“You might say it was a lucky break,” explains Bill Mumy about how he became a child star. “I broke my leg when I was four, and I was in a cast for six months. I had nothing to do but stare at the TV. By the time the cast came off, I was going, ‘Hey, that’s what I want to do. I want to be on TV.'”
The West Los Angeles native, who eventually won fame as Lost in Space‘s resourceful junior astronaut Will Robinson, did not enter show business as a complete outsider: his grandfather had been Boris Karloff’s agent. Before the age of seven, Mumy had appeared regularly on The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Mumy remembers The Twilight Zone‘s Rod Serling fondly, but not so Alfred Hitchcock. Mumy recalls one run-in during the shooting of a classic episode, “Bang, You’re Dead.” Seven-year-old Mumy was getting restless between takes, when, he says, “Hitchcock comes over in this black suit, and he’s sweating like a pig, and he weighs like a thousand pounds, and he leans over to me so nobody else can hear, and he goes, ‘Little boy, if you don’t stop moving about, I’m going to get a nail, and I’m going to nail your feet to your mark, and blood will come pouring out like milk. So don’t move!’ I was fucking petrified.”
Compared with such traumas, Mumy’s life as Will Robinson in Lost In Space was idyllic. “It was like being the hero in a comic book — you got your superhero suit, you got your robot, you got your ray gun, you got to be an adventurer.”
After starring in the poorly received film Bless the Beasts and the Children in 1972, Mumy went into early retirement. Having just graduated from high school, he decided to concentrate on recording and touring with Redwood, one of a number of rock bands he sang and played with during the Seventies and Eighties.
Mumy became something of a musical hired gun. He played in childhood pal Shaun Cassidy’s touring band at the height of the TV teenybopper’s success. And after a friend introduced Mumy to members of the group America, he was soon playing and writing for those ever mellow popsters. He continues to work with America, having written or co-written eight songs on their last three albums. Along with partner Robert Haimer, Mumy also formed Barnes and Barnes, a satiric musical-comedy duo that Mumy describes as “a release of excess energy.” The group, whose sixth album comes out this month, is best known for its novelty number “Fish Heads,” a Doctor Demento favorite (the video for “Fish Heads” has appeared on Saturday Night Live and in various international film festivals).
Now thirty-two, Mumy lives with his girlfriend in Laurel Canyon. He’s also found time, with partner Miguel Ferrer (son of actor Jose Ferrer), to create Comet Man, a new Marvel comic book. He still takes an occasional acting job, though, and can be seen in a cameo role in Twilight Zone — The Movie and in a remake of “Bang, You’re Dead” for an NBC movie, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Except for “an embarrassingly awful” 1983 cast reunion on Family Feud (versus Gilligan’s Island), the Robinsons and fellow travelers on the Jupiter II have remained lost in the Alpha Centauri star system. Mumy wrote a script for a reunion, but the show’s producer, disaster-movie mogul Irwin Allen, turned it down.
To Mumy, the show cries out for a sequel. “Here’s a castaway story that’s never been resolved. Everyone was enthusiastic. Then Irwin shut me down like a hurricane.” Still, Mumy doesn’t want anybody else ever playing Will: “I’d just like to get together with those folks — for a dinner, for an acting job, for anything but a Family Feud.”