James Rosin, Actor and Author
As an actor, James Rosin appeared on numerous television programs including Love, American Style, Banacek, Cannon, Adam-12, Mannix, T.J. Hooker, Quincy M.E. and many others. Rosin is known to science-fiction fans as John Ya Ya in the 1984 movie, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Rosin can be seen in Eraser (1996), Sleepers (1998) and can be seen in other movies.
A frequent guest at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, he recently authored a number of books about classic television programs, including Wagon Train, which has been receiving DVD releases and reruns on the Encore Westerns Channel. We wanted to take a few minutes and ask Jim a few questions, so get to know him better.
You were an actor for many years. What was your first book and how did you get started writing?
My first two books were about music. The first entitled Rock, Rhythm and Blues and was all about the rock ‘n’ roll and R&B era of the 1950s through the early 1960s. It focused on all of the nationally-known recording artists from Philadelphia. It also covered American Bandstand that originated in West Philly. I followed that with Philadelphia: City of Music, which covered the R&B years in the city of brotherly love featuring the “Sound of Philadelphia,” created by people like Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Tom Bell and Linda Creed. I was able to interview many of the popular musical artists that I grew up with focusing on Charlie Gracie, The Comets, James Darren, Lee Andrews, Danny and the Juniors, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, The Orlons, The Dovells, and The Tymes; followed by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, The Intruders, The Soul Survivors, Eddie Holman, The Delfonics, The Stylistics, Patty LaBelle, Bunny Sigler, The Three Degrees and The Trammps. I always loved music and all these recording artists were from my hometown and very familiar. That motivated me to write about the rich, musical history of Philadelphia.
What made you decide to write books about classic TV series?
Television drama always intrigued me, even as a small boy growing up in the 1950s. Each week there was The Loretta Young Show, Jane Wyman’s Fireside Theater, Medic, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Four Star Playhouse, and so on. As a teenager I never missed shows like Route 66, Naked City and Wagon Train because they were all about people, the human condition, and that fascinated me. (They became the first three shows I wrote about.)
I decided to write about and focus on others that I felt were unique, well-done, popular and enjoyed by millions of people. Adventures in Paradise was a series totally different than anything that existed on network television that took you to an alluring part of the world. (That became my fourth book.) Peyton Place was the first TV novelization with a continuing storyline. The Invaders featured an incredible premise — a man alone in a quest to save mankind was hard to turn away from — especially for those of us with an imagination. The Streets of San Francisco (another Quinn Martin series) was a quality police drama filmed in the most picturesque city in the country; with good stories and two very appealing actors that enjoyed a wonderful chemistry. Quincy M.E. was a series I worked on as an actor/writer and that experience along with Jack Klugman’s integrity, work ethic and standards of excellence motivated me to do a book about that show.
What book do you think generated a favorable response?
I think every book that I did led to a good incident one way or another. First, it brought me into contact with a lot of wonderful actors, directors and writers that I grew up with in movies and television. To varying degrees they were all willing to relive the glory days and that was fun. It was also nice that I had been an actor in Hollywood for eleven years, and had a reference which made many of them feel more comfortable. When the books were published, it was gratifying to receive phone calls and emails from these folks expressing an appreciation for the end result. Because of the success I had with these books, I was also able to help other writers get their work published which was also gratifying. I’ve also tried to improve on what I’ve done. Criticism only makes my books better. I revised the second edition of Route 66, added about 100 pages; and to a lesser degree made alterations and added new material to Wagon Train, Adventures in Paradise and The Invaders. Longfellow said it best: “Not enjoyment and not sorrow, is our destined end or way, that to act in each tomorrow finds us further than today.”
What is your favorite book and why?
It’s hard to pick out a favorite. I loved all the shows I wrote about for different reasons. Some of them were harder to research because many of the people on the show are no longer with us. Also those that were available had trouble remembering. When you go back 40 or 50 years that’s understandable. That happened to me on Adventures in Paradise, and to a certain extent on other shows I wrote about.
Can you talk about your acting career and the shows you did?
I really enjoyed being an actor both in Los Angeles and in New York. Unfortunately, competition is intense and much of your time is spent waiting, hoping and doing other things. However, I was able to work a bit in New York doing plays, and on a network daytime drama. In Los Angeles, I played featured and co-starring roles in about 23 television shows, and I later worked on several feature films, and appeared on L.A.s smaller theater circuit. I believe writing is more gratifying for the average performer because it’s really more of an investment on your part. No one can stop you from doing it… unlike acting. I believe that’s why you see so many performers seek other creative outlets.