Claude and Frank getting to know each other and their way around a 10 speed manual transmission. But most of all, they started learning the characters – “rough and tumble” indy truckers named Sonny Pruitt and Will Chandler.

Barry Weitz

Christmas card 2015

Movin' On Christmas card 2015This is our 2015 Christmas card. It has been posted on Facebook since before the holiday, but as the website is new and still developing, it’s arriving here a little late. It’s here now for all to see. Better late than…. even later. The photo is a publicity shot taken around the time of In Tandem, the Movin’ On pilot and Movie-Of-The-Week.

It’s been a great year for Movin’ On. We are growing rapidly, like a snowman rolling down an unplowed grade.

  • The website is up and running. I admit it’s a little thin but I’m adding content every day.
  • The Facebook page has over two thousand likes.
  • We have started a Pinterest account.
  • Our first new legally licensed product is available at BigRigTees.
  • Episodes continue to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

We promise that we will not rest. Next year we will continue providing fans with more quality products, provide more outlets to watch episodes, and to continue providing great content on the website and Facebook.

Thanks for all your support and a belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.