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Pop culture Q&A: Haysbert lands roles with voice of authority

By Rich Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal –

Q: Who is the African-American announcer with the deep voice who does the Allstate TV commercials?

A: That would be the veteran actor Dennis Haysbert. His air of authority in the commercials has also been evident in some of his other work, for example when he played the president of the United States on “24” and when he was the leader of a Special Forces team on the CBS series “The Unit.” But his best-known role, especially in Northeast Ohio, may be the power-hitting Pedro Cerrano of the Cleveland Indians in the “Major League” movies. He was so convincing in the role that he said it limited his getting other kinds of work for a while. He once told me, “Everybody thought I was that guy.” But other roles and those commercials have changed that image.

Q: Thank you in advance for telling me where I can find Martha Stewart’s show.

A: You’re welcome in advance. If you are referring to her show for the Hallmark Channel, it is done. But she has a show for public television, “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School,” which airs at various times on PBS stations (check local listings). And, if you watch programming online, Stewart has an extensive library posted on

Q: Can you please tell me who does the voice for that Lizard in the Geico commercial?

A: The Geico gecko has long been given voice by Jake Wood, an English actor whose other credits include a long run as Max Branning on the British drama “EastEnders.” But during commercial appearances dating back more than a decade, more than one actor has played the role; the most famous is Kelsey Grammer.

Q: Many years ago there was a series about the White House. I think it was called “Backstairs at the White House” and was about the servants. I did not get to see all the series. Are there any tapes or DVDs?

A: “Backstairs at the White House” was a 1979 miniseries for CBS based on a book called “My 30 Years Backstairs at the White House.” It starred Olivia Cole, Leslie Uggams and Louis Gossett Jr., among others. It is available on DVD; if your local retailer cannot get it (or your library does not have it), the DVD is for sale from online vendors like and

Q: Mark Harmon starred in a TV film “Certain Prey” based on a novel by John Sandford. Is it likely that he will star in any more of the Prey series stories? Will “Certain Prey” film be released on a DVD?

A: Sandford’s website notes that “reviews were decidedly mixed with fans and non-fans alike polarized” over the movie, but that the ratings were strong enough that there probably will be more movies. But nothing official has been announced at this writing.


Mailbag updates:

A reader asked not long ago when the Fox series “Cops” would be back. The network had set it for midseason, which now means Dec. 15. This will be the premiere episode of the show’s 25th season, and will include segments from Sacramento, Calif.; Portland, Ore., and Toledo.

Another recent question involved the fate of “Mockingbird Lane,” the planned new series revisiting the TV characters the Munsters (who, fans will recall, lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane). NBC will air the series pilot as a Halloween special on Oct. 26. Still, there are no announced plans for a full series, and some have speculated that pilot’s telecast is just a way to get back some of the considerable cost of the project. I prefer to hope that, if the pilot gets a big audience, it will breathe new life into the venture.

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