The Everett Collection

Don Adams on the secret formula to Get Smart's success

Don Adams was able to achieve incredible success in the role of Agent Maxwell Smart in the 1965 series Get Smart

The inept agent was well-meaning, but his frequent on-the-job blunders and comedic misunderstandings left him causing chaos instead of solving problems. Although he wasn't conducting James Bond-level spy work, he tried his absolute best to save the day. 

What he lacked in spy knowledge, he made up for with comical gadgets, the most famous being a "shoe phone." However, even with all of his shortcomings as a secret agent, fans still enjoyed watching Adams play the role of Agent Smart. 

Get Smart was well-received and well-liked by critics and audiences alike, earning seven Emmy Awards, and including three for Adams' acting. 

According to a 1966 interview with Portland Press Herald, Adams said the popularity of the series wasn't something he was ready for. Other than money, Adams said he knew very little about the benefits of being successful.

"Since beginning my work on Smart, my world has become so small that I have no conception of my image or popularity — or lack of both," Adams said. "Although the wide acceptance of Get Smart is the culmination of all I had hoped for, I don't feel it or see it. 

Adams worked hard to be Agent Smart, probably harder than Agent Smart worked at being a spy, but said that although he made a lot of money, he had no time to spend it. 

Adams wasn't even aware of Get Smart's popularity until he did a benefit for an audience of 20,000 people waiting to see him. Although he was surprised that people liked him so much, he wasn't surprised at the series' popularity. In fact, he said he predicted it. 

"But to predict is one thing, to see it happen is quite another," Adams said. "It's a tremendous satisfaction to discover that all the work involved in 39 weeks of shooting has not been in vain."

According to the interview, the set of Get Smart was one of the happiest places to be. His co-stars, Barbara Feldon and Edward Platt, would even visit the set on their days off. They just couldn't get enough of it. 

Adams said that although a script was written weekly, once the cameras began rolling the humor was largely spontaneous and was usually mostly improvisational. 

"And that I feel is the key to the show's success," Adam said. "We're not locked into the printed world. Neither Barbara or I ever learn a script. We rewrite as we go along. If Barbara or I get an inspired flash while the cameras' rolling, we throw it in."

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