Reunited Hal Linden & Max Gail Talk ‘Barney Miller’ at Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Con

BARNEY MILLER, Hal Linden, Max Gail, 1975-82
Everett Collection

Crowds gathered at Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention anytime Barney Miller stars Hal Linden or Max Gail came around, which is quite a testament to the love fans had (and still have) for this long-running 1970s cop show. Here are some highlights of what they had to say about it in their panel!

Barney was the logical core and Wojo was the emotional core. Could you both talk on that?

Hal Linden: Barney was a straight man. Eight years without a punchline. That was my function for eight years. To have that stability that you could compare so that everybody who was supposed to be unstable when look unstable. Lemme tell you something. You’ve got to have good comic timing to be a straight man.

Max Gail: Because we do live in a very logic-oriented era, we live in a kind of a left-brain world where our hearts and our sense of wholeness and connectedness to each other and all of life is sometimes treated like something to keep the wraps on. And so, I think that that was where I found myself taking Wojo and then the writers reflecting that. In many ways, they would set up where Wojo would be to get whatever the heart part of it was. That would be in his lap.

Was it actually coffee and was it actually that bad?

Gail: You were watching great acting. They were great lattes and all of that, but we had to act like it was bad.

There were some episodes where Jack Soo would perform, and you could see the actors behind him laughing. You guys could not control yourself. Were there any moments on the set in the show where something  just went awry, and you had to roll with it?

Linden: No, that never happened. We didn’t come up with those funny lines, I promise you. It was written, we were good actors executing a good spread. Jack Soo happened to be a very funny person and interesting person too. Jack Soo was in interned in Utah when the Japanese were in the internment camps in WWII, and he got out by joining the army and fighting in Italy. One would think that would lead to a certain amount of bitterness, or anger, but not Jack. Jack dealt with it with humor, and he just approached everything as if it had to be funny. So that was our reaction to Jack. Am I wrong?

BARNEY MILLER, (l-r): Ron Carey, Jack Soo, James Gregory, Ron Glass, Hal Linden, Max Gail, Abe Vigoda (front), 1975-82,

Columbia Pictures Television/courtesy Everett Collection

Gail: No, that’s true, and I’ve heard that before. I mean, we did have times where we would crack up in a scene or something, but then we would start to do it again. We were more focused on ‘what’s going on?’ What makes it funny to the people watching?

Linden: Writing is what creates great television. If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t going to be there. Or in theater we say if it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage. I’m bringing that up because the writers have been striking, and their value has never been appreciated the way it should be.

BARNEY MILLER, Hal Linden in 'Fog', (Season 6, episode 612, aired May 8, 1980), 1975-1982

Courtesy of Everett Collection

When we had the opportunity to talk to them we asked what they are up to now of course they couldn’t respond due to the ongoing SAG/AFTA strike, but Hal did give us a great joke. Let’s just say if you get to meet him, ask him if he has any good barber jokes.

You can catch Barney Miller on fetv and Antenna TV.

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