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Q & A

JOHN STAMOS: 'Full House' Breakout

October 13, 1991|SUSAN KING

Fans of ABC's long-running sitcom "Full House" may be in for a shock when they see John Stamos, best known as rocker Uncle Jesse, in tonight's ABC movie "Captive."

Stamos is nearly unrecognizable as Robert Knott, a sleazy, long-haired, drugged-out escaped convict who, with his buddy (Chad Lowe), kidnaps a couple (Joanna Kerns and Barry Bostwick) from a remote village in Oregon and rapes the wife. "Captive" is based on a true 1987 incident.

Stamos, a native of Orange County, came to fame a decade ago as the street-wise but likable Blackie Parrish on ABC's "General Hospital," for which he received a daytime Emmy nomination and won two Soap Opera Digest Awards. After two years, Stamos left the series for prime time. Before landing the role of Jesse in "Full House" in 1987, Stamos appeared in two short-lived series, "Dreams" and "You Again?" An accomplished musician and composer--he plays the drums, piano and guitar--Stamos frequently performs with the Beach Boys in concert.

Stamos talked about his role in "Captive" in his dressing room at "Full House" with Susan King.

Have you had a hard time breaking out of the Uncle Jesse mold?

(Producers) are not beating my door down to do these ("Captive") kind of roles. There's a thing that people think of me as and it's limited. There comes a time when you have to step outside of that and say I can do other things.

My agents knew this is what I was looking for and ABC wanted me to do a picture for them. When you read a script like this, John Stamos is not the first name that comes to mind. I have to commend ABC for letting me play the role. I don't know what the outcome will be. I don't know if people will be upset or upset at me or upset at ABC.

I think the producers of the picture weren't really crazy about me until I met them. I went to New York and studied for a month and half. I have an acting coach there. For me, I really worked on the acting and for (the producers), I worked on the look. The hair grew longer and I got (hair) extensions and a beard and dark contacts. I met them at the Century Plaza for breakfast one morning. I bashed into the room wearing grubby clothes and everyone was saying, "How did that guy get in here?"

How else did you prepare?

I did everything. I compiled more information on this guy than the producers did. I went all out to find whatever I could, starting with the thousands of pages of court documents and five different psychiatric evaluations.

Everybody had different theories about him. One theory was he was crazy, a compulsive-obsessive, and others were saying it was all drug-induced. I spent time talking to his counselors, but the most valuable time spent was with the people who were abducted. The character was doing crystal meth (a stimulant) and studying what that did gave me an outline on how I wanted to play the guy. When I ran it by the two people who were kidnaped, they said it was exactly how he acted.

What did the drug do to him?

What happened to him and what happens to people when they get addicted to any of the upper stuff is that it almost calms them. That's what it did with this guy. But anything would set him off. He was like a coiled spring. I kept digging to find different things--such as washing his hands. This guy was always washing his hands. The bottom line which I kept throughout the whole picture was that he had no conscience. He didn't care.

Was it hard living with this character during the production?

It was weird. It's the hardest work I have ever done on a project. I dug pretty deep into it. I did spend a lot of nights not sleeping to get that rugged look. I was pretty much into the guy and it was hard to go back and forth everyday. I spent a lot of time on my own. I think the last day of filming I cut all my hair off and shaved and threw the contacts into the river. I left it all behind.

Do you want to do more dramatic projects such as "Captive"?

I think so. I like playing deeper, fuller characters. It's more stimulating. I'm not knocking ("Full House"). But it's pretty simple stuff because it's a simple show. It's a simple show because we have done it for so long and the characters are so close to me.

With "Full House" in its fifth season, how do you keep it fresh?

Every year I try to come up with something different for the character, a different look, a different thing. Fortunately, I really love everybody here. I'm learning to appreciate the show more and more as time goes on. I appreciate the show for what it is. It's not a sophisticated comedy. It's not "Murphy Brown" or "Cheers," but it's something that people really love out there. It's an important show for kids, as "Happy Days" was for me growing up.

"Captive" airs tonight at 9 on ABC.

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