Following the same unique format as Love, American Style, The Love Boat quickly became one of the most popular TV shows of the 70s/early 80s. Led by a dependable crew, viewers joined the MS Pacific Princess cruise ship each week on ABC to follow the romantic escapades of an ever-changing manifest of passengers. The only constants to appear in every episode of the series were Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), Bartender Isaac Washington (Ted Lange), and Dr. Adam Bricker, played by Bernie Kopell. Kopell was already a popular character actor when he landed the role and brought a perfect amount of comedy to the feel-good show.
Bernard Morton Kopell grew up in New York City, going on to study performing arts at New York University. In the mid-1950s, he joined the United States Navy and traveled all over the world before settling down in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
Kopell initially had to support himself by selling vacuum cleaners before landing a role on the CBS soap opera, The Brighter Day. For the next two decades, Kopell became a successful character actor who appeared on nearly every popular sitcom of the time including The Jack Benny Program, The Flying Nun, My Favorite Martian, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Bob Newhart Show, Needles And Pins, McHale's Navy, Lancelot Link-Secret Chimp, The Streets of San Francisco, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Bewitched.
Some of his most memorable roles include playing Howard in Death of a Salesman, Conrad Siegfried in Get Smart, Again, Alan-a-Dale in When Things Were Rotten, Jerry Bauman in That Girl, and Louie Pallucci in The Doris Day Show. But really, Kopell will always be best known for playing Doc on The Love Boat for 9 seasons.
The popular series was created by Aaron Spelling, the future creator of Beverly Hills 90210. As a result of the show's popularity, Kopell became a household name, with Hollywood being so fond of his character he reprised it in numerous future shows and TV movies including Saturday Night Live, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Love Boat: The Next Wave, and Charlie's Angels.
When asked how he landed the role, Kopell explains it was all thanks to a particular jacket that really made him look the part. He's somewhat joking...but it probably did help!
"I had this nautical jacket," Kopell explained to the Television Academy. "I said I've got this jacket, and that's really going to sell this thing, that I'm nautical."
During the audition, another actor noticed his jacket and immediately asked if he could wear it during his own audition to play the ship's doctor. He immediately refused since he was also there to audition for Doc and thinks that the jacket really added a necessary extra touch. But that's not really how he landed the part. It all came down to strong chemistry during his audition scene.
"I got it because Candy Azzara and I had a scene in my audition and she was funny and delightful and I was a little seductive in the scene. I was in very decent shape...and I tested and I got it."
Kopell continued acting after The Love Boat ended in 1987. In the years since he's appeared in various popular TV shows including Diagnosis: Murder, Charmed, Arrested Development, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Silicon Valley, and B Positive. Outside of his acting career (which is still active), he's been married to Catrina Honadle since 1997 and they have two children together, sons Adam and Josh.
Enjoy Country Music?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.