‘Hogan’s Heroes’: How Richard Dawson Was Cast as Corporal Peter Newkirk

by Katie Maloney
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How did actor Richard Dawson land the role of Corporal Peter Newkirk on the iconic television show, Hogan’s Heroes? He revealed all the details during a 2010 interview.

Before Hogan’s Heroes, Richard Dawson worked as a comedian in England known as Dickie Dawson. He made several appearances in television shows and movies before changing his name to Richard Dawson and seriously pursuing an acting career. During an interview, Dawson shared how he thought his audition for the iconic sitcom Hogan’s Heroes went.

“I’m sure they have my audition tape somewhere,” said Dawson. “And they should show that tape to every actor and actress ever auditioning and say ‘choose any of the things he did, and avoid them. Then, there will be a good chance you’ll get the role.’ And I’m not putting myself down to be cute.”

First, Dawson auditioned for Newkirk. That was the role he felt most comfortable with. But they asked him to audition for Hogan next.

“I’ve done lots of things where you hope you’ve gotten a part,” said Dawson. “This, I knew before I got to the coffee machine, it went that bad. I never even thought about having that role.”

However, a few days later, the producers of Hogan’s Heroes called Dawson and asked him to do an accent for Newkirk again. He decided on a Liverpool accent. Dawson got the job, they filmed the pilot episode, and the rest is Hollywood history.

Richard Dawson talks about his audition for Hogan’s Heroes

Richard Dawson’s Liverpool Accent Didn’t Work for ‘Hogan’s Heroes’

Having been born in England, Richard Dawson was very familiar with the countries dialects. When he was 14 he ran away from home and joined the military where he traveled around the world learning about even more cultures and accents. So, when it came time to audition for Newkirk, he was well prepared with a variety of different accents. However, there was one accent that Dawson just couldn’t seem to master: the American accent.

Dawson first auditioned for the role of Newkirk with an American accent. But his American accent wasn’t believable. So, producers asked Dawson to try a different accent. He landed on a Liverpool accent, which worked for auditions. But once he got on set, producers realized that no one could understand what Dawson was saying. So, they asked him to change it again. He finally decided on an English cockney accent for the role. When Beatlemania exploded in the United States, Dawson jokingly told producers, “I told you so.” (The Beatles were from Liverpool). Regardless of his accent, viewers loved his character and Hogan’s Heroes became a national hit from 1965-1971.

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