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Highlander - The Complete Watcher's Guide is a great comprehensive breakdown of the world of Highlander. It includes interviews with Cast and Crew, Episodic Breakdown and Synopses and some great behind the scenes pictures.


By Lyria Wollich

In 1992, Highlander - The Series premiered to television audiences world wide.  In the 6 seasons it ran, it created a new mythos that spanned over 400+ years of history and created memorable characters that became truly immortal.  In 1995, Maureen wrote her first Highlander video.  "My first project for DPP (Davis*Panzer Productions) was The Life and Times of Duncan MacLeod. That came out in 1995"

   And her journey wouldn't end there. In 1998, Maureen Russell  created the book that would encapsulate the series that took 6 years and 118 episodes to make - capturing the essence of the men and women who through a labor of love, made Highlander truly great.  "Well, the story goes that for several years, Bill Panzer would talk about "Maureen's book," but now neither one of us can remember whose idea it was. I think perhaps we just started talking about it and for Bill, he always knew he wanted to do it. I know that he did see the rave review that the generous folks at TV Guide wrote about my "Days of Our Lives" book, so perhaps that was the initial inspiration. In any case, a fine idea it was; I think."

"One of the many wonderful things about Bill and Peter is that they hire good people and then give them their wings. Many of the cast/crew/production have mentioned this. Bill and Peter trust you. I think once or twice early on, I called Bill and asked him a couple of things. And his reply was always the same, it's your book, you write it, you do what you want. Of course, as with all things Highlander, Bill gets final say. But when he read the manuscript of the book, he made very few changes. A couple of places he told me that we got too wordy and to tighten it up. He was right. But other than that, he really trusted my vision and I appreciate that. We did have one running joke, which was that Bill kept telling me, "Get more dirt. People want to hear dirt." But, of course, they all like each other so much, they could never think of anything. Peter Wingfield wondered if maybe them all going out to the pub counted as "dirt," then decided it just reinforced how much they all like and respect each other. They are friends off set, as well as on set."


Speaking of the set, what was it like to get to sit in on the filming of the series?  That must of been a great experience.

"It's a very talented and hard-working cast and crew. I was incredibly impressed with how much they got done and how good it all was and how great it all looked. They're working on a television budget, with a television time schedule and yet they were basically producing mini-movies once a week. The writing, the directing, the acting, the swordplay, the production and post-production values are all first-rate."


Looking at the enormity of the information in the book, I had to ask  how difficult is was to put together.

"The only "difficulty" was that I had a short deadline. Otherwise, it was a joy from start to finish. I am sure you have heard other people say it, but Highlander was and is a family. They are a great group of people who are wonderful and interesting to interview and to just "hang out" with.

"I remember one evening when I was on the set in France doing my interviews for "Highlander: the Complete Watcher's Guide." Director Dennis Berry walked over to me and said that on behalf of himself and all the crew he wanted to thank me for writing the "Watcher's Guide" and for telling the story of the men and women of Highlander. He explained that for them it was a real journey, a true labor of love, a family and something very special. They were happy that I was going to share their story."


Maureen then related some memorable moments about her interaction with Peter Daltrey who played the fun loving Fitzcarin.

 "Roger Daltrey was most definitely the funniest interview. I even left his own quote in the book: "This is an extremely silly interview." He was having great fun, playing Fitz full out. I just laughed and laughed. And, of course, as he said, he was speaking very candidly about his character. He has a line that gave Betsy Mitchell (our editor at Warner Books, a lovely, charming and talented lady), a bit of pause. I can't repeat it in a family forum, but for those of you who have a copy of the book, you can turn to page 115. But Daltrey says that Fitz is the only Immortal who would rather "something" than fight. We thought about that line. Should we leave it in the book? Then we thought about it. Daltrey is a bit outrageous and wildly charming and, darn it... he's Roger Daltrey. Of course we leave that in. It fits for Fitz. A recent LA Times review of The Who concert at the Hollywood Bowl read, "Daltrey, who proudly displayed his well-sculpted torso..." And I thought... yeah... it's Daltrey."


After the Watcher's Guide, Maureen then got involved in making The Best of Highlander - a video and companion book that involved behind the scenes interviews with the writers, directors, and cast. Maureen talked about how the concept came into being.

"USA network, which ran Highlander re-runs, had a viewer's poll and asked people to vote for a "top ten." On the Highlander Cruise 1998, Peter Davis told me that DPP was interested in doing something with that idea and asked me if I was interested. I was. The idea was to tape interviews that would compliment and highlight the chosen "best" episodes. Of course, if you have the boxed set and the book, you know that we actually ended up with 13 episodes, but how could we split episodes like "Comes a Horseman" and "Revelation 6:8" or "Something Wicked" and "Deliverance?" We also ran a little longer than was originally intended. I believe we have something like 45 hours of dailies/interviews that were edited into 3 ½ hours of supplemental footage. That's amazing for 13 'one-hour' episodes."


So how long did the project take to complete?

"We worked pretty quickly. The majority of the interviews were done February to May 1999 and the book and boxed set of tapes were released in the Fall of that year."


In creating the project, Maureen had the chance to watch three episodes of Highlander with Adrian Paul. 

"They were the three episodes that Adrian directed that are in "The Best of Highlander:" "Homeland" "Revelation 6:8," and "Methuselah's Gift." We watched them so that Adrian could give a play-by-play, as it were, commentary on the episodes. If you have seen the "Under the Kilt" section from "Homeland," you can see a bit of it, when he's talking about the bugs. His recall is amazing. He really does remember every shot. And as I wrote, when I asked him about this, he replied, "Of course, I remember them; I lived them." Because not only was he directing the episodes, he was starring in them as well. Adrian is very talented and hardworking. The crew praises him most highly."


 She also spent two days spent in the park with F. Braun McAsh and Anthony DeLongis. That must have been some outing! 


"Again, let me first credit Peter and Bill. The idea for shooting the sword demonstrations was mine and was not in the original plan or budget. But after I spoke to F. Braun McAsh, I thought, he is so knowledgeable and so full of energy, we will bring so much more to the project if we give him swords to play with. And McAsh is amazing. I think he deserves so much credit. Think about it. "Highlander: the Series" first sword master was the legendary Bob Anderson. Bob began his career with Errol Flynn. His sword master credits range from "Star Wars" to "Highlander" to "The Princess Bride" to "Zorro." 

"When he left "Highlander: the Series" in stepped F. Braun McAsh. And, as McAsh says--I am paraphrasing here--"I couldn't fill Bob Anderson's shoes, so I brought my own." His very first episode, "Samurai" is the only episode that has katana against katana fights. And look at that episode. Those fights are amazing from the ronin on the beach to the final fight between Kent and MacLeod. Talk about hitting the ground running. And he did, what? "

"Something like 300 fights from the first episode of season three to the last episode of season six. Just look at the range of McAsh's sword choreography from the episodes in "Best of Highlander," from those in "Comes a Horseman" and "Revelation 6:8" for which he designed all the weapons to the "comedic" fights in "Till Death" to those schooled intricacies on the mysterious circle in "Duende." That's quite a resume. So, you can see why I really wanted to get him on tape talking about and demonstrating his sword choreography. I look forward to seeing his work in Highlander: Endgame."

"Anyway, when I asked Peter and Bill, they liked the idea and said to "go for it." And I think we got some great stuff. The location of the shoot, in fact, was Bill's idea. He knew we could get some interesting shots. We did. Of course, the one thing we didn't quite count on was the fact that a shooting permit gives you permission to film, it doesn't mean everyone else in the park has to go away. So there was all sorts of activity going on around us... a children's birthday party, complete with the breaking of the piñata, a touch football game, people riding by on their horses... it was busy, I'll say that. But I am sure that we created a whole new generation of swashbucklers. Two men clashing swords in the park draws a whole lot of attention. I think nearly every child, and more than a few adults, came by to watch."

"Braun and Anthony and the whole crew were great. We literally shot two days, sunrise to sunset. I think on Sunday night, we went home and collapsed. So I want to thank them all. They really gave their best."


I was interested to find out how Maureen got started writing. She relates, "I've always liked to write. I wrote long letters home from camp and from vacation. My theory is that you can find something entertaining or provocative or interesting in nearly any situation. You just have to know where to look. And once you find it, how to share it."

I notice you write non-fiction. So what about fiction novels?

     "I like non-fiction. With due apologies to the great fiction writers, I don't think that there's anything in fiction that can top real-life stories. What's the old cliché? "Truth is stranger than fiction?" That's why I like to write non-fiction. And I like to tell the tales of real people doing real jobs. I want to share their passions and concerns and hard work with the reader."

      Her passion for non-fiction extends to her reading as well.

    "I just finished reading a wonderful collection of essays by Sarah Vowell entitled "Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World." I also like sci/fi - fantasy. I've just begun reading the "Songkiller Sagas" by Elizabeth Scarborough. And, of course, I like all things Highlander."

So what is Maureen doing now that Highlander is done?


"Mark Ryan (just back from touring with "Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python" and soon to be seen at South Coast Rep in "Entertaining Mr. Sloane") and I have a book in development about sword masters of the silver screen. We have already interviewed the legendary Bob Anderson - a sword master that I am sure all Highlander fans know - and Henry Marshall. Marshall co-founded the Society of British Fight Directors with Bill Hobbs. We have spoken to Bill Hobbs and Terry Walsh about interviews. And we've already done the work covering the first generation of sword masters, sadly, those who are no longer with us, but whose work lives on... Fred Cavens, Ralph Faulkner, Jean Heremans, and Henry Uyttenhove."

" We are very excited about this project. Everyone loves a good sword fight, don't they? And, as I've said, I like to tell real stories. And you cannot get much more interesting than swashbucklers, can you?"


Not if your a Highlander fan!  We look forward to seeing her new project and hope to bring you news of it when it is completed. 

Maureen is the Author of several non-fiction and autobiographical works, including The Life and times of Duncan MacLeod, Highlander - The Complete Watchers guide and The Best of Highlander

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