Gates McFadden Files

Gates McFadden Reveals What It’s Really Like To Work With Frank Oz And Jim Henson

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Article taken from Looper.

Bert and Ernie. Miss Piggy and Kermit. Frank Oz and Jim Henson. Together, these two men helped build the foundation upon which a Muppet empire was built. In addition to voicing and controlling myriad Muppets over the years, the pair co-directed the stunning, classic fantasy tale “The Dark Crystal.” Separately, they directed films in that same space, with Henson taking on “Labyrinth” and Oz handling “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”

The reason we bring up those two specific films, is because they both have someone very important in common — Gates McFadden. While McFadden is primarily known by most science fiction fans for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and its related films, she’s had a much longer and more robust career than just “Trek.”

Prior to her time on the seminal sci-fi series, Gates McFadden worked with both Frank Oz and Jim Henson. For Oz, McFadden played the role of Mr. Price’s Secretary in “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” and for Henson, she took on the behind-the-scenes role as Director of Choreography and Puppet Movement for “Labyrinth.”

So what is the difference between working with Jim Henson and Frank Oz? Looper sat down with McFadden to find out the answer.

“I think Frank [Oz] is very clear about what he wants for a moment,” said McFadden, while talking about her experience on “Muppets Take Manhattan” working with director Frank Oz. “He really is a director in the way that I’ve encountered most directors.”

Jim Henson, on the other hand, is another experience entirely. “I think Jim is somebody who has great … He was somebody who had great imagination and would find people who he thought he believed in, and he sort of thought were going to come up with something,” she said. “And then he would be able to say, ‘No, I don’t like that’ or, ‘Yes, I like that.'”

McFadden provided the dream sequence from “Labyrinth” as an encapsulating example of what it’s like to work with Henson. In this scene, Jennifer Connelly’s character Sarah dances at the ball with David Bowie’s Goblin King Jareth. “I was given the soundstage,” she explained. “I got to cast my dancers, and there was a whole soundstage that was going to be for the ballroom, so I rehearsed in that. I mean, the masks and costumes for the whole thing were just extraordinary. When [David Bowie] would disappear, we worked it out choreographically, so he literally would disappear. He would hide. There’d be other dancers, and you didn’t know where he had gone. He was willing to make it be magical, because he was into theater as well as film.”

McFadden is currently speaking with many of the people she’s worked with over the years about their unique stories and experiences on her new podcast series “Gates McFadden InvestiGates.”

Script developed by Never Enough Design