When is a character’s appearance ‘official’?

On social media this week, there was a discussion of when an actor’s appearance as a character is official or not.

For example, in the 1990s, there was a License to Thrill ride at some U.S. theme parks. Bond fan Paul Scrabo made a video about it. The video was taken at a Virginia park. I went on the same ride at a park in Ohio near Cincinnati.

In any case, part of the ride included a video where Judi Dench played M and Desmond Llewelyn played Q. How official should this be treated?

There are other examples of where the Bond cinematic universe blurred with other media.

Roger Moore played James Bond in a 1964 British television show. Likely nobody took it seriously at the time. Sean Connery was in the midst of his 1960s run as Bond in movies made by Eon Productions. It’s more of a footnote.

However, Pierce Brosnan played Bond in a 1990s Visa commercial, with Desmond Llewelyn along for the ride as Q. This ran in the middle of Brosnan’s 007 films. MI6-HQ.com uploaded a copy to YouTube.

Nor is this sort of thing restricted just to James Bond. A few other examples:

–“Illya Kuryakin” in Hullabaloo, 1965: This half-hour weekly show featured a guest host introducing various musical acts. David McCallum was in character as Illya Kuryakin and was introduced as his fictional alter ego. Leo G. Carroll picked up some spare change doing some voice-over work as U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly.

David McCallum, Patricia Crowley and Robert Vaughn in a publicity still for Please Don’t the Daisies

–“Napoleon Solo” and “Illya Kuryakin” in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, 1966: Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are listed in the end titles as their U.N.C.L.E. characters and not their actual names. McCallum as Kuryakin is at the start of the episode, Vaughn as Solo is at the end. Children of a suburban family think their dad is a spy after he meets Kuryakin. Solo sets them straight in the conclusion.

–Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in The Glass Bottom Boat, 1966: This comedy was Doris Day’s entry in the 1960s spy craze. Robert Vaughn as Solo makes a cameo during a party scene. Jerry Goldsmith’s theme for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. plays.

Ad for Here’s Lucy

–Mike Connors as Joe Mannix in Here’s Lucy, 1971: Mike Connors starred in the private eye drama Mannix (1967-1975). In the middle of that run, Connors played Mannix in an episode of the situation comedy Here’s Lucy starring Lucille Ball. Is it an “official” appearance? Both series ran on CBS.

–Mike Connors as Joe Mannix in Diagnosis Murder, 1997: Diagnosis Murder featured Dick Van Dyke as a crime-solving doctor. Joe Mannix shows up in an episode that’s a sequel to a 1973 Mannix installment. Guest stars from the earlier show (Pernell Roberts, Julie Adams and Beverly Garland) reprise their roles from 24 years later. Clips from the 1973 Mannix episode are used as flashbacks. That’s as official as you can get.

–Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter in Diagnosis Murder, 1997: Diagnosis Murder worked up an episode featuring actors from 1960s spy series as guest stars. Only one, Barbara Bain, actually reprised her 1960s part, Cinnamon Carter from the original Mission: Impossible series. Robert Culp, Patrick Macnee and Robert Vaughn played new characters for the story.

Happy 79th birthday, David McCallum

David McCallum, left, in all of his U.N.C.L.E. glory as Illya Kuryakin

For many actors, there are periods of few jobs. David McCallum, who turns 79 on Sept. 19, always seems to keep working.

It has been almost 30 years since he last played U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin (in the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), but McCallum never seems to lack for work over a long career. In fact, his current gig, in a supporting role on NCIS, has lasted more than twice as long as his turn as Kuryakin (1964-68 excluding the 1983 TV movie).

The Scotsman transcended the “sidekick” role. There were other sidekicks on TV shows whose popularity rivaled or even exceeded that of the lead character (Rowdy Yates on Rawhide or Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip come to mind). But McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin went a step further.

McCallum appeared, in character, as host of Hullabaloo, introducing musical acts and dodging assassination attempts by enemy agents. At the end, two women “agents” get him in handcuffs, arousing an, er, interesting reaction among women McCallum fans.

All of that was a chance to get some extra work. On The Man From U.N.C.L.E., McCallum, by all accounts, was a true professional. Also, the actor made the best with lines like this one: “No man is free who works for a living. But I’m available.”

The Kuryakin character was created by Sam Rolfe, who scripted the pilot episode of the series and was producer of the show’s first season. But much of the character was developed by writer Alan Caillou in four key episodes: The Quadripartite Affair and The Guioco Piano Affair (the first significant use of the Kuryakin character); The Terbuf Affair (which actually revealed background about Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo); and The Bow-Wow Affair (the first Kuryakin-centric story, which included the “no man is free” line). It didn’t hurt that star Vaughn was concurrently pursuing a PhD and didn’t mind the occasional break from the grind of filming.

McCallum has had his share of tough times. His first marriage to actress Jill Ireland ended in divorce and an adoptive son died of an accidental drug overdose. And the Illya Kuryakin has been a mixed blessing AS DESCRIBED IN A 1998 NEW YORK TIMES STORY.

Still, McCallum keeps working. He can even enjoy the occasional in-joke about his former life as U.N.C.L.E.’s ace Russian operative: