Gavin McLeod -- The ''Love Boat'' veteran talks about his new role in ''Oz''

By Bruce Fretts
Updated August 04, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Do not adjust your sets. That really is lovable Gavin MacLeod playing a cardinal on the Aug. 2 episode of HBO’s taboo-busting prison drama Oz. To find out why, we caught up with the 69-year-old Mary Tyler Moore Show and Love Boat star, who’s also touring the country in the Barry Manilow musical Copacabana.

How’d you end up on Oz?
That’s the strange thing. I had never seen it, but I knew it was a tough show. My agent said, ”Look, there’s a part on Oz.” I said, ”Wait a minute, I’ve got grandchildren. I’m not gonna swear. I’m not gonna do frontal or rear nudity.”

What’d you think when you read the script?
They sent me my scenes, and I said, ”I can handle this.” Then they sent me the full script — holy mackerel, Charlie!

What was it like filming your scenes?
I enjoyed it. I hung around afterwards just shooting the breeze with the regulars. They wanted pictures for their mothers.

What will this do for your career?
It’s very important. After The Love Boat ended, I told my agent, ”All I want to do is one show — Law & Order.” Dick Wolf said, ”I can’t use him. His punim is too recognizable.” So when this popped up out of the blue, I said, ”Wow! Thank you, God!”

Who do you play in Copacabana — Rico or Lola?
Oh, you know the song, don’tcha? No, my guy isn’t in the song. I play Sam, who runs the Copacabana.

Do you know all the lyrics?
Oh, yeah. Her name was Lola… Oh, now wait a minute… He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancing there… Then I do a bump and grind, and the audience eats that up.

What about the Love Boat theme?
Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we’re expecting you.

Very good. And how about The Mary Tyler Moore Show?
Love is all around… and you can take it… You’re gonna make it on your own… ”Love is all around” is the basic thing.

Whom would you rather have as a cell mate — Lou Grant or Doc?
You mean I couldn’t have Mary Tyler Moore? What about Ricky Martin? Maybe Doc, because if anything went wrong with me, he could give me something for it.

If Captain Stubing could’ve voted one crew member off The Love Boat, whom would it have been?
[laughs] Himself.