A case of bad writing almost made Carroll O'Connor leave In the Heat of the Night

To O'Connor, In the Heat of the Night was not just another cop show and shouldn't have been treated as such.

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What would In the Heat of the Night have looked like without Carroll O'Connor? We'll never know because the actor appeared on almost all 146 episodes of the crime-drama series. However, there was a time when O'Connor almost left the show because of what he called "bad writing."

The actor played Chief William O. "Bill" Gillespie and was one of the stars, so without him, the show probably wouldn't have had half of its' success. In an interview with The Washington Post in 1988, O'Connor talked about why he almost departed.

"I nearly left the show after last season," he revealed to journalist Michael E. Hill. You'd think those words would be said in a tiresome or upset tone, but O'Connor was calm, as if it wasn't a big deal.

"We were getting recycled crime-series scripts. I saw a dialogue I'd seen in other shows. Then Fred Silverman (the show's producer) broke into print, saying it's foremost a crime show. I told him he didn't need me to do another crime show with flashing lights and sirens going. That's bull," he added.

O'Connor was known for always speaking up behind the scenes, no matter what project he was working on, and In the Heat of the Night was no different. However, it was normal for him and Silverman to disagree with the show's direction. According to the actor, there were no hard feelings. He said, "We're cordial. I can tell him he's full of it, and he can say the same to me."

The show's material disappointed O'Connor, and he called the writing second-best. "I told them it would have to improve, or they would have to get someone else. They were taking big city stories and imposing them on a small town. It was like having Miami Vice plots forced into a little town setting."

Often, scripts would get passed around with the words "No Rewrite" stamped on them, but that meant nothing to the actor. "I'd rewrite anyway, and they got furious. I didn't care. We're burning up the fax machines."

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14 Comments

Callimarie65 3 months ago
Well vonstockhoff all I can say is Mr.O'connor
Was an excellent Actor because he made you dislike him. It's funny how that happens because he was a wonderful person in real life. And
"All in the family" was just a comedy about a bigot that wasn't prejudiced against one type of person but didn't like anybody that's what made it funny he was ignorant and there's a lot of people out there like that at least it was funny my opinion just can't let things get to you but his Meathead son counteracted the writing of that comedy and Edith tried to keep everyone happy, to bad Archie didn't have another child maybe a gay son haha
vonstockhoff 13 months ago
Not a big fan of O'Connor. Detested his Archie Bunker character as it was so much like my own father. But in real life he was so far to the Left, that puts me off. But I am coming to have more respect for him as an actor. I watch this show sometimes at lunch (although I never watched it when it was new my mom liked it) and I see he was a very talented performer.
Nala92129 14 months ago
Never could make friends with this show. O'Connor southern accent was lamentable, the hokey theme music by Quincy Jones made me cringe and the thought of a young gorgeous black woman falling madly in love with "Archie Bunker" was ludicrous.
Runeshaper 14 months ago
Good for Carroll O'Connor! I'm glad he spoke up.
Andybandit 14 months ago
ITHOTN was a good show. I like the characters on the show. I like how Carroll had a have a southern accent because he had an accent being from New York.
MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
I had never seen it until covid hit and I was told to work from home. I would put on METV first thing in the morning as background sound. Not my favourite show but it’s okay. Started to get tiresome when Tibbs left town to go to law school or something and Gillespie got a new wig.
harlow1313 MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
Early on in the series, I have seen episodes that I like. At some point, big-time crimes seem to overwhelm the small town flavor. Additionally, the regulars keep receiving promotions.
Runeshaper MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
That's funny because I also started to watch the show when I was told to WFH and it's a GREAT show! (-:
cperrynaples 14 months ago
Actually, he didn't appear in every episode! A heart problem led to him missing several episodes and he was replaced by Joe Don Baker!
Coldnorth cperrynaples 14 months ago
I remember seeing the scar when he came back
TheKodakKid cperrynaples 14 months ago
Yes, the storyline had Gillespie out of town for a while. The character was then kidnapped (offscreen), when he returned. When O’Conner was able to return, Baker’s character was killed off.
Coldnorth TheKodakKid 13 months ago
That episode didn’t make sense to me. I think it was a 2 parter wasn’t it? Anyway it was a weird way to kill off the guy. I also loved the show because of eye candy, Bubba. I loved his accent
Safelove cperrynaples 6 months ago
It stated “nearly every episode”
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