'Kane & Abel' by Jeffrey Archer was hailed by the critics as "the novel of the decade". The 1980 best-seller had sold over 4 million copies in paperback when the book first went on sale. Between 1970 and 1974, Jeffrey Archer and Sir Winston Churchill's grandson became the youngest (at 30) Tory members of the House of Commons (under Edward Heath's government). 'Kane & Abel' had also been published in 21 languages and sold in 61 countries.
In 1985, Jeffrey Archer's blockbusting book was adapted by Robert W Lenski into a successful TV mini-series. Shot on location in Paris, Toronto and New York City, the $14 million 7-hour CBS mini-series (filmed over 4 months) was shown over 3 nights. Part I attracted a rating of 23.2% (roughly 19.9 million homes in the U.S. were counted watching); Part II attracted a rating of 23.4% (about 20.1 million homes) and Part III attracted a rating of 21.4% (around 18.4 million homes).
'Kane & Abel' told a tale of ambition, power, jealousy and revenge. It was about 2 men who were born on the same day but worlds apart (separated by the Atlantic Ocean). They also came from 2 very different worlds. At first, they did not appear to have anything in common until economic circumstance caused them to become bitter enemies which had destructive influences on one another’s lives. The lifelong feud of those 2 newborns 65 years earlier lasted for 30 years.
Sam Neill played the blue-blood William Lowell Kane, the son of a rich Boston banker. Sam told Frank Sanello, "I tend to do fairly obscure art house things. All my TV work has been seen on PBS. I'm interested in a whole different audience – the mass, prime-time audience!" Peter Strauss played Wladek Koskiewicz, a penniless Polish immigrant born out of wedlock and who gypsy mother died in childbirth. He also spent time in a Siberia labor camp. It was during the Roaring 20s he changed his name to Abel Rosnovski. In the United States, Abel Rosnovski worked his way to the top of the hotel business.
Director Buzz Kulik told Brian Courtis of 'Fairfax Media' in 1986, "Peter's performance was a very bold and brave one. He had to play from his late teens to his 60s. He has to have a Polish accent." It was reported both Peter and Sam had their own dialect coach, one to teach Peter how to talk like a Polish immigrant and another to teach Sam from New Zealand how to speak with a Boston accent.
Buzz continued, "Most actors would try to minimize the Polish accent, but (Peter) went for it. He has had a few reviews here (in the U.S.) that have suggested he was 'over' with his accent. I don't agree. I think it's one of the best performances I've ever been associated with. Sam, on the other hand, is a New Zealander who had to learn a Boston Brahmin accent and did it, I think, quite wonderfully."
Prior to shooting 'Kane & Abel', Peter Strauss spent 7 months in France and Switzerland filming the BBC mini-series 'Tender Is the Night' based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's widely read literature. Peter told the Associated Press, "When I finished, I had just 10 days to get that Polish accent for 'Kane & Abel'. I had a Polish musician badger me. He wasn't a teacher. It was just a matter of listening and putting it together. The Polish dialect is not like any other dialect. You don't lose it in time. You improve your use of articles and verb tense. And I had to do it out of time sequence."
In the Roaring 20s scenes (1923-25), viewers saw Abel Rosnovski worked as a waiter and in one scene at the Edwardian Room of New York's Plaza Hotel. It was reported Peter had training at a Los Angeles restaurant to learn the specifics of a skilled waiter. Peter recounted, "I trained at La Chaumiere at the Century Plaza Hotel. My father was a waiter when he first came to America. I want to go on record that I'm one actor who wasn't a waiter. I'm an actor who became a waiter. I served salads all day. They're very heavy and your hand goes dead. I wanted to train well enough so that when I came through the door people would say this is not an ordinary waiter."
'Kane & Abel' was the first mini-series from Embassy, the company formed by Norman Lear. Lord Grade's nephew, Michael of the BBC, encouraged Embassy to develop 'Kane & Abel' for television. Buzz Kulik was credited for bringing the mini-series in "close to budget and within the schedule". Buzz made known, "We started shooting ('Kane & Abel') for 6 hours, but in the middle of this we determined that we would have to be too punchy with it, and that the style of the piece would be better served with 7 hours. Now the American way of doing things would have been to compress the drama. But CBS, the American network screening the series, liked what we were doing and was kind enough to give us that extra hour … There were cuts (but) we were very faithful to the book."
Veronica Hamel was the 60th actress to be screen-tested for the part of public defender Joyce Davenport in the gritty drama, 'Hill Street Blues'. The series which ran from 1981 to 1987 won the Emmy Award for Best Drama from 1981 to 1984 and also collected an award at the Golden Globes in 1983. Veronica landed the part of Joyce Davenport because she believed, "I guess I am about as close as they could come to Joyce."
On reflection in 1988, Veronica made the observation, "There were limitation to the Davenport character; the humanity went elsewhere but being the provocative legal lion had its moment." She also noted, "I really don't have to 'play' her because the part is written so well. It's all right there on paper..." On 'Kane & Abel', Buzz Kulik told Brian Courtis, "She comes in with a lot of ideas, which is what an actor really should do, and a lot of them are excellent ideas. But she is also willing to be over-ruled and to be guided. She is absolutely professional."