It's hard to imagine now, but once upon a time, the Yahoo chat rooms were still relatively "new" to people, horror stories of the evil things that went on in "those Internet chat rooms" were everywhere, and many Internet users had never even tried using them, preferring the relative "safety" of the newsgroups and message boards, instead.
Most of the cast of NBC's "the Pretender" didn't even own a computer, the networks were just beginning to branch out to the Internet, setting up web pages as a means of reaching fans (one of the NBC execs was quoted as saying that computer users "didn't count" as viewers, since, if they were using their computers, they couldn't possibly be watching television).
I'd "met" Jamie when I did an e-mail interview with him and although he was excited about the opportunity to interact with fans in a live chat, we actually had to get permission from NBC before he could do it! Needless to say, Jamie was the first of the cast from "the Pretender" to do an on-line chat and was also the first to do one "live" - instead
of going through a moderator, over the phone, which is the only way that most celebrities will still consent to "chat."
Before the day of the chat, Jamie popped in and out of the Yahoo chat room several times, in order to become familiar with how it worked. It sounds easier to do than it was, since he had to avoid being seen by the excited club members, who were almost always in there, talking about the fact that Mr. Lyle would be joining them before long.
We had people pre-submit questions, which we planned for him to answer as I put each one up.
By doing that, the things that people most wanted to know would get answered right away, and while Jamie was answering them, he would also be getting familiarized with the pace of a "live" chat and would be learning how to read through the chatter and separate the different conversations that were taking place between the people who were in the room ... all at once.
We take the ability to do those things for granted now - but it was anything but commonplace in 1999.
That's the background that leads up to the transcript below. It's funny, but I still get butterflies in my stomach when I read through it.
It was, after all, one of the biggest moments that many "Pretender" fans would ever experience, because even the people who lived in other countries were going to have the opportunity to personally interact with a member of the cast in real time.
It was a pretty darn cool thing for Jamie to do!
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Lois: Hello everyone and welcome to Lois' Daily Planet's Pretender Chatroom! Tonight we're having a chat with Jamie Denton ... the man we all LOVE to hate ... MR. LYLE!
Lois: Once we start the chat, Jamie will not be available to "private chat" and
he won't be able to see your chatter until we are done with the pre-submitted
questions and answers ... So please don't slow down the board by trying to "private chat" him because he has chosen A LOT of your questions to answer! :-)
Lois: And now ... while he can still see you ... please welcome our special
guest, JAMIE DENTON! (Want to say something nice?
Now's your chance!)
The screen began to scroll with "Hello, Jamie," "Hi, Mr. Denton," and "Welcome,
Jamie" messages ... slowly at first, then faster and faster still. After a long while, the greetings began to die away ... until there were only one or two ... then,
at last, Jamie answered and his first live Internet chat had begun!
Jamie Denton: Hey everybody -- thanks for the warm greeting! I'll
type fast if you'll ignore the typos
Jamie Denton: Hi Sarah [There was a small thud heard in the State of Texas as Jamie's biggest fan there had swooned and fallen to the ground, a smile on her face, a happy woman, having become the first person that Jamie had ever "spoken" to via an on-line chat]
Lois: (From Elicia) How were you proposed the character Mr. Lyle?
Jamie Denton: Just a call from Craig and Steve. Maybe because of my role in T.O.F. -- the characters are really similar [note: T.O.F. = That Old Feeling]
Lois: (From Kar328) What is Mr. Lyle's most honest character trait?
Jamie Denton: This is tough -- sociopathic? deviant? desperate? lovable?
Because it was difficult for everyone to differentiate Jamie's replies from all of the chatter in the room, someone asked him to change font colors. We hadn't even touched on how to work that part of the chat room, but Jamie quickly figured it out and began trying
different colors ... This resulted in the first of Jamie's questions being answered in some really odd colors!
Jamie Denton: Cyan is really not my color ...
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) What's it like playing someone who comes off
as a sweet guy on the outside, but is a rattlesnake underneath? (A sociopath)
Jamie Denton: The best of both worlds, really. It happens to me a lot.
Lois: (From Myra) What does your tattoo say and when did you get it?
[Jamie was still playing with the colors ... trying to find one that would stand out when he used it and that he liked ... he clicked on yellow, which doesn't show up well at all, eliciting a chorus of "Don't use the yellow!" comments from the fans in the room ...]
Jamie Denton: I'm trying to get rid of the yellow!! I only have one thumb dammit!
[The screen scrolled at the speed of light, while everyone expressed the fact that he had cracked them up! The color finally adjusted, JD continued the chat ...]
Jamie Denton: The tattoo is for my Dad.
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) It looks like you and Andrea Parker enjoy playing
off each other. What is your relationship like on the set?
Jamie Denton: She is fantastic. Very, very funny and easy to work with.
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) And, how do you and Jon Gries get along? You
seem to enjoy tormenting him when he is Broots (can't resist that one either
Jamie Denton: Jonny is a real trip. Extremely intelligent and a real prankster as you'd guess.
Lois: (From Prfreader) Other than sports and The Pretender, do you
have a favorite TV show?
Jamie Denton: Emergency Vets for sure. Ally McBeal is a guilty pleasure -- only because of Greg Germann [Richard Fish] and Peter MacNicol [John "the Biscuit" Cage].
Lois: (From Elicia) If you had three words to describe your part (as Lyle)
what would they be?
Jamie Denton: Desperate, sociopathic, but above all, restrained -- that's the key with Lyle.
Lois: (From Aldun) Do you enjoy playing the part of a "villain" and did you anticipate that you would be able to play a villain so convincingly? (After all, you do have "boyish good looks" which could be a handicap in the villain role.)
Jamie Denton: "That Old Feeling" started it all. Rent it!!! The guy is Lyle-like in personality, but harmless. Good looks I'm not sure about ...
Lois: (From Ambrosia) What sports teams do you support?
Jamie Denton: The national champion Tennessee Volunteers! And the Indianapolis colts (Peyton Manning's from Tennessee)
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) What did you have to do to get ready to play Lyle? Do you have any special ritual (for lack of a better word) you do to actually become the character?
Jamie Denton: I don't buy into a lot of that method stuff. Just know your character and how they'd react in imaginary circumstances.
Lois: (From Kar328) If you were stranded on a desert island, which
character from the show would you choose to be with and why?
Jamie Denton: Miss Parker -- have you seen her?
Lois: (From ~Zoe~) How many episodes ahead is production? We'll see the episode entitled "Mr. Lee" tomorrow night, so how many more are now "in the can,"
or in production?
Jamie Denton: We're about 5 ahead -- wouldn't you love to know...
Lois: (From ~Zoe~) I'd like to know how much time the actors are
given to learn their lines? From the time you receive the script to taping, how much time passes?
Jamie Denton: Very little -- got a script today for 2 shows away and when we shoot it won't even be similar. Basically, day of shooting.
Lois: (From BJ) Are you worried about being typecast as the nice looking young man who turns out to be not nice at all?
Jamie Denton: It's a great place to be. It beats just being the nice looking young man.
Lois: (From B_twin_2) What is the best advice you have ever been
given and who gave it to you?
Jamie Denton: From my Dad: "You can't teach a mermaid the splits."
Lois: (From southernbelle_180) I noticed that you are from Nashville,
TN. Do you still consider yourself a southerner and do you feel that you are in touch with your southern heritage?
Jamie Denton: Absolutely -- Still a redneck. Not a big fan of cities. Love the slow friendly pace.
Lois: (From Lalacharly) Is it true that you also recently quit smoking, too? If so did you and Andrea give each other moral support?
Jamie Denton: Never smoked -- just in one episode and a few plays.
Andrea just stopped -- the day of the last episode last season.
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) What are some of the funny things that happen
on the set? Any memorable goofs you'd like to share?
Jamie Denton: The best that stands out I've told Lois already [in a prior interview] ... when Jeff Donovan was doing all Kyle's lines as the evil guy in Austin Powers
at 3AM [Red Rock Jarod]. No big bloopers -- we move fast and the whole cast is really professional.
Lois: (From Mareen Schmidt) Do you actually like Lyle? Or do you
think his character too bad to like him?
Jamie Denton: One of the few truisms in acting -- you have to love the character -- or at least empathize completely. I totally understand the guy -- he's been screwed by everyone since day one -- and now they'll pay . . .
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) Do you do any of your own stunts? (i.e. getting
shot and falling off the dock in 'A Stand Up Guy')
Jamie Denton: Yeah -- I try to do them all -- they wouldn't let me fall in the water, though. That was like 4AM and only one wardrobe on set.
Lois: (From southernbelle_180) How much input do you have into the way your character is portrayed? Can you say "Mr. Lyle would never do or say that" and/or offer suggestions on how Lyle would react to a certain situation?
Jamie Denton: Some -- particularly if I have an objection to something I think is "un-Lyle."
Lois: (From Kar328) Which is your favorite episode?
Jamie Denton: What do you think? Red Rock Jarod, from last season!
Lois: (From JarodsGal) We know you can sing, but where can we hear
Jamie Denton: That's a myth! I bluffed my way through musical theater to jump start a career. Did you know Jon G. [Gries - Broots] has a band with a CD? Don't know where to get it though.
Lois: (From B_twin_1) Do you hope that Lyle will ever feel guilty about being a ruthless, homicidal maniac?
Jamie Denton: Not guilty, but he has to feel the impact of some of his actions - maybe question them - for it to be interesting.
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) How often do you lurk in the alt.tv.pretender
News Group? (gotta ask this *g*)
Jamie Denton: Only a couple of times -- you'll never know. . .
Lois: (From Ambrosia) Apart from killing off your character - for real - or taking another appendage, what is the worst thing the writers could do to your character?
Jamie Denton: Let him keep being the brunt of jokes and everybody's whipping boy. He's way too dangerous for that - it weakens him.
Lois: (From JarodsGal) Do you know why NBC doesn't promote the show
Jamie Denton: They're extremely satisfied. They don't expect much from Saturday nights and we give them a lot more - it is very frustrating.
Lois: (From southernbelle_180) Which actor or actress have you most enjoyed working with?
Jamie Denton: Emma Thompson, Bette Midler, John Travolta, Harve [Presnell] - all very talented, cool people.
Lois: (From Aga) Who is your favorite singer (other than yourself *s*).
Jamie Denton: The Boss - Bruce Springsteen - There is no substitute.
Lois: (From JD'sMoeGirl) Mr. Lyle is a very snappy dresser. Do you have any say in what he wears or does a costume designer do all of that?
Jamie Denton: Before the season started I made a point to get him out of those suits! Red Rock Jarod was his coming out - no need to play the corporate buffoon anymore. I wanted him to dress like a male Miss P.
Lois: (From Prfreader) Unlike a lot of other series, I've noticed that none of the actors or actresses that appear regularly ever direct any episodes of The Pretender. Is it not encouraged or is no one interested?
Jamie Denton: Nobody I know is interested. They have very experienced, talented directors waiting in line.
Lois: (From RC) I enjoyed watching you in Face/Off & That Old Feeling ... and, if anything, you look better now than you did in those movies! Do you work out or take vitamins?
Jamie Denton: I can't agree, but thanks - a steady diet of Red Man and Jack Daniels.
Lois: (From Ambrosia) Who is your favourite actor? Which actor's
footsteps in career success would you hope to follow in?
Jamie Denton: Oh, that's tough. It doesn't get much better than Robert Downey in "Two Girls and A Guy" (rent it) or Anthony Hopkins in anything. I'd like to have Kevin Spacey's career.
Lois: (From Ambrosia) If you weren't acting, what would you be doing
with your life?
Jamie Denton: Teaching school and coaching basketball.
Lois: (From Larile) Do you have any pets?
Jamie Denton: A black lab, a Siberian husky and a new parrot.
Lois: (From southernbelle_180) I understand that you can't give any specifics... but are there plans for another show down between Jarod and Lyle?
Jamie Denton: I know of one in the works - not sure of any more.
Lois: (From Prfreader) I've noticed that there seems to be a different writer for every episode this season. Is that by chance or design?
Jamie Denton: They have a whole team, many of which are producers, which explains some of the time-line snafus (too many cooks...?).
Lois: (From B_twin_2) Do you have a favorite web site?
Jamie Denton: Lois' Daily Planet - nothing else is close.
Lois: (From Larile) Did you ever do a Tylenol commercial with you tossing a baseball and your arm in a sling? (If that's not you, he has to be your twin!)
Jamie Denton: Yes - don't remind me - and if you mention the Aqua Fresh... I think they are both finally dead now.
Lois: (From B_twin_1) What does grilled rattlesnake taste like???
Jamie Denton: Chicken.
Lois: (From CrackedGenius) If you were a tree, what kind would you
be and why?
Jamie Denton: A shoe tree.
w w w w
Lois: Thank you, Jamie for answering all of those questions!
Jamie Denton: How's that for timing, Lois? [Referring to the fact that he was right, and we had finished all of the questions in an hour]
Jamie stayed for another hour and a half, answering more questions the entire time, but the only way to "save" chat transcripts back then was to hit "print screen" - paste it into a word processor, then go back and do it all again. I even had a tape recorder going, so that I could read questions and answers aloud, then transcribe the tape, but that didn't work out very well either. There's an overview of what went on below.
Someone asked for more information relating to Mr. Lyle's part this year and Jamie told them that when "Craig and Steve" originally asked him to come back as Mr. Lyle, he turned them down! Later, Michael T. Weiss called Jamie and asked him if he wouldn't reconsider (Andrea Parker, too, I believe) and in the end Jamie was able to work things out so that he could take the offer!
He didn't say whether or not the series had been renewed for another season (too early to know), but mentioned that it was based on a seven year story arc.
The questions and answers below I got courtesy of Ambrosia's Pretender
Page - thank you Ali - since neither of us were able
to print or capture the screen as the chat progressed, Ali sat there and
typed as fast as she could to get as many of the questions and answers as
(From B_twin_1): Jamie - do you think Lyle needs a love interest?
Jamie Denton: I really don't (re: love interest) - it's something that isn't really pertinent to his agenda.
(From ALAYNA88): Did you do anything during the hiatus?
Jamie Denton: Hiatus was spent waiting to hear if my pilot was going to get picked up - obviously it didn't
[he was referring to "The Hanleys"]
(From Tggizmo): Were Bridgitte and Lyle actually in a relationship when they showed up at the Centre the first time?
Jamie Denton: Some great Brigitte and Lyle stuff coming. . .
(From ALAYNA88): Jamie, does the cast ever read their fan mail?
Jamie Denton: I think we all read it - but I can't say for sure for the others.
(From ALAYNA88): Does writing to NBC help the show at all or are we wasting our time?
Jamie Denton: It helps, it helps - I know it does ... write away. Someone sees it ...
(From ALAYNA88): Jamie, has the Pretender made you more popular? Do people recognize you more now?
Jamie Denton: I was recognized in the airport and Home Depot recently as Lyle - the people were terrified.
(From MareenS): Will Lyle and Miss Parker ever come nearer to each other?
Jamie Denton: Lyle and Parker are definitely going somewhere. . .
(From NeoDuff): JD you seem to have a disdain to commercials. Are they a necessary evil in your opinion?
Jamie Denton: Commercials are EASY money - you just don't want one running right after a Lyle scene...
As Jamie tried to say "goodbye" the screen was flooded with messages saying "thank you" and telling him what a great time everyone had. It went on for so long that Jamie may have become the first actor ever to have done a "curtain call" on the Internet ... because he ended up staying for an additional 15 minutes! But, finally, he did have to go ... leaving a lot of happy fans behind.