The Perry Mason TV Show Book
The Cops: Lt. Tragg and Company

Collins on the Set

Like Barbara Hale, Collins had a talent for throwing the spotlight on other actors. He made a convincing appearance as a supporting player while still shedding light on the main characters. He played a cool, outspoken police professional, just the way Erle Stanley Gardner had always intended the character to be.

During his tenure on the Mason show, the veteran trouper told reporters: "Series television tends after a time to make you a little grumpy and you find yourself fighting to survive. [But] there's something else [here]--call it a great affection, like a legit show on the road. When it closes you may never see each other again. Sometimes we think of that. And so we still speak to each other.

"Inasmuch as we are old-timers we are professionals. Therefore, no matter how fond we are of one another, we all try to protect ourselves. If Willie Talman can get better lighting than I can, I assure you I'll try to change that."

Yet Collins recognized that the camaraderie on the show made it worthwhile. "Take Raymond," he continued. "[Here's] a man doing thirty-nine hour-long shows a year, appearing in almost every scene, knowing his lines letter-perfect, and who still devotes himself to making it better for other people."

Collins helped make it better for other people on the set too, with his expertise, experience, and sensitivity to other actors. TV Guide once said: "Talman's skill at taking up the slack is surpassed perhaps only by Collins, who can sense other actors' needs and throw the scene their way. For example, a young actor may be making his first appearance on 'Perry Mason' and is understandably nervous. During his big scene he starts blowing his lines. What happens then is almost automatic. Collins starts blowing his lines like crazy--that is, if Burr or Talman don't beat him to it. The heat is off; the young man begins doing well."

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The Perry Mason TV Show Book Copyright 1987 by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. All rights reserved. Presented here by permission of the copyright holder. Commercial use prohibited. Web page Copyright 1998 D. M. Brockman. Last edited 04 Nov 2004.