Paladin Narrator Michael Rothhaar
We bet you didn't know all about the Rothhaar family and its very special connection to Paladin. Michael Rothhaar, narrator of When the Forest Ran Red and George Washington's First War, is an accomplished television and movie actor and also an award-winning actor and director on the stage. He has worked on Broadway with John Lithgow and Richard Thomas in The Front Page, and with Cicely Tyson in The Corn is Green. In the movies he has appeared with Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor and Michael Jordan in Space Jam. On television he's appeared with such stars as Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brendon in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dennis Franz in NYPD Blue, Alan King in Love and War, Kathleen Quinlan, Dixie Carter, Janet Leigh, Andy Griffith, and Tony Danza in Family Law, Ray Walston in Picket Fences, Brent Spiner in Star Trek: the Next Generation, Mariel Hemingway in Civil Wars, and Frankie Muniz in Malcolm in the Middle.
To bring it all back home, Mike appeared with Rene Auberjonois in The Foreigner on the stage in San Francisco. In an early-career role, Auberjonois portrayed young George Washington in a 1970s WQED/PBS dramatization of the battle of Fort Necessity—Rothhaar played young George Washington in dramatic readings for When the Forest Ran Red and George Washington's First War. That's a mere two degrees of GW separation!
In addition, Mike is the father of Will Rothhaar, 1999 winner of the Hollywood Reporter YoungStar Award. Will has appeared in many prominent national TV commercials, television movies and series, and feature film roles, including a recurring part on four episodes of the CBS hit military drama JAG, in which he portrayed Josh Pendry, “the son Harm never had.” (That's Will at left with David James Elliott in their final scene together). Will participated in one of the most daring TV programs of recent years: the 2000 live remake of Fail Safe, appearing as Tommy, the son of Col. Grady (George Clooney). Tommy tries to convince his father not to drop a nuclear bomb on Moscow. Will also landed a featured role with Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews in a another live TV drama, On Golden Pond as Billy, the troubled teen who bonds with curmudgeonly Norman (Plummer). Will appeared with Anthony Hopkins in Hearts in Atlantis, and recently starred with Randy Quaid in the theatrical feature film, Kart Racer. His TV work includes appearances on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad About You, ER, Judging Amy, and The Guardian, among many others. And Will was seen in an acclaimed TV spot for snap.com (Will on a school bus, learning sign language to communicate with a deaf boy) that earned an Emmy Award. This fall, Will appears as a regular on the CBS situation comedy Listen Up, based on the life of Washington Post columnist and ESPN TV and radio personality Tony Kornheiser.
Mike also has an older brother, Ed Rothhaar, a popular on-air personality and broadcast historian at KVCR-TV in San Bernardino, California and Professor Emeritus at San Bernardino Valley College. Ed hosts the 60-minute, long-running Los Angeles area hit show, I Remember Television. In the Special Edition DVD of When the Forest Ran Red, he appears as the voice of a Seneca chief named Monacatootha who is very angry with Gen. Braddock.
And we really bet you didn't know that Ed and Mike Rothhaar hail from Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and are the brothers of Paladin producer Mary (Rothhaar) Matzen.
An Interview with Michael Rothhaar
During a break in a recent voiceover session for the Special Edition DVD, we had a chance to interview Mike on-camera--footage for the featurette Making 'When the Forest Ran Red.' This is a transcript of that interview.
Paladin: You are an experienced actor of the stage and screen. How does your “actor” self help with your “narrator” self?
Mike Rothhaar: I have to physicalize the narration some way while I'm doing it. I may be reading something that's particularly emotional, or dark, or depressing, or threatening, and I've got to be experiencing that in some fashion. I have to put the tension of that into my body no matter what so that it comes out in my voice. The beauty of it is that you'll never see it because it's narrated, and it doesn't have to be a pretty picture, but I do have to experience it. When you give me a direction—make that more energetic, or smaller, or quicker—I translate that on the spot because we don't have a lot of time to burn. I have to ask myself, ‘What exactly does that translate into in terms of performing an action in this speech?' Speech itself is an action. I'm informing, but I'm informing in different ways, by using different techniques. I may be coaxing, cajoling, leading the audience one way or another. I have to translate what those specific technical directions mean and then I know what gears to shift inside me, the actor. Most actors do that.
Paladin: When you as a narrator have to talk about a battle, or the death of a character like Braddock, what tricks do you use? How do you infuse emotion?
Mike Rothhaar: I have to say that I'm a huge fan of military history, primarily World War I and World War II. However, I studied the French & Indian War in grade school and remember a good bit about it. I've always been touched when I read about the loss of a valiant soldier. That's always affected me. In recounting it, it switches on the storyteller in me. It touches me personally, and therefore I can mine my emotional response in reporting it. The trick in reporting something that's tragic is that you can't report it tragically. You have to be controlled in reporting it, and allow the audience to experience the emotional response. If you as a narrator have the response, the audience won't. It's like, if you cry, they won't.
Paladin: What have you enjoyed about the experience of making When the Forest Ran Red?
Mike Rothhaar: I think it's thrilling to be in a recording booth and read really terrific narration, and tell a cohesive story. It was recorded in order, so I'm starting at the top and going all the way through, which is a lot easier than shooting a TV show or movie. It's more like doing a one-person play where you stand up in front of an audience and tell them that A, B, and C happened.
Paladin: What do you connect to in terms of telling the Braddock story?
Mike Rothhaar: I'm there in a sense as a reporter in the middle of this clash of empires. It was really world war, and to be able to recount that for a generation 200-plus years down the road is a neat responsibility to have.
Paladin: You grew up in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Is the story any more personal because you were raised in the area where so much history took place?
Mike Rothhaar: Sure it is. As a kid, I went to Fort Pitt and Fort Necessity. In a sense you have an opportunity to have pride in your own home town. I'm a very proud Pittsburgher, despite the fact that I live in Los Angeles, but I'm getting to report on the really significant role my town played in history—in the way the colonies ultimately developed, and I'm very proud to be part of that.