Roger was on a skiing vacation when he received a call notifying him that Pete Duel was dead, apparently of suicide, and that he, Roger, might be asked to replace him on the show. Roger flew back to Hollywood in shock, more concerned about Pete's death than his own career.
But he had little time to ponder much of anything. He was told to report to Universal studios Monday morning, a mere two days after Pete's death and just 24 hours after his funeral, to begin work with Ben Murphy on the series.
Things had been a bit difficult on the series before but now things really got rough. They had been running behind schedule for some time so there simply was no time now to take off work--if they'd taken any more time to replace Pete the show would not have made it on the air in the coming weeks.
So to work they went. But it was not easy. Roger was working with all of the same people who had worked with Pete--the same stunt man, double, makeup man, wardrobe people, everyone, and although there was no open hostility, it was still a little uncomfortable for Roger. And Ben, perhaps more upset by Pete's death than anyone could tell, became irritable and moody. The tension increased. Minor accidents occurred more frequently than in the past and tempers were kept barely under wraps.
It was difficult for everyone concerned, through everyone made an effort to make it work. Pete's brother, Geoffrey Deuel, even came on the set one day and took Roger aside to tell him that Pete had often spoken of him and would be glad that Roger had gotten the part. Geoffrey told Roger not to feel guilt about getting the role--he knew that Roger and Pete had been friends and how difficult it must be for him, and he wanted him to know that the family was not at all unhappy over the decision to hire Roger to replace Pete.
The directors of the show told Roger to play the part the way he felt it, not to try to imitate Pete in any way, and that made it a little easier.
But the rough part was that Pete had been partly finished with one show when he died and all of the scenes he'd done had to be repeated with Roger--that part was particularly uncomfortable for everyone.
But however they managed to complete the last five shows of the season--and the first reviews of the shows with Roger were mostly favorable.
Now the only question remaining is whether
the show will be picked up again for next season.
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