The book explains how director Johnson used some sneaky tactics to extract usable performances from the sweaty, restless visionary. Here’s a quote from Johnson explaining how he and his team would band together to trick Serling into giving them what they need:
“I would clown around with him and turn the camera around without telling him and be like, ‘What did you say?’ And he was lunging at me as if to say, ‘Smart ass, I’ll show you.’ The crew agreed with me on that; they would have shut up and stayed quiet, otherwise we would never have come to any conclusion under the circumstances.”
So the next time you watch an episode of “The Twilight Zone” and see Serling saunter into frame to give his address to the camera (often in fun or creative ways), remember that deep down, he’s my guy, too. I’m going absolutely crazy. It’s actually kind of comforting: If Rod Freakin’ Serling is nervous doing his job, maybe we can all take some solace from that and use it as inspiration for overcoming obstacles that arise in our own lives.
In a way, this story is completely appropriate for this particular show. The fact that one of TV’s best-known hosts is extremely uncomfortable talking to his own camera? This is one of the more ironic turns in a series full of them.