Season 1 episode 2
Will and Sonny save the day again. Featuring Mackenzie Phillips as the world’s best 15 year old craps shooter. This appearance falls one year after American Graffiti and one year before One Day At A Time.
When considering the female guest star of the episode Roadblock, just think of the hugely successful singing group “The Mamas and the Papas”. Also, think of the hugely successful film, American Grafitti. At the confluence of the two is Mackenzie Phillips. Mackenzie Philips’ parents are the famous singers John and Michelle Phillips, leaders of “The Mamas and Papas”. Raised by parents such as those, Mackenzie possessed a great deal of sophistication and knowledge for her age, and she brought every ounce of it to the role of the craps shooting young girl.
I had always liked Richard Jaeckel who starred in The Dirty Dozen and many other feature films. He had a tightly wound persona and we thought he would work well with Mackenzie. And, he had worked with Claude in 1968 in The Devil’s Brigade. Our Casting Director suggested we meet both of them at the same time. I thought that a very cool idea.
When they came to meet with us, Mackenzie was filled with confidence. She was feisty and talked our ears off. John Peyser, our director, said to me later, ”she’ll knock the cover off the ball in this role.” How right he was! In the meeting Richard sat and watched her appreciatively, but a little apprehensively too, I think. He smiled that knowing smile of his. It was a bit of a smirk really. I think he knew how hard he was going to have to work to keep up with Mackenzie.
Another one of the pleasures I get watching this episode is seeing Claude Akins and Frank Converse stretching their characters, getting comfy with their roles and getting a handle on their “business” (the little physical things actors do to bring a character to life). Roadblock was only our second episode. The two leads had made a good start and were getting into a groove, but were still working things out. Mackenzie was fearless. She took the bull by the horns and did her thing.
Sometimes Jaeckel wasn’t sure how to perform in his scenes with Mackenzie and the uncertainly you can see in his body language works nicely as a reflection of the awkwardness of their father/daughter relationship. Perhaps Mackenzie’s real-life relationship with her own father is part of it too. Of course, there’s no way I would know – but often actors bring their own history to the roles they play. So, it’s anybody’s guess. I often wondered how was it that Richard and Mackenzie fell into their complex, onscreen relationship as easily as they did. Watching Roadblock reminds me how much in awe I am of actors.
I also wonder what coincidence drove us to do our first two episodes based on the theme of problems that children have with their fathers…. Michael J. Pollard in Time Of His Life, and Mackenzie Phillips in this episode. Beats me!!!