Here's my story...
I knew I had reached the top of my career as a sound and radio engineer at National Public Radio (NPR) when I was scheduled to follow Deborah Amos around the country for the 1980 presidential election. You know, the Ronald Reagan electon, that one. I knew if I took that assignment I would, rather happily, never leave the Nipper, as we called the network back then.
But I had this dream. The movie star dream. So, at the grand old age of 26, I retired from NPR and and moved to Beverly…Hills that is. (That’s a “Beverly Hillbilly” T.V. show reference you may be too young to recognize.) In other words, I moved to L.A.
Having no union membership, no credits, pictures, resume, contacts, friends, sniffle, sob, I began my career from scratch. This was pre-internet, cell phones, affordable decent cameras, before there were
eight million opportunities to create your own projects. So I spent my first year in L.A. crying – which is what any sane person does – and the following year trying to write a screenplay, which was a fail.
I did one of ther best things I could have done for myself as an actor at that time: I took a six-week class at The Groundlings that turned into a two-year odyssey with my fellow classmates. Put me on stage with people who really know how to do improv? I kinda suck. Put me in a room with producers and a casting director who’ve heard the same scene 50 times, and the castng director flubs the line and I respond to what s/he actually said because I am fully present and then I get a big laugh? Guess who is getting the job or at least a callback!! Flopping on stage for two years gives one an unbelievable amount of freedom. It made me fearless in front of any sized group of people.
Not monetarily-but-otherwise-successfully during that time, I also started a woman’s improv group called "Skirts" that performed around town for a couple of years. We had fun. I got to bring everything I learned in class directly to our rehearsals.
In 1983, I began my acting career in earnest when I was cast in the original 1983-1984 production of "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove" as well as becoming a 29-year old freshman at UCLA in the Theatre Arts Department. Because I was so much closer to the age of the characters in the plays being produced at UCLA, I was cast in EVERYTHING. Then, an embarrassment of riches, I won Best Scene and two esteemed Hugh O’Brien Awards. Which sadly, I just heard, they don’t do anymore.
In 1984, I left UCLA (sans degree) to travel with “Bluefish” to San Francisco, where I proudly became an Equity member. We did that play at the Circle in the Square Theatre, directed by Marshall Mason. It closed in time for me to come home to L.A. and see FloJo and Jackie Joyner Kersey complete in the Olympics.
I got very lucky because of three people: Jackie Burch, Phil Robinson, and Ken Sherman.
Jackie Burch waited after an equity-waiver play I was doing and asked who represented me. I said, “No one.” She brought me in to audition for “Psycho II” - which was my first film and television role - and set me up with five different agencies. She helped my career get started. Ken Sherman plucked me out of a different equity-waiver play and became my first real agent in that he believed in me. He eventually became a literary agent but not before he brought me to the Paul Kohner Agency, where I have been for my entire career. God bless Pearl Wexler and Betty Haynes, who have always had my back. Phil Robinson cast me in one of his first films, and decided I was his “good luck charm”. He has put me in every film he has done since, which includes the best projects I’ve ever been involved with: "Field of Dreams", "Sneakers", “Sum of All Fears”, and the upcoming “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn”. Phil Robinson is MY good luck charm.
I have not had to say, “Would you like fries or Ceasar salad with that?” since 1984, solely making my living as a film and television actor. I have appeared in over 60 films including:, "Cobra", "The Babysitter" "Lovely and Amazing”, “Something New”, "Stick It", “Akeelah and the Bee”. I have been a series regular on six series – including “Lenny” and “Townies” – and recurred on “West Wing”, “Everwood”, “Southland”, “Flash Forward”, “The Killing” and “The Bridge”. Television credits also include the Emmy-winning "A Killing in a Small Town". "Take Me Home Again", "Cold Sassy Tree", "Shame", and about 75 – 100 guest starring roles.
My true love has always been the theatre, particularly Equity Waiver 99 Seat Plan Plays – I think I’ve been in about a billion. In addition to the 22 months I spent in “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove” – playing three different characters! – I also appeared in the 1994 L.A. premiere of John Ford Noonan's "Music From Down the Hill" and was Pot Mom in the long running "Pot Mom" at the Cast Theater. I won an Ovation Award for Best Supporting Actress in “Risk Everything” at the Zephyr Theatre in 1999. Having taken off a few years to be Mom, I returned to the theatre at the Black Dahlia in the Ovation nominated
“Forgiveness” in 2007.
In addition to acting, I do other creative things. Never met an actor yet who only acts – you do one creative thing, you do another. I got a couple. I co-wrote and directed the 1986 "Panic in Griffith Park" and the 1987 hit "Waiting," which was chosen by the L.A. Times as one of the ten best plays of that year. I also directed "Ruby Ruby Sam Sam" at the Cast Theater.
Besides writing, I also make stained glass, draw, decoupage, take hundreds of photos, and put together rather dazzling scrapbooks for friends and family. It is sssoooo important to keep your creativity alive and blossoming.
In addition to moderating panels for the SAG Foundation and the SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles Conservatory at AFI, I have lead the New Member Orientation to SAG since 1996 – now of course it’s SAG-AFTRA. I serve on two other union committees and am incredibly grateful for all I have
gotten as a result of this career. I have always said, my agent gets me in the door, I book the job, and my union gives me my quality of life.
I’m a big believer in the Kennedy maxim – to whom much is given, much is expected. I think it is extraordinarily important for our world - and our souls - to give back. Besides my union contributions, I now also work with actors who want to move their careers to the next level by helping them over, under and through their roadblocks. I think it is very important to mentor, as it is to be mentored. This is a business that eats it’s young and throws away it’s old. We have to stay connected, share our experience, strength and hope, and help each other out.
Can I get an “Amen!”??