Transcript of the interview with Emmy winning actor
Werner Klemperer
Best known as Col. Klink on the 60s hit series
A series that has found new life in syndication, both here in North America and oddly enough also in Germany.
The interview aired on Tuesday, June 11, 1996 at 8:30pm eastern with Peter Anthony Holder
the evening open-line talk show host on
CJAD 800 AM, Montreal

CJAD: Mr. Klemperer, how are you.


CJAD: Thank you for joining us this evening. I'd like to know a little bit about your portrayal in that particular television show. The fact that here we are 30 years later talking about a show that admittedly was a big hit. You won two Emmys for it. But 30 years later they are still talking about it. Did you think that was possible when you did that show back then.

WERNER: Well, I don't know if we thought that was possible at the time, but we knew we had a good thing. We didn't actually quite know how long it would run. We knew when we did the pilot that we had every chance of getting on the air. I wasn't too surprised with most of the rerun market, but I will tell you that the last few years it's really been, particularly in the States, the reruns have been very powerful, because of this five day a week deal on all the local stations and it seems as if we keep getting a new audience all the time.

CJAD: Well the thing that's very surprising is that in this day of political correctness one would question whether a show like this could actually get on the air today.

WERNER: That may be your question. It isn't mine.

CJAD: You don't think so?

WERNER: No, I think the show has to be taken for exactly what it is. Why should HOGAN'S HEROES not be on the air. It's obviously a satirical parody and it can only be looked at it that way.

CJAD: What I mean by not being on the air....I don't mean in it's current form of reruns and shows that were done 30 years ago. I'm saying if someone were to mount a show like this today. A new show....

WERNER: When you mean a show like this, you have to say to me a show exactly like this, the way it was done.

CJAD: Yeah.

WERNER: It would be a smash hit again, in my opinion.

CJAD: You think it would be!

WERNER: Yes, well of course!

CJAD: Why is that?

WERNER: Because it is a satire. You cannot take HOGAN'S HEROES, look at it and take it totally seriously. I mean, that's ridiculous!

CJAD: Are you surprised....because one of the things that caught my attention last month from the WALL STREET JOURNAL is its current success in Germany.

WERNER: I'm very surprised at that, yes, because there were many chances for it to be in Germany once the syndication market started and it continually just did not happen. The fact that it happened now is somewhat surprising to me, but I must tell you I'm pleased about it because I think it should have been there a long time ago.

CJAD: One of the things that I guess a lot of people might not be aware of, especially fans of the show over the years and have seen your portrayal in it is nature of your background and the many things you've done besides Col. Klink. You're a classically trained actor.....

WERNER: I'm an actor by profession. I should hope that I've had a varied background.

CJAD: You're a classically trained actor and sometimes people who watch a role like Col. Klink might not necessarily think of the actor portraying that in other things, but you have had a varied career including working with symphony orchestras, correct?

WERNER: Yes, well you know we have a....when I say we, I include all of us, not just Americans but I suppose Canadians too....people have to's very difficult to understand, but they have a habit of identifying characters, particularly characters that are supposedly well played and successful. They identify the person with the character and they can't do anything else. I mean, they feel that's Col. Klink, that's all there is. I think that's so strange, because they do know that we're all actors and we perform things that have not necessarily anything to do with us personally.

CJAD: What about the situation of typecasting. Was that a concern when you first did the show.

WERNER: Not only was it a concern. For the first couple of years we had a choice to make. And that is, do I accept offers for roles that were not Col. Klink, but they were the same kind of character, or do I stay away from that in order to remove as much of the image as possible and continue my work, and I decided on the latter because I thought that was better for my career as an actor. I may have lost a bunch of money because of it, but it was worth the trip to me.

CJAD: Going back again to the satire angle of the television show, there are some people who for lack of a better term, don't have a sense of humour about these types of things. I'm just curious to know if you got any flack, particularly being from Germany yourself, being of Jewish extraction...have any flack for playing Col. Klink, because of your personal background.

WERNER: Well that's actually the very thing that I just mentioned to you. The fact that I have such a problem that people....that that has to, you know, be on people's mind, what my personal background is. To me, to be very frank with you, is a totally irrelevant thing. The only thing that they should, in my opinion, people should care about is whether they liked my performance or not. You know, I find it so difficult being a matter of fact, little do people know that most of the leading members of the cast have a background that they would never expect them to have, and play the show they did. As an example, Robert Clary, the little Frenchman, when he was a very, very young man spent quite awhile...he was in a concentration camp. He had a number branded on his arm. The man who played Sergeant Schultz, his whole family was gassed. So a lot of us have historical events that took place in our lives. But it's so difficult for me to understand that a person would stop and say, "God, how could he play a part like that?" My job is to be an actor, and as long as it has, you know, decent tastes, I shall portray anything, no matter how ugly it is or how pretty it is.

CJAD: Well certainly you have had a run with Col. Klink. You even had a chance to revive him in THE SIMPSONS. What was that like?

WERNER: I actually swore to myself privately, that I was never going to do anything with that character again on television. But when they offered this little situation for me to do this voice in this special segment, I found it so incredibly humorous that I said yes, and I enjoyed it. It was fun.

CJAD: And your other work. I know you've worked in narration....

WERNER: I work....I'm very blessed to be involved as an actor/narrator with symphonic pieces. I go and work with most of the major symphonies. I've worked in Canada. I've worked with the Montreal Symphony. I've worked with the Toronto Symphony, as a narrator. Meaning as a speaker. There are pieces. They are called "Repertoire Of Pieces For The Spoken Voice With Orchestra" and I do a lot of that.

CJAD: Does this bring you back full circle in a way to......

WERNER: Well, you know, of course I've been asked that question before and it's a good question. In a way I guess there's sort of a circle because of my Dad and my genuine love for classical music. It does....there's is something pleasing about that. But also as an actor, it's a medium that very interesting. In other words, to be able to work like a liaison between audience and orchestra and with the spoken voice create an atmosphere. That's an interesting acting challenge and more importantly, it keeps me in front of an audience in what's called a "live" actor meaning not film or tape, and that to me is the essence of my work anyway.

CJAD: Well I'm glad we had this opportunity. We should mention that fact that your father was Otto Klemperer, who was a famed conductor in his own right.


CJAD: I'm glad we had a chance to at least catch up with you and find out what you were doing, because I'm sure a lot of fans are glad to hear from you.

WERNER: It's very nice for you to have called me.

CJAD: Thank you very much.

WERNER: My pleasure, bye.

Comments, or even guest ideas are always welcome
Just click below and send me an email: