Parker Stevenson was taking post-graduate courses in New York University when he won the role of Frank Hardy on the TV series, 'The Hardy Boys' back in 1976. "Gee," he sighed afterward, "I remember the initial reaction after the first show aired. It was unbelievable. I got this feeling of power with all the exposure . . . The series gave me the right kind of exposure and financial security."
Of the audition, it was understood Shaun Cassidy was the first of about 200 actors being interviewed for 'The Hardy Boys'. Parker was the last. "By that time," Shaun recalled, "I'd already been cast and I tested with 10 guys (for the role of Frank) the day Parker tested." Parker remembered, "I also tested for the 'Nancy Drew' series. During those tests, I alternated between reading Frank and Joe – depending if I was older or younger than the other guy. And, in the beginning the way they were writing our notes, we could have traded names and lines and it would have been the same – just different voices. We never sat down and discussed the characters or our personalities."
"There wasn't much time between casting and production so there was no definition of our characters," Shaun stated, "but now (after the first season) I'm becoming more like I am personally – as is he. That comes as my own confidence grows." Shaun said, "I've been working since I was 14, but this is the first time I've worked long enough to think about what I'd like to do with my role – to fill in the blanks not written."
Parker recognized, "I've made the assumption that I’ll stay in this business as long as I have some kind of control over my projects – projects I believe in, scripts that are entertaining and enlightening. But right now (in 1977) I feel relatively unequipped to take that sort of control. I don't know what goes on contractually in this business, how the studios operate and what works what. So I intend to go back to school for my masters in business to learn all that."
"The danger of this business is," Parker elaborated, "after 5 years, where are you? That's why I want to pursue studies in business. Because if acting doesn't work out, I've still got school behind me." Some 10 years later (in 1988), Parker acknowledged, "'The Hardy Boys' got me established. I learned about directing, studios, networks. It was a paid education. Then came the hangover, which has to do with being typecast and inexperienced. I feel I've had several shots at an acting career. I feel lucky because usually you have only one chance in this business."
Parker told Kate Woods back in 1978, "I realize that the producers could plug any reasonably talented actor into the role of Frank Hardy, and he would share the same popularity that I do. That's just the nature of the medium. Quality is synonymous with ratings on TV. It's a business in the true sense that the businessmen who run it are primarily interested in revenue. On top of that, TV doesn't afford you the luxury of time that film does."
In general on television, "There's little of the sense of vision that you get in films. Mostly because the producers are the constant in television, while the writers and directors come and go from week to week. It's rare to work with the same people on a regular basis." However "there's a lot of money in TV. Probably too much. But actors face the same problems that athletes do. Your working period can be very brief. And your peak period can be extremely short-lived, so an actor doesn't have the security of longevity in his work. The money generally balances out in the long run."
Parker studied architecture at Princeton University. He distinguished between art and architecture, "Both deal with similar aesthetics. In architecture you deal with light and composition as well as sociology and people's living habits. My work in this business is similar since acting on an emotional level is also aesthetic." Parker told Seli Groves of King Features Syndicate in 1989, "I think I knew I wanted to be an architect when I got my first set of blocks in pre-kindergarten. As it turned out, I decided not to go on to graduate school but to concentrate on acting, instead. And I'm glad I did. In some ways, film – and that includes television, of course – is sort of like architecture. It's a matter of composition of visuals and building on them. I'm still interested in architecture. I'd travel with a camera and take pictures of interesting buildings."
In the 1984-85 season "I was a bad guy on 'Falcon Crest', which was fun . . . I read for 'Falcon Crest' and everybody thought I was wrong. I think they questioned my range. Lorimar took a chance on me. I was surprised when they chose me. I wanted the role. This was such a departure from what I've been doing. Especially on TV, they are reluctant to cast against type. I think they chose me because the people at Lorimar were feeling more adventurous and were willing to take this chance. I went in and read for them so they could see what I am capable of doing. When I read for it, they were skeptical. People see what you've done before and they assume that's you and they forget you're an actor."
Of his role on 'Falcon Crest', Parker recounted, "Cliff (Roberson's character) was married to a woman I was also married to. I show up to stake my claim. My character is bad . . . Basically, I'm a one-man crime wave in the Napa Valley. It could apply for a government emergency loan. I think the intention was to bring me in and kill me off. I did more episodes than I thought I would, but they still ended up burying me in a graveyard."
Parker hinted, "Several people from the series have disappeared to San Diego and they don't come back. There'll be a line in the dialog to the effect that so-and-so is in school in San Diego or visiting friends in San Diego or attending to business there. But whatever they're doing, they're never seen again on 'Falcon Crest'. As a result, when the name San Diego is mentioned, people in the cast break into a cold sweat and being calling their agents."
"Larry Hagman started the trend," Parker pointed out, "I've been thinking of playing this kind of character for some time. The gamble paid off. The producers never realized how popular the heavy could be. People are always interested in the bad guys. And it's a delightful change for me. I like the character and the material they've been writing."
By 1989, Parker noted, "It seems that suddenly, something has happened. I see it out here in California. I know it's happening back in New York. It's beginning to sound a little bit like the '60s. People are starting to talk about ecological issues, political causes, foreign policies. I find myself listening to these discussions and participating in them, and it makes you feel, yes, commitment is back."
At the time Parker could also be seen on the 'Baywatch' series. "First, I'd say that the show is not about lifeguards; it's about people – some of whom are 'career' lifeguards and others, like Craig, do the work part time. Craig is someone who wants to make a difference. He's a lawyer. He likes his work, and he's committed to his clients and the cases he's working on. He enjoys being a lifeguard on weekends and he feels this also gives him a chance to do something important for people. In both cases, he feels he's making a contribution."