In the decades-long history of the Ultra-series from Tsuburaya Productions, only one was ever made in America. Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (a.k.a. Ultraman Powered) was filmed in Los Angeles during the summer of 1993, but it would not air on Japanese television until 1995. Actress Sandra Guibord was there and had a large part to play, that of WINR member Theresa Beck. In July 2020, Ms. Guibord shared her memories from the set of Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero with Brett Homenick.
Brett Homenick: Please tell me about your early years, such as where you grew up and what you enjoyed doing at the time.
Sandra Guibord: I started as a model at the age of 15, while attending in high school in Florida. After I graduated, Wilhelmina Models signed me, and I moved to New York City. I spent many busy years modeling and acting in numerous television commercials, daytime soap operas, and theater.
BH: How did you become an actress?
SG: When I started my modeling career in New York, I started being sent on a lot of auditions for commercials and soaps. I was [starting to get acting] work and decided to take it more seriously and study. I studied at two of the best acting studios, dedicating much of my time to building my base as an actress.
BH: Please describe how you got cast on Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero.
SG: I would leave New York and go to Los Angeles for what was called “pilot season.” This was when all the casting would happen for new shows. In 1993, I auditioned for Ultraman toward the end of that pilot season. I went back to New York, and the night I arrived home, there was a message for me to return for the final callback for Ultraman. I [was cast on] the show and moved to California to start shooting in less than a month!
BH: How did you approach your character?
SG: Theresa Beck was a tech geek and all business. She was a scientist working from facts and did not get too emotional about too much. She only had a soft spot for Kai [Kane Kosugi’s character] and their friendship.
BH: Let’s discuss some of your fellow cast members. First, there’s the star of the series, Kane Kosugi. What can you tell us about Mr. Kosugi on and off the set?
SG: Kane was such a sweet young guy. He was still a teenager when we were shooting, so he was instantly like a little brother to us all. He was very serious and professional about his work. I just remember him always with a smile.
BH: Next, how about Harrison Page?
SG: Harrison was truly our captain, on and off camera. A talented and seasoned pro, a steady guide for us all. He is such a warm and kind person that I enjoyed watching and working with.
BH: I’m sure you must have an interesting story or two about Rob Roy Fitzgerald.
SG: Rob is a fantastic character actor. He can jump right into a role with fantastic instincts and energy. He always knew when to lighten up the atmosphere with his great humor. He also would give insightful direction on scenes, bringing a touch of fun and even poignant emotion.
Like when Kai was missing at the end of the series, and he finally returns to the WINR headquarters. It was Rob’s direction that we all walk away like we were not interested in Kai’s story … then we all jump back with hugs and excitement just to have fooled him. It was a sweet ending.
BH: Finally, please share some memories about Robyn Bliley.
SG: Being pretty much the only girls on set, Robyn and I definitely spent a lot of time back stage together. A lot of laughs and some giggle fits on one of the night shoots. We had to react to one of the monsters that was basically a long pole with a colorful piece of fabric hanging off the end. It was held up high for our “eye line” to match in post-production. I just remember it being 2:00 in the morning, and we could not stop laughing at being terrified of that little rag hanging 40 feet in the air.
BH: What was it like working with director King Wilder, and how would he direct you in a scene?
SG: King had a lot on his shoulders. We were under the gun to complete the whole series in a short time. He was always running in every direction. Even under all that pressure, he was a delight. King would give us all his absolute attention in the moment. He was always open to our ideas for the characters and the scenes.
BH: Did you have many interactions with producer Julie Avola?
SG: Julie was always around the set, and like King, a lot on her plate. She was so friendly and supportive of all the cast.
BH: Did you ever have any interactions with the Japanese side, Tsuburaya Productions?
SG: I remember them visiting the set. But My biggest memory was when they took the cast out to a fabulous sushi dinner. They were such gracious hosts. We all enjoyed, even with the language barrier for some, hearing each other’s stories. There was some sake and good cheer that night.
BH: The series was shot out of sequence. What kind of challenges did that present?
SG: That was certainly a challenge. In one day, we would shoot scenes from three or four different episodes. So being familiar with all the scripts was a necessity. Also, the fact that we were in the same uniforms for each episode helped a lot!
BH: How long did it take to shoot the entire series?
SG: I can’t remember exactly. But it was a hot summer in Santa Clarita. We shot next door to the show Melrose Place. My friend Grant Show was on that series, so we would go back and forth and hang out on each other’s sets.
BH: There were some elaborate sets used on the show. What can you tell us about acting on them?
SG: I thought the sets were fantastic! The passion that the set designers and the people who created the creatures was amazing. Everyone involved in the production were fans of the old Japanese monster shows. I remember watching them on Saturday mornings with my brother.
BH: Was there ever any ad-libbing, or was the script always followed?
SG: The writers enjoyed giving my character some very high-tech dialogue, engineering and scientific terms. So I found it best to stick to the script.
BH: Were any guest stars particularly memorable?
SG: It was very cool that Bill Mumy came on the show. Just a fun wink-wink to the whole sci-fi world.
BH: Do you remember any interesting locations during the shoot?
SG: We shot some scenes at the original Batman cave from the television series! I loved Batman as a kid, too, so that was pretty special.
BH: Did you get to see the filming of the special effects scenes?
SG: They shot almost all the special effects at a different time than the cast. I do remember seeing some of the “DaDa” episode being shot. It was one of the only times I got to interact with the creature creators.
BH: What was your favorite memory from the set of Ultraman?
SG: It was all over a great experience. The cast and crew were all great.
BH: What was the most difficult part about making the show?
SG: Shooting outside in the heat in our uniforms. Also, once I had to drive the Hummer in an episode. It was in the dark, and we were shooting on a narrow dirt road that dropped off on the side. They had me lit from the inside, and I couldn’t see much at all!
BH: What did you think of the completed series?
SG: A fun show with a respectful nod to the Japanese monster movie culture. I have shown my kids some of the show, and they think I am pretty cool. They told their friends, “My mom used to fly a spaceship on TV.”
BH: Please tell us about your current projects and pursuits.
SG: I am a wine industry expert. My company, Sandra’s Wine Life, is a multimedia wine lifestyle education and wine industry resource platform. It includes my weekly “Wine Wednesday” on IGTV, corporate wine education events, and TV hosting. The first of my three wine lifestyle books is being released in November of 2020.