Lots Of Chatter With The Mad Hatter!

Mariah, who runs the myspace page, was lucky enough to get in contact with John Hoffman, who played the Mad Hatter. She has kindly allowed me to post it here for all to see, but I'd appreciate it if you gave the myspace page a look, and if you've got a myspace, don't forget to add it!

Q: How did you come to audition for Adventures in Wonderland?

A: This was early 1991 and I'd just recently moved from New York to Los Angeles. Some good friends put me up on a mattress on their living room floor and I managed to buy a car on a credit card. I'm sure you can picture those stylin' wheels. Anyway, I'd heard about this show that was casting through a friend and I contacted my agent who had just moved from New York as well. Obviously, I needed a job to get me off the floor! I believe the producers were having some trouble settling on a Mad Hatter for the show and I think I actually may have been the last person cast. I came in and blasted away a version of "Those Were the Good Old Days" from the musical "Damn Yankees" (a comic song of the "devil" character, Mr. Applegate) and the rest is Hatter history! Okay, maybe there were a few more rounds of auditions...

Q: Did you originally audition for The Mad Hatter?

A: Yep. I was a Hatter and only a Hatter. I could have played the Dormouse, I suppose, but I think I'd have broken the teapot every time I popped up.

Q: Did you get any inspiration from actors who had previously played The Mad Hatter?

A: Honestly, I didn't look for inspiration from any other Mad Hatters. We all wanted it to be an original take on the character.

Q: On any of the times you landed (not-so-gracefully) on the tea table, did you ever land on any of the cup/saucer props and hurt yourself?

A: Surprisingly, I never hurt myself. I actually wanted to do more of t hat insane stuff. The set and the props were so thoughtfully put together for the show (thank you Jimmy Cuomo and Kelly Van Patter!) that the whole tea party set felt like you could do anything without risking injury. Complete freedom. The only moments I can recall having a physical concern were once when I thought I'd popped my jaw out of it's socket because I made too big of an expressive reaction (I hadn't -- but that was always a risk!) and also once when they had me strapped up in a harness for the super hero Hatter episode where I flew as Spectacularman. I'm sure I don't need to mention the regions that were in danger from that contraption!

Q: With all the dance sequences and physical comedy was it hard to keep your top hat on?

A: That top hat was actually my head reshaped into the form of a top hat. Or at least that's how it felt. Amazingly comfortable and fitted so perfectly that, again, I felt like I could do anything. It was almost a challenge to come up with moves that might shake it loose.

Q: You have quite a good singing voice, did you do any musicals after AIW?

A: Thanks for the compliment. My singing style as the Hatter was definitely inspired by the great Broadway belters of old, particularly Stubby Kaye. Okay, with a little bit of Ethel Merman and a healthy dose of Carol Burnett too. I had a red wig on, they were natural inspirations!! It was a nice change-up, though, to sing a ballad in the episode you've reminded me about in a question coming up.

Q: What was your favorite AIW episode?

A: Hard to pick a favorite as I really have never had a job where I had more fun. The one that comes to mind as personally a favorite was the Christmas episode. It was a "special" episode that aired in prime time, so everybody was pulling out all the stops with even greater production elements. But I recall a sense of camaraderie among the whole cast and crew when the snow started falling during the last song that has stuck with me. We always had each other's backs throughout all the episodes we did, but there was something truly special about that fake snow and the marvelous talent that had been assembled that really moved me to feel very grateful. And it was Christmas, after all...

Q: Did you ever want to keep the Hatter's purple suit after ending the show? (A lot of fans love that suit)

A: I loved that suit too! To this day, it's the finest thing I've ever worn. Seriously. It was impeccably designed and crafted by Lois DeArmond and it somehow fit me like a glove, gave me a structured silhouette, and still allowed me to move any which way I wanted without feeling inhibited. Though that collar did require some maintenance in between shots to make sure it was kept clean of makeup. Didn't get to keep it though. I'm sure they're saving it for the Smithsonian.

Q: Do you have ANY idea how many fans of the female persuasion you have at the current moment? (A whole lot of fans still have crushes on you)

A: At the current moment??? You're kidding, right? I know that I did get some fan mail from women when I was doing the show. It was dumbfounding to me, honestly. But I love that, if it's true. Better yet, let me put this in dialogue for m as an interview question to the Hatter. INTERVIEWER: Hey Hatter, there's a rumor out there that some ladies think you're hotter than a whistling teapot. What do you say to that? HATTER: How true that is...

Q: Can you recall any funny mess-ups that happened on set? (Bloopers and stuff)

A: Oh wow, the bloopers on the show were the greatest. Tons of them. We had a character constantly on roller skates, you can only imagine! He is a genius by the way. I remember also, Reece (the Hare) and I developed a sort of silent communication between us and anytime something went awry, one look at each other was all it would take and we were gone. Not to mention the ridiculous fact that you'd forget that your friends had prosthetic noses and whiskers and floppy ears and caterpillar antennae -- because it was your job to forget that -- but when they were out of character in those get-ups and just being themselves (sometimes they'd do that during takes), that's when I'd have the biggest laughs. Armelia (another genius -- oh they were all geniuses, truthfully!) was a constant source of hilarity as she'd get a look on her face in the middle of a line that indicated her brain had just slipped the track for a moment while trying to get out one of the tricky lines of wordplay dialogue. Too many bloopers to mention, frankly. Tons of falling, noses slipping off of faces, collars popping, and then there were the practical jokes... You get the picture? Every day had a boatload of bloopers.

Q: Were you really playing the guitar in the episode "Hats Off to the King"?

A: Yes, I was playing the guitar. But not correctly.

Q: Was the Hatter wig blond or strawberry blond?

A: The Hatter wig was a definite strawberry blond. And I got to help choose it myself on a day when the producers asked me to visit a well-known wig-maker who'd done them in Hollywood for years and years. She had thousands of the things. I knew I didn't want a white wig like the animated "Alice" -- and so we tried every other color and style. Finally, when they plopped that one on my head, we all thought it worked. Then we were told it was the back piece of a wig that Faye Dunaway had worn in "Mommie Dearest." Sold!

I also recall a time when we were rehearsing for a great show at the Kennedy Center in Washington for Bill Clinton's Inaugural celebration. We were out of costume and when I met Markie Post (who was hosting the show) she looked at me and said, "Oh, so that is a wig you wear on the show." I was surprised...a.) that she hadn't realized that before...and b.) that she sounded so disappointed in seeing my real hair!

Q: What's your favorite kind of tea?

A: Iced tea. With lemonade. I refuse to call it an Arnold Palmer for some odd reason. You've got to stand on principle for the really important things in life, that's what I believe.

Q: Do you have any AIW memorabilia? Any cool photos I can talk you into sharing?

A: I do have some memorabilia. In my kitchen today up on a shelf is a really large red teacup from the set.=2 0 And in my office I have things that I picked up after the show wrapped. Stuff mainly from that great attic set or from key episodes -- or things people have been nice enough to send to me through the years. A favorite of that group is a Kix cereal box with my character on the back, hosting a game for kids to play while they eat their breakfast. I'm sure I have some photos I could pass along, though I'll have to do some searching.

Adventures in Wonderland is (C) Disney
The graphics were made by SeltzerAddict and can only be used with permission.
Much of the screenshots were obtained from the AiW Myspace page
Song files were contributed by Lauren