A Conversation with Dwayne Hickman ’56

Young Dwayne Hickman was a TV fixture in the 1950s and early ’60s in a supporting role (while a student at Loyola) in the smash hit “The Bob Cummings Show” and the lead — as Dobie Gillis — in the groundbreaking comedy “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Hickman has enjoyed a full career in acting and directing, and another as a painter, which he pursues today. (See his artwork at www.dwaynehickman.com) We spoke to him about both.

How did you land the role in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”?
Max Shulman, a writer, had a deal with George Burns to develop the show, and he felt I would be good. I had done “The Bob Cummings Show” for four or five years. So when it didn’t get developed, Shulman went to 20th Century Fox. They approached me, and I went in and read for it. I did the pilot in the fall of 1958, and it went on the air in fall 1959.

Did your role on “The Bob Cummings Show,” when you were a student, keep you from being involved in campus theater productions?
It did. I had friends who were involved: Bob Denver ’57, who played Maynard in “Dobie Gillis,” and Dick Jones ’53, ’56, an actor who later wrote under the name Dick Clair for “The Carol Burnett Show,” were in the Del Rey Players. I went to the shows and supported the Players, but I had no time to get involved. Often, I had to rush from campus to get to work. I had a car.

Your classmates probably wanted to be your friend because of your car, not your show.
That’s right. But it was an old car. It was a Plymouth.

When Bob Denver was cast for “Dobie Gillis,” were you already friends?
I knew him, but we became good friends on the show, yet not social friends. I had the greatest respect for him. We were close and never had a harsh word when we worked together.

Who came up with Maynard’s trademark comment “Work!”?
I don’t know. It evolved in rehearsal. He must’ve come up with it himself, because the writers didn’t write it.

Did your interest in art begin as a boy?
Yes. I drew all the time, sketching things. I wanted to be a car designer, so I drew cars. I had a summer job in high school at Columbia Studios. My job was to deliver scripts. So, when there were no scripts to deliver, I would sit with a pad and draw.

Your work is very focused on landscapes.
I love landscapes. I love flowers and colors. My favorite color is yellow.

You’re not self-taught?
Yes, and no. I’ve always dabbled, but after I left CBS in 1987, I went to the Brentwood Art Center, where I learned a lot. Study is a trap. Sometimes you have to branch out on your own and put it together with your own imagination and instincts. The rules don’t always apply. If you’re going to paint a painting, paint it the way you see it. That’s been my approach, and I’ve done very well with it.

Click here to read the full length interview.