Derrik Lewis, newest member of Idyllwild’s Stratford Players, has a storied background in stage, television and film that began when he was 15 with his first professional performance. Lewis is now a regular member of the Stratford Players and can be seen in its Idyllwild productions.
At age 18, Lewis made his debut as an Actors’ Equity Association member with a San Fernando Valley Shakespeare company. From there, he transitioned easily to television with appearances on “The Twilight Zone,” “Route 66,” “My Three Sons,” “The Monkees,” and many other series and soaps. His first movie role was in “Love in a Goldfish Bowl” with Tommy Sands and Fabian in 1961.
In addition to his AEA card, Lewis held memberships in the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Musicians’ Union — an impressive collection of union memberships for a young artist not yet 20 years of age.
Sci-Fi fans will remember Lewis as Lt. O’Brien in the popular television series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” a role he began in 1964.
Serendipity and luck played a major part in Lewis landing the “Voyage” gig. His agent called to say they needed an actor for one day for filming the pilot. Lewis was to be an enlisted man with no lines, but wardrobe could not fit him as an enlisted man, only as an officer. “So when I filmed the pilot later that day, I was established as an ‘officer’ on the submarine ‘Seaview,’” Lewis remembered.
He said he was happy when he heard Fox had picked up “Voyage” for a series and hoped he might book an episode or two. “Then I heard they were filming and no one called, so I almost forgot about it,” he said. Then one day he had nothing to do and called a friend at Fox to meet there for lunch.
“Irwin Allen [the director] was there and they were filming one of the first two segments on the back lot and I was on a little hill watching. I’d been watching for about 10 minutes when Irwin stopped everything looking over at me. He charged up the hill, put his face in mine and said, ‘Where the hell have you been? We’ve been looking for you.’ Apparently, he had seen me a couple nights before on “Arrest and Trial” and remembered me from the ‘Voyage’ pilot. Why he couldn’t find me I’ll never know but they needed an actor for the Lt. O’Brien role and that’s how I got it.”
But it is as a stage actor that Lewis said he feels most comfortable. He made his musical theater debut with the Sacramento Music Circus at age 21 in shows including “Wildcat” and “West Side Story,” and with L.A. Civic Light Opera’s productions of “Company,” “Oklahoma” and “The Music Man.”
For 10 years, Lewis lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he received the Governor’s Award for his contribution to the Arts of New Mexico (1978).
While working in Hollywood in television and film, Lewis performed regularly as a pianist and singer at many top Hollywood venues. “I gave a farewell concert at the Gardenia [Restaurant and Lounge] in 1997,” he remembered. “It was a great way to say goodbye to my Hollywood career. Then when I wanted to retire, Palm Springs seemed a natural for me.”
Subsequently, Lewis appeared in many Palm Springs musical theater productions. For 12 years, he was the host and producer of “Musical Chairs Concerts,” a revue production featuring name entertainers performing the music of 20th century composers and lyricists in an educational, entertaining concert format.
Concerts were performed at the 400-seat Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum and at the Indio Performing Arts Center, and featured legendary artists such as Margaret Whiting, the Page Cavanaugh Trio, Gogi Grant and Russell Arms, as well as contemporary artists Sam Harris, Jim Bailey and Mara Getz. Lewis is the recipient of 15 Desert Theatre League Awards.
Palm Springs Life named Lewis one of the 101 Most Influential Men in 2007.
Lewis began his performing career in Idyllwild in 2009 in an Idyllwild Actors Theatre (formerly ISIS Theatre Company) production of “Tales of the Allergist’s Wife,” and as a featured pianist and revue producer at Mile High Restaurant in 2013. He joined Stratford this year and was first featured in its “Will in the Woods IV” production in August. He can next be seen in its “Cheers, A Warm and Humorous Look at Christmas” production this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, at 2 p.m. at First Church of Christ Scientist in Idyllwild.
“I’m glad to be putting down roots in Idyllwild,” said Lewis.