Feature: Bill Mumy back in the 'Zone'

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Jan. 30, 2003 at 6:09 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Former child actor Bill Mumy and his 8-year-old daughter Liliana are doing a new version of the classic "Twilight Zone" episode that made the elder Mumy a star.

"It's Still a Good Life" is a sequel to "It's a Good Life," the 1961 episode in which Bill Mumy played the creepy Anthony Fremont -- a boy with the power to read everybody's mind and make people vanish "into the cornfield" if he doesn't like them. The sequel -- being made for an upcoming episode of UPN's new version of "The Twilight Zone" -- features Anthony all grown up.

He still has the terrible power, but he also has a young daughter -- played by Liliana Mumy -- who is just beginning to develop terrible powers of her own.

Although he is perhaps best known for "The Twilight Zone" and his three-year run as Will Robinson on the sci-fi TV series "Lost in Space," Bill Mumy has also enjoyed success beyond the child-actor phase -- including five seasons as Lennier on the sci-fi series "Babylon 5;" guest-starring roles on series such as "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Diagnosis Murder;" and roles in movies such as "Bless the Beasts and the Children" and "Papillion."

Bill Mumy has written and performed music -- including scores for the PBS series "The Universe and I," songs for the Disney series "Adventures in Wonderland" and a 1998 album of children's songs called "Kiss My Boo Boo." He was worked with the pop group America and written songs for David and Shaun Cassidy, as well as the late Rosemary Clooney.

As half of "Barnes and Barnes," he was responsible for the oddball song and short film "Fish Heads." Rolling Stone named "Fish Heads 57" one of the greatest rock videos ever. Mumy also performs regularly with actor Miguel Ferrer in their rock 'n' roll band the "The Jenerators," with two albums to their credit -- and he has released four solo CDs.

Bill Mumy told United Press International he was not particularly anxious to revisit "The Twilight Zone," but he said yes after he read the script by Ira Stephen Behr, the show's executive producer.

"In the beginning the concept of doing a sequel to something that is considered a classic -- and that TV Guide named one of the top 100 TV episodes of all time -- was challenging and frightening," he said. "And I promised myself I wouldn't to it if the script wasn't there. I wanted to do it, but I wasn't going to commit until I read it. The minute I read it I said 'Let's go.'"

Bill Mumy said "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling would have given a thumbs up to Behr's teleplay. The episode also features an appearance by eight-time Emmy-winning actress Chloris Leachman as Anthony's mother.

Liliana Mumy is just beginning to build her acting resume. So far, she has guest-starred on TV series including "My Wife and Kids," "That '70s Show" and "Scrubs" -- and co-starred with Tim Allen last year in "The Santa Clause 2."

Bill Mumy said his daughter gets the job done with minimal help from her dad.

"I don't coach her," he said. "I don't tell her what to do. I didn't set out to create 'Mumy: The Next Generation.'"

Liliana's 13-year-old brother, Seth Mumy, has also done some acting -- appearing in "Paulie" (1998), "Dear God" (1996) and "Three Wishes" (1995). However, Bill Mumy said his son doesn't enjoy the routine anymore and just does occasional voiceover work.

"There's no way that my wife and I were going to say, 'You're making a mistake,'" said Bill Mumy. "It's just not his path."

One of Seth Mumy's voiceover gigs was on "SpongeBob SquarePants," currently one of the Nickelodeon cable channel's biggest hits.

"I wish I could do a SpongeBob," said Bill Mumy, who will turn 49 on Saturday.

But he said it's his music that matters to him more than anything else. He plans to release a "best of" album in March, including four new tracks.

"The music is the most important thing to me regardless of whether it brings in the same financial rewards," he said.

Still, he will most likely always be known for "The Twilight Zone" and "Lost in Space." He said that's okay with him.

"'The Twilight Zone' was the best anthology series every made," he said. "'Lost in Space' has been running somewhere all over the world since 1965, so we keep getting new fans. I've been very lucky."

Yet, there are times, said Bill Mumy, when he wishes he really had the power that Anthony Fremont had.

"I have wished people into the cornfield over the years, many times," he said. "It doesn't work, but it is very therapeutic."

"It's Still a Good Life" is scheduled to air on Feb. 19, along with another new take on a classic "Twilight Zone" episode, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," which was originally broadcast in March 1960.

The new episode, "Monsters on Maple Street," features Andrew McCarthy as a man who watches his street disintegrate into chaos and paranoia after technology breakdowns isolate the neighbors from the outside world -- and they want to blame the problem on a "foreign"-looking family.

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