Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seven Questions with Haywood Nelson of What's Happening!!; COZI TV Soft Launches with Classic Holiday Episodes

Hay, HAY, Hay! Today we have a very special "Seven Questions" interview with Haywood Nelson! He of course is best known to sitcom fans as Dwayne Nelson on the very popular '70s sitcom What's Happening!! and the '80s follow-up series What's Happening Now!! Mr. Nelson had great comedic timing and gelled well with Ernest Thomas and the late Fred Berry very well on those series. We talked to him about What's Happening!! of course but we also delved deeper in his career and life and we got some insight of how he started his career, what he is doing now, and other very interesting tidbits! So let's get right to another installment of "Seven Questions!"

"Seven Questions with Haywood Nelson From What's Happening!!"

SitcomsOnline: Hi, Haywood! Thanks for taking the time to do "Seven Questions" with us. We appreciate it and are very grateful! I personally have been a huge fan of both What's Happening!! and What's Happening Now!! and loved watching it! You were great on both shows and you were definitely a fan favorite! Before we get into What's Happening!!, not many people know that one of your first regular roles was on the short-lived Sanford & Son spin-off series Grady, starring the late Whitman Mayo. How was it working on that series as a child and how did you get interested in acting?
Haywood Nelson: Working on the series Grady was very exciting. The opportunity to work along side Whitman Mayo was incredible. I was a complete fan and his comedic timing was impeccable. Coming fresh off of Sanford and Son Whitman's show was a spin-off. I found myself surrounded by comedic icons Redd Fox, Whitman Mayo, Lawanda Page, and a host of others including Joe Morton, Carol Cole, Nathaniel Taylor, Ray Allen, and Hal Williams. It was great.
My interest in acting began early, at age five in the advertising industry. I had a short stint on As The World Turns while most of my work came from the advertising industry. Many commercials were completed before moving into a feature film Mixed Company and on to Broadway in Thieves. I actually screen tested for quite some time with Bern'Nadette Stanis for the Norman Lear series Good Times. This was all prior to the Grady series.

Haywood Nelson - Grady

SitcomsOnline: After Grady was over, the following TV season (1976-77) you were cast as Dwayne on ABC's new sitcom What's Happening!! How did you get the role and how did this change your life? I think females were going crazy over you, for sure! Despite the series only lasting three seasons, it was very popular and was huge in syndication after the network run was over in 1980. The show was as popular in syndication as some other series that lasted three seasons or less like Gilligan's Island, Batman and The Munsters. I certainly think What's Happening!! belongs on that list!
Haywood Nelson: When Grady was canceled Whitman Mayo came to my mother and I and said there was a show he wanted me to audition for. That it was very special and I was perfect for it. They required that we depart for New York ASAP. The audition was packed with hopefuls. The show was the TV series of the movie Cooley High which is an all-time favorite film of mine. That and The Big Chill were two at the top of my list. Auditioning was a breeze since I knew the film characters so well. It was only a matter of weeks and I was back on a stage in Los Angeles. The show was quickly being retitled. They asked for names that were hip. Everyone at the table was shouting out ideas. They wanted something popular and hip, I was from New York and a teenager. The answer was easy for me, "What's Happenin." They loved it and named the show What's Happening!!
My personal life for the most part remained the same. Unless in public. There, all anonymity was gone. That took some adjusting to. I also had a lot less time to play drums, draw, or ride motocross. All that are sacrifices temporarily acceptable to me with that type of career path. Also acting in What's Happening!! I saw as an opportunity to make a difference with break out influence. Hence the "Hay HAY Hay." While the girls went wild I was less interested in driving popularity with them as I was interested in seeing more black faces on television.

What's Happening!!

SitcomsOnline: It seemed the cast, particularly you, Ernest Thomas, Fred Berry, Shirley Hemphill and Danielle Spencer, had great chemistry on this show. It was definitely an appealing show for all ages, particularly younger audiences. Can you share some memorable moments you had with them during this era? Also, what did you love about the character of Dwayne Nelson (how cool that they named Dwayne's last name the same as yours!)? 
Haywood Nelson: The chemistry on the show was magical. We instantly became family. The best memories are the blooper worthy show stopping laughing fits. What I loved about the character Dwayne was his honesty. He felt his own sense of style and was committed to getting it out. Yet nothing took a backseat to his innocent common sense, unless he got excited where he was prone to cluelessness. Fun to play!

Haywood Nelson - What's Happening!!

SitcomsOnline: The series was canceled after its third season despite still decent ratings and ratings even going up overall from the previous season. I know there was some behind-the-scenes issues that were going on this season and probably had more of a say ultimately in the cancelation. I don't want to point any fingers at anyone or anything, but how was it like during this time and did you think the show would be actually canceled? I'm sure fans, and the cast as well, were disappointed that there was no fourth season.
Haywood Nelson: I did not think the series would be cancelled. Behind-the-scenes chicanery aside, the show was very popular. I thought at most there would be some measure of conduct regulation imposed. I never thought it would be cancelled with the strong ratings and statistics it maintained.

SitcomsOnline: So after What's Happening!! was finished in 1979, you focused on technology and were quite successful. I know you told me before when we first met that you always were interested in technology. Can you talk about how this interest came about and how you got into that area after What's Happening!! finished its three-season run?
Haywood Nelson: I've always had an interest in technology. Starting with motorcycle, aerospace, and architecture. The architecture drove me into Electronics Engineering which led to Telecommunications, Satellite Broadcasting, and the first Dotcom. By the time the internet bubble burst I had been prominent in several tech start-ups. Over the course of many years struggling to get rebounded I've partnered with others whose journey mirrors my own and we've built two very strong efforts. One in traditional media and the other in 3D gaming and service entertainment commerce.

Haywood Nelson - What's Happening Now!!

SitcomsOnline: Then six years after What's Happening!! finished its run, a new follow-up series in 1985 was born titled What's Happening Now!! Everyone came back basically, except Mabel King, and I thought the show was very funny! It was so great to see Raj, Dwayne and Rerun as young adults. How did this show come about and were you reluctant in doing it since you had moved on to the tech side? I think the ratings were so good in syndication, the series deserved coming back. And I really liked that they made Dwayne interested in computers...was that something you suggested since you yourself are interested?
Haywood Nelson: What's Happening Now!! was developed from an effort that Ernest Thomas put out. I was in engineering school when I was contacted. I was very hesitant to leave my junior year of school, yet was not comfortable with anyone else reprising my role. So I decided to make a go of it against my better judgment. It was the producer's idea to make Dwayne a computer technician. Mostly I believe because they didn't know what else to write for the character. So they emulated my life. Not the most creative thing to do but it made for easy moving through the season.

Haywood Nelson - What's Happening Now!!

SitcomsOnline: Basically after What's Happening Now!! was over in 1988 you went back into the technology side and are continuing doing great stuff in this area on shows like Dr. Oz Show. Do you keep in touch with the cast these days like Ernest Thomas and Danielle Spencer? It's truly a shame that we lost Fred Berry (next year will be ten years already), Shirley Hemphill and Mabel King all within a few years (1999-2003) of each other. Did you keep in touch with them and can you describe some recent moments you had with them? And finally, would you ever consider doing a sitcom again and do you have some favorite sitcoms that are airing today?
Haywood Nelson: When What's Happening Now!! completed its syndication run I jumped fast into film production camera assisting. That led to screenwriting, and Film Distribution International. Today it's the same, I am a lighting tech, stagehand in general For Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and The Dr. Oz Show. Additionally I am a founding partner in two companies. One as an Executive Producer/Writer for television show creation, and the other as a Creative Executive for a start-up gaming company with a mobile consumer services application.
I'd describe my relationship with the cast of What's Happening!! as a family. I miss Mabel, Shirley, and Fred regularly, and speak with Ernest and Danielle frequently. The three of us were at an autograph signing not so long ago and the fun never stops with us. It was antics and jokes as always. It's nice too to be enterprising together at these signings.
My experience on What's Happening!! was such a good experience that I would most certainly consider doing another show in the future. Perhaps appear on one of the shows we are executive producing at our company. Unfortunately my schedule doesn't allow for much television viewing beyond my research for a project.

We definitely appreciate Mr. Nelson for taking the time to give us an interview! He is a very nice man and we hope nothing but success for his future projects! Follow him on Twitter! That'll do it for this installment of "Seven Questions," stay tuned next time for another brand new interview!


The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

It's time to get "cozi" just in time for the holidays as COZI TV is set to have a soft launch on Thursday, December 20 through Monday, December 31, before it officially launches on January 1 with a regular schedule! COZI TV, as we reported, is replacing digital subchannel Nonstop on the NBC Owned Television Stations. So if you're in NBC's ten owned markets and have Nonstop, you'll have COZI TV! The network will be airing some Universal-owned series, Charlie's Angels from Sony Pictures and a lot of public domain series. The soft launch will include six days of Christmas episodes from Dec. 20-25 and will start at 6am on Thursday, Dec. 20 with five Christmas episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet from 6am-8:30am. The holiday fun continues on Dec. 20 with The Lone Ranger at 8:30am, back-to-back Lassie & The Beverly Hillbillies, then The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The Ruggles, another The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Christmas episode, and Liberace Christmas at 12:30pm. At 1pm & 2pm, we have two holiday episodes of Highway to Heaven, then catch Betty White in Date with the Angels, followed by another The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Christmas episode. The 4pm hour will have the animated special A Snow White Christmas, followed by Casper's Haunted Christmas from 5-6:30pm. At 6:30pm, catch the COZI TV Preview Show where we will see wacky slow-mo stunts to memorable catchphrases, their all-star panel of hilarious commentators count down the top ten funniest moments from iconic shows. The 7pm hour will feature holiday episodes of Sherlock Holmes and Petticoat Junction.

In primetime on Dec. 20, encores of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet air in the 8pm hour followed by another Christmas episode at 9pm. At 9:30pm, Racket Squad will air its Christmas episode. Another holiday episode of The Lone Ranger followed at 10pm, followed by Roy Rogers Show and Four Star Playhouse. At 11:30pm, the COZI TV Preview Show will get an encore airing. In late night on this night we will have Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Lone Ranger movie, Sherlock Holmes, Petticoat Junction, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and another airing of COZI TV Preview Show at 4:30am. We won't detail the rest of the holiday episodes until Dec. 25, but you'll see shows like The Red Skelton Show, Meet Corliss Archer, He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special, and many movies. From Dec. 26-31, you'll get a preview of what is to come on COZI TV with various episodes of series such as The Lucy Show, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Lassie, Roy Rogers Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Red Skelton Show and more. New Year's Eve will see the premieres of The Virginian, Alias Smith & Jones and Marcus Welby in the morning and as part of their New Year's Eve marathon of classics, with Banacek, McMillan & Wife and McCloud in primetime.

View the COZI TV "soft launch" schedule (Dec. 20-31). We will detail the COZI TV actual launch schedule very soon. A hint: Charlie's Angels will air in primetime on Tuesdays, rotating with series like Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man. Stay with us for that! Get cozi!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, November 26

none scheduled

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 21)

Friday, November 25

  • Tracy Morgan (The Last O.G./30 Rock/The Tracy Morgan Show) - Watch Tracy on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Zach Woods (Avenue 5/Silicon Valley/Playing House/The Office) - Zach appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Matthew Perry (The Odd Couple/Go On/Mr. Sunshine/Friends/Sydney/Boys Will Be Boys) - Matthew chats with the ladies of The View on a repeat on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Tisha Campbell (Uncoupled/Outmatched/Dr. Ken/Rita Rocks/My Wife and Kids/Martin) - Tisha discusses the TV series Uncoupled on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Rosie O'Donnell (SMILF/Stand By Your Man/Gimme a Break!) - Rosie is a guest on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tyler James Williams (Abbott Elementary/Go On/Everybody Hates Chris) - Tyler appears on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Regina Hall (Black Monday/Grandfathered/Second Generation Wayans) - Regina is a guest on a repeat of The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Howie Mandel (Good Grief) - Howie appears on a repeat of The Jennifer Hudson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tia Mowry (Family Reunion/Instant Mom/The Game/Sister, Sister) - Tia uses leftover fruit to make a quick dessert on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Emayatzy Corinealdi (Ballers) - Emayatzy talks about Hulu's Reasonable Doubt ABC's Good Morning America some time between 7-9am and on Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
  • Marlo Thomas (That Girl) - NBC's Today has Thanks & Giving Finale with Marlo and Choir in the 10am hour.
  • Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) - Jack talks about Apple TV+'s Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show on a repeat of Access Daily with Mario & Kit, so check your local listings.
  • Tori Spelling (Mystery Girls/So Notorious) - Tori talks about MTV's Love at First Lie on a repeat of Access Daily with Mario & Kit, so check your local listings.
  • Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) - Brian talks about Causeway and Atlanta on ABC's Good Morning America some time between 7-9am.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September-November)

Abbott Elementary - The Complete First Season Frasier - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Young Rock - Season Two (DVD) The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Seven Ghosts - Season One

09/06 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray) (DVD)
09/20 - Kim's Convenience - The Complete Series
09/27 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Five / The Complete Season Six
10/04 - Mr. Mayor - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (DVD)
10/04 - The Munsters - Marineland Carnival with The Munsters TV Cast
10/18 - Abbott Elementary - The Complete First Season
11/08 - Frasier - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/08 - Young Rock - Season Two (Blu-ray) (DVD)
11/15 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Seven / The Complete Season Eight
11/22 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
11/29 - Ghosts - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
More Recent and Upcoming TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

11/25 - George Lopez Reunion on Lopez vs. Lopez on Dec. 16; Marc Maron Gets HBO Comedy Special
11/24 - 2022 Thanksgiving TV Marathons on TV This Holiday Weekend Include Soap Every Episode Marathon
11/23 - Fran Drescher Hosts The Nanny Marathon on COZI TV; Fox Gets Celebs for TMZ Christmas Special
11/22 - NBC Schedules New Game Show During Holidays; Peacock Teams Up with Comedian Sean Patton
11/21 - Letterkenny Returns for Season 11 on Hulu; The White Lotus Season 3 Ordered
11/20 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 21, 2022)
11/19 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Vicki Lawrence to Guest Star in Call Me Kat; Grey's Anatomy Gets a Little Less Grey
11/18 - Bounce Orders New Sitcom for Spring 2023; Remembering Hogan's Heroes Star Robert Clary, The Bob Newhart Show and Taxi Co-Creator David Davis, and Head of the Class Co-Creator Richard Eustis
11/17 - MeTV's A Very Merry MeTV Schedule; HBO Max's Sort Of Returns Dec. 1
11/16 - Comedic Stars Line Up for Baking It Holiday Special; Atsuko Okatsuka Gets First HBO Special
11/15 - CBS Midseason 2023 Schedule; Oprah Interviews Abbott Elementary Megastar
11/14 - Netflix Books Sebastian Maniscalco Comedy Special; Hallmark Channel Signs Hunter King for Movies
11/13 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 14, 2022)
11/12 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Midseason Premiere Dates Set for Reboots of 80s Classics; Abbott Elementary Still Strong in Ratings
11/11 - Chris Rock Live Comedy Special Set for Netflix; Hulu Renews This Fool for Season 2
11/10 - Fox Orders New Animated Comedy for 2024; Netflix Picks Up Reggaeton Comedy Neon
11/09 - NBC Midseason 2023 Schedule; Apple TV+ Renews Bad Sisters for Season 2
11/08 - ABC Midseason 2023 Schedule; Fox 2023 Midseason Schedule
11/07 - Showtime and Paramount Network Set Simultaneous Premiere; Jeff Dunham's New Comedy Central Special
11/06 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 7, 2022)
11/05 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Pluto TV Adding 6,300 Episodes from CBS Vault; Tuca & Bertie Cancelled
11/04 - Freeform Announces Premiere Dates for Winter; ABC Broadcasts Special Airing of Reasonable Doubt
11/03 - Final Season of Dead to Me Drops Nov. 17; Lil Rel's 2nd HBO Special Premieres Nov. 12
11/02 - Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas 2022 Schedule; ABC Orders Prank Series
11/01 - Fox Lines Up 2 Dramas for Midseason; The White Lotus Scores in Early Viewing
10/31 - Girls5eva Moving to Netflix for Season 3; The Weird Place Podcast from Team Coco Launching
10/30 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 31, 2022)
10/29 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Roku Picks Up Second Season of Chad; Bad News Bears Remake in the Works
10/28 - Antenna TV's 2022 Holiday Marathons Schedule; Miracle Workers Returns January 16 on TBS
10/27 - Apple TV+ Orders Comedy Still Up; Peacock Brings Us Mystery of the Week with Poker Face
10/26 - Entre Nos Returns with 2 Comedy Specials; HBO Renews Industry for Season 3
10/25 - ABC Holiday Specials 2022 Schedule; Remembering Sitcom Star Leslie Jordan of Hearts Afire, Will & Grace and Call Me Kat