A Conversation With Former Law & Order Star Michael Moriarty
Actor Michael Moriaty in his role as ADA Ben Stone on "Law & Order"
By Alicia Colon
Recently I was sent an email complaining about the season premier of the TV Show, "Law & Order." My correspondent asked what I thought about the plot in which the local Manhattan district attorney Jack McCoy prosecuted a former
Justice Department lawyer for "depraved indifference murder" following the lawyer's memo on the techniques which could be used on terrorists. An astonished "Executive Assistant DA Michael Cutter says, "Jack, you want to prosecute a member of the Bush administration for assaulting suspected terrorists?" To which, a cocksure "McCoy" declares: "The word is torturing. And, yes, it's about time somebody did."
The increasingly leftwing comments injected into the plots of this once fine show had turned me off many seasons ago and I answered my reader, "I haven't watched that show much since they replaced Michael Moriarty as the lead in 1994.
Mr. Moriarty has always been one of my favorite actors and given that he is an Irish American, I thought he'd be the perfect lead off to a series of interviews with notable Americans of Irish ancestry. I was thrilled to be able to connect with Mr. Moriarty, who now lives in Canada, and he graciously agreed to this Q&A interview.
Alicia Colon (AC): If you were still with L&O would you have objected to the season opener trashing the Bush administration over torture? What is your opinion on Gitmo?
Michael Moriarty (MM): From your description of the L & O program which I DIDN'T see, it sounds typically classic NBC. A Variety magazine article years ago described NBC as the most obedient network to governmental demands. It is now embarrassingly sycophantic. I'm not a fan of either of the Bush Presidents ... but this judicial assault upon Guantanamo in a time of war that is still going on is approaching treason. Leave the suspects in Gitmo until the Islamic extremists cease and desist. Welcoming them into our country is suicidal ... but then so is the entire Progressive Program for a New World Order.
AC: Have you ever been to Ireland?
MM: I visited Dublin and Rosslare Strand briefly before my year's stay in England on a Fulbright Scholarship. The experience was rather like an episode out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Two young Fulbright Scholars and a wealthy young adventuress ... however ... it was all quite disappointing. The Dublin pubs we visited in hopes of tasting a bit of Irish wit ... well ... they were decidedly not convivial to Americans and the Strand was filled with nothing but the British. The three of us were going to get enough of England in London.
A few, lovely but melancholy reveries came to me while gazing at the coastline of the Strand. I could wallow in feelings quite Joycean ... as a kind of Stephen Daedalus but without a Leopold Bloom to, as they say, show me around Nightown.
Those few days in Ireland were an omen of things that may eventually be read about in my autobiography. It was the Autumn of 1963, the season in which we lost our President. The Americans in school were suddenly plunged by that tragedy into a kind of daze, not really knowing what kind of country we would be returning to.
AC: Are you first, second, third generation Irish and do you know which county your family's from?
MM: I suspect I am no more than fourth generation Irish, if that. The family, as I recall, was said to be from County Kerry ... which I've never seen but, as I understand it, is in the best tradition of Irish romanticism, even a bit mysterious. I'm indisputably an Irish and profoundly Celtic romantic - with an equally heavy Norwegian background that embarrasses me in light of the Nobel Prize Committee's recent decision.
I mourn the Progressive "realities" now being forced upon America by her most recent Nobel Peace Prizewinner. If his bits of "Change" become "reality" then I am on the wrong continent... or perhaps even the wrong planet.
AC: Do you consider yourself religious and if so has this been a new development in your life?
MM: As I grow older I grow more dependent upon God. Issues I would handle by myself now increasingly require prayer. I'm a lapsed Catholic but that hasn't stopped me from praying!
AC: Why did you move to Canada?
MM: I moved to Canada because it was the closest English-speaking nation to the United States. I stay here in the hope that eventually a reasonably decent President with basic American values will enter the White House.
Until then I am profoundly grateful to Canada for, as one might say, taking me in as a political exile ... or stray Irish/Norwegian dog.
AC: Would you ever consider moving back to the States and if so to which one?
MM: Where I might live should I return to the States is still up in the air. It would certainly be in a state with the lowest taxes. That, for me, is simple common sense as the only major improvement over Canada, a nation that has, so far, been good to me ... and for me.
By the way, Canada is more of a foreign land than Americans might expect.
As Sir Tyrone Guthrie said about my Fulbright year in England, "How nice for you to have spent months living in a country where there are only superficial similarities of language!" Dr. Guthrie was, of course, Irish and had created a jam factory in Ireland. He was one of, if not the greatest English-speaking theater director in the world!!
Had Guthrie's Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario allowed Americans - back then in the 1960s - into their acting ensemble, I might have come to Canada much sooner than I did. I auditioned for that theater's Michael Langham - another great director - but he suggested I eventually audition for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I did and spent four years experiencing the "ineluctable" - a favorite Joycean word - imprint of Sir Tyrone Guthrie's exquisite genius upon the world stages.
AC: What's your favorite film that you starred in and which stars did you enjoy working with?
MM: I don't have a favorite film of my own since I don't think any of them are all that good. There's no doubt that the role I'll be remembered for is Ben Stone of the television series, Law and Order. "Stone" is the Norwegian name of my grandmother! Her first name was Ada ... A.D.A. Stone ... is that more than a coincidence? The name of my corporation, started long before Law and Order, is Adastone, Inc. Then I didn't even know there was such a thing as an Assistant District Attorney.
As for stars I enjoyed working with? Katherine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson were my favorites. Both utterly professional and the best at what they represent... which is American stardom. They were, are and always will be great stars!
AC: The next two questions are on a very personal note and you don't have to answer if they offend you - Do you believe that alcoholism may be genetic to the Irish as it is to Native Americans?
MM: Yes... it's possible that alcoholism is genetic to the Irish... but one might now say that about American First Nations ... and the Russians ... the common denominator between all three being subjugation!
A race that has been repeatedly subjected under tyranny despairs through alcohol... and that despair is always a brief but comforting, hiding place.
As Maurice Chevalier might sing, "Ah, yes! I remember it well."
In the case of the Russians, now under the increasing despotism of Vladimir Putin, it is a classic, psychiatric display of "grieving for their illness". They were once strong under the tyranny of Stalin. Putin gives them the same, false feeling of confidence. Living under bullies, whether Czars or Red Commissars, is familiar ... and also classically Russian ... their liquid courage to both endure and propagate tyranny? Vodka.
The Russians, the Irish and the First Nations? Alcoholism is now a profound part of their national identity ... almost a particle within their DNA.
AC: Do you still attend AA meetings?
MM: I've not had a drink in almost four years and haven't even been tempted to take one ... therefore I have only attended AA meetings to sponsor other alcoholics who need help. Should I return to drinking - God forbid! - I'd be back to meetings in a flash!
If I were to name a church I've attended or a denomination I belonged to ... it would metaphorically be Humphrey Bogart's famous line in Casablanca: "I'm a drunk".
If you're an alcoholic, you're never NOT a drunk.
"But," to continue the metaphor, "I attend church at AA."
The lessons of faith in God at AA are still the best I've ever heard ... and that includes four years of the Jesuits at University of Detroit High School.
"Let go, let God" is the greatest short prayer ever invented.
AC: The movie industry is totally corrupt but I don't understand why like-minded conservatives can't start their own production companies like Mel Gibson did. There is a huge market for family fare and yet Hollywood still keeps cranking out trash. Have you written any screenplays?
MM: Yes, I've written screenplays ... My own film that I wrote and starred in, Hitler Meets Christ, seems worth a mention because it is most representative of the battles still going on in my mind and soul ... but it is hardly mainstream and most likely "caviar to the general" ... but I think it might help explain why the human race is in such a mess right now. Hypocrisy ... no question ... bottomless hypocrisy. You might look up its brief advertisement on the net
AC: Do you think that your pro-life position on abortion makes it more difficult to find work in Hollywood?
MM: Obviously yes ... so I'm completely retired
AC: What made you want to run for president last year? What made you drop out?
MM: The same passionately common sense that drives Glenn Beck is what drove me to run for President. To inject a little OBVIOUS common sense into a profoundly corrupted, two-party system. If you knew how hard that is you would admire Beck's strength even more than you might now. The title of his new book, ARGUING WITH IDIOTS, is immensely exhausting, particularly for an old man like me.
I dropped out of the 2008 election in order to recommend another candidate, Mr. Fred Thompson, also an alumnus of Law and Order. Sarah Palin was then barely a political reality. However, when she hooked up with McCain I supported the Republican ticket entirely because of her.
AC: What is your assessment of the Obama administration?
MM: Beyond a disaster!! In light of what Obama swore to at the inauguration - "to uphold the Constitution of the United States" - it's a grotesque charade, a lie, a black comedy of immensely ominous implications for individual freedom in the world. Obviously Obama will be obliged to claim that at the inauguration the Chief Justice was putting words in his mouth! He never had any real obligation to uphold the silly principles contained in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights!
All the President's so-called plans and achievements are as forbidding as Chamberlain's concessions at Munich.
But, as we "Drunks" say, "Let go, let God!"
AC: What do you think of Glenn Beck? Have you seen RedEye?
What do you think of the grassroots tea parties?
MM: Glenn Beck? A Godsend to America!!
The Tea Parties? Long overdue!
Red Eye? Very New York! Very Manhattan "Chic"! Very welcome because of its point of view: looking down on those East Coast Progressives who look down on us!!
AC: Thank you so much, Michael.
MM: God Bless You