Mission: Impossible was Martin Landau's ''mistress''
His recurring role allowed him a heathy distance from the series.
As Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible, Martin Landau had his work cut out for him. That's because the character wasn't just a regular role. Rollin Hand was "The Man of A Million Faces," and was M:I's great master of disguises. His character was an actor, a magician, and a one-of-a-kind impersonator. Landau had an endlessly fresh acting job.
Landau was a recurring guest star, allowing him just enough distance from the demands of being a main cast member. "I don't think I'd have taken the part on one of those five-year deals," he explained to the Greensboro, North Carolina News and Record in '66.
That space was healthy, especially when you consider that Martin Landau was married to Mission: Impossible's Barbara Bain.
"We'd rather not make much of the fact we're married," Landau said. "It might spoil the image she's trying to create as Cinnamon. Bruce Geller, the producer, auditioned lots of girls, then realized he'd really had Barbara in mind all the time. But she went on an ordinary interview, and everybody at Desilu agreed she was Cinnamon."
While it's true that he was married to the show's Cinnamon Carter, Landau's position as a recurring guest star meant he was never tied down to Mission: Impossible. He got to have fun on the show, without it ever becoming his ball and chain.
"You see, this way I'm not married to the series. It's more like having a mistress, and everything is non-exclusive," Landau said.
It also afforded him one of few opportunities in his early career to play the good guy.
"For years," Landau said, "people have come up to me and asked, 'Hey, how come you always have to play the bad guy?' They don't realize if you aren't the star of the series, then you've got to be the villain."
Mission: Impossible, though, proved to be the best of all possible worlds, at least until the third season, when Landau and his wife left the show.