1. What was your first Pasadena Playhouse production?
My first production at Pasadena Playhouse was Carnal Knowledge by Jules Feiffer. I think that it had been done as a movie first and we were the first to do it as an actual play. I may be wrong but that’s how I remember it.
2. Can you tell us a little about the the role you play as “Rita” in Casa Valentina?
I am not very good at talking about a role that I’m currently playing. If I talk too much about it, it puts me in my head instead of my heart, which is where she lives. But I can tell you that I love playing Rita. I love her. I think she’s a good woman and I think she is trying her best to make life go smoothly for all the people around her that she adores, her friends and her husband.
3. We read that you were born in Sumatra, Indonesia. Do you have a childhood memory of growing up there, or have you been back to visit?
Yes, I was born and raised in Indonesia until I was 11 years old. It is a beautiful country with the most gentle, wonderful people. I have been back since I was a child, but I am too sad to go back again because the lady who was a second mother to me has passed away and I can’t bear to be there without her. That may change someday; I’d love for my daughter to see my birth country.
4. Have you ever been star-struck, and can you share your experience?
I have been star-struck in an incapacitating way perhaps only twice. Once was when I was working with Carol Burnett playing her daughter. “Oh my gosh, this is Carol Burnett!” I got over it quickly, though. I did, however, practice throwing a drink in the face of a statue before I threw it into Carol’s face. She is so nice and- as the world knows- so talented. It was wonderful to be rehearsing this play in the small theater upstairs that is named in honor of her daughter, Carrie Hamilton. The other time I was star-struck was very recently. Clint Eastwood hired me off of the taped audition for his new movie about Sullenberger, who landed the plane on the Hudson. I first met him before my first shot in the movie on the actual Hudson River. I turned around, and there he was- smiling at me, holding out his hand to shake my hand. I just about froze in amazement. He is so iconic; I was flummoxed for a second. Then I smiled and got down to work with him.
5. Last week Christian Clemenson discussed how he feels about his Emmy award. Can you tell us how it feels to have an Emmy?
It does feel wonderful to have an Emmy. That cliche thing people say about being rewarded by your peers is quite true. For all those actors out there who decided that that piece of work is very good- it just makes you happy.
6. You have played a lot of characters over the years. Which characters have you found to be the most personally relatable? Which characters were the most challenging to portray?
I’ll give you surprisingly challenging first. I played Juliet twice when I was a young woman, and it was like I would have a good scene that night- and then it was so hard to get another scene right. It was like, “Aaaaaah, it was good last night…” but, it was so wonderful to play her.
I don’t know what has been fun, I usually have a pretty good time with anything I do, some of course more fun than others. And not necessarily “ha ha” fun, but, you know, rewarding.
And then personally relatable, I don’t know. I really don’t know. Because you always put yourself in it; you can only go by how you feel. I do remember my mother, at one point, being very upset, and saying, “Why do they always make you be a crazy person?” Because I get cast as a crazy person a lot. I said, “I don’t know, Mom. I guess that’s in me.”
7. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?
One of my very best friends is the actor Tom Hulce. And we had the great good fortune of being cast together a lot. He was my second Romeo, and he did three other plays, and now he’s a producer On Broadway and Off Broadway. He hired me to do a play in New York a while ago. He is one of the best people on the planet.
Another best person on the planet is David Hyde Pierce. I love working with David.
I’m trying to think. My husband, Joseph Kell. I met him doing a play. He’s one of the most talented, great people. Of course, when you’re married to someone you find their flaws, but, he’s found mine as well.
8. What is your favorite play?
I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know.
9. What is your favorite musical?
I don’t know either. One that springs to mind is not my favorite, but it’s my husband’s favorite, I think, and that was Jesus Christ Superstar. The rock musical is so…if you listen to that thing-beautiful!
10. Why should people see Casa Valentina?
Because it’s so unusual. The subject matter was completely unknown to me before this. I don’t know that you’ll go away understanding anything more than when you came into the theatre, but you’ll get a glimpse into some wonderful people’s lives that you hadn’t considered before.
Also, the play is funnier than I realized, and also sadder than I realized. It’s got something for every end of the spectrum of emotion.