Hannibal Smith and a good workout routine helped George Peppard avoid burn out on The A-Team
John Hannibal Smith gave Peppard the thrill he needed to get through long hours on the set of The A-Team, especially in the early going.
When you see any given episode of The A-Team, you just might think those characters have to be in the best shape to out-run all of those bad guys all the time.
Actors work long hours and are away from home, family and friends for a good amount of time when a series is on the air. It was no different on the set of The A-Team. Long hours and plenty of action-packed drama took its toll on one of the series biggest stars, George Peppard.
The movie star best known at the time for his Sixties films like Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Victors and How the West Was Won, had to get adjusted to the long shifts before he couldn't handle them any longer. It needed to happen quick, as those feelings of burn out came in the first season.
"The A-Team was a mid-season replacement," Peppard said in a 1983 Associated Press article. "The 14 episodes of its first season, including the pilot, were rushed into production. There were 14, 16 and even a few 18-hour working days. I got into exhaustion in just the half year we did it."
What helped wasn't shorter production days, but a different routine before getting to the set on those extra-long days.
"After I'd been working for about a month or two, I realized that I was too tired, so I initiated an exercise program in the morning before I went to work and started pumping iron to build up my stamina."
It's no secret exercise helps boost morale, but that wasn't the only thing that got Peppard through the tiresome hours that go hand in hand with the making of a hit series. He loved his character, and the leader of The A-Team did just as much for Peppard as the workouts.
"The character lifts me. Hannibal has such a vivid imagination, such a wicked sense of humor, especially in the sense of getting the bad guys. He doesn't want to have anybody hurt, but if a guy's a miser, he wants to deprive him of his gold and make him suffer."
Hannibal and the Team had plenty of chances to get the bad guys, and they almost always did. If they didn't, they did in the next episode. The casual yet slick ways Hannibal not only captured bad guys, but often mocked them was "a very childlike quality... that I find very endearing," he added.
Tracking the enemies, hostiles and criminals was the Team's job, but all the confrontation? It came to them, Peppard says.
"I would say none of the A-Team is looking for a confrontation but if they find one, they are not at all displeased."
As other stars of the series have said, understanding The A-Team is what makes it enjoyable. Escaping reality and spending time with family was the purpose of the series. If that's understood, it's pure entertainment.
"That's the key to it," Peppard said. "The audience knows that we're out for fun. No matter how dreaded the circumstances, they don't have to anticipate anything else but entertainment."
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Of course most of them did (anyway) running for stamina and weights to prevent injuries.
What's fascinating to consider is that a Series with only two seasons made such an impression. These wonderful Classic TV Shows are incredibly more than the storylines, but absolutely character-driven. They spent years before their most remembered project (role) figuring out what worked and didn't. A lot of them (as I always explain) were working actors who compiled film that was "shopped" more effectively than a printed resume. And doing so was about demonstrating their chemistry, which gave them an identity (aka trademark personality). And it was a quick way for Productions to hire exactly what "effect" they wanted.