George Peppard considered The A-Team the best role of his career
The critically acclaimed actor was surprisingly not the first choice for the role.
When George Peppard got cast to lead The A-Team as John "Hannibal" Smith, the actor was going through one of the toughest periods of his life.
The previous year, he’d picked up some bad habits, gone through a difficult divorce, and got kicked off Dynasty because he got a reputation for being difficult to work with.
Three years passed without any new roles, and he worried he’d driven his career into the ground, telling the Evening Post in 1983, "I felt like I was on skid row."
"In other words, I was really at the bottom," Peppard said. "My career seemed to be going nowhere."
What helped him get his act together were his three grown-up kids, who saw their father struggling and banded together like their own rag-tag team of superheroes to lift their dad back up.
"They were tremendously supportive when they could so easily have abandoned me," Peppard said. "Gradually they made me respect myself again. I put the past behind me, as far as emotional problems were concerned."
Around that time, series co-creator Stephen J. Cannell approached Peppard to see if he was interested in the part of Hannibal on The A-Team.
Cannell thought Peppard would be perfect in the role, but the TV creator had to argue for long hours with NBC chiefs whose top choice was not Peppard.
In the end, Cannell won, and Peppard got cast to join The A-Team.
The first thing Peppard did when he got the news was start pumping iron.
"I’ve had to get pretty fit for the series – we do most of our own fights and stunts," Peppard said. "It’s just as well that the series has come now. A few years ago, I couldn’t have handled all this physical stuff."
Not only was Peppard doing his own stunts, but he also was putting in longer hours than he ever had in his career. He said it was worth it to be back on top again, and he bonded immediately with the rest of The A-Team.
"There is a good relationship among the men," Peppard told The Modesto Bee in 1983. "They are all good hearted, and Mr. T is a thoroughly professional actor. We put in some long days – up to 14 hours – but it is well worth it."
Peppard said when he first showed up for rehearsals, though, he was "absolutely petrified."
He worried he might slip back into old habits and repeat the mistakes that got him kicked off Dynasty. However, it was because he knew his kids were rooting for his success that inspired him to keep making better choices. He wanted them to be proud of their dad again.
"I thought of my kids and how good they had been, and I realized I just had to do it on my own," Peppard said.
In his career, Peppard continued acting after The A-Team ended in 1987, but passed away after a battle with lung cancer in 1994. His final TV role came on Matlock in 1994.
He said he knew he was nobody’s first choice for the role of Hannibal on The A-Team, but he was determined to prove he was the right choice. He was happy to be given another chance at the spotlight.
"This is probably the best role of my career," Peppard told Gannett News Service in 1983.