Now Let's Do A White Rabbit Interview!

Mariah, who runs the myspace page, was lucky enough to get in contact with Patrick Richwood, who played the White Rabbit. 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 Wonderland?

A: I was living in Los Angeles back then and my agent got a call for me to sing for this Disney Channel pilot. I thought, Sing? For a TV show?? All we knew was that they were specifically looking for people with a lot of musical theatre experience - that's what made it seem like fun and also different from the usual TV fare.

Q: Did you originally audition for the White Rabbit?

A: Actually, I originally auditioned for the Mad Hatter. Can you imagine? I can't picture any other hatter than Hoffman. He even out-does the cartoon. Anyway, after I sang and read for them, they asked if I could do an English accent. I said yes. Then they asked if I could do an older character. By now I was intrigued so I said yes. Then they asked if I would please have a look at the material for the White Rabbit. I thought they were crazy but I said sure. I read, they said "thank you", which is show-business for " we're through with you now" and that was that. Then, just as I was getting to the elevator, the casting director, Cecily Adams, ran out to the hall to ask me one more question: Can you rollerblade? I had never been on rollerblades a day in my life. Naturally, I said yes. As I was walking to my car, I thought, rollerblade... that can't be good. The next day my agent called and we were making the arrangements. It was all very quick and easy, now that I think about it.

Q: Where did you get your inspiration for your portrayal of the White Rabbit?

A: Great question. For starters, I looked to the books by Lewis Carol. There, the White Rabbit is always flustered because he's either neurotically punctual or chronically late. That made me think he ought to be a perfectionist who's always a step away from achieving perfection, but never can. I happen to think frustration can be very funny and that's what gave him his prickliness. Also in the books, he holds different positions at different times so, after the pilot episode, we made him a sort of multi-purpose figure; Royal Steward, Town Cryer, Houshold Servant, Personal Advisor, etc. The writers felt that he ought to always be smarter than the Queen so I played against that by making him also very dotty at times. And since he was at least 70 in my mind, I think several character actors and actresses from the old 30s and 40s films sort of made their way into the White Rabbit's voice and persona without my being conscious of it. Edward Everett Horton, Ralph Richardson, Marian Lorne (remember Aunt Clara from "Bewitched") and Maggie Smith -- to name a few.

Q: Were you experienced in rollerblading before Adventures in Wonderland?

A: Not a bit. As I said, I bluffed when they asked me, but I didn't have a clue. Luckily, they got me some training to "brush up" my blading before they ever saw me on them. I happen to be an athletic guy and a fast study and the instructor was excellent. We practiced in the parking lot of the Hollywood Bowl. In one day I was taught everything I needed to know to start practicing on my own in a safe way. And I'm not easy to injure either. I remember one day, when I was visiting my mother here in New York, I brought my new black rollerblades along for practice. I guess I was about 27. We were making our way, very slowly, alongside Riverside Drive (My mom on foot, of course) and we came to a long flight of stone steps leading down into the park. I thought, 'Well, there's no time like the present' and so down the steps I went. All 30 of them. Later, my mother told me she didn't know whether to scream or laugh at the sight of me trying desperately to stay upright on those stairs as I flew down them! I managed to do it too -- for about three quarters of the way. But, as I said, I'm a very fast study so I got the hang of it pretty quickly. And, let's face it, if you're on rollerblades for 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, you're going to become an expert rollerblader. That said, I crashed into things all day, every day -- including, often, my castmates!

Q: Were you ever injured because of the rollerblades? And, was it difficult to dance in them?

A: Yes, it was difficult to dance in them and no, luckily, I was never really injured because of them. The real difficulty was the Rabbit body itself. The contour of the Rabbit's body was very different than mine. I'm built like a runner or a swimmer; about 140 lbs soaking wet. The White Rabbit, on the other hand, had haunches and was bottom-heavy, the way rabbits are... not to mention the White Rabbit definitely had an ice cream belly. So the weight and the balance of the costume -- 1 to 6 inches of upholstery foam covered in spandex and stretchable, fake fur -- that's what made it difficult. Then there was the heat. Think of fabric and plastic covering your feet and hands; foam, spandex and fur covering your entire body and head and what amounts to latex paint covering your face -- you get the picture. No place for the body to get air. The internal heat was so overwhelming that under the costume, I wore a special vest next to my body which, when plugged in, between takes, had ice-cold water pumped though it's tiny woven tubes by motor. That vest saved me for sure! That and my fantastic dresser, Bobby. He was always there, between every take, with cold water or Gatorade and a cold cloth for the little bit of my face that would feel it. Before we started using that vest, I was always having to stop or hold to get cold water and breathe. Twice, I passed right out. The first time, they had to cut me out of the head, they were in such a hurry to get air to me. I remember waking up on the floor to the sight of Patti Colombo, our sweet, wonderful, choreographer, rubbing my rabbit belly like it might help. The first words out of my mouth were "Patti, I hate to break it to you, but I can't feel that". She and I still laugh about that every now and then.

Q: How long did it take to put on all the makeup and the White Rabbit costume?

A: The makeup, which was ingeniously designed and applied by Ron Wild, took 2 hours and 30 minutes to create and about 25 minutes to remove. It consisted of 3 super-soft prosthetic pieces glued to my face, followed by an elaborate "paint job", all by hand, involving several different colors and brushes, to make me look not only animal, but old as well. That was followed by the glued placement of six long, white whiskers (those were feather bones!), long, white eyebrows and -- after the Rabbit's head and ears were firmly in place, nine delicate, white hair-pieces were meticulously glued onto my face and combed into the fur. The teeth were glued in once we were ready to begin rolling. They talked about pink contact lenses during the making of the pilot, but then ruled it out as too creepy. I agreed! I would be among the first to arrive in the morning and sometimes the very last to leave at night. And always, always the last to the lunch trailer! The rabbit-head would need to be removed for lunch so I'd always be racing behind everyone else to get to the food! You can imagine what a funny sight we all were around the lunch table, all of us half in and half out of makeup and wardrobe. A ridiculous sight.
The costume, which was put on in layers and which could not be done alone, took about 20 minutes. Somewhere, I have a video of my dresser, Bobby, wringing out one of the cotton unitards worn under the fur suit. The unitards had pads shaped like the rabbit's body attached. They were in zippered pouches to be removable so that the unitard could be washed each day. Water would come pouring out of that unitard when Bobby would wring it out. I remember always being amazed by that. Needless to say I was about 10 pounds underweight while doing that show.

Q: Just how big was the Wonderland set?

A: Those beautiful, whimsical sets were all designed by Mr. Jimmy Quomo and meticulously dressed and decorated by Kelly Van Patter, who is also responsible for designing and creating just about every amazing prop you see on the show. The sets consisted of the Queen's Palace and gardens, the Wonderland Forest, The Mad Hatter's house, garden and Mad Tea Party, the Hatter's attic, Alice's bedroom and -- my favorite --the Caterpillar's Mushroom Forest. They, along with dozens of wacky one-episode sets, filled up two giant sound stages. The Wonderland Forrest looks so vast because of the amazing, four-story, "forced-perspective" backdrop which spanned a curved 455 feet. We occupied adjacent stages, first, on the Disney-MGM backlot in Florida, where the show began it's filming, and then at the CBS Radford Studios in Studio City, CA, where Sienfeld and lots of other popular shows were being shot at the same time. The CBS Radford Studios had also been home to Gilligan's Island, Bewitched and a bunch of other TV classics so it was fun to stroll around on the lot during breaks on rehearsal days.

Q: Did you and the other cast members have to make appearances or do special events to promote the show?

A: We did a wonderful live event at the Kennedy Center for the Clinton Inauguration and we were in the Rose Parade on New Year's Day but, other than those, we didn't really do a lot of special appearances that I recall. Maybe Liz did... or John and Reece. There really wasn't any time! We shot two episodes a week. That's two scripts and 8 musical numbers. On average, most of us were in 2 to 3 numbers an episode. That's 2 story lines and 4 - 6 musical numbers a week that we'd be shooting. But add to that the learning of 4 - 6 advance musical numbers and recording the vocal tracks for those in advance, learning the choreography for the 4 - 6 advance musical numbers, plus learning and rehearsing the current week's scenes and working out all their various gags and business... well, you get the idea. The actual filming of the show was only half of the job!
There is one special event I'll never forget. It's not a promotion or a publicity thing. It was for the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to kids who are terminally ill. This remarkable little girl had wished that she could have a tea party with all of the characters from Adventures In Wonderland there with her. It was all planned days in advance. They brought her, blindfolded, onto the Mad Tea Party set and we all sang a special song we'd rehearsed for the occasion, dressing her up like a mini Red Queen and then the song ended with a very theatrical entrance by the Red Queen herself. I'll never forget the look of complete rapture on that little face. She didn't know it of course, but there wasn't a dry eye in the place. Later on, we played and kidded with her sister and her, showing them how we did some of the things we did on the show but -- for a moment during that tea-party, with that sweet little person, all done up to match the Queen, you would have sworn that Wonderland was entirely real. That was truly magical.

Q: What was your favorite AIW episode?

A: I'm very fond of the Christmas episode for all the reasons the others have said -- it's a beautiful show, but my favorite episode of all is the final season's Halloween episode. Like the Christmas show, it's one of the rare episodes featuring Wonderland at night and it was wonderfully done, with lots of great make-up and lighting effects and gorgeous, spooky sets. But beside all that though, it was the last episode we ever shot and it has sentimental attachment for me. There are, for me, lots of laughs and tears as well as feelings of pride and accomplishment associated with all of Adventures In Wonderland, but episode 100 sort of encapsulated it all for me so it's my favorite.

Q: On Wikipedia (which has the tendency to be wrong), it says that a few of the characters had first names, stating that Wilbur was Rabbit's and Redzilda was the Queen's. Is this true?

A: Another great question. Not true! The White Rabbit's first name is only mentioned (by me), in two episodes. It is Carbuncle. (I'll bet you some of our writers didn't even know that one.) The Queen, to the best of my knowledge, did not have a first name. She was probably "Your Majesty" from birth! I'll have to ask Armelia about that. Or, hopefully, you can.

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

A: I'll scout around and see what pictures I can find to send you but as far as mementos go, I kept just a few really sentimental things. I have the Rabbit's pocket watch and ruby-covered cell phone and the entire last two-episode script and vocal cassettes. I also have one pair of the black rollerblades which are still in shockingly good shape. I blade with my dog along the Hudson River almost every day here in New York!

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