We’re early in the summer Television Critics Association press tour, early enough that I can still get enthusiastic about a panel featuring Ernest Borgnine. I mean, the guy is a 90-year-old Hollywood legend. Not only is he one of my all-time favorite Simpsons guest voices and a former co-star on The Single Guy (with fellow living legend Jonathan Silverman), but he snagged an Oscar for Marty, beating Spencer Tracy (Bad Day at Black Rock), James Dean (East of Eden), Frank Sinatra (The Man with the Golden Arm) for the trophy the year. Where are they now? Because Borgnine was appearing before the TCA on Thursday (July 12).
Not only is Borgnine alive and feisty, but, more relevantly, he’s the star of Hallmark Channel’s entirely self-explanatory upcoming telefilm A Grandpa for Christmas. And more impressively, he’s broadened the horizons for his 11-year-old Grandpa for Christmas co-star Juliette Goglia.
Most specifically, had she ever met anybody with Borgnine’s body of life experiences?
"Actually, no. He’s the oldest man I’ve ever met."
If we’re being truthful, Goglia wasn’t entirely unaware of Borgnine’s work before she acted with him — Like most youngsters of her age, she knows the Poseidon Adventure star as the voice of Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants.
And did Goglia have any preconceived notions about men of Borgnine’s age?
"I guess I thought that they’d be grumpy because they’ve been around for so long, but he’s not like that at all."
There you have it, kids — Ernest Borgnine is old, but not grumpy! Quite the opposite, really. Borgnine’s famous gap-toothed grin is omnipresent, both when he discusses his desires for additional longevity, particularly when he discusses the secret to his longevity and vitality.
"Think young. Think young. That’s the best way. If you start to get that feeling that, oh, my God — I have pains and — aches and pains in the morning, believe me. But you get up out of bed, and you say ‘You are still alive,’ you know. Hey, you look at yourself in the mirror. It’s the same puss, but you are still there. And you say, ‘Hey, man, I’m living. Let’s go.’"
And he sounds ready to keep going with his Hallmark Channel projects.
"[W]e’re ready to make a whole series about this," he says enthusiastically.
So get ready for A Grandpa for Easter, A Grandpa for Columbus Day and, hopefully, A Grandpa for Rosh Hashanah.