Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Family Ties": oral history of the 1980s sitcom – part 8 – your life today

Introduction to the Family Ties oral history (including the list of interviewees and links to each part).
 
What are you doing these days?

Cindy Fisher (s1): I quit acting just after I got a Brian De Palma film Casualties of War, playing one of two females in the movie. I was cast as Michael Fox's Midwest wife and in the film would be raped by Sean Penn's character. Sean was cast in an earlier MOW I did with Telly Savalas by Sean's dad Leo, who was the director of this movie. Sean was a day player and played my druggie boyfriend. Leo asked me to be kind to Sean as I think it was one of his first gigs. Sean was awesome and we became friends—more on that later.

But essentially I was in a hotel room in Thailand for a few weeks waiting to film my part, trying to stay off the beaches as I did not want to tan. I spent a lot to time on the phone talking about life's meaning with my husband Doug Davidson (still in the business, the longest current cast member on the number-one daytime drama The Young and the Restless) and felt I needed to make some changes. The agents were excited I finally got a big budget feature and felt the meaty role would launch a public career, but I was searching for something other than fame, and was tired of waiting around for my life to happen. 

During week two, hibernating in my hotel room, still not having shot anything, De Palma said they have all this war footage they are happy with and my part (which represents Michael Fox's morality—flashbacks of his own wife being raped instead of the Vietnamese girl) was going to be cut. The whole part, not just one scene. I knew then that the film would fail. The powers that be felt that one scene in the bar of Michael Fox glancing at his own family photo would accomplish the moral motivation for his character. I did [a] photo session with my dog and think my dog is still in the movie, even though my part was cut. Thank goodness I hadn't shot a frame of footage or, as in typical actor style, I would have thought they cut me out because I was terrible.

It was shortly after my return from Thailand that my husband and I decided we would start our family and since I did not want our housekeeper raising our kids I would quit acting to stay home to do it. We have been married 32 years and have two wonderful children. [My daughter is] a violinist in London and my son is working on his international business and trade major at a college in China.

I was nominated for an Emmy award for the first show shot on video many moons ago and didn't win, so when my husband won for best actor two years ago and shared that moment with me, it was as though I completed the circle. Only my ego misses "the business." My butt misses my director's chair with my name on it (which they hardly do anymore) and all the attention you get, again more ego, but the creative process can be found in so many things, so that is my focus now. And the best part of my life, that all my choices have made clear, is also the meaning of it. Love.
John Putch (s1, 2, 5): I'm a film and TV director. I've directed over 100 episodes of TV and about 18 feature-length films. 

Chris Hebert (s1, 2): I've been teaching high school the last sixteen years (and actually loving it). I've taught film studies/history, English, and AVID (a college prep program). I'm also happily married to an amazing woman; we have been married since 2001. I'm also involved in my church as a Bible study leader, worship member, and media minister.
Cristen Kauffman (s1): I live in Los Angeles, married to a wonderful man for 22 years, two daughters, one 27, the other 16. I have done many things since leaving acting when I was 27. Most recently I was a docent at the Getty Museum.
Lisa Lucas (s1): I'm trying not to wind up in a hospital with my back pain. When I was 12, doing a show with Jason Robards, we used a horse that was not used to cameras and didn't like men. One of the grips grabbed the horse when she ran into the camera. She bucked up and took off. I was thrown off and broke my ankle in 17 places—in the middle of nowhere in Canada. Over time, this has caused other problems. I went to Yale when I was 18 for freshman year but never finished. I went to Paris, went to Cordon Bleu, married a French architect, and stayed seven years. Then I came back and did a movie in L.A. with my friend Robert Downey Jr. called Heart and Souls (I played his mother), came back to New York and built and opened a restaurant on 46th Street called D'Orsay (opened 1999), named after a train station in Paris. Turned out my investors were shady, got a liquor license next to a church, which is unheard of. They sold it out from underneath me the next year. Terribly traumatic. Moved to Florida. Decided to go back for my degree, Florida Atlantic University. I was going to teach drama but wound up working for the school paper and became a good journalist. Right after school got offered a job as a stringer for New York Post in Florida. I didn't like them and quit. Went to work for The Daily News. Followed A-Rod around a lot. Covered John Travolta's extortion case, the "Miracle on the Hudson," the Trayvon case gavel to gavel (in the courtroom every day), and more. Did a lot of investigative journalism that won awards. But I now live in Fishkill, New York (1 hour, 10 minutes from the city) and they don't really have work up here. I found my way to Haiti on a private jet three days after the quake. I was basically a nurse and supply person at a trauma hospital—in a tent on UN grounds. I wound up caring for a lot of orphans, saw a lot of people die. I went to Japan after their quake. We drove around to abandoned towns in radiation zones to rescue pets. I'm now living with my boyfriend from when I was 15, a mile from the house I grew up in. I'm auditioning, too. I've done a couple of little industrial things. I'm also writing a book.
Earl Boen (s1, 3): I take everything a day at a time. I still take an occasional voiceover job. My first wife and I planned to retire at 65. I worked so much and didn't have time to spend any money. She had a murder mystery event business. We bought a condo in Honolulu in 2000 [to eventually move to] and by April of the next year she was dead. I moved there in 2003. I thought I had gotten through the grieving but when I got to Hawaii, I realized I wasn't better. In 2005, I realized I'm chasing a ghost. I had to let her go. I was married for 32 years. But then I had to decide if I could live by myself. I could, but then I met Cathy in 2005. She's a widow, too. When I was diagnosed with osteoporosis two years ago, I said I want to get married. So we agreed and married January 15, 2015. As you get older, your body starts to break down. She helps me so much.
Terry Wills (s1, 2, 5, 6, 7): Not much. I'm trying to get a musical I've been writing for decades produced and I still do the very occasional commercial.
Kerry Noonan (s1): In 1995 I realized that as a woman in my thirties, I was no longer going up for many parts—Hollywood has fewer and fewer parts for women as we get older, and what few parts there are go to women who made it in their twenties. I decided to give up acting and went to grad school at UCLA to get my M.A. and Ph.D. in folklore and mythology. For nine years I taught as an adjunct professor in L.A., at UCLA, CSUN, and Otis College until I got a full-time position at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, where I live now, and where I still teach. While I don't teach theater, I have directed plays at the college (I directed one fall 2016), and co-teach the film major senior capstone course.
Edward Edwards (s2): I am still acting but have strongly transitioned into directing for the stage. Theater was my first love and still is the most rewarding medium for my work.
Tanya Fenmore (s2): I wrote, directed, and produced an independent feature film called Graduation Week that starred the brilliant Alanna Ubach (current star of Bravo's Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce). We stayed friends [through] all these years and coincidentally, just a few weeks ago, she brought me on to direct her in a parody music video for a comedy album project she is doing with her husband, 16-time Latin Grammy-winning producer Thom Russo. It's dirty, raunchy—makes Sarah Silverman look like Disney. If you can imagine: we had cameos by actress Denise Richards, former [adult film] star Ron Jeremy, and a live donkey with rap bling all on the same green screen shoot day!

I went back to Harvard to get my MBA (not quite sure why?) and for a while thought I wanted to do the studio corporate thing in international because I learned Italian and Spanish. I love international business but not in that business. So in the meantime, I also wrote, produced, and performed an album and produced this zany music video in Kunming, China at the Kingdom of the Little People amusement park. That is my poodle with my teeth—thank you after effects! So [now you know] what Skippy's little sister looks like all grown up and twerking with Chinese dwarfs.

I sold a screenplay based on Little Lady Fauntleroy to the producers of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and with the script savings and miles got my "eat pray love" on and traveled alone to find a place to relocate from La La land where I unfortunately am now. I checked out all of Europe, South America, China, Thailand, South Africa, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and the Cooks, and fell in love with Portugal and its islands, despite the recent fires there. So I am now trying to figure out how to start a business there so I can live there—or perhaps write and direct a delightful comedy to film in Portugal!
Kaleena Kiff (s2): I'm an independent film producer making cool arthouse films in North America and Europe.
Kate Vernon (s2): I [recently] finished two independent films. One we shot in Ottawa, one in Mexico City, both coming out in 2018. I'm doing a motion capture video game I can't talk about yet. That will probably be out in 2019.
Eileen Seeley (s2): I continue to do theater when time permits and the right project presents itself. I recently had the opportunity to play Mother Superior in Nunsense. It was the first time I have performed in a musical. It was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.
Debbie Gilbert (now Webb) (s2): I have no idea what I am doing these days! I am 54 and looking for the re-invention convention. Do you know where they hold this? I went back to school, online, at Amherst, and [now that I] take medication for my ADD, received an A+ in my first upper-level journalism course. This back-to-school thing is what I am most proud of at this time. I believe you would call what I am doing these days "entrepreneurship." I love structuring sound business systems for nonprofits, and do so pro bono as often as I have time for. Turned out I wasn't such a dumb blonde.
Susan Isaacs (s2): I'm still acting, but I'm mostly writing now. I have a memoir out, Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir, and I'm working on a second. I also teach screenwriting and sketch comedy at a college in L.A., and I work as a script consultant on a lot of independent films no one has ever heard of.
Kathleen Wilhoite (s2): I'm going back to college to get my master's degree in theater arts. I've been cast in Cal Rep's A View from the Bridge, another Arthur Miller piece that I'm very excited about.
Lenora May (s2): I'm still acting. Just played my first grandma role in a film called 30 Nights and recurred in Heartbeat. Also a real mom and developing two films for production.
Alan Blumenfeld (s2, 3, 4, 5, 6): I still do film and TV. I just did a film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I did an episode of the John Lithgow show Trial & Error. I do 2-4 plays a year in L.A.

I miss the style of show that Gary did. It's not really done anymore. It's not just that it was wholesome family fun but it also was an era of bringing the political into the personal. The comedy was always funny but there was always an undertone that men and women were treated as equals, that kids and parents respected each other. [One of the few inheritors of that is] Modern Family.
Timothy Busfield (s3, 5): I direct a lot of television and executive produce a lot of TV. [For example] I've [recently] done an episode of This Is Us and Nashville. I moved to Sacramento in '86 and created a children's theater there called the B Street Theatre [then called the Fantasy Theatre]. I couldn't have done it without Michael J. Fox. He helped fund it. His contributions made it possible. We will be forever in his debt. It's now in its 31st season and reaching 150,000 kids a year, and we've added an adult theater.
Matthew Barry (s3): I'm a top Hollywood casting director and acting coach. 

Lily Mariye (s3): I'm continuing to act. But a whole new additional career has opened up for me, for which I'm amazed and grateful: I'm directing! While I was on ER, the producers of the show gave me the opportunity to shadow my two mentors and friends, Jonathan Kaplan and Lesli Linka Glatter. "Shadowing" a director means that you are a fly-on-the-wall, watching and learning the process of directing from preparation to post-production. I have shadowed on ER, West Wing, Gilmore Girls, Homeland, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Night Shift, Nashville, Mercy Street, and Bunheads. I've directed many award-winning short films, I wrote and directed a feature called Model Minority, and have finally started directing television! My first episode was ABC's Nashville. I just directed Amazon's Just Add Magic, and will return to Nashville to direct another episode of Nashville for CMT.
Robert Costanzo (s3, 4, 5, 6): I'm co-artistic director of a theater in Chicago called the Emergent Theater Company. I'm sort of the quasi-celebrity co-founder. We don't have a permanent theater, we move around. We've done two Neil Simon plays. I either act or direct about once a year.

My father had a private sanitation business in New York. He played my father in With Friends Like These… He had some talent. Now I'm in this movie with a strange name, I have to look it up. Part of the shooting will be in India. I recommended my son Christopher to play my son in the film and he got the role! Now three generations of Costanzos have acted!

I do an occasional independent movie but most of them don't go to the theater. I do some voice work here and there. I've voiced Detective Harvey Bullock in [some of] the Batman animated series—must have done about 40 of those. I did the Disney Hercules TV show. I just did an animated Christmas special for Amazon based on the classic children's book The Snowy Day. I play a chestnut vendor.

I'm not working as much as I want.
Nancy Everhard (now Amandes) (s3): I'm pretty much retired from acting. I've spent the past 17 years being a mom to my son Ben. He [went] off to college in fall [2016] so we are hoping to do more traveling when my husband is not working.
Norman Parker (s3, 5, 6): Writing plays and helping my wife raise our teenage son.
Adam Carl (s3): More than anything, I'm producing, mostly micro-budget independent features. I've written and directed three films of my own—Performance Anxiety, Pieces of Eight, and Waiting for Ophelia—and I recently produced a movie called The Midnighters that is just about to begin its journey on the film festival circuit. A few years back I was also a producer on the reboot of the classic VH1 show Pop-Up Video. I spend a lot of time reading, and writing, and trying to figure out what the next project is going to be. I am also a live-in caregiver for my mom, who is 80 years young.
Suzanne Snyder (s4): I am a mother and a health coach—yoga and meditation instructor.
Gracie Harrison (s4): I'm the Director of Volunteer Services at Smiles Change Lives (SCL), a nonprofit that helps low income children gain access to orthodontic care. It's a wonderful organization that has changed the lives of over 8,000 kids in need since 1997. I love my job. Every day I play a part in helping a child improve his or her life. What could possibly be better than that?

Robin Morse (s5): First and foremost, I am a mother of two outstanding children. I began teaching in 1994, and in 2011 I launched the Robin Morse Studio, teaching classes in both acting and singing performance. I have taught on the faculty at NYU and Syracuse University's Tepper Semester, and have maintained a thriving private coaching business.
Jonna Lee Pangburn (s5): I am an artist, a mama, a community worker, an editor, a designer, an organizer, a woman of many trades… 

Margaret Nagle (s5): I wanted to be an actor on TV and instead, I'm a writer, showrunner, producer of TV. [Her work includes Red Band Society (Ex P, creator, writer), Side Order of Life (executive producer, creator, writer), Bonfire of the Vanities miniseries (executive producer, writer), Boardwalk Empire (supervising producer/writer), The Good Lie (screenwriter), Warm Springs (screenwriter).] I have been nominated [for] and my work has won Emmys as a writer/producer. I have run into Allison Jones at awards parties and she always says hi. Every job is a chance to learn but it's not always what you think you're there for which is why it's so important to pay attention and keep your eyes open no matter what you're doing. My jobs as an actor (My So-Called Life, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Milk Money) were teaching me how to write and produce.
Brian McNamara (s5): Hustling! Getting the next gig!
Sonia Curtis (s5, 6): I still act whenever I can. I also coach actors and sell real estate.
Stuart Pankin (s5): Web series, the occasional guest star, sizzle reels, internet pilots, and theater.
Dana Andersen Schreiner (s5): I haven't worked since we moved to northern Virginia (right outside of Washington DC) in 1996 when AOL recruited my husband along with some other entertainment folks. We were both more than ready to leave "the business" to have a more financially stable life and better schools for the kids. We also really loved the different seasons as well as it being easier to get to NYC and our occasional trips to Denmark where I still have lots of family. I basically gave up acting except for a little theater here and there. Ironically, our daughter June Schreiner starting doing theater here when she was about ten (something we probably would never have allowed had we still been in L.A.) and fell in love. She ended up working professionally and got quite a bit of attention for playing Ado Annie in Arena Stage's production of Oklahoma! She was only 16 and got cast over many more accomplished NYC actresses. Her reviews were amazing and she got lots of press. She didn't want to do any acting while going to Tulane University, but she graduated last May and moved to L.A. where she has quickly booked guest-starring roles on NCIS, Pure Genius, Criminal Minds, and Bosch. So even though we got out of the entertainment industry, it's still in the family. 

Amy Lynne (s5): When I was on The Ann Jillian Show, my mom got ill with cancer. It's a fickle business and no one took me under their wing to help me stay in the business. So when my mom died in 1990, I was totally distracted and didn't know how I would go about it. I got rid of my manager. I lost my mom and my career at once. I never thought I'd do something else.

I did what I thought was the smart thing and went to school to have something to fall back on. I went to nursing school. I became a nurse about seven years after my mom passed. I knew I didn't want to be a waitress in between auditions my whole life.

Now I do nurse anesthesia. It's odd to find someone who has gone from a career that is all about yourself to a career that is all about other people. It's certainly not glamorous. (laughs)

I was making pretty good money [as an actress] but it all got spent. My parents never saved it. Now I've got tons of student loans, medical debt. Hollywood is really not the best place for kids but it doesn't always end badly. Once in a while people end up okay.
Nicole Nourmand (s5): I am a pediatrician in Beverly Hills. 

Alyson Croft (s5): I am still acting. [I'm also] a playwright and proud mother. [I asked for examples of her work.] Most notable [plays]: Cellophane City (LA Weekly Award—Best One-Act Playwright), Fat Chicks, Fifth and Spring (LA Weekly—top 10 of the year), The Deal. Acting: been doing commercials this year mostly (Direct TV, ATT, etc.).
Jason Naylor (s6, 7): Last weekend [October 2016], I attended a spoken Latin immersion event at the Getty Villa as well as the wedding reception of a former bandmate and her betrothed, while this weekend, I visit my award-winning brewer friend in San Diego to brew the first of five beers we intend to submit to the National Homebrew Competition in spring 2017. In addition to these diversions, I also take great pleasure in reading, music, cooking, and camping.
Ellen Latzen (s6): I'm currently producing a podcast called Watched on the child acting industry. It's a look beneath the surface of a childhood spent in front of the camera, exploring the realities of child stardom, the sacrifices made, and the benefits vs. downsides to the industry. I also go deep within myself to uncover my own true feelings of having grown up a child actor.
Victor DiMattia (s6): I went to school for directing and writing. Since graduating I have made a few short films of my own and am currently in pre-production on a web series. I've also worked on friends' projects here and there in different capacities.
Darrell Thomas Utley (s6): I'm currently a stay-at-home father for my two daughters, and I hope to start a business someday in the restaurant industry. I have had a passion [to start] one for so long. Perhaps soon! On the side, I restore vintage air-cooled Volkswagens and enjoy serving on nonprofits. Currently I am on the California Association of the Deaf board in Southern California. I also serve on the PTO at my daughters' school.



Susan Kohler (s6): I'm still acting and now writing songs and recording. I have two film scripts in development. I also work with our dementia population, training families and healthcare staff how best to communicate with the person living with dementia. I'm the author of How to Communicate With Alzheimer's. 
Danielle von Zerneck (s6): Produce film/TV, most recently Recovery Road for Freeform (formerly ABC Family).
Debra Engle (s7): I am a theater teacher for the elementary arts. I stopped acting when [one of my] daughters was diagnosed with autism. I was taking her to 28 appointments a week. When they were going into elementary school, I started classroom teaching again because I wanted to have the same schedule as they did so I could spend more time with them. I did not know LAUSD [Los Angeles Unified School District] had arts programs. It is so fun [that I still get to act] when I have to show them program elements; [for example], how to be all their character. The Gingerbread Man in kindergarten. The Lion and the Mouse in 1st. Cinderella/Cinderfella in 2nd. The First Monkey in the Philippines in 3rd. Melodrama in 4th, the big bullying project in 5th. When I am teaching theater, I say that there always has to be a conflict and sometimes you can be the bad one, which can be so interesting [as an actor]. Obviously I was one in that Family Ties.
Hilary Shepard (s7): I'm semi-retired and do some jobs just when people remember me and call. My most iconic roles were playing Divatox the evil queen in the [1997] Power Rangers movie and on the TV series and also my recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I go to a lot of comic-cons all over the world and meet my fans. I am also writing a book called Wild Love with my best friend Daryl Hannah, coming out from Penguin Books next year. I [had] a movie called Teen Warlock [come] out at Halloween and I'm doing a movie called The Order with [many former] Power Rangers and a fun cosplay crafting show called Super Fan Party Plan where I show you how to create cool theme parties. So yeah, my retirement is going very nicely, actually!
Christina Pickles (s7): I shot the second season of my web series Break a Hip and [I've worked] on Great News, the Tina Fey-produced series. 

Nick Rutherford (s7): I'm on a show on Adult Swim called Dream Corp, LLC that is half live-action and half Rotoscope animation. The filming is incredibly fun and imaginative. [I'm also doing] this show called Crunch Time. It is hilarious and has an incredible cast. Most of us knew each other from before and we all get along very well. Doesn't hurt that it shoots in Austin so we all end up living together and hanging out like an extended adult summer camp. Also, I do stand-up regularly in Los Angeles and around the country when I can.
Byron Thames (s7): My wife Tricia Leigh Fisher and I just wrote and directed an independent pilot called Sleepovers that I'm excited about. I have three kids, the oldest of whom, Hudson Thames, is signed to Republic Records. I'm enjoying working with him on music, as I'm also a musician.
Jaclyn Bernstein (s7): I started working when I was three years old and didn't stop until about 13-14 years old, at which time I became really dismayed with the experiences I was starting to have as a young female in the business. I'd grown up on sets and didn't know much else. So I enrolled myself in a big public high school in Los Angeles and got really involved as a youth activist doing community arts organizing and indigenous studies. I later studied anthropology and moved to central Mexico where I married and lived for many, many years. I still do community arts organizing and have recently returned to acting. Everything comes full circle.


Part 9.

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