George Peppard considered The A-Team the best role of his career

The critically acclaimed actor was surprisingly not the first choice for the role.

When George Peppard got cast to lead The A-Team as John "Hannibal" Smith, the actor was going through one of the toughest periods of his life.

The previous year, he’d picked up some bad habits, gone through a difficult divorce, and got kicked off Dynasty because he got a reputation for being difficult to work with.

Three years passed without any new roles, and he worried he’d driven his career into the ground, telling the Evening Post in 1983, "I felt like I was on skid row."

"In other words, I was really at the bottom," Peppard said. "My career seemed to be going nowhere."

What helped him get his act together were his three grown-up kids, who saw their father struggling and banded together like their own rag-tag team of superheroes to lift their dad back up.

"They were tremendously supportive when they could so easily have abandoned me," Peppard said. "Gradually they made me respect myself again. I put the past behind me, as far as emotional problems were concerned."

Around that time, series co-creator Stephen J. Cannell approached Peppard to see if he was interested in the part of Hannibal on The A-Team.

Cannell thought Peppard would be perfect in the role, but the TV creator had to argue for long hours with NBC chiefs whose top choice was not Peppard.

In the end, Cannell won, and Peppard got cast to join The A-Team.

The first thing Peppard did when he got the news was start pumping iron.

"I’ve had to get pretty fit for the series – we do most of our own fights and stunts," Peppard said. "It’s just as well that the series has come now. A few years ago, I couldn’t have handled all this physical stuff."

Not only was Peppard doing his own stunts, but he also was putting in longer hours than he ever had in his career. He said it was worth it to be back on top again, and he bonded immediately with the rest of The A-Team.

"There is a good relationship among the men," Peppard told The Modesto Bee in 1983. "They are all good hearted, and Mr. T is a thoroughly professional actor. We put in some long days – up to 14 hours – but it is well worth it."

Peppard said when he first showed up for rehearsals, though, he was "absolutely petrified."

He worried he might slip back into old habits and repeat the mistakes that got him kicked off Dynasty. However, it was because he knew his kids were rooting for his success that inspired him to keep making better choices. He wanted them to be proud of their dad again.

"I thought of my kids and how good they had been, and I realized I just had to do it on my own," Peppard said.

In his career, Peppard continued acting after The A-Team ended in 1987, but passed away after a battle with lung cancer in 1994. His final TV role came on Matlock in 1994.

He said he knew he was nobody’s first choice for the role of Hannibal on The A-Team, but he was determined to prove he was the right choice. He was happy to be given another chance at the spotlight.

"This is probably the best role of my career," Peppard told Gannett News Service in 1983.

Watch The A-Team on MeTV!

Weeknights at 6P

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

60 Comments

Post a comment
goplad 8 days ago
According to Robert Vaughan, who was brought onto the show in the last season, Peppard couldn't stand Mr. T and warned Vaughan that Mr. T was crazy. Vaughan confirmed that Mr. T was always talking and carrying on and the cast and crew stayed their distance from him.
NorthRidge 14 days ago
MeTV should get Murdock's name right. It is not Mad Dog, it is H.M (Howling Mad) Murdock.
ww245 18 days ago
I was when it came out and still am a huge fan of "The A-Team" and of Steve Cannell and of some of his other works, especially "Baa baa Black Sheep". This is a great story on Peppard. I like him as an actor in most of the movies he was in. He looked like he has a great time doing this series. I also have to admit, I got a tee shirt made with his saying on it - "I love it when a plan comes together". Paid a ton for it, but had to have it. Got many compliments. Yes sir boy, Loved this series and the whole team associated with it.
Zip 24 days ago
Loved The A-Team! Hannibal Smith, and all the gang!

I never saw him in anything else, and I must admit I was a bit surprised, and impressed, when I first learned that he was in such a notable Hollywood movie as Breakfast At Tiffany's.
iloveromance 25 days ago
I had forgotten he was on the A-Team and the only role of his that I'm familiar with is Paul Varjak in Breakfast At Tiffany's. I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan so I have seen that movie countless times and George was wonderful in it. I've seen a few of his other movies but "BAT" is by far the best. I'll definitely check out The A-Team for a different perspective.
Michael iloveromance 24 days ago
I knew him first on Banacek, then slowly realized he'd had roles before.

But I was about 13 when the show began.
peterm 25 days ago
and yet he quit because MR.T was more popular
ruswilinc peterm 23 days ago
That sounds like an unfounded rumor like buffs want to believe.
NorthRidge peterm 14 days ago
I don't think he quit. He was in every episode.
RichLorn 25 days ago
Peppard's Banacek, while a somewhat repetitive formula, was a favorite of mine. Largely because of his screen persona. His role in How The West Was Won is also a standout in my memory. His performance beginning as a youth and gradually maturing into middle age was very nicely done.
DethBiz 25 days ago
Loved him in the 70s movie Damnation Alley with Jan-Michael Vincent.
Michael DethBiz 24 days ago
It came out around my birthday, so I got a fancy Tobler chocolate bar, and went and watched it.

Jan Michael Vincent, Paul Winfield, JackieEarl Haley.
F5Twitster 26 days ago
"The previous year, he’d picked up some bad habits, gone through a difficult divorce, and got kicked off Dynasty because he got a reputation for being difficult to work with."

"DIFFICULT to work with?" Peppard was roundly despised by practically everyone who had the misfortune to work with him. He could have played the victim in "Murder on the Orient Express" in which everybody was a suspect because everybody had a valid reason for wanting to kill him.
Pacificsun F5Twitster 25 days ago
In reply to DIFFICULT ....

So he seems to be missing an official biography making it easy-pickings for everyone’s own version. I also hate it when a book takes advantage of their celebrity after death.

Not defending bad behavior, something he owned up to. Including agonizing debt, poor decisions, opinionated, not playing by Industry rules. Which Studios, in his day, pretty much took ownership of their property (sorry, I mean actors). But that's how they were treated. Because, obviously, every element of a production was an expensive, expense! Pun intended.

The problem was, complying with a contract put him in roles GP didn’t believe fit him. So he had the self-respect to speak up. Feeling typecast as a pretty boy, no doubt without a brain (meaning offering him the right mix of emotional depth). And yet look at his training (Lee Strasberg) and list of credits. What happened is that studios ended up using people according to their own vision. Some would argue, then choose another profession.

But exactly what gave him a memorable presence, (and depth of emotion) was not only innate talent, but a sense of individuality which he protected. Which doesn’t come by accident for an actor, and becomes a matter of trying to preserve. And wisely, otherwise falling into the crowd. But unlike feisty Robert Conrad who fought the system, and prevailed because of his looks and the right roles. In these controversies, I go by how the person is quoted. Which meaningful person has what to say.

Elizabeth Ashley (a former wife) and notable actress:

“Never was one of those actors who believes his job is to take the money, hit the mark and say the lines and let it go at that. He felt that as an above-the-title star he had the responsibility to use his muscle and power to try and make it better and that has never stopped in him. He was unrelenting about it, to the point where a lot of executives and directors came to feel he was a pain in the ass. But the really talented people loved working with him because of all his wonderful creative energy.”

He spoke of a responsibility for keeping his children stable, and respecting them as adults, meaning he admitted to both good and poor films which paid all the bills.

Will the truth be known exactly, no doubt his alcoholic days were brutal on the family. But actors are people, not saints. Life hits them as hard as everyone. Just that they’re in the public eye to be most easily criticized. Yet we enjoy their performances! His wiki link is worth reading, and a decent book should’ve been written about him. In a way, it becomes their only public legacy, if done properly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Peppard

The summary is that he was a complicated actor, restless, and searching. In the day, Studios ruled the manner, and no doubt had no tolerance for his independence, and probably insolence too.

I like to defend the underdogs! 😉 Too often no one speaks up for the other side of a story.
Bravo, Pac Man,
"Difficult" in Hollywood often means the actor cares about the work and wants to
pause to consider ways to improve the material instead of
'let's get this shot done and over with quick to save money and move on'.
Robert Culp was the same way, and to the consternation of producers he
was almost always right. He rewrote the lousy I SPY pilot, saving the show,
and in fact wrote the 6 best episodes of the series.
Peppard in 1983 saying about The A-Team -

"This is probably the best role of my career," and "Mr. T is a thoroughly professional actor" -

is just PR bull to promote the series, obviously. T was a lousy actor and wasn't self
aware enough to accept advice from a pro like George.
"Best role of his career"?
No way in hell would Peppard ever rate this role above his screen work or the light years
better Banacek.
Check out his interviews on the Dick Cavett Show, very entertaining.
Michael Pacificsun 24 days ago
But George left Banacek because of his divorce from Elizabeth Ashley, something about keeping money from her by quitting.
😉 My hunch is (not that its worth a cent!) he considered it one of his "best" roles relative to the sheer convenience of it. All he had to do was "buff" himself up. The series provided a consistent "bankable" paycheck for five seasons. Fun working as an ensemble piece, not having to appear in every scene because of Second Unit setups. Frank Lupo & Stephen Cannell were pros at creating what fans loved (as in chemistry). And understood how to relate to "prickly" talent. Ex. Rockford Files with its own challenges considering fan-favorite (though moody and injury ridden) James Garner. Stroking egos, listening to input, calming stormy attitudes. A big difference between movie and television, one operating on a routine schedule, the other prone to the unexpected. Dynasty (the exception) was a caldron of competing actors vying for attention, and GP admitted he wasn't the right lead. And that John Forsythe (rightfully so) carried the series. His A-Team comments expressed his compliance and team spirit (to reverse his previous reputation). No, Mr. T was a horrible actor, who relied on his single "bit" fear of flying, displaying his manic anger, just to stand out. Yeah, GP bent over backwards, to admittedly not blow his really decent opportunity.
Catman F5Twitster 22 days ago
Based upon your recent lectures on style and usage, I suspect that you might be a fine candidate for that role yourself.
But please continue to save the internet from hoi polloi.
goplad F5Twitster 8 days ago
Series star Dwight Schulz said when he introduced himself to Peppard on the set on the first show Peppard introduced himself as "not a nice man". Furthermore Peppard couldn't stand Mr. T and stayed away from him when they weren't doing a scene together.
MacD 26 days ago
George Peppard was a terrific actor and his performances in two of my favorite movies--"Breakfast at Tiffanys" and "Home From the Hill"--deserved Oscars!!!
Dr_Zachary_Smith MacD 26 days ago
I loved him in "The Blue Max" and "How the West was Won".
MacD 26 days ago
George Peppard was a terrific actor and helped make two of my favorite movies so memorable: he deserved Oscars for "Breakfast at Tiffanys" and "Home from the Hill"!!!
TlorDagama 26 days ago
I saw Banacek the other day and its still good, A Team was fine but Banacek I remember.
Michael TlorDagama 25 days ago
When MeTV aired the show, some episodes were misding. The one in Las Vegas with Margo Kidder. The Five Million Clams of Captain Jack. I think another one was missing, maybe the pilot too.

I remember when it came out on DVD. Not $20, but not too outrageous, but I put it off, and then the price went way up. I regret not getting it.
audie65 27 days ago
Good idea. Put Banicek, McCloud, McMillan and Wife, Hec Ramsey , Columbo rotating on Sunday nights like the old Sunday night mystery movie! Awesome!
Pacificsun audie65 26 days ago
Yeah, we just keep on asking for that rotation once again.
MrsPhilHarris 27 days ago
Not long ago I came across an interview where GP spoke about how embarrassed he was about how he treated people and his drinking.
At least he could look at himself honestly. For a public apology.
steve217 27 days ago
George Peppard never got along with Mr.T That's wht Robert Vaughn was brought on in the final season of the show and that's why the series got cancelled. Robert and George were friends and it was brought in to ease the fricton between Mr. T and George. Lee Marvin was the orginal choice to play Hannibal Smith.
MichaelSkaggs steve217 25 days ago
Robert Conrad was also considered.
Pacificsun steve217 25 days ago
RV got along with everyone. He was a professional working actor, meaning always looking ahead to next acting opportunity. He did write a biography, and my take away was that he was above taking things personally. Although he had a very significant ego, he just didn't push things counter-productively.
Heck, he didn't even get along with Melinda Culea or her replacement, Marla Heasley because he felt the show didn't need female leads, so there's that.
Mike 27 days ago
For The Record:
George Peppard's final appearance on Matlock was a backdoor pilot.
Peppard was cast as a down-at-the-heels private eye who found himself reunited with his long-estranged daughter, played by Tracy Nelson.
You can see the paralells with his own situation ...
Unfortunately, George Peppard died before the series could be launched.
BOLO for Matlock reruns from the final season ...
MrsPhilHarris Mike 27 days ago
I’ve saw that episode and thought it would be a show I would tune into. It’s a shame it never happened.
daDoctah 27 days ago
So who was the other actor that the network wanted instead?
LoveMETV22 daDoctah 27 days ago
James Coburn.
Pacificsun Michael 26 days ago
"In like .... !"
Michael Pacificsun 26 days ago
"Our Man".
Pacificsun Michael 26 days ago
Loved the Original theme to Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round. Very hard to find a decent recording of it, but this is one.

I also hear Robert Conrad was the other actor considered.
Pacificsun 27 days ago
Only so much can be written in a short space (for the purpose of promoting the addition of a TV Series to MeTV's lineup) I get it. But what's written shortchanges a very complicated actor. I had a feeling, so went searching for his biography, but nothing "official" turned up. As in, his own or a ghost writer. Thus reader beware of other people’s opinions.

Wiki was the next best thing, and this quote stands out:

"Shortly before he died, he said, 'If you look at my movie list, you'll see some really good movies and then the start of ones that were not so good. But I was making enough money to send my children to good schools, have a house for them and give them a center in their lives.'"

He voiced the impact his children (especially as adults) had on him. And struggled against obligations and debt. And alcoholism, which he recognized and stopped. Then tried to help others. He felt a typecast by his good looks, which also stereotyped regarding the Studios. He as very restless yet driven. But his acting career is extensive, From Shakesphere to Film. And the A-Team is *just* a very small part of it. Playing down his feud with Mr. T. (a clash of egos, as typical).

What he was up against was the power of the Studios, who managed an actor's image from their own vision and purpose. By slotting particular actors against their own determination. Meaning, those who ran against the Industry by voicing opinions, and yet trying to profit from them. Sort of an impractical compromise at best.

But the trick here, is that what makes an actor unique and memorable, is not only intrinsic to their innate talent. But is most often and definitely attributed their own sense of individuality, for which he will be remembered.

For a more in-depth review of him, here's the interesting (though extensive) story.
Wiki link. Because most complicated actors deserve a full read, to put everything into perspective! And the best way to be remembered without prejudice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Peppard
Michael Pacificsun 27 days ago
It's good that they dig up old newspaper articles, but if they take it literally, it skews things. If you are on a show, you're inclined to say nice things. At a distance, there might be a different take.

The stories shouldn't be a retelling of an old news story, but a synthesis of multiple stories.
Pacificsun Michael 27 days ago
Exactly! And appreciate you elegantly summing up the point.

Another reason this kind of an actor can be appreciated, is because of the depths to which they sank. Meaning, it generated plenty of emotional credibility. I believe he referenced Lee Strasberg making use of that aspect.

He did seem happy with his role of "Hannibal" and being the Leader of an outcast pack. I bet he could really relate to the "other side of good fortune." A-Team will continue to be a meaty series, glad they're spotlighting at 6pm after Adam 12.
Runeshaper 27 days ago
George Peppard was AWESOME! The A-Team definitely benefitted having Peppard as John "Hannibal" Smith.
Michael 27 days ago
Breakfast at Tiffany's? Damnation Alley? The Blue Max? The Subteraneans? Tobruk? The Groundstar Conspiracy?

Banacek?

"Who cares what George Peppard thinks?" The A-Team came late, and appealed to more people. But it can be argued that it's the same George Peppard we remember from these other roles. I mean that in agood way.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?