'The Quest' first went on air in 1982. Created by Juanita Bartlett of 'The Rockford Files' and produced by Stephen J. Cannell, Perry King stated, "'The Quest' isn't just a version of something else, of a movie or television show. Its idea began as an idea, not a duplication. The male character is the focus of much of the glamor on series television this season (1982-83). But we make fun of his perfection, his maleness and his unconscious chauvinism."
The one-story plot series took viewers on a journey to the fantasy Mediterranean kingdom of Glendora where 4 American descendants of the royal bloodline were called by the aging king Charles to save the throne. King Charles was the last of that line. If a blue-blooded ascendant could not be found, the ancient kingdom of Glendora would become a part of France. In the 1600, crown prince Alexander emigrated to the United States after he left Glendora in the 1300 following the bubonic plague.
The 4 Americans were descended from crown prince Alexander. Perry King, Noah Beery, Ray Vitte and Karen Austin played the 4 Americans. To determine the future king or queen of Glendora, the 4 would-be American heirs to the throne had been asked to compete in a series of contests, all according to a 13th century rulebook. As noted, "While the 4 royalists are divided in the quest they also must unite to defeat Louis Dardinay, a disgruntled Glendoran in exile, who will get his hand back if the regal line is interrupted. Dardinay preys on their human weaknesses of greed, ambition, jealousy and naïveté."
Up against 'Falcon Crest', 'The Quest' lasted 5 episodes. On reflection, Perry remarked, "'Quest' was a good experience and I think given a good time slot it would have worked." 'The Quest' was created to replace the Aaron Spelling's series 'Strike Force', about an elite L.A.P.D. unit, on the "fantasy Friday" night time slot. The 2-hour pilot movie, filmed partly in France, was shown opposite 'Dallas' and 'Falcon Crest' on CBS and 'Knight Rider' and 'Remington Steele' on NBC ranked last in its time slot.
From the outset, Karen Austin recognized, "We're opposite the CBS soap operas Friday night so it's going to be an uphill struggle. But I'd rather be an honorable failure than a dishonorable success. I've got to look in the mirror in the morning and say, 'I like you.' I'm very high on this series. It's taking a risk … It's not a soap opera … It's very different. It's a family show, even though it's on rather late in the evening (10:00pm Eastern)."
Born in 1949 in Alliance, Ohio, Perry King was one of 5 children in the family, "I became an actor because I never wanted to stop playing games." His ancestors were said to include 2 signers of the Declaration of Independence and General William T. Sherman of Civil War fame. Perry was also the grandson of Maxwell Perkins, the book editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. Maxwell Perkins died before Perry King was born.
Perry had said, "I have such respect for writing to the point that I could never take it up. I regard writing as the ultimate art. Maybe someone in this generation may write. My brother, Maxwell King, is an assistant managing editor on the 'Philadelphia Inquirer'. My brother-in-law, William Porter, is editor of the 'Times-Argus' in Montpelier, Vermont, and another brother-in-law, Frank Phillips, is an investigative reporter for the 'Lowell Sun' in Massachusetts."
Graduated from the exclusive St. Paul's School, Perry picked Yale over Harvard because of its drama school. From Yale, Perry won a scholarship to study acting under the formidable John Houseman at Juilliard and made his theater acting debut on Broadway in 1970, 'Child's Play'. Of 'The Quest', Perry told the press, "I've been asked to do series many times but this is the first one that seems to contain all the elements. First, do you like the part, the person you're going to play? I also wanted humor. Not slapstick, but realistic humor. I wanted to move around and not be on a sound stage every day. I wanted a show where I wouldn't be the only star. And I wanted a producer who would treat us right so we could have a sense of family. I didn't make a list of those things. I didn't want to do a series with a uniform, and I mean that in the larger sense. You can get trapped into having an audience think of you as only one thing.
"Well, I did a pilot called 'Golden Gate' that didn’t sell, so I've said yes twice … ('The Quest'), more than 'Golden Gate', contained everything. It comes down to what you can envision living with for 5 years (the standard life span of a regular TV series). Most of my work has been straight dramatic. I did 14 feature motion pictures and 3 mini-series. So I'm pleased to be doing something humorous.
"My character, Dan Underwood, is a world-traveling photojournalist and a very competitive man. Originally, he was a white knight. He was clearly the obvious choice to win the quest but I thought he was too perfect. I talked to Steve (Cannell) and Juanita and we realized there was nowhere to go with that. We put some kinks in to give him some personality. Every now and then he'll do something badly. My approach is this is the part and this is me and I want to bring Dan over here. Previously, I always brought myself to the part. I think I should do more to put myself into my roles. Even Laurence Oliver, a great character actor, always has something of himself in his roles."
In 1988, Perry King starred in the movie, 'Perfect People'. He told Stephanie DuBois of 'Tribune Media Services Inc.', "It's a double-edged sword. My looks helped me get through certain doors but once I was through those doors they hindered me. I look like somebody who became an actor because he thought his looks would make it an easy route. But that wasn't true at all. I'd wanted to act since I was 11 years old. My father's advice was 'Find something you'd be willing to do for free for the rest of your life and find out how to make a living at it.' I'm an applause junkie, addicted to affirmation. That's why all actors are actors. Most don't understand they want to be stars because they're obsessed with getting approval. There is an art there. Acting is a wonderful thing that can bring satisfaction to those who do it and it can serve the world. The essential emotional push that makes me and every other actor want to do it is the need for affirmation and affection. I just accept that people are going to have misconceptions. I'm not a jet-setter or a high-liver. I don't like parties and the whole Hollywood scene. People assume that's part of me but I'm more of a stay-at-home, quiet kind of person. I don't know if that's helped or hurt my career, but it doesn't make any difference to me."