Hannibal Penney, Jr:
Dr. Clem Moultrie
The Silent Physician on Ryan's Hope
Soap Opera Digest, July 1977
by Geri Jefferson
Article Provided By Wanda
He was born in Chatanooga, Tennessee on May 14th - a Taurus with determination. He spent many years performing in films, a miriad of Shakespearen plays and the like.
He is Hannibal Penney, Jr. - the tall, slender, handsome neurosurgeon on Ryan's Hope, who, although rarely seen, has a promise from the RH creators of better things to come.
Hannibal has a warm and easy going manner that made our interview a pleasurable experience. I was sharing time and space with a charming penney-ian concoction who definitely was not the ever supportive, every silent, Dr. Clem Moultrie.
Any subject broached that had the slightest hint at being personal in nature - had to be weaved into the conversation. For some reason, still unknown, Hannibal is very protective, even secretive if you will, of his personal life. What little I did learn from this married man of eight years is at your disposal.
GJ: You don't have children - is that because you don't want children or do they inhibit you?
HP: Well, I had a very nice, very gifted childhood and I would like the sacrifices my parents made for me to go beyond my saying "thank you" and "I love you." They came out of the depression, and they did very well in supporting themselves and me. Now certainly I would like to be able to offer my child or children at least more than that which was given me - and I was given a great deal. And at the time that I can do that - the buck stops here and I am the captain of my ship.
GJ: Do you consider yourself possessive...do you like to own things?
HP: Things or people? I don't want to own anything, but I do like a sense of security about my relationships.
GJ: Are you possessive about your wife? Is she possessive of you?
HP: I would say yes.
GJ: Are you considered a one woman man?
HP: Basically, yes.
(Never let it be said that I ventured onto waters tactfully left unventured. I turned our conversation to other matters.)
GJ: When you're acting do you ever feel you are play-acting or is it serious?
HP: It's business all the way. 100% pure business - I kid you not.
GJ: You're in this for the enjoyment and the money or the enjoyment or both?
HP: Well, obviously I'm not in it just for the money because money is just a symbol of power, isn't it?
GJ: Are you fascinated by power?
HP: I think every man is fascinated by power. Henry Kissinger said that power is the best aphrodisiac...Yes, I'm fascinated with the constructive uses of power.
(Like many of today's avant-garde, Hannibal is convinced that politics is the root of all things.)
GJ: Are you political?
HP: All action boils down to some political motive - even if it is unrecognizable....Yes, I am an artist, and all art is political.
GJ: Let's talk about everyday politics, let's talk about President Carter - how to you feel about him?
HP: He's a good man. I'm glad to see a man in office who is not afraid of the people, who has good intentions and that's about all one could hope for, isn't it? The problems that we are facing are not really racism, religion, politics - but economics.
(Because Hannibal is the only black member of the cast, the next series of questions had to be inevitable).
GJ: Were you hired because they need a Black man?
HP: It's a sad situation that the device of color and the device of religion is used to separate or segregate people....yes, I was hired because they need a Black neurosurgeon.
GJ: But they don't give you anything to say or do. You're probably one of the few doctors I've seen who always echoes every other doctor's diagnosis.
HP: Well, I don't think that is true. I think, in all fairness to the writers, unless you have a storyline, the focus is not on you. It doesn't bother me that I play a back-up role at this time as long as I am aware the the integrity of the people, the producers and the writers whom I am working with and for, is going to eventually give me an opportunity to work fully - to give me a storyline like everyone else.
GJ: Do you think there should be a Black soap opera on television?
HP: I've had that question proposed to me before. ABC, in my opinion, will be the one to take the first step forward.
(We took the conversation off into another direction and sort of entered into a potpourri of questions and answers.)
GJ: What do you do in your spare time?
HP: Well, I play volleyball, tennis, fly a remote control airplane and I'm a ham operator.
(At the conclusion of our interview, he also mentioned his interest in hypnosis).
GJ: Is there any particular role you would like to play?
HP: Yes, I'd like to do Hamlet. I'd like to do Hamlet very much.
GJ: Do you prefer film to television or vice-versa?
HP: I used to think I had a preference, but I guess it's like saying do you prefer a Mercedes Benz to a Cadillac or a Lincoln-Continental. If you can dirve one, you can drive the other. And if you enjoy all three it really doesn't make sense to start making judgements.
In concluding the interview, I asked Hannibal if there was anything he would like to add; he has this to say, "I am sure that your publication Soap Opera Digest, will reach many viewers whom I have not, and I would like to thank them for their support and I trust the entire cast of Ryan's Hope would also like to thank them."
As for Hannibal Penney, Jr., the lean lanky Ryan's Hope enigma remains, at least for me, still a bit of a puzzle. Some of the time I spent with him had the makings of a coy cat-and-mouse game. Did he show me the real Hannibal Penney Jr? He was warm and pleasant, and I'm sure some part of that was real....but there's another part, a more honest part, that he has chosen to keep secluded from the world. Oh well, once an actor.....always an actor?
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