I got my Equity card in 1954 when I was offered a job in a Broadway show, Tonight in Samarkand, starring Louis Jourdan. Actors’ Equity was seldom inclined to admit foreign actors without good and sufficient proof that all avenues to cast an American had been exhausted. Since I was a British citizen, the producers had to appear before the Equity Council and plead their case — my case. In retrospect, I cannot believe that, at the time, there was no American actor able and willing to do this part. The producers must have been extraordinarily persuasive or else the Equity Council was in an unusually benign mood that week, for they allowed them to import me for the role. Little could they suspect that, by doing so, they bought themselves a future president for their own union.
Editor’s Note: Theodore Bikel served as the president of Actors’ Equity Association from 1973 until 1982.