The Morning Swim Show, Oct. 5, 2011: Water Polo Helped Ted McGinley Face Challenges As An Actor

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 5. TED McGinley is mostly known for his television and movie roles, but on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show, he talks about how water polo helped get him through the tough parts of being an actor.

McGinley, famous for performances in “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Married, With Children,” was also a standout water polo player as well, even serving as captain of the University of Southern California's water polo team in the late 1970s. McGinley talks about how water polo helped him in his early career as an actor and how television has changed in the past three decades. Watch the full show in the video player below and visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.

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Peter Busch: This is The Morning Swim Show for Wednesday, October 5th 2011. I'm your host, Peter Busch. In the FINIS monitor today we'll talk to actor Ted McGinley. Many of you probably don't know this but he played collegiate water polo for USC and was pretty darn good. Ted McGinley joins us right now in the FINIS monitor from Pacific Palisades, California. Ted – if they didn't believe me now they know. You're a water polo player at heart. How are you doing?

Ted McGinley: That's right, everywhere I go I take my hat with me and every show I've ever been on they had to ask me to take it off.

Peter Busch: So you played water polo – a lot of people know you as an actor, “Married With Children,” a lot of other TV shows and movies – but water polo, going way back at USC, huh?

Ted McGinley: That's right. I grew up in Newport Beach, California, I played under Bill Barnett who was the Olympic coach and then we had – he would trade off his team in the summer time, we would work out with UCI and that was Ed Newland and he was the other Olympic coach from the previous year so we had a really good program there. I was fortunate enough, I got a scholarship to USC and played water polo there and it was great saying it ever happened.

Peter Busch: You're doing a campaign right now with USA Water Polo and you called it “the greatest experience of your life” that's saying something given everything that you've accomplished.

Ted McGinley: Well, that's nice. You know what's funny for me is that I really enjoy when I run into people from my water polo life, because it was so long ago and it was so forgotten and you establish yourself as a – you have different characteristics as an athlete that sort of follow you through your life or certainly through your athletic life. And in my acting business, not a single person knows that – I mean they knew I was athletic but they didn't know what my sport – they could care less. I really enjoy it when I run into someone who I knew from those days or somebody who remembers that I played. It means a lot to me. And to be asked to help USA Water Polo I was just so excited because again you just feel like that part of you is not around anymore and it was really exciting for me.

Peter Busch: Anything about sports background that makes you a better actor?

Ted McGinley: Well, water polo is that kind of sport where you have two-a-days just about every day of your life. And you learn discipline and you learn showing up when you don't want to be there. You learn that there's a job to be done and it has to be done and you signed up for it so let's go and you owe it to the team. And I think that there's an amount of discipline that you get from a sport like that that really helps on a day-to-day basis. Number two is pressure – being under pressure all the time, being able to deal with pressure, competing – I think all of that stuff really, especially in my business now because I'm going into an audition and sometimes there are 400 guys, sometimes there are 20 guys all movie stars or people that you know and you're like “Wow, how am I ever going to get this?” and I don't usually get it but the truth is you have to get used to the competition and I like that part, it doesn't bother me in the least, and you just have to get up, get knocked down, the next day start it all over again. I believe all of those life lessons come from sport.

Peter Busch: What are a couple of the best shows on TV today in your opinion?

Ted McGinley: I think “Modern Family” is a great innovative new show. I love Ed O'Neill on this show, I love that he broke out of being Al Bundy. It's funny – I love shows like “Survivorman,” “Lockup” – I find those sorts of shows fascinating. I like that reality TV. It's put me out of work but I do enjoy it. As far as scripted television goes I really don't know, I don't watch that much –

Peter Busch: And we thought because of the Ed O'Neill connection you might say “Modern Family” but it's a legitimate answer – that might be the funniest show on TV right now.

Ted McGinley: I think it's innovative. I think it's funny. I think it's clever, it's edgy, it's fun to watch, and it's not too in your face. I just think it's a great show. It's very well written. At my house we watch a lot of “Survivor” – my kids will watch that and my wife and I we like “The Biggest Loser.” I think that “The Biggest Loser” on a weird level is one of the finest programs in maybe the history of television because it changed people's lives. There are millions of people watching the show who are trying to change their life because of a silly television show.

And not only are you watching the transformation of the people in the show which is basically a miracle if you watch it from beginning to end, but there are people at home who are being affected greatly and I think that that's television at it's finest. Sort of like the Internet when you see what's happening around the world with the information flow going out to people who have been locked away and can't because of the mountainous regions of whatever it is, they haven't been able to get any information and because of the Internet and cellphones and what other kind of technology, people can now find out what's happening in their country even though they're landlocked or for whatever reason can't get any information.

Peter Busch: Are TV shows better today than they were in the past or is it – like comparing athletes from different eras – they may be “better” but it's all relative to your time?

Ted McGinley: Yes, TV shows are different. I think that there was a classic era of television. If you ask Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner's father, he was a brilliant writer, actor, comedian – he would probably tell you that it's much worse today, I'm guessing, than in the golden years of Milton Berle and Carl Reiner. But for example on “Happy Days,” our director was a man named Jerry Paris. Jerry Paris was the director of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and also was the next door neighbor, The Dentist – Jerry the Dentist. And he helped form a lot of what happened on “Happy Days.” And so you've seen that all of those progressions, somebody has sort of helped them along and then helped them along to the next level and that's why you want to keep seeing it progress and go forward. I do think if you look at one-hour television there's no way – those are the best shows – production value is of “Hawaii Five-O” today compared to “Hawaii Five-O” years ago is night and day, they're amazing, and it's all because of technology and I think that the stories are based off of what you see in the newspaper on a day-to-day basis – a lot of one hour programs. So I do think that yes, I believe that there – I'm not a purist, I like to see progression, I like to see change in television, I do think because of technology it's better. And a lot of the one-hour shows are basically a movie. They basically shoot a movie every eight days and that's a miracle. Nowadays instead of using film like in the old – when I first started on “Happy Days” it was film – and so they were shooting film and you couldn't see what you were shooting. So the cameraman would say “Well I think I've got it” and they'd have to do it a few times because they're never quite sure. Now they have a monitor, the director has a monitor, the camera operator has a monitor. He can see exactly what he's shooting so they know if they have it or not. And then it goes right into a microchip and they can just make the editing in moments – it's pretty spectacular. So I would say the opportunity today to make a better TV show is certainly there. The writing is right. I think writing was brilliant then and often today you look at Aaron Sorkin who did West Wing is a modern day genius. I think JJ Abrams and Aaron Sorkin are two real geniuses. You come across their work and you're like “Why is this so different?” it's because they're geniuses. And there aren't a lot of those guys around but they're out there.

Peter Busch: What if Sorkin would have been the one to write “Revenge of the Nerds?” It would have been kind of an interesting script.

Ted McGinley: Well I'll tell you how it would have been different. With Aaron Sorkin you can't change a single word. You don't change an “if,” and “and” or a “the.” But when we did “Revenge of the Nerds” we literally – because we would hang out together in the trailers and everybody would hang out there and you would come up with this and guys like Timothy Busfield was constantly like every 10 seconds coming up with a bit and about 90% of them were bad but 10% were genius. And I can say 98% of them were bad and 2% were genius and so we'd go up to the director and say “Hey, how about if we do this?” and a lot of that stuff was just stuff we came up with on the spot or in the trailer in between. We did a lot of improvisation. That whole speech where I'm talking to the guys before we go into the house and kicked them out I just made that up.

Peter Busch: Will you let your kids see “Revenge of the Nerds?”

Ted McGinley: Never. It's funny – my kids really could care less. They enjoy seeing stuff every so often but they're so busy and if it weren't for their friends telling them that we were – my wife is an actor as well, she's as actress, Gigi Rice, she was in “The John Larroquette Show” and “Delta.” She's done a lot of different shows along the way. But she is like me – we don't talk about it that much around the house and so unless their friends come over and say “Oh, I saw you on 'Wizards of Waverly Place'” they would never know.

Peter Busch: Do you ever get back in the pool – swim or play water polo?

Ted McGinley: That's a good question – I'll tell you something that's kind of interesting. My sons play soccer, volleyball, and baseball, football – pretty much everything but in the pool. And as you know swimming is a choice and when you make that choice it's two days for the rest of your life. So for me I wanted to make sure that if they wanted to do it, it was their choice. And we spend a lot of time in the ocean but they never really spent time in the pool. A little bit – my oldest one is a natural. I swear he came out of the womb, I used to hold him in the Jacuzzi all the time as a baby and he was egg beatering. He's a natural egg beater. He's a natural in the water. My youngest one is more a land guy. But he decided to play soccer. We traveled around to Irvine and we go to these areas where they have a 50-meter pool on literally almost every corner. You can get pool time, you can get anything you want. Up here in the Palisades we have one pool and we have a YMCA pool that was really not very good and very disappointing. Anyway, about two years ago a teacher from Pacific Palisades High School donated over a million dollars to have a pool built on campus, a new one. So we just had a brand new pool, we started a water polo program for the first time here, and I keep thinking “Okay, I'm going to get out there.” My problem is that I don't like circle format. I will do anything to swim when I can get my own lane or swim opposite one other person but I can't stand circle format. I hated it when I was swimming and I hate it to this day so the answer is [inaudible 12:40], I don't get in very much, I still don't like cold water, but I'll do it. Now I'm getting to the point where I talked to a buddy of mine who I grew up with who was a football player the other day and he's been getting up every day at 5 am to swim and I said “I can't believe you're doing that” and I've been thinking about it every day since because I keep thinking “I should get my acts out there.”

Peter Busch: It's never too late.

Ted McGinley: I know. How about you, do you swim?

Peter Busch: No, I've got little kids. It's too tough to find the time. I jog and lift a little weights but I don't swim too much any more.

Ted McGinley: Well I've become a runner after I quit swimming. Big time – I ran a few marathons. I really enjoyed it because it worked with my work schedule. I could actually so sometimes out at lunch time or whatever. I was able to do it kind of whenever. And swimming, as you know, you've got to get the hours right or you can't get in. When people always come into the house – we have a pool at my house – people would say “Wow, you must work out at your pool.” People don't realize if you're a swimmer you do a flip turn in a regular pool, you're done. If you get to the other side you're flip turning again so you can't really do that I guess unless you hook up one of those cords to your back and you just swim. I still love it. I love what it does for you. I think it's the best exercise in the world. I think swimming and yoga are the two best exercises.

Peter Busch: I totally agree. I feel great whenever I do get in the pool; it's just tough to get in the pool and get it done. Hey, so you've got an audition coming up you said, right?

Ted McGinley: No.

Peter Busch: Oh I thought –

Ted McGinley: I wish.

Peter Busch: I was going to say good luck but I'm sure you'll have another one soon.

Ted McGinley: Well, I will have one coming up soon but not in the next hour or so.

Peter Busch: Well great talking to you. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about acting and water polo and we all know a little bit more about Ted McGinley now. Thanks.

Ted McGinley: Thank you. I'm very proud to have been asked to be here. It's an honor honestly. Thank you.

Peter Busch: All right, take care. That's Ted McGinley joining us in the FINIS monitor today from California. That's it for today's show, I'm Peter Busch reminding you to keep your head down at the finish.

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