From the A-Team, Cheers, Night Court, Who’s the Boss, Mr. Belvedere, and dozens of others, Walter Olkewicz has over a hundred screen credits to his name as an incredibly talented character actor. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Walter about just a few of the highlights of his illustrious career on the screen such as his explosive role in The Client and our favorite party animal Jacques Renault in Twin Peaks. Bite the bullet, baby!
BD: Thanks for joining us Walter! I would like to start out by discussing your role as Jerome “Romey” Clifford in 1994’s The Client. How did your role come about?
WO: Well Joel Schumacher was a student of Milton Katselas who was my teacher of 25 years and he brought me in, gave the script to me, said take a look at it and I came back 2 weeks later and I just kinda “wowed them” in the audition. He told me later on when I walked out of the room they turned to each other and said “that may be the best audition I’ve ever seen”. I really nailed it. Pinned them against the couch like a crazy man.
above: Walter as Jerome “Romey” Clifford in The Client.
BD: What was it like working with Brad Renfro in the film?
WO: I’ll tell you an interesting story, he had never worked before. Unfortunately he passed away recently, a drug overdose. Joel said the first scene he ever did in his life was with me. Brad would say to me ,”hey how ya doin’ man” and I’d say, “listen to me you little fuck, you’ve got everybody fooled around here, I’m not buying any of the bullshit, just stay the fuck out of my way”. So he went over to the teacher who was a friend of mine and said, “wow he really hates my guts”. But I really scared him, so I was going home and I said to Joel, “I need to take Brad out for dinner or something and make it up to him for being so mean while we were filming ” and he said, “No, you can’t even talk to him, he’s got weeks left to talk about how scared he was of you and I don’t want to take that away from him”. So I went home and my son was about the same age at the time, I called him up and said, “Zach I don’t even know if I want you to see this movie, I was so mean to this kid” and he said, “Dad, I think I know by now that you’re nice“. (laughing) I saw him a few months later and took Brad out and we had a nice afternoon. I read in the paper he was arrested for drugs and I tried to get in touch with him and a week later he was dead.
BD: Brad Renfro was actually from my hometown, I remember that a police officer that did drug education at the schools found him and recommended him for the movie.
WO: Wow. Where’s your hometown?
BD: Knoxville , TN. I remember seeing it in the theaters and watching the tape thinking that scene was so incredible.
WO: Yeah, that was one of the criticisms of the movie, Rolling Stone said the problem is that the most intense moment in the movie is at the beginning in the car and they didn’t match it again. It was nice to hear. It was a rumor, but I was rumored to be nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that. I never got to the top 5, but there was talk of it for awhile.
above: Brad Renfro as Mark Sway in The Client
BD: One of my favorite shows growing up was the A-Team. What was that experience like?
WO: It was great, Mr. T actually kept breaking up laughing when I was doing certain things. My parents came to the set to visit and he went over and said “I don’t like your boy! Your boy makes me laugh and when I’m starin’ at the camera I don’t like to laugh!”. He was great.
BD: With Twin Peaks, were you very familiar with David Lynch and Mark Frost beforehand?
WO: I was familiar with Lynch’s work, but I had never met anybody else. They called and they said “we want to see you today”, so after I got cast which was the same day, I told them I need a dialect coach because I don’t know how to do Canadian. David said you should just to what you did at the audition, and I said it was “Pepe Le Pew”, it wasn’t Canadian at all! It was fun, and yeah it was great.
above: Walter as Jacques Renault in Twin Peaks
BD: What was it like working with Mark Frost as director on the television series?
WO: He was great-real simple and very nice. I never worked with David till I did the movie (Fire Walk With Me).
BD: How did that differ from the show?
WO: David’s an adventure. We would be rehearsing and we did all that stuff in the cabin. Deepak (First A.D.) kept saying “We’re ready to go David” and we were talking about his house and he’d say “we were rehearsing” and we weren’t rehearsing at all! (laughing) Just connecting better.
BD: What was filming the infamous party scene like in Fire Walk With Me?
WO: The only interesting story I have is that I went over to David and asked, “I don’t know what this line means, what does The Great Went mean?” and he said ,”I don’t know, what does it mean to you?” so I said, “I don’t know it’s something in your head – something like a whisp that goes away”. “That’ll be fine, use that.” He didn’t know what it meant either! It’s like poetry, it means something different to everyone. I had some good experiences with David at Cannes. We went to all these parties, he did these interviews with different countries and he always introduced me as somebody they were going to hire a midget to do my parts but it didn’t work out. We kept making stuff up that wasn’t true (laughing). It was a really weird experience, like the Academy Awards every night. It was great.
BD: How was it catching up with the Twin Peaks cast at the reunion last year?
WO: That was nice-it was great. About 8 years now I’ve been battling with a bunch of knee surgeries so it was nice to get out and see people I’m almost ready to go back to work.
BD: That’s great, any projects on the horizon?
WO: I’ve had a couple people called me interested in doing stuff. There’s a Russian movie about the whole take over of Russia with the S.S. and they want me to play this general guy. We’ll see.
Best wishes to Walter, a huge thanks goes out to “The Great Went” himself!