Pete's death put the show into a crisis situation. There were five episodes still to be filmed and no time to rewrite the scripts for Ben Murphy to star in them alone, as they at first hoped to be able to do. A new Hannibal Heyes would have to be found--and quickly!
In the 48 hours after Pete's death, rumors raced through Hollywood as to who that actor would be. First on many people's lists was Pete's younger brother, Geoffrey Deuel. Aside from looking remarkably like Pete, Geoff is a talented actor in his own right, with experience in roles similar to that of Hannibal Heyes. (If you saw him as Billy the Kid in John Wayne's film, "Chisum," you'll know what we mean.) But even if Geoff had been interested, he had a prior commitment--he's made a TV pilot which, if it's sold and made into a series next year, would have meant that "Smith and Jones" would once again be lacking a Smith.
So on Monday, January 3, Roger Davis of ABC-TV's "Dark Shadows" would take over the role of Hannibal Heyes for the rest of the season. As the announcement was being made, Roger and Ben were already hard at work re-shooting the episode they'd been in the middle of when Pete died. So fast did they have to work to make up the lost time that at one point that week they were shooting on three different sound stages at the same time!
Roger was a natural choice for the role. He knew both Pete and Ben, he'd guest starred on the show, and he was thoroughly familiar with the character of Hannibal Heyes. On top of that, it's Roger's voice that you hear describing the exploits of Heyes and Curry at the beginning of each "Smith and Jones" episode--he's been doing the "voice-over" since the beginning of the series!
Although there are a few critics who think that Roger looks too much like Ben to keep the characters separate in viewers' minds (both guys are tall, blond, and goodlooking), most people agree that he's a good choice for the part.
No actor, least of all Roger, enjoys getting a part because of someone else's misfortune, but there is a tradition in the entertainment business that is even stronger than this feeling: the show must go on!
And Roger Davis is doing his best to see
that it does.
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