Asher Angel may be the star of Shazam!, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. new movie about a teen boy who transforms into an adult superhero, but 45 years ago, Michael Gray wore the red superhero suit in the TV series of the same name.
Back in 1974, Gray starred in Filmation’s first-ever live-action series, playing Billy Batson, a teenager who cruised the country in a 1973 Dodge motorhome and conveniently happened upon injustices that he was able to rectify. The adult Shazam/Captain Marvel was played by Jackson Bostwick and later John Davey, as the show aired on CBS’ Saturday morning lineup from 1974 to 1976. Shazam! later merged with the show The Secrets of Isis for the Shazam/Isis hour, which ran on CBS until 1977.
Shazam! catapulted Michael Gray to teen idol status, despite the fact that he was in his early 20s at the time. But more than four decades later, Gray, now 67, still connects with his iconic TV character. In a series of recent posts to his Facebook page, Gray revealed that he attended WonderCon in Anaheim, California, over the weekend to represent his superhero series, which was brought back to life on DVD in 2012.
Gray also posted a behind-the-scenes photo from his days working with Filmation on the Shazam! TV series in the mid-1970s.
In a 2012 Paley Center panel, Gray looked back fondly at his days as a Saturday morning TV teen idol.
“It was exhausting and thrilling,” Gray said, per CBR. “Before I took the role, I was told by a few people in the biz it wasn’t a good idea — that I’ll be typecast. But a job’s a job, so I took it. It truly was a thrilling show to work on and ended way too soon as far as I’m concerned.”
The former Shazam! star admitted that the teen idol angle “was orchestrated to some degree.”
“They wanted me to be the next David Cassidy. I was on the front cover of Tiger Beat and it worked. Back then, when the show was running and all the fan magazine coverage was going on, I couldn’t leave my house. It got pretty ugly sometimes.”
One year before he starred in Shazam!, Michael Gray appeared in a 1973 episode of The Brady Bunch, playing Marcia’s (Maureen McCormick) boyfriend Jeff in the episode “Marcia Gets Creamed.” You can see a clip from Gray’s memorable Brady Bunch guest appearance below.
Gray’s more recent acting credits include voice work in the series Archer. But with the release of the new big-screen Shazam! movie, nostalgic fans will want to go back and see his original ’70s show.
You can see Michael Gray in the opening sequence for the Shazam! TV series below.
The Shazam! movie will hit theaters in the U.S. on Friday, April 5.