For Stephen J. Cannell, a pristine oceanfront setting is the perfect place to craft a few lines about hard-nosed criminals.
By Jack Morris
When Stephen J. Cannell isn’t relaxing aboard his 150-foot yacht in the Mediterranean or working from his 30,000-square-foot estate in Pasadena, California, the 68-year-old Emmy Award-winning writer and producer can often be found soaking in the views from his home in Laguna Beach. The chairman of Cannell Studios and the man behind 40 television dramas including The Rockford Files, The A-Team, and 21 Jump Street, as well as the author of 15 novels, Cannell often retreats to his home on Moss Point to recharge, focus, and smoke a few Cuban cigars.
What is it about the house that you love so much?
My wife and I are in Pasadena 60 percent of the time and Laguna Beach 40 percent of the time. When we go down there, I always feel like I’m on vacation. It’s good for my creative engine, even though I don’t need it to work. I like to start projects in Laguna, and I usually get up at 3am before anyoneÂs awake, lift weights for 40 minutes, then go in and start writing. By 10am, I’m done for the day. What brought you to Laguna Beach? From the time I was a baby, I’ve been going there. As soon as I got my car in high school, that’s where we would split to. That area is a real mind-clearer for me. I feel more alive and healthy.
Do you have any toys at home that help you write?
My inspiration is self-produced. I’m very prolific, and I own the studio that produced all 40 of my shows. With 2,100 employees, I kept an average of six shows on TV all the time. As a result, I learned how to take myself away into the stories and not deal with crushing problems the studio was facing. It’s not like I look at the seascape and I’m filled with sudden desire. You could put me in a closetÂ—just give me my machine and a chair and that’s all I need.
What is your favorite room in the house?
My office. My designer made it into an English den with a fireplace and windows that look in two directions. I can see the point with the waves breaking on the rocks and I can look down onto a beach with a lagoon. Sometimes it’s pretty neat to sit there and watch dolphins go by.
What do people say when they first see your house?
Generally people are knocked out by the views. You can’t see much when you walk in through the courtyard. Once you get past the nine-foot wall, you walk into a Hawaiian garden with palm trees, and a brick path leads you to the front door. Open it, and you look right through the living room out onto the ocean. It just whacks you in the eyes.
What do you look forward to the most when coming home from work?
Putting my feet up on our back rail and smoking a Cuban cigar. We also have a flagpole on the point of our property and there’s an osprey that sits on top of the flagpoleÂ—we named him Ozzy. The mind-cleansing part of it is what I really look forward to.
Do you get out onto the water much?
Not as much anymore. I used to be a pretty good water skier, but I popped a hamstring a few years ago. I think maybe that was a sign that I should let it go.
Cannell purchased his 5,000-square-foot Moss Point home in Laguna Beach, CA in 2000. It sits on a half acre of land and features four bedrooms, five baths, and a downstairs suite for his children and grandchildren. The master bedroom also features an expansive outdoor patio that overlooks the Pacific.