…with Robyn Ross!
Perhaps you know her as Mrs. Klump on the CW’s Riverdale. Or maybe Marnie from The L Word? Or Ellie Holman in the film Suck It Up Buttercup? Oh, screw it, what the hell do I think I’m trying to pull here? — you know her as Hillside High’s very own Brooke Morgan! Robyn Ross generously agreed to answer fifteen questions that I devised and I can think of no better coda for Notes From The Avalon than an honest and revealing chat with the person who drove more traffic to this site than I ever could have with a gracious and unsolicited link on Fifteen’s Facebook fan page.
This is a long one, but unlike most of the silliness on this blog, I think you’ll find it well worth your time. Read it in installments if your attention span demands. If you stick with it, perhaps you’ll be rewarded with a photo from Halloween 2011 of Your Humble Narrator doing a full-on, shaved-headed Heisenberg. Robyn recorded her replies for me, so that’s why the tone of my questions is far less conversational than her answers. Her “oots” and “aboots” aren’t nearly as pronounced as my text implies but, you know…site consistency. Aside from a few flattering asides aboot my writing that would make me blush to publicize, everything here is verbatim from the audio file she sent me. So if you want to dig into some juicy insider info aboot everyone’s favorite teen soap, this is for you. Conversely, if inspiration in these trying times is what you’re after, this is also for you. Robyn is a bright, funny, down-to-earth and exceedingly compassionate person, as you’ll soon see. So let’s waste no further time on my pointless pontification and settle in for an intimate chat with Robyn Ross!
Before we strap into the Way Back Machine, I wanted to start off with something a little more current and topical. How has Covid-19 affected your current projects and how have you been keeping busy during the pandemic? I know that production on Riverdale was forced to shut down with 19 of 22 episodes already in the can, which must be frustrating, to say the least. Do you know what the plans are going forward? Will there be a fifth season and if so, will we be seeing more of Mrs. Klump?
Well, during Covid-19, I was supposed to be permanently moving back to a place in New York City – I was in Vancouver for a bit and I was supposed to be going back and then I just couldn’t go, for obvious reasons. It was better to stay in Canada. My child was here and we have social Medicare so if anything went wrong, we would all be taken care of. Self-employed people made good money every month from our government here. I have to say, as much as I love New York and as much as I love America in so many ways, I think Canada did it quite a bit better so I felt very lucky that I have citizenship in both places and that I could be here during this with my family making sure that they’re okay and I’m okay.
I stayed up in a place called Whistler, British Columbia. My parents have had a cabin up here for 30 years and now it’s quite a tourist destination but it was absolutely dead quiet – no one was here. It was literal Armageddon – you could walk around the village for 20 minutes that it’s usually packed and not see one soul. But I did see bears and I did see birds. In fact, I trained birds to eat oot of my hands – wild, beautiful, stellar jays. So here’s ‘big city girl’ – big New York City girl – way up in the mountains and I never thought in a million years that I’d say I loved it, but if we have to say that there was a silver lining to it all, it was the fact that I got to learn this side of me. I absolutely loved being here, walking on trails every day. That’s coming from someone who was so used to working seven days a week – between acting and voice work and teaching acting and working on set and doing makeup jobs (because that’s my second career – I’m a makeup artist) – it was so incredible to have this break that I would have never taken myself and literally smelled the air and could feel all the appreciation I have for life. I know there was so much suffering in the world but at least I found the positive through it all and hopefully, I’ll come oot being able to help people in their darkness if they’re still there because I feel a lot stronger for it.
All the shows had been forced to shut down. Productions, all the auditions, everything. They’ve started up now – we’re recording voice auditions and live camera auditions from home, so I have the whole set-up. But other than that, it was a good two months of literally just getting to know life and appreciating every moment that I had with family or alone time, time to read, all those things, so that was amazing. I think there’s going to be a fifth season of Riverdale. I’m not ‘in-the-know’ anymore. I think my character is done, which is too bad, but you never know. I wasn’t expecting her to come back a third season and she did, so who knows? I loved working on the show. The team is absolutely great – the crew, the writers, the show runner – everybody’s great, but I don’t know if Mrs. Klump will be back. I’m just happy it’s going on – I heard that Sabrina, which is a sister show, unfortunately shut down, but as far as I know, Riverdale’s gonna keep going.
I still pick up an Archie Double Digest every time I’m in the grocery check-oot line. In other words, if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m a card-carrying Fifteen geek, you can add to that the fact that I love the original Archie Comics more than I love my own mother. That being said, I don’t ever recall a mention of Midge’s mom in the comics, as Midge herself was treated as sort of an ancillary character. Were you afforded any creative independence in perfecting the role of Mrs. Klump or did the writers already have a fully-fleshed oot character envisioned?
Yes, I loved Archie Comics when I was a kid! I looked for Midge’s mom through everything on the internet that I could possibly find and I never found Midge’s mom, either. I got to create her, so that was wonderful. I mean, obviously I had the script that the writers had written but I had done research and couldn’t find anything so I kind of just read more aboot Midge – read into Midge – and tried to use my psychology to figure oot why Midge was the way she was. I know that I (Mrs. Klump) didn’t have a husband that existed, so that could add to a lot of the character of Midge’s mom. But I have to say this: considering the first episode shows me at her funeral with my daughter dead, it didn’t take much as a mom myself to imagine how horrific that sort of thing would be, so we just kind of jumped in full-throttle and went from there. Then when she shot Fangs (Fogarty) because she thought he was the murderer of her daughter and then was put in jail, she’s just a mom who was oot of her mind with grief and wanted justice for the killing of her daughter who she loved more than anything in the world – it was her only child. So, I mean, what would any mother do if you thought that the man who killed your daughter was walking free? Yeah. And that’s why she ends up – spoiler alert – joining a cult! So we don’t see much of Mrs. Klump in the cult or aboot the cult, you just see one episode where she stands up and she’s part of The Farm, but that’s it and I think The Farm is done, so maybe Mrs. Klump is done. Anyway, I loved how much freedom I had with her character, and Roberto, the show runner and the writer was really great aboot everything.
Excuse the wordiness of this one, as it necessitates an anecdotal intro. One of the first times I ever found myself in awe of an acting performance involved Caroll O’Connor in an episode of All In The Family. Briefly, Meathead had invited a friend who had dodged the Vietnam draft over for Thanksgiving dinner. Archie was certain that his guest, an old über-patriotic army buddy, would side with him in chastising Mike’s draft dodging friend. To his shock, his friend expressed support for the kid, adding that if his own son had done the same thing, he’d still be alive. The camera zoomed in on Archie’s face for an extremely long shot in which no dialogue was spoken. I watched as Archie’s entire belief system – his worldview and the very foundation on which he built his self-image and his life – crumbled like a house of cards. Mr. O’Connor pulled all this off withoot a word and that’s when I understood what first-class acting entails.
In the final hospital scene of Suck It Up Buttercup, you and (co-star) Gregory Konow are waiting in a corridor while the doctor is tending to Jackie. The tension – along with the shame, judgment, anxiety and guilt – is palpable. Not a word is spoken for this entire extended scene and yet, you managed to say more than pages of dialogue could have expressed with nothing more than your facial expressions and mannerisms. Does such nuanced acting come natural to you or are there actors – either those with whom you’ve worked directly or those of whom you’re just a fan – whose work directly inspired your own growth as an actor?
Wow. What a fantastic question! Holy shit. Okay, first of all, I loved how you described that scene with Carroll O’Connor. Acting like that is also what inspires me to work to try and get to that level. You almost made me cry by saying you saw that in Suck It Up Buttercup, in which I owe so much of my performance to my incredible director, Malindi Fickle. She knows me, she knew how to get in me, she knew how to pull it oot of me and I literally owe my performance to her. She is the most incredible director to work with. She is a joy and she can make any actor be their best actor-self. There aren’t enough words to describe how incredible she is as a director. I hope she directs more. I hope I get to work with her again, but she is fantastic.
(NFTA: Here Robyn goes off the record to recommend a French film called “Of Gods and Men” — Grand Prix winner at the 2010 Cannes Festival — for the superb and poignant performances of the cast. I’ll be checking it oot at my first opportunity.)
That being said, I have trained as an actor for years and years and years. Obviously, you didn’t see a lot of nuance in my character Brooke in Fifteen, but I was training as an actor at the time and that was a very specific genre. It was very two-dimensional. It was a kids’ teen soap so every time I would try to give a little bit more realistic and nuanced performances, the director would say, “Come on, energy up! Energy up!” and I was just like, “Why doesn’t he see that I’m trying to make it more real?” but at the same time, I didn’t realize then that there are different genres and the kind of overacting, campy, smirking-off-into-the-third-camera for that end shot – that is the genre and I didn’t understand there were different genres so you can’t apply all types of acting to all the types of genre. You have to definitely adjust and learn the different types of techniques you need for the different genres.
I never think I’m done (learning) acting. I still to this day work oot with peers – we do scenes, we coach each other on auditions and I still, at my age, have a-ha moments where I’m like, “What? I remember my acting teacher in New York saying that 25 years ago and I didn’t get it but now I do – crazy!” Or when I’m coaching someone or when I’m teaching my kids in my acting class, sometimes I learn from that, too.
(NFTA: Here Robyn pauses to greet and feed a bird at her window. She also sent me a beautiful video of her fearless feathered friend eating oot of her hand. If I can figure oot how, I will post that video at the end of the interview. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait until a more tech-savvy friend stops by to do it for me.)
Okay, I’m back and I have to admit I cheated because I knew I had to list my all-time favorite actors whose work has inspired me and constantly inspires me and helps me grow as an actor and people whose work can pretty much be anything (other than a couple things, maybe) that they can be in that I will watch just because they’re in it. So here we go. This is my list of favorite male actors. We’ve got Daniel Day-Lewis; Mahershala Ali; Timothee Chalamet – who is new, young, up-and-coming, but, holy cow, his performance in “Call Me By Your Name”, especially those silent moments were phenomenal; Denzel Washington; Morgan Freeman, who is famous for telling the writers to take away his lines because he’d rather say it in his breathing and his face and his expression than the actual lines because he agrees with you that you can say a million more things in a look than you can by actually saying it; Heath Ledger; and Don Cheadle.
For women, there are so many good women but I had to limit it. We’ve got Meryl Streep, of course; Cate Blanchett who is the young Meryl Streep, as far as I’m concerned; Viola Davis, who also gave one of the most stellar performances I have ever seen in a movie called “Doubt” where she was acting in a scene with Meryl Streep and she made Meryl pale in comparison – there are no other actors I know that can do that other than Viola Davis; Julianne Moore; Frances McDormand; Octavia Spencer; and Kerry Washington, also – younger, but she’s going huge places (well, she already is…but she will continue to!) So that is my list! These are the ones that inspire me that I can only hope and pray to one day have even one half of their talent even though I’ll keep studying for the rest of my life but you know, sometimes it’s otherworldly. Sometimes you’re just given this talent – I know they’ve honed it and they’ve studied – but I could hone and study for the rest of my life and I will never touch them. They were born with this God-given talent, or Universal-given talent, and God bless them for that. Anyway, lucky them and I’m glad they’re using it because they’re phenomenal.
Okay, now let’s get into some stuff I’m sure my faithful readers will be curious to know. Assuming IMDB is accurate, you were one of the only main cast members of Fifteen to already have some acting credits under your belt. How was the character of Brooke presented to you? Did the director simply shout “EMOTE!” every time you were getting ready for a scene or did you intuitively realize that over-the-top was the perfect – and only – way to play her?
Ha ha ha! We practically already – I discussed this in one of the other questions but this is what happened with Brooke. I was with an agency – you did your research and you saw that I did have acting credits before – I had been acting since I was six years old so I had some experience, I’d say. I told my agent I’d heard aboot these auditions and asked if I could go and they just said, “No, you’re not right for it,” so they didn’t send me. I was kind of pissed because I was like, “How can I not be right for it? I’m a teenager.” But they were a huge agency and I was just like, “Oh, okay”. But then, I think it was my mother who had read something in the paper that said they were having huge open casting calls, as well, because they really wanted to cast real kids, the real age, the whole shebang, and didn’t want just ‘actor-y’ kids and ones that were older than actually fifteen (that’s a whole other story…but anyway).
So I decided to go down to the open call and I think there were 2,000 kids that turned up to this open call and they literally hustled us through lines. We were in groups, we’d go in a room, they’d give us a line, we’d say a line and depending on how we said it, they’d narrow us down and put us in another group. We’d go through this all day long just being narrowed and narrowed and narrowed down. Then we were put into some improv situations which was great for me because I’ve always had such an issue memorizing lines because I am dyslexic as well as ADHD so lines have always been a challenge for me, so improv was my thing. So we got into groups and they had us do different role-playing of different scenes — this, that and the other — and the funny thing was, in the beginning, I guess looks-wise, they had me going oot for Ashley, the sweet girl, and they had Laura Harris who played Ashley going oot for Brooke. Except when it came to improv, I had so much fun playing the bitch and, you know, the sweet girl was fine, but they switched us and they saw that she couldn’t go all oot there – “especially, like, with her acting voice” (NFTA: Here Robyn imitates Laura Harris in the same exact way I meekly typed her dialogue in all lower-case. Yes, that means she actually managed to speak in lower case.) – they were like, “Okay, I guess she can’t do the bitch,” so they switched us around. We got called back the next day – so there was a full day of auditioning, we get called back the next day and now it’s down to very few for each role and we did more improv. I think we did a couple of scenes with the creator of the show, John Binkley, the writer Ian Weir and a couple of their assistant directors and producers. That’s how I got it! I got it oot of 2,000 kids in an open call and then all the kids from the agency so that was a huge deal, a huge win. The funny thing was, my agent wanted to take commission and I was just like, “Do you think I’m insane? I might be young, but I’m not dumb,” and I left that agency. So that’s the story of that. As far as Brooke was, the more evil and the more over-the-top and the more horrible I was, they loved it – the better it was for them, so yes, they’d push it. As I said in the question before, it was far bigger than I felt comfortable with as far as what I knew reality was, but —genre, genre, genre. That’s why people love to hate me to this day – I still get hate mail! So I guess I did that job right – I guess some people also do believe it. So there you go. And it’s nice playing the bitch because once you got all the bitchiness oot all day long, all you want to do is just be nice, so you’d come home like the nicest person on the face of the Earth. My daughter was very upset when she was little and she saw the show and she said, “Mommy, why do you have to be the mean one?” So I had to tell her that usually the ones who play the mean people are the nicest people on the face of the Earth, so that gave her some solace and comfort. (Laughs) And then she tried to keep proving that right throughoot her life with different actors.
You had to know this one was coming: any dirt to dish on off-screen romances that may have occurred betwixt members of the Fifteen cast back in the day? You can take a pass on this one, of course, but just like every Brady Bunch fan greedily lapped up Barry Williams’ scandal-filled memoir “Growing Up Brady”, I assume the perplexingly small but passionately dedicated Fifteen fan base is equally eager for gossip.
Hmm – gossip, gossip, gossip! Okay, let’s see…I was actually three years older than the rest of the cast (I lied – oops – aboot my age). I was actually 18 when we were literally supposed to be the right ages – we were supposed to be 15 and 13. So the younger siblings were 13, the older ones were 15 and (whispering) I was 18 – I already lived on my own. So that was interesting at times but that’s a whole other story. So I was obviously too old for everybody although, you know, some of the younger characters might have been crushing on me, the oldest girl that, you know, graduated and lives on her own. There’s that. But I had my boyfriend at the time that I was going oot with that I was very serious aboot. In fact, here’s a little Easter egg: if you see when Brooke opens up her locker, there’s a black and white picture of a model-looking guy in her locker on the set – that was my boyfriend at the time, his name was Bill Morgan. And yeah, I was so in love with him then. We’re still friends today, so that’s cool. So I didn’t have a romance there. I did have a car so I ended up driving a lot of the cast members to and from work. I don’t think anyone else had any kind of thing going on while the show was filming – as far as I know. I don’t think so – you’re relying on my memory and this was decades ago.
But I do have a juicy piece of gossip – and don’t get me wrong, a lot of the guys were also very in love with Laura Harris who played Ashley. But Laura and Chris Martin – who was known as Corky Martin back then, who played Dylan – they got married at first for his green card because she had American citizenship, I think. And then, you know, it wasn’t for real so they got divorced. But then years later, they got married oot of love — for real — not for a green card but because they wanted to…and then they ended up getting divorced. So they were married twice – Dylan and Ashley or Laura and Chris. So that’s interesting but that’s pretty much aboot it. Ryan Reynolds at the time, we were doing some mall tours with the show and we did one with Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All at the time and Ryan Reynolds had dated Melissa Joan Hart for a while back then. That’s all I can remember. I was friends with some of the guys from Salute Your Shorts – still friends with them today. And that is it – I can’t think of anything else. If I think of anything, I’ll let you know, but that’s all I can think of so far.
Since you started acting at an early age and understand what it entails, are there any current child actors whose talent or potential have caught your eye?
Well, when I first saw Natalie Portman in “The Professional”, I said, “This kid is going to be hugely famous – she is incredible,” and there you go. She was – Natalie Portman – professional when she was like 12. I called it also for Leo DiCaprio, when he was in Gilbert Grape, I said, “Yeah, this kid!” As well as Timothee Chalamet that we just mentioned and…man, I have been impressed by some young child actors but I’ll have to give that one a thought and get back to you on it but yes, there are some incredible actors that I don’t know how they do it. Another one – the kids in the show “When They See Us” – those kids blew my mind. There were a lot of incredible actors in that show. There’s just so many. I mean, the competition is so tough these days since there are so many good actors coming up. I teach a lot of really good actors and sometimes I’m just flabbergasted that they seem like they have a world of experience and knowledge and they’re only 16 or 15 and I’m like, “How do you look like you’ve already lived a lifetime?”
Deserted islands seem like horribly boring places, so I’ll rework this obligatory interview question for aesthetic purposes. The CSA has perfected hyperspace travel and chosen you to be the first resident of the closest habitable planet in the galaxy. So you’re on your way to a deserted planet. Aside from survival essentials, you can bring: 3 movies, 3 books, 3 albums. What are they?
Okay, wow, one of the most difficult questions ever because I am a Libra and it is next to impossible to have me limit things like this, but I’ve done my very best after deliberating here. It was very difficult. So my three top movies would be “Across The Universe”, “Life Is Beautiful” and “Cinema Paradiso”. So I pretty much have two Italian and one directed by a woman because I love The Beatles’ music so that adds to the music that I get on my island (NFTA: planet). My three books would be some compilation book of world history to date because history is my all-time favorite subject. I love history, learning aboot history, the different times throughoot history, everything. So that would totally satisfy my geekiness and plus I’d have a lot of stuff to read, which is great, so some huge compilation of world history to date. That being said, too, I am not a religious person but I would definitely bring the Bible because it is the number one best selling book in the world and it also delves into historical events, almost biographical, because it’s telling the stories of all these “people” that existed at those times so we would learn a lot aboot those times and, you know, they’re excellent stories aboot overcoming and perseverance and betrayal and all the good things that you would get in movies or films today were written then — and fantasy and all these kinds of things. So I would take the Bible, which would be the Old and New Testament in the one Bible. And then I would take, being the actor that I am, Shakespeare’s works, which are also an account of a historical time and have all the same types of things the Bible has.
As you can see, I’m trying to do my best limiting in a non-limiting kind of way, which means compilations but…that being said, let’s go to my compilation albums! I would definitely have an album that is a Ladies of Jazz compilation, which would include Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, maybe some Roberta Flack and a gazillion other wonderful ladies of jazz that I’m not thinking of at the moment but I would want one big, fat compilation of some beautiful, gorgeous jazz music with smoky, velvety voices. Then I would definitely bring the Gipsy Kings because the Gipsy Kings always make me happy — I feel like I’m on vacation and I just love their music. It makes me want to dance and it puts a smile on my face. And then Prince because I love Prince and I don’t need to say much more than that. Prince is the ultimate musical virtuoso of today. He is the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of today. Yeah, Prince. But again, not one album. Well, I guess if it was one album it would be Purple Rain…but I would prefer a greatest hits. So that’s it. I do have to mention, though, my other movies of honorable mention because I have written these lists before because sometimes people ask me what my favorite movies are. So my movies of all-time, like I said, “Life Is Beautiful”; “Cinema Paradisio”; “Across The Universe”; but then I have “Inglorious Basterds”; “Of Gods and Men” which I was mentioning before because of that one freaking scene that blew my mind; “Strictly Ballroom”; “Annie Hall”; “Slumdog Millionaire”; “When Harry Met Sally”; “Amelie”; “Call Me By Your Name”; “Leon: The Professional”. And then, honorable mention goes to “Wizard of Oz” because as a kid, it was my most magical movie; “Grease” because I wanted to be Sandra Dee; “Some Like It Hot” because it was hilarious and incredible and I loved the comedy of it and all the actors were great; “E.T.” because it’s classic and part of childhood; and then, newly, “Hamilton”, even though technically it’s a play, it was fucking stellar.
If you could choose to star in a documentary or biopic aboot the life of any historical figure, celebrity, politician, activist, musician, etc. (living or dead), who would it be and why?
I realize in this question that most of the people that I would want to play their lives, I can’t because they’re not Caucasian – they’re either not white or they’re too young. But these are the people whose lives I find extremely fascinating: Rosa Parks; even Oprah Winfrey’s life; or Anne Frank, but it’s too late now. So I think…I was vacillating between Veronica Franco who was a poet and courtesan in sixteenth century Venice. She was the intellectual of her time; you could only have access to reading and writing if you were a courtesan, which was considered a non-respectable woman, but she chose it because she had a thirst for knowledge and reading and writing. They did do a movie aboot this; it was called “Dangerous Beauty” and I loved it, so I can’t believe I didn’t mention it in my movie list but if they made a remake of that, I would love to be her. But that’s a remake so if I had to be somebody from more modern times, I would be Marie Colvin. She was an American journalist who covered the Middle East and her life was super interesting because she was involved in all kinds of circles, infiltrated them where they would have been completely dangerous if they knew why she was a part of them, but her thirst for understanding and knowledge and her love for journalism and getting to the bottom of things would make for such an interesting character to study. She did end up losing one of her eyes from an improvised explosive device that somebody had set up to kill her but it didn’t; it just maimed her and her photographer or cameraman that she had with her. So yeah, I think at the end of the day, I’d have to say Marie Colvin. She seems like she had an incredible, amazing life…and she was Caucasian…and around my age, so I guess that’s within my limits, but she was amazing, nonetheless.
Do you think the global artistic community in general (actors, writers, musicians, visual artists) has an obligation to address critically urgent social issues like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia? Is there an issue aboot which you’re specifically passionate that you would like to have an opportunity to address through your work?
This is what I love in life, I love having these discussions with people. There’s no point in wasting time on the superficial. Yes, I think anybody who is in the public eye has a responsibility. There comes a responsibility with being in the public eye, whether you want it or not. People who tend to look towards you, look up to you, whether you deserve it or not, whether you signed up for it or not — they do. So therefore…it’s not to say that people need to take what you say as the word of God, by any means. I mean, who’s to say that actors or musicians or whoever else in the public eye is even intelligent or has something worthy of saying – but there is a responsibility that comes along with it. So therefore, if you have that soap box to stand on, if you have that opportunity to make a difference and make the world a better place, fuck yeah, you should seize that. I mean, to be honest with you, as much as I love acting and getting into the challenge of becoming someone else, when I was a child, I remember people asked me why I wanted to be an actor and they asked me if it was because I could be famous and I said, “No, I don’t care aboot that.” Sorry, I’m going off on tangents, but I remember as a child, saying that I want to be an actress so that when I’m finally famous enough so that people actually care aboot what I say and do, then I could get investors to invest in a shelter for animals. I could open a shelter for animals because of my name, so people would give me money to open it. Then I could have children who are poor – children of poverty – pair up with an animal at the shelter and that could become their friend and they could take care of that animal and they would have each other and it would give them both reason and purpose to live and it would be such a beautiful community of all the kids and all the animals there together. Then eventually the animals would eventually get adopted, or the kids would adopt the animal…and la de da de da…this is all so idealistic and beautiful and I think of that dream and I just love where it came from. Maybe one day it could still happen – who knows? (NFTA: I really, really hope so!)
But yes, causes are important and using your platform to help to create change or help to fight for rights of people and to make this world a better place is so effing important. If you go on my Facebook, my Instagram, my Tik Tok, everything that I’m on right now, Twitter – everything has been consumed with Black Lives Matter. So many of my friends throughoot my life are black and I’ve been educated to know now that just being friends with them wasn’t enough when they weren’t seeing the same opportunities or equal rights that I had and I’m so glad that I’m open-eyed to this now but knowing this is just the first step. The next step is making sure that all these people that have brought so much to my life and enhanced my life in so many ways – and I have friends of all different ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, gender identifying backgrounds that have added so much to my life – that I need to fight for all of them so that we all have everything the same. Equal. Equal human rights. I mean, is that so much to ask for? But anyway, so yes, I’m all-consumed with that right now. A part of this passion I have for that right now is – I don’t know how many people might know, but I am Jewish and as a child, I kind of tried to hide from that or have people not know that. I knew from studying World War II or growing up in a very, very German area in Canada, I was ostracized and picked on and made fun of a lot and this was, you know, 30 to 40 years after the war had ended and still these prejudices and these stereotypes occurred. So I always considered myself growing up as one of the “others”, even though I’m white-passing and that did make my life easier; but people knowing I was Jewish did make it harder so I always chose friends who also felt like ootsiders and I’m so thankful for that experience because it opened up my world so wide to so many incredible people from so many incredible places, so I’m very thankful for it. So again, like I said before, I’m not religious, but culturally, I am Jewish and I’m proud to be Jewish and I love my culture and I am going to stand up for everyone, including my people, and against anti-Semitism as well, because lately more than ever, I’ve been seeing so many things circulating online which are just such non-truths and painting everybody with one brush and thinking we’re a monolith and we all have the same thoughts and we all do the same things and make the same choices or have the same politics and we don’t. We’re all just different and you can’t paint one race, one religion, one gender all with the same paint brush, People. So look at people as individuals. Don’t try to categorize them by these superficial labels – just individuals. So yes, I’m fighting for equality but I’m a fighter in general. My mother calls me a justice seeker – that’s probably the part she hates the most aboot me in the sense that I’m always fighting for the things that are right. But again, I am a Libra and as much as I vacillate, I don’t vacillate over my passion for good in this world and for the causes to create betterment and love and peace.
You’re sick in bed and you have a choice of passing the time with an all-day marathon of Breaking Bad on AMC or iCarly on Nickelodeon. Which will you choose? Be honest!
Well, I’ve never seen either of those so…everyone has said such great things aboot Breaking Bad. It would probably make me very cynical aboot the world and everything but I heard Bryan Cranston was amazing as an actor, so I’m just gonna have to go with Breaking Bad. It’s on my list of things to do. I’ve never seen an episode of Lost or Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or any of those…I have a lot of catching up to do.
I just saw House of Cards over Covid, though – went through all 7 seasons. Phenomenal acting – too bad aboot Kevin Spacey.
When production of Fifteen was moved to the studios in Orlando, did you become friends with any performers from the other shows airing on Nick at the time? (For instance, did you ever have an opportunity to just sit back and let Clarissa explain it all?)
Yeah! Chris Lobban from Welcome Freshmen and Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All. We did the mall tour, like I said, with them — Mint Condition was a band at the time; Hulk Hogan and Clarissa and a few of us – I have pictures to prove it and it was fun! I think pretty much just Chris Lobban and I – he’s a great guy. We still talk on Instagram and it would be great to catch up and see him. There were some game shows and we were friends with the game show hosts with the slime and all that, but nobody we kept any long-lasting relationships with. I do know when we were filming at Universal Studios in Orlando, though, we became friends with a lot of the performers – the musical performers in the theme park. We didn’t have e-mail back then or social media so unless you were really good at being a pen pal and keeping up with letter writing or typewriting letters, you know, connections kind of got lost so…it’s too bad. It would have been a whole different thing in this day and age but it was what it was.
I’m gonna slip a completely self-serving question in here and hope nobody notices. To the best of your knowledge – has Ryan ever visited Notes From the Avalon?
To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know. I’m gonna say probably not. I wish he did because it’s great and you did a freaking great job and I’m so glad I got it to the writer/creator. I don’t know if he’s written you back after reading it. He’s going through some personal stuff with the family right now but hopefully when he gets time…um, Ryan – I kept in touch with him for a long while. He was a great, great guy, we were really good friends right after the show ended for a good 7 or 8 years. He came and hung oot with me in New York, he hung oot with me in L.A. I introduced him – it’s on my IMDB, I don’t know how it got there or who knew it – but I introduced him to Rich Ruccolo, the guy that starred with him in 2 Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place. They both came to my house on Valentine’s Day one year because I was single, Rich had just caught his girlfriend cheating on him and Ryan’s girlfriend was in France, I think, at the time, so it was like the Lonely Hearts Valentine’s Night. I introduced them that night and then less than a year later, they’re both starring in a TV show, a sitcom, together, so that was crazy. Then when he dated Alanis, I was still in touch with Ryan at that point but unfortunately, when he went on to date Scarlett Johansson, a lot of ties with his old buds were cut off. But then Blake (Lively) was in town in Vancouver while I was in Vancouver – she was doing a movie here and I know Ryan came to visit her and Chris Martin who played Dylan had a small part in Blake’s movie “Age of Adaline” and so our makeup artist on Fifteen was also the makeup artist on this movie so she told me to come to set and I missed Ryan that day because I got there too late but I did say hi to Blake and she told me that “the boys” were talking aboot me all day so that’s kinda the last I spoke to him. You know, he’s busy in his life – lots of kids, Hollywood, that kind of thing, but he’s a great guy with a great heart and I’m so glad he keeps giving Canada a good name. I send nothing but love to him.
Had your life not taken the trajectory that it did and you had never broken into acting, what career do you guess you would have pursued? Is this something that still interests you?
YES – okay, in my next life or maybe when I quit acting and realize I have to give it up for – it feels like an addiction – I was gonna say “for my health”, but I was always thinking of going back to school. I love art, I love galleries, I love Renaissance art, I love Impressionist art, I love all of it, so I would love to work in a museum as an art appraiser or in a gallery or something. I would love to go on archeological digs — an archeologist. All those kinds of things – again, history and arts and culture. But you know, I’ve been very lucky in my life because I have done other things than acting. I have an equally fulfilling career as a makeup artist, which I love. I did it in the fashion industry in New York for a long time and now I do all kinds of projects makeup-wise and I teach and I love that; and I teach acting and I love teaching. Teaching brings me so much joy, so I will be doing that for the rest of my life, for sure, and helping young artists find their truth and their voice and guiding them in directions so that they don’t get hurt and damaged along the way. I love my voice work that I’ve done, my voice career – I wish it was singing. I used to do musical theater back in the day but then I went to New York and realized I don’t have 1/100 of what those people have on Broadway. So I meant voices in cartoons and video game acting. I just feel so blessed and lucky to be able to do so many amazing, fun things. I guess I felt like I had no choice because I didn’t think I could do anything else! So there you go…when you’re limited, sometimes there’s a silver lining to thinking you’re limited. But yeah…art appraisal, museum.
Before I took it upon myself to usurp somebody else’s fictional characters, did you ever imagine what grown-up Brooke’s life might look like? What details – family, career, habits, general personality – did you imagine for her?
Oh my gosh! No, it scared me to think aboot what Brooke would be. Brooke would be everything I cannot stand in a person. She is so far from what I want my life to look like or me to carry myself as, but then again, that’s why it made it so much fun to play. I loved what you wrote for Brooke – I completely saw that for her. The only way Brooke would have changed is if there was some major trauma or something that happened in her life where she literally hit rock bottom. So if someone died who was close to her, she got sick and didn’t think she was gonna live, or she lost a child or something horrific would have had to happen to make her realize that her life was like First World problems and, you know, there was more to life than the drama she causes. She was very insecure, obviously, and needed to feel like she always had to impress people or be feared. So no, it would take a lot to have changed her but I would have hoped she would have gone to some major therapy and found a heart that was kind and decided to kill people with kindness, not with cattiness, and become a good person but…chances are, she might not have been, which would have made her an awesome adult villain in an adult soap or some kind of other dramatic series. But nonetheless, I would love to play her in your series one day – yes. (NFTA: No one else would do!)
This one’s not really a question, but a request. Tell us something good. Exciting news, an inspirational message or just general silliness…anything at all.
I have my health. I have my life. I have my family. I have my friends. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat. And I woke up today. So to me, honestly, what more do you need? I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the Earth. So that’s as good as it gets. I wish it were far more fun or silly or anecdotal but that’s it! I’m pretty much happy and filled with gratitude every day to have that. It’s what I want and it’s what I need. And if I were to die tomorrow, then please know I died happy and satisfied and fulfilled. But please don’t let this be a self-fulfilling prophecy because I still have so many things to do! That’s it. Fighting for my passions, loving raising my daughter who is now 20 years old and my best human being friend and everything else in the entire world — my confidante. I feel like I have so much more to do, and I will! Let’s keep talking, Guys. I want to hear your stories. I love people, I love life, I love life experiences. That’s where I’m gonna leave it.