Where Are They Now ~ Randolph Mantooth

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Randolph Mantooth in Former daytime star headlines at Michigan’s Purple Rose Theatre

Daytime fans know Randolph Mantooth well. The actor made the rounds on popular soaps like ‘Loving/The City’ (Ales Masters), ‘As the World Turns’ (Hal Munson), ‘One Life to Live’ (Kirk Harmon), and ‘General Hospital’ (Richard Halifax).

Mantooth’s loyal fans (myself included) remember him best as the lovable paramedic Johnny Gage on the popular 1970’s drama ‘Emergency!.’

In addition to the above mentioned, the actor has an impressive list of stage, film, and television credits including ‘Criminal Minds,’ ‘ER,’ ‘JAG,’ ‘The Fall Guy,’ ‘Operation Petticoat,’ and ‘Detective School.’

Mantooth is currently in my home state of Michigan starring in the Tracy Letts play, ‘Superior Donuts.’ 

I had the privilege of seeing Mantooth expertly perform in this wonderful play. Even more thrilling for me – the actor granted Soapdom a sit down interview after a recent performance.

Soapdom: Were you surprised by the popularity of ‘Emergency!?’

Randolph Mantooth: I had no idea. In fact, we thought we would be cancelled every year because we were up against ‘All in the Family.’ After about five seasons, we realized we had a loyal fan base.

Soapdom: How did you manage to look so convincing playing a paramedic on TV?

Mantooth: We had to take a paramedic course. We didn’t take the written course. But they wanted us to be as accurate as possible so we had to be right there with the paramedics. We trained with the fire department too. Of course, they didn’t know who we were – we weren’t ‘stars,’ – they thought we were just stupid, out of work actors that they had to put up with. (laughs)

Soapdom: Is it true that the recues on ‘Emergency!’ were based on real stories?

Mantooth: Every one of them, yes. The writers weren’t allowed to make anything up. The stories came from actual fire logs.

Soapdom: Was the ‘teen idol’ fame back then difficult for you to handle? If so, was it partly because you felt too much emphasis was placed on your looks and not your talent?

Mantooth: Yes. When you get that famous, your freedom in life of being able to go where you want without being hounded is gone. When you’re young, you don’t know how to react to that. You don’t know how to handle that when you’re young. When I see some of the antics the younger stars today pull, I totally get it. They don’t know how else to react. It can be very, very overwhelming.

Soapdom: I’m thinking a lot of the things the magazines printed about you back in the ‘Emergency!’ days weren’t so accurate:

Mantooth: I’d get these calls and the magazines would say they wanted to interview me. When I’d say ‘no,’ they’d say ‘we’re going to write it anyway.’ I didn’t want anything to do with it, so they would just make it up.

Randy Mantooth stars as Arhur, the donut shop owner in Superior Donuts

Soapdom: How did you feel when ‘Emergency!’ ended?

Mantooth: I was very sad. I missed the comradery. And I missed my best friend Kevin (Tighe, Mantooth’s co-star on the show). I went right into another series so I was still working. After that series ended, I went into another series. Kevin wasn’t so lucky. He had to go and reinvent himself in New York. And he realized what suited him well was playing ‘bad guys.’ That’s so opposite of his personality – he’s the sweetest, kindest, most intelligent human being I think I’ve ever run across. But he plays a bad guy really well.

Soapdom: How did it feel when ‘Emergency!’ was inducted into the Smithsonian?

Mantooth: It was probably the biggest honor of my life because it was inducted into the Public Service section, not the Entertainment section. To me, that meant that I was part of something so revolutionary that it changed the face of emergency medicine. That was the proudest moment of my life.

Soapdom: Talk about your time on ‘Loving.’

Mantooth: I’ve never had more fun. For nine years, I had more fun than I had my entire life. I would get out of bed every morning and think ‘I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this.’ It was the greatest – I was in New York and I was single at that time. I was doing scenes with incredibly beautiful women. I never had more fun in my life. ‘Loving’ was ‘it’ for me.

Soapdom: Would you consider returning to daytime?

Mantooth: Probably not. I’d have to do it in California and if you’re going to do a soap, you have to do it in New York. However, it's no longer possible to do a NY soap because the few that are left are in CA.

Soapdom: Is theater your love?

Mantooth: It’s always been my love. It’s been nine years since I’ve been on stage so I was very nervous about coming back. Theater is hard – it takes you away from home for long periods of time.

Soapdom: Aside from being away from home, what do you find the most challenging about theater?

Mantooth: When you work in the theater, you’re wearing your character like a blanket 24/7. Whatever faults, neurosis, or idiosyncrasies your character has stay with you until you’re away from the theater for a couple hours. You’re so into the character, you have to adopt his idiosyncrasies. It’s much more tiring doing theater than, say, doing a film or television.

Soapdom: Is it true you still get nervous before a performance?

Mantooth: Oh yes, every time. Your adrenaline goes on when you’re out there and the nervousness goes away. But when you’re standing there waiting to go on, the nerves are there. I think if that feeling ever goes away, you’re in trouble.

Thanks to Randy Mantooth for spending part of his Saturday with Soapdom.

If you’re in the Chelsea, Michigan area, don’t miss ‘Superior Donuts.’

This wonderfully poignant play tells the story of Chicago donut shop owner Arthur Przybysxzewski (Mantooth).  An unfulfilled, lonely man, Arthur's life is forever changed by a troubled young writer, Franco Wicks (Brian Marable).  Through Franco, Arthur finally sees what life has to offer.

Directed by Guy Sanville, 'Superior Donuts' offers up some much needed laughter and hope to its audience.

The play runs through December 15 at The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan.

For more on Randy Mantooth, visit his official website.

Randy Mantooth stars as Arhur, the donut shop owner in Superior Donuts

All photos courtesy The Purple Rose Theatre