“The Adventures Of Little Diego - Former Child Star” Chapter 4 - 'Cancelled!'
As quickly as it had come it was gone. There were no warning signs of what was to come. No explanations. No time to prepare. I just simply did not return to work at the end of our third hiatus. Three years and 86 episodes later “Julia” was cancelled. Though the ratings had started to decline, by all accounts we could have continued on for a good couple of more years.
The ratings had begun to drop when Julia started to have a steady boyfriend in 'Steve Bruce' played by ex-professional football player turned actor Fred Williamson. Seems the public liked the idea of this little boy trying to find a husband for his widowed mother. When Fred was added to the cast as a steady love interest for 'Julia' it put an end to all of that.
Diahann Carroll, Marc Copage
Fred Williamson Diahann Carroll
Don’t get me wrong, Fred was great, and I really enjoyed his presence on set, but in spite of Fred’s great charisma and presence he just wasn’t really a very good fit for the show.
Fred was a cocky, but very lovable kind of cocky. He was a guy with limited acting experience up to that point. Fred played in the very first Super Bowl game and earned the nick name “The Hammer” because he would use his forearm to deliver karate-style blows to the heads of opposing players.
Fred was also a black belt in three different styles of martial arts.
Fred still prefers to be referred to as Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and is still sporting those trademark Elvis sideburns from the 1970s. I have MAD respect for Fred Williamson! Fred made his own breaks into hollywood. After he ended his professional football career he created the job opportunity for himself on “Julia” by marketing himself to the show’s producers. Fred was watching the show at home one evening and decided "Julia" was the show he was going to get the producers to write a role for him in. He flew out to hollywood from Montreal Canada where he was living at the time, with little, if any, professional training as an actor to speak of, having decided he was going to convince the producers to write him into the show. That’s some set of balls! Well, he was successful and it took him all of one week to do this as he will tell you.
It’s very similar to what Diahann Carroll did to get herself written onto Dynasty as the character Dominique Deveraux. She called up Aaron Spelling and told him they needed a black bitch on the show and she convinced Spelling to write in a part for her. I think that’s pretty amazing!
Linda Evans, Diahann Carroll, & Joan Collins of Dynasty
And especially amazing in Fred’s case as this was a guy with no name value as an actor, convincing the producers of a popular network TV show to write in a part for him!
Fred Williamson Diahann Carroll
I’m not sure if the two ever dated in real life or not, but they are both two very strong willed individuals that certainly have a talent for making things happen. Neither of them are one to sit back and wait for something to happen. Fred and Diahann are both people who take charge and control their destiny's. I have the upmost respect for both of them!
Fred was talking trash long before trash talking became popular. He was pre Ali as Fred started publicly talking trash around 1960 and it wasn’t until ’64 or ’65 that Ali started publicly talking trash to his opponents. Fred showed Ali how to be brash and arrogant as you want and still have people like you. “You do it with a smile and you do it with charm”. And you do it with confidence. Neither of them ever came up short on any of the above. And neither of them were ever afraid of taking risks!
One of my friends moms at the time had the biggest crush on Fred and would constantly ask me questions about working with him. Women just loved Fred! He was not only a lady's man, but a man’s man. An extremely charismatic fellow who wasn’t about to compromise or lose an ounce of his masculinity to conform or appease hollywood by presenting a less threatening image of himself.
We used to have races together on breaks while filming, only he would run backwards and still beat me. He also used to tell me to punch him in the stomach as hard as I could. Of course I was only eight years old, but there is no denying that he was in top shape and a superior athlete. i wouldn't be surprised if he were still able to beat me running backwards and take the punch.
One of the most profound things Fred ever told me was “A loser isn’t someone who necessarily didn’t win. A loser is a guy who tries to do something, and if he isn’t able to do it he gives up. That’s a loser. Which doesn’t necessarily mean you have to win everything you do because every time you’re not successful at something you attempt you are supposed to learn a new way to come back and attack the same problem. So every time you lose or become unsuccessful you become smarter. Because you now really know all the ins and outs of how to attack that problem.”
Fred’s work as an actor would soon eclipse his career as a professional football player making a big name for himself in the action packed Blaxploitation films of the 1970’s. My father would later try to get me involved in some of those films as well. Perhaps more on that later.
“Black Caesar” soundtrack and recording written and performed by James Brown
So the official word as to why the show was cancelled was because Ms Carroll and Hal Kanter, creator/writer/producer of the show, wanted to move on to other creative ventures. It’s interesting how one persons decision can affect the lives of so many. A whole cast and crew would be out of work.
Michael Link, Lloyd Nolan, Diahann Carroll, & Marc Copage
In all fairness, it is my understanding that the show put so much stress on Ms Carroll that she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and nearly had to be hospitalized. People where criticizing and coming at her and the show from all kinds of directions. People saying the show was not black enough. How could a nurse afford to live like that? That the show was sugar coated, white washed, and completely unbelievable as far as Black life goes in America. That it wasn’t an accurate depiction of an African American family, yada, yada, etc., etc. Gil Scott Heron, one of my favorite poets and recording artists, even took a poke at the show in his song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” intimating that Julia was nothing more than a cartoon!
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott Heron
There’s an awful lot of pressure on you whenever you’re the first to accomplish anything. For the most part, I didn’t have to deal with any of that. It was just a television show for goodness sake. It was just meant to entertain and sell some commercial product! But in reality, I guess it meant much, much, more to so very many people.
Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between Whites and Blacks.
Attack Dogs Against Civil Rights Demonstrator
So Stage 20 was now a thing of the past. Most of that wonderful cast, and they really were wonderful, and I have very fond memories of them all, I would never see again. It’s a shame that we didn’t even have an opportunity to take a full cast photo during the run of the show. And I never got the chance to say goodbye. Goodbye Betty Beaird, Michael Link, Lloyd Nolan, Lurene Tuttle, Ned Glass, Hank Brandt, and Diahann Carroll. You were truly the best cast any kid could have the pleasure and good fortune to go to work with everyday. But it was over. I would never set foot onto Stage 20 of the Fox lot again. Ever. It was time for me to move on to my next adventure.