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The Loop

Ralph Somkin

Russ orders his major managers each to form a think-team and come up with major savings. Sam first accepts Meryl’s invitation as flattering, then switches to Russ’s old mate Ralph Somkin, who is about to be pensioned off. Alas Ralph is crazy enough to propose training monkeys to serve in and even fly airline planes. Ever kind Sam desperately tries to substitute his own ideas, but now seems to betray everyone.

Every once in a while, and not very often in my case, an actor gets a chance to let it all hang out, to exercise chops audiences never realized were in the performer’s range. I got my network TV shot at something like that in 2006 when producers cast me as Ralph Somkin, on The Loop, a sitcom that follows a recent business school grad through the trials and travails of climbing the corporate ladder at a major commercial airline based in Chicago. The character is a retired airline entrepreneur and idea-man with an off-beat but highly-successful track record in the airline business. He is called in by his old pal, the CEO of the airline, played in the series by veteran character actor Philip Baker Hall, as a consultant to juice business in the off season. Sam Sullivan, playing the young, over-achieving centerpiece of the show is assigned to stick with the old vet, learns from him and helps turn innovations into reality. The problem is that my character is slightly more than half a bubble off plumb and his big idea for beefing up the profit margin is to fire all human pilots and replace them with chimpanzees that he will train to fly passenger aircraft. Insanity ensues and director McG challenged me to just cut loose and take the character as far over the top as I felt I could go without getting us all arrested. It was great fun and, ignoring the advice of W.C. Fields never to work with kids or animals, I had a great time with the movie chimps they brought on the set to play my airline crew. I have always had a special connection with animals and these chimps were no exception. We are probably kindred spirits, but they seem to love silliness and so do I so the scenes where we sat in the cockpit and tossed bananas around while taxiing for take-off were both entirely ad libbed and hilarious. It was also a real treat to do a few scenes with Mimi Rogers, an old showbiz friend that I had not seen since our days hanging around in the Philippines when she was married to Tom Cruise and we were doing¬†Born On the Fourth of July.¬†Unfortunately, the series tanked after two seasons. I was looking forward to more comedy spots and those are hard to find when you are as type cast as I am.

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