The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #15 – Melora Hardin

Melora Hardin is an actor, singer and director known to many for playing the character “Jan Levinson” on the hit sitcom “The Office,” but her artistic experience is expansive! She’s graced the television and film screen as well as the stage. Acting, dancing and directing are just a few of her talents. Then, there’s her musical side. A singer-songwriter, she’s a concert performer and a recording artist  with 3 albums to her credit. It’s an interview with depth yet not an ounce of pretension. Listen and find out why Melora Hardin is beloved by so many audiences.

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Arlene Dahl: Actress & Author

By her own admission, ARLENE DAHL has had an “amazing life” and her zest for living is evident in this interview.  Arlene Dahl has starred in 30 films, 19 stage plays, and authored 16 best-selling books on topics ranging from beauty to relationships.  She is forever known as one of the great beauties in motion pictures with her trademark red hair and for being paired with Hollywood’s most famous leading men.  Arlene Dahl was a former MGM contract star and is known for starring in “Reign of Terror,” “Slightly Scarlet,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and many others.  “Three Little Words,” the musical film biography that tells the story of songwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby starred Arlene Dahl along with Fred Astaire, Red Skelton and others.

Arlene Dahl was one of the first celebrities to receive a star on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame.”  Due to Broadway’s massive influence on popular culture and New York in her opinion being the “capital” of the Entertainment world,  Arlene Dahl is working to create a similar “walk” of stars for Broadway.  Arlene Dahl is the President & Founder of The Broadway Walk of Stars, working to embed uniquely designed “stars” onto the sidewalks of Broadway at Times Square in New York City.  These star squares recognize the greats of Theater, Motion Pictures, Television, Music and Dance.

It’s a lively conversation with Arlene Dahl, and you’ll be glad you’ve got a ticket!


Melissa Errico: Singer & Actress

Melissa Errico is an actress and singer of the Broadway stage.  She has starred in seven Broadway musicals and released 3 albums.  This in-depth interview explored the release of Melissa Errico’s album “Legrand Affair,” which is a collection of songs composed by Michel Legrand.  Produced by the late Phil Ramone and performed by Melissa Errico accompanied by a 100-piece symphony orchestra in Brussels.

“Legrand Affair” even features new material composed by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman specifically for Errico.  As Errico says in this interview, in many ways the focus was not entirely on her.  The album is almost like a duet of her and Michel Legrand.  This interview not only gives us great insight into Melissa Errico, a great singer…but, also helps us understand a little bit of the genius of this incredible writer of melody–Michel Legrand.

Jennifer Schottstaedt: Actor

William Shakespeare wrote the words, “All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.”  Actors are the artists who use their voice, face and body to present a visual and audio story. Many would say actors affects the heart and mind of the audience.  Actors are interpreters of a story.

In this interview, we will be joined by an actor of the stage, Jennifer Schottstaedt.  She has performed in some of the greatest plays including Shakespeare classics like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and also Tennessee William’s Sweet Bird of Youth…and other works such as 5 Faces for Evelyn Frost; Jane, The Fox and Me and a recent production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Actor’s Express.

Jennifer Schottstaedt shares her story and perspective which she has gained as a result of dedication to her craft and her work as a teacher, helping other actors learn the art.

Peter Stormare: Actor, Musician, Playwright, Theatre Director

Peter Stormare is known for a lot of roles, including as “the wood chipper guy” from the movie “Fargo,” or “the nihilist” from “The Big Lebowski.”

At the time of this interview, he was playing the role of John Abruzzi on the popular television show “Prison Break.”

What you may not realize is that he is an incredibly talented songwriter and recording artist.  It was U2’s Bono who first encouraged him to make albums.

In this interview, Peter Stormare talks about his music, his friendship with Jeff Bridges, his band “Blonde From Fargo,” and the television show “Prison Break.”

We hope we have the chance to interview Peter Stormare again!


Gene Wilder: Writer, Actor, Director, Painter

Delve into the mind of a quiet genius. Within it you will find an entire world of thought, creativity, and power.  How true that is for the mind of Gene Wilder!  We all know him by his roles in the films Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein among a host of others.  However, these are but a few colors on the creative pallet of Gene Wilder’s career.Gene is an accomplished stage actor, has written for the screen and directed.  He has authored several books: Kiss Me Like a Stranger, My French Whore, The Woman Who Wouldn’t and Something To Remember You By.  These works reflect the same genius and talent manifested in Wilder’s screen writing, directing and acting.Gene Wilder has set the professional standards which aspiring artists still endeavor to reach over fifty years after his debut. As great as his mind is, he is also a man with a golden heart. He is a warrior in the fight against ovarian cancer, establishing Gilda’s Club with Joanna Bull and Joel Siegel. Such a heart and mind merits the attention of the world. That is the why we hope that you will share in the privilege of hearing from the great…the incomparable Gene Wilder.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to welcome our special guest, the one and only Gene Wilder. Thank you so much for joining us.
You’re very welcome.
My first question – who is Gene Wilder?
When you find out would you let me know? (Laughs) That’s a very difficult question. Probably also a simple one depending on who you’re asking. You’re asking me so it’s difficult. If you ask my wife I think it would be probably a simple question. It depends on what you want to get into when you say ‘Who are you?’. I’m a writer, an actor, a director and a painter, but that’s what I do. If you say ‘Who are you?’ I’d say I’m someone who has looked for love, long-lasting love, all my life and I finally found it 22 years ago. And I’m married to her now and I’m very happy.
I wanted to kind of zoom in on our love of the writing process and books.
What books did you most enjoy growing up?
I didn’t read a lot growing up. I had to read when I was in English class and I read, oh, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t think I read Hemingway then; I did later. I don’t remember reading. I read what I had to read. If you’re talking about plays, I read a lot of plays but as far as books, novels are concerned, I didn’t read many. The Snow Goose, The Great Gatsby, those are the things I remember the most now. But I read a lot of plays and I acted in a lot of plays when I was growing up, in high school.
Can you remember the first time that you thought that you could write and that you did write something yourself?
Now, when you say ‘write’ what kind of ‘write’ or ‘writing’ do you mean?
I mean something more than this is a teacher and I’m saying ‘You must write this’ but when you started kind of to branch out on the writing side creatively on your own.
Well, that started when I was in my first movie, which was Bonnie and Clyde. I thought that it, it needed a little help in my part. I didn’t change anyone else’s line but I made it instead of a scared-to-death fellow, Eugene Grizzard, who was shivering because they, I’m with the Barrow gang, I acted as if I was not afraid. Of course, inside I was but I, I pretended to be ‘Sure, I know – I know you fellows. I’m fine. I’m not scared.’ And I wrote that into my part. And the director said ‘You know, I never thought it was going to be played that way.’ I said ‘Well, why didn’t you tell me?’ and he said ‘Because I like what you did better than what I had down already.’ And that gaveme a little confidence. So then, when I was doing Start the Revolution without Me in France – I was there for four months – the director asked me to improvise and – because something wasn’t, it wasn’t going right in the first scene that I did with Donald Sutherland. So we both improvised and it came off very funny. And he said, ‘That’s what I want. Do that. Keep doing that.’ And then he would ask me to write things of my part and I did, and then it gave me confidence. And then I began writing my own screen plays. The first one was no good at all. The second one was a little better but not very good. The third one was Young Frankenstein. And from then on, I wrote I think five of my own screen plays that I acted in and directed. That gave me confidence in the writing but writing books is a different story – well, a different process.
You just mentioned a second ago Young Frankenstein which you co-wrote with Mel Brooks.
Well, I wrote it and he supervised the writing. He’d come after dinner, after his dinner, and say, he’d say ‘What have you got?’ and I’d show him, and he’d say ‘Yeah, yeah, OK. Now, you know we don’t have a villain. We don’t have a real villain. You’ve got to have a …’ And I’d say, you know, ‘Something like Inspector Kent in the Bride of Frankenstein?’ and he’d say ‘Yeah! Something like that.’ And then he’d go off and I’d write all day, and then there would be Inspector Kent. And that was, it was a process that we had because he was busy working on Blazing Saddles. And so, when it came time to actually do it, the fourth draft, he and I wrote one long speech before the monster goes way up on the elevation, and that we did together. Otherwise, it was things that he would put in while we were filming, like ‘Walk this way.’ I said ‘What does that mean?’ and he said ‘I’ll tell you afterwards. But, Marty, when you’re about to leave tell Gene – bend over like you’re crippled and say Walk this way.’ So he said it and I did it, what he said to do, and everyone started laughing as soon as they called ‘Cut’. And I said ‘Now will you tell what that is that we just did?’ It’s an old vaudeville routine about a man with a terrible case of hemorrhoids. He goes to a pharmacy and says ‘Have you got any talcum powder?’ and the pharmacist says ‘Yes, sir. Walk this way.’ and the man says ‘If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t need the talcum powder!’ (laughter) And it would be things like that. We had one scene where I thought it was a beauty and it worked fine, when Madeline Kahn comes to Transylvania to see her fiancé – me – and it wasn’t working at all and we couldn’t understand why. And Mel thought about it for a while and he said ‘Marty, when Gene says Igor, help me with these bags you say (imitates a NY accent) Certainly. You take the blonde and I’ll take the one in the turban.’ And then Marty went up and bit off the fox fur tail that Madeline was wearing and it came off into his mouth. And we had to finish the rest of that little scene when we’re all holding back our laughter. Well, that’s not writing but it is brilliant on Mel’s part that he just thought of something that would make that scene work, and it did. We all laughed afterwards. But writing – no. I mean, we did four drafts. We didn’t improvise during the scene, while we were acting. We never did that. But just adding little things like he would say ‘What knockers. You should say, Gene, say What knockers! when she hits the door.’ ‘Walk this way’ and all those little things. When I wrote Puttin’ on the Ritz withthe Monster and me, he saw it and he said ‘Are you crazy? That’s frivolous! You’re doing Irving Berlin? The Monster and you are going to dance to Irving Berlin?’ And I started arguing and I argued until I was blue in the face, and after about 15 minutes he said ‘OK. It’s in.’ And I said “Well, why did you put me through this?’ and he said ‘Because I wasn’t sure. I thought if you’d, if you didn’t fight for it I would want it out but you did fight for it, so it’s in.’ And I didn’t know if he was lying or not. I don’t know but now he talks about it whenever he’s on a show and they ask him about it, and he says what happened because he was embarrassed at first but then he loved it. And writing is a strange process in the movies, but I learned so much from him because, doing four drafts, you get to know what works and what doesn’t work. Things like that. And still, even when I was writing some other movies, I said afterwards ‘No, I don’t think that’s the really works.”
As far as the films written by you, like screen plays written by you, do you have a favorite?
Young Frankenstein.

Young Frankenstein
And a second ago you mentioned kind of like changing the lines or maybe changing a little bit. I had heard in interviews regarding your work with Woody Allen that he said that you could change the lines if you wanted. Did you?
Not very much. He – I was stunned that he would say that to me but I changed a little bit because I was supposed to be falling in love with a sheep and so I think I added a few things when I was trying to be nice to that sheep I was in love with. And as soon as the scene was over, I saw him laughing – Woody – that’s what he wanted. But otherwise I didn’t. The only time I improvised was with Richard Pryor. He improvised all the time so he was my improvisational teacher.
Your first book was non-fiction, the autobiographical Kiss Me Like a Stranger.Mhmm. What made you decide it was time to switch your artistic canvas from the movies to books?
Well, I had been asked to write a book maybe three times and I said ‘No, I’m not ready yet, for that.’ And then, after I was married and after my wife, Karen’s, mother came to live with us after her husband died, we went to California together. It was supposed to be a two-week, it was supposed to be a two-week stay, and my wife’s mother got very ill and we ended up being there for six weeks, I think. And I thought I’d go crazy if I didn’t do something artistic, because I wasn’t going to be acting during that time. So I thought about all the films I’d been in – I didn’t want write a tell-all story – and I thought about some of the strange things that happened to me during certain films. And so then I started writing about all the things that I thought would be the most interesting, for myself and for an audience, and then it worked out very well. I got an editor and a publishing house, St. Martin’s Press, my editor, Elizabeth Beier, and they have been for over ten years now. They’ve done every book I’ve ever written.
I felt like Kiss me Like a Stranger, I feel like it’s a really honest book and it deals with a lot of really, really personal things.
It does.
Was there any reservation as to whether you wanted everybody to know about all of these things?
I had no reservations about that. The only reservations I had wereI didn’t want to hurt anyone, so I might have left out a certain part. But as far as being very personal, I thought if I’m not going to be honest, what’s the point of writing the book?
Was writing Kiss Me Like a Stranger a therapeutic thing for you in any way?
Well, to the extent that acting is somewhat therapeutic but not in the same way, and I’d been in psychotherapy for seven and a half years when I was really in trouble, and I found that by writing, things would come out of me, even if I’m not the character in it, it would still come out and I would feel better afterwards because it did help me. But what I was writing was, I would say, one-third authentic, realistic and two-thirds fictional but it was still me.
Our special guest is Gene Wilder. What inspires you the most to write?
My pen and paper, and my computer. I write every day, every day of my life. If I had a story in mind I might write, oh, a half-page to see if anything is happening. My wife would say ‘What is that?’ I said ‘I have no idea.’ And then I keep on going and it turns out to be a novel or a novella. So I write and find out, as I’m writing, what’s going to happen. But I never know what’s going to happen until I write it. And I thought ‘Well, that sounds very interesting but I don’t know if I could ever do that.’ And it turns out that’s what I do almost every time.
Are there any modern authors that you’re reading now, that have influenced you?
The writers that have influenced me the most are Ernest Hemingway and Jean Renoir, the French director who has written two books. But everything he does, Renoir, is so simple but it’s also so deep. And Hemingway writes in short but meaningful sentences and doesn’t go on about things that didn’t interest him. They were precise and honest, and that‘s what he wanted. And I think I got most of what my technique, if you want to call it technique, is based on what I learned from Hemingway and Jean Renoir.
You mention Jean Renoir in the acknowledgements for My French Whore, and you also kind of talk about meeting him in Kiss Me Like a Stranger. What was going through your mind when you met him?
Well, the first thing that was going through my mind was that he was sitting at his desk and the sun was hitting his eyes, and I saw tears coming out of his eye. And I said ‘Would you like to change places with me, Mr. Renoir?’ and he said ‘No, the sun feels good on my sore eye.’ And I was very moved by that. And I asked him – before we got into Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx, which is why we were there, to see if he would direct it – I asked him ‘What’s your favorite restaurant in Paris?’ and he said ‘Chez Allard. It’s good food and the wine is honest.’ I always remembered that, years later. And I went there many times, too. Now, I think it’s very popular. I won’t say ‘too popular’ because I haven’t been there for about ten years but I’m told that it’s very crowded now. Anyway, he then said ‘I love this Quackser and I will do your film but you’d have to wait one year because I’m tied up now. And I know the show business’ he said, ‘you probably can’t wait a year. you might lose your money but if you do wait, I’ll do your film.’ And my producer said on our way out ‘He’s right, you know. I may not have the money in a year from now. It’s up to you. What do you want to do?’ And I didn’t want to lose that film so I said ‘I think we better do it now.’ And we found a director and went to Ireland for a long while, and we filmed Quackser Fortune and that was that. But I certainly wished that I had had Jean Renoir as the director.
Do you ever look back and wonder ‘what if he had’?
I have looked back many times and wondered that but how would I know? I know that it would be the kind of directing I would love – something honest, something simple. I’ve seen all of his films and I can only tell you what I believe, that I would have loved working with him. Not that the film was bad that we did but I think it would have been very different if Renoir had done it.
You wrote a second fictional work, The Woman Who Wouldn’t.
That was the third one.
The third one.
My French Whore was the second one.
Right, but the second fictional …
Well, My French Whore was fictional and so was The Woman Who Wouldn’t, except they were all based on something that set me off. I mean, My French Whore I was, I was in France for four months and had fallen in love with someone, a French woman, but it was impossible. I think what happened between it, this love affair, and I had to say goodbye, and so I wrote a screenplay about it. And it wasn’t a good screenplay. Fourteen years later I looked at it again and I said ‘I think I’ll write a novel about it.’ and then the novel turned out good. The screenplay was not good. I didn’t know enough about screenplays then. Now I’ve written a screenplay for it and it might be done as a movie. As far as The Woman Who Wouldn’t, it was all based on a short story – well, Anton Chekhov is my favorite author and he wrote a short story called The Lady with the Pet Dog and in the last page of it, he wrote something about impossible not to love this woman and impossible, since she’s married and he lives far away, how can he love her? And it’s left off like that. And so I took that little idea from that last page and I wrote The Woman Who Wouldn’t because I have her saying ‘No, I wouldn’t’ so many times in the beginning, when the man I just a flirt, just wants to have a quick, easy affair for a week or two weeks at this resort for, for health, it’s a health resort. But I changed the ending. Mine is a happy ending.
The latest book of yours is a collection of short stories entitled What Is this Thing Called Love?
Do you find writing short stories is more gratifying than the dedication that writing a novel takes?
Well, you know it’s, it really is two different things – I’m sure you’re aware of that – but I like writing short stories. I find it much easier. It flows much easier once I have the idea because I don’t have to write 200 pages. I can write 25 pages, 27 pages and write a good story. There’s a beginning and a middle and an end. Yes, I find it easier but when I write a novel or shorter, a novella, it’s very gratifying when I reach the end because I think I have tapped more things than I have in a short story. Although, in What Is this Thing Called Love? all of the stories, they’re about love but they’re all different. And in that sense, I think I’ve, I’ve found some truths that perhaps I don’t find in it, or haven’t found in some of the books I’ve written. So I like both of them, novel and short story.
One of the characters we get to meet is Buddy Silberman.
What made you think Buddy Silberman is a character that should be in a book? Tell us about him.
Well, we grew up together from the time we were six years old. He was my cousin and when I went to college and then, oh, went to California and started acting in the movies – then he came he wanted to be near me so he, he started his business in Los Angeles and we became close again. And he was really a character. If I’ve known anyone – well, I could say Mel Brooks is a character and certainly one or two others I’ve worked with I’d say were characters – but Buddy was a real character because he gambled. He, he never cheated anyone but he tried to cheat the government and they, they uh, took away his rights to earn any money for about eight years. He wasn’t well. He didn’t do what the doctors said to do. And he loved a good laugh. He tried to find love but he never found love. He found sex but he didn’t find love. And he always would say something funny. He was never morbid. And I wanted to write about him – after he died, I mean.
I read a review from someone who read the collection of short stories and they said something that I thought was interesting. They said ‘Gene made me feel again. I didn’t realize until reading this book that I had forgotten how to be human.’
Geez …
(Laughs) On that note, what do you want for someone to get out of the experience of reading one of your books?
Well on the easy side, I want them to laugh or to be touched. On the more serious side, I’d like it to be like that someone who said ‘I feel again.’ Again, I’m saying like my lessons were from Chekhov, to touch the heart. I don’t want to, I don’t want to bypass it. I don’t want to roll around it. I want to get right to the heart so there’s something that affects the person who’s reading it – maybe laughs, maybe cries – but that it affects the heart. That’s my goal.
And what is it you like about writing?
(Laughs) Well, I can be at home, in my own study as I am now. I can write for an hour and a half, two hours. Get up, make a cup of tea, give my wife a kiss. Come back, write a little bit more and then go out and have lunch. Take a walk, come back, write some more. And then after about four and a half, five hours, say ‘that’s enough for today.’ Now I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do with this tomorrow because I never know. But during the middle of the night, when I wake up, I usually figure out what I want to do.
What has writing taught you about life?
It’s taught me about art. I think that if you are an artist, in the sense that you are a musician, a painter, an actor, a director, a writer, you’re all working from the same reservoir. It’s just that what’s in that reservoir is different for a lot of artists. I can’t do certain things in art but I can do other things, and I think the writing is just part of the same thing. It’s part of my – when I was acting, I was acting because I wanted to act something that came out funny or beautiful. And that’s, that’s what most people want when they write. I don’t want to tell the world what’s, what’s good. I, I want to affect the heart, that’s all. And that’s what I think painters, in one way or another, painters want to do, because I paint. And that doesn’t mean I paint the way other painters do but that’s, Ithink that’s what they would want. A pianist, I know that’s what they want. That’s what they do. I think a ballerina, a director – I think it’s all the same. It’s just one huge reservoir, that you’re good in this or you’re good in this or you’re good in this but it’s the same huge lake that you’re, you’ve chosen something.
Very good answer! What do you feel your greatest strength is as a writer?
Greatest strength … I get the same answer from I would say hundreds now, almost hundreds of people, who respond to my writing in person or in letters, and that is ‘When I read your books it’s like I’m hearing you talk.’ And ‘It’s so simple and yet profound.’ Well, I like that. I don’t like to get high-falootin’ when I write.
In all of your books it seems as if – in fact, I’ve read where other people have said ‘I can almost hear your voice’ and I suppose it’s interesting because you’re an author that almost everyone recognizes the voice of – but ‘You can hear, you feel like it is a conversation.’
Umhmm. Right.
Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, what do you do about it?
No, I don’t get writer’s block. I, I get blocked when I’ve finished something that late afternoon and I say ‘Now what the hell am I going to do with this?’ I’ve written something that’s a good idea but how am I going to solve it? And I told you I, I wake up in the middle of the night and I usually – usually – have the answer. And I sit down the next morning and I go on but I wouldn’t call it a block. I don’t say I can’t write for a week because I have a writer’s block. I might have a writer’s block for an hour or for a night, even. But it’s not a block. It’s trying to figure out the configuration I made during the day. How am I going to solve it? I always know what I want the book to be about.
I’m very curious to know if you listen to music while you’re writing. Do you find that music inspires you or distracts your writing?
As long as there are no lyrics or someone singing, it inspires me and I choose my music accordingly.
What will help me write this scene? Do I want Tchaikovsky or, more likely, Rachmaninoff or do I want Chopin?
With all the work that you’re putting into your books, would you ever consider doing another movie?
(Sighs) I’m asked to do movies a lot of times but I really don’t want to act any more. On the other hand, I have a very good agent. He sends me things and I have told him ‘I don’t want to act, David.’ But if something comes along that rings the bell and I say ‘I have to do this movie’ then I would do it. But it hasn’t come along yet.
As far as your writing, can you tell all the listeners out there about anything that’s forthcoming, as far as books?
The one I’m working on now – I’m on page 85 – it’s called Something to Remember You By and it’s a World War II, 1944-45 in London, where the male character is a lieutenant. Most of that takes place in London but also in Germany and Alsace and partly in Denmark, where the love affair comes from. It’s a lady who is also living in London now but she came from Denmark. And we’re on a very dangerous mission, trying to save someone from the gas chamber, the Nazi gas chamber – trying to save four ladies from the gas chamber. And the French Resistance and – well, it’s an action-adventure love story really, and I’ve already written the book after that. It’s called Even Dogs Know How to Swim. But my editor says ‘You’ve got part one, two and three in that. But when you finish Something to Remember You By I want you to write part four to Even Dogs Know How to Swim.’ So I’ve got my work cut out for me right now.
No hurry. I don’t have to rush. She wants to do the action-adventure one, love story, in – next summer, I believe, and then the other one I don’t know.
As you’re writing, do you share the pages you’ve written so far with anybody, like your wife? I think you mentioned …No, I don’t. No, if I’m, if I don’t know whether this works or doesn’t work I say ‘Darling, would you read this one page and tell me if this makes sense to you, comes across alright, anything wrong with it?’ She’ll come and say ‘No, no. That’s good.’ That’s all. I don’t want her to read a lot because I want her to read the whole book when it’s finished and then say, before I write a second draft or a third draft. But if she were to read all of it now, then she won’t be as objective when she reads the whole book again later. I mean, reading it page by page, it’s hard to say ‘Now would you read the whole book and tell me what you think?’ because she knows so much. So I just ask her ‘What about this, this paragraph? Does this make sense to you?’ I might do that.
I have two final questions for our special guest, Mr. Gene Wilder. One is kind of light-hearted and then the last question a little deeper. What is your all-time favorite meal?(Laughs) Ohh, OK, now you’re talking business. Well, I have several. I think – I like steak. I like lamb chops. I like veal chops but I think I like pasta more. Or sometimes lamb chops and pasta. I love baked potatoes, too. But pasta with something in it – vegetarian or bolognaise. I like all those things. And my wife always makes a salad – all kinds of mixed greens and carrots and radishes. Sometimes a little watermelon mixed in. A lot of tomatoes. So whichever I’m eating, it’s always a healthy dinner. But, given a choice, I probably would pick linguine with shrimp in it or chopped meat or sometimes zucchini sautéed. I like – in a way, I would probably like a roast chicken more than anything. and I’d roast it, too. And my wife thinks that’s some of the best roast chicken she’s had. But I suppose I would put the roast chicken first but I wouldn’t want to eat it every day. But I like roast chicken with crispy onions in the same skillet with the chicken.
It sounds like you like everything from simple cuisine to elaborate cuisine. I think you can find out a lot about a person from the answer to that question.Yeah but not, not so much haute cuisine. I like simple cuisine but maybe – well, just the sort of things I’ve told you. They’re all basically simple. We cook together. My wife and I cook together and we have a glass of, a small glass of white wine while we’re cooking. And then we sit down and have a meal, usually with a good red wine.
Sounds like a very tranquil time.It is tranquil.
Well, my last question for Gene Wilder. This interview will be heard by people all over the world.Oh, my goodness.
In closing, what would you like to say to those people who are listening? Totally open-ended.Well, what do you say to those people? Gosh. Talking to Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, London, Scotland, Ireland, Hong Kong. They’re all so different and yet when I get mail – and I do, constantly, from all those countries – they’re oftentimes saying basically the same things, and what they want me to sign is a photograph, usually of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and/or Young Frankenstein. Sometimes Silver Streak. What I would say to them is I hope that you, I hope that this touches your heart or makes you laugh. It would always be something like that. I hope it touches your heart and/or makes you laugh.
Very well put. Thank you so much for this interview. It’s been a great pleasure to speak to you.You’re very welcome. My pleasure, too.

Tanna Frederick: Actress

TANNA FREDERICK is an actor who joined Paul to talk about her life in acting, who says at heart she is a farm girl from Iowa.  The resulting interview with the independent actress was described by Tanna as “the most open interview” she had ever done.

Liz Sheridan: Actress, Author

Liz Sheridan is an actress and the author of the book “Dizzy and Jimmy: My Life with James Dean, a Love Story.” The book tells the story of her love affair with the late actor James Dean.

Liz Sheridan’s father Frank Sheridan was a classical pianist and her mother Elizabeth Poole-Jones was a concert singer. Her show business beginnings were in dance. Liz Sheridan’s first major role was on the show ALF, as nosy neighbor Raquel Ochmonek. She is most known for her role as Helen Seinfeld, mother of Jerry Seinfeld in the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.”

Robert Creighton: Singer, Actor, Dancer, Recording Artist

ROBERT CREIGHTON is one of those all-arounders.  He is a singer, actor, dancer, composer, author, recording artist and on top of that, a very friendly gentleman.  The great thing about Creighton is the selection of songs he records.  His debut album is entitled “Ain’t We Got Fun!” and was produced by Georgia Stitt.  There are singers of the American Songbook classics who interpret the same songs.  Don’t get us wrong, we love “My Funny Valentine” and “Moon River,” but Creighton goes back even further.  He covers the George M. Cohan classic “Yankee Doodle” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” an obscure song originally recorded by Bing Crosby.  Creighton even writes his own song for the album.

Talent?  Creighton has it in spades.  It all started with those black and white films…

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s with great pleasure we announce our special guest, Robert Creighton, Robert Creighton is an actor, singer, dancer, composer and author, thank you so much for joining us.
Paul, it’s  my pleasure.

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?
Well, that is the beginning and you know what? I grew up in a little town north of Toronto in Ontario Canada and as most lads in the town I grew up in, dreamed of a career in the  N.H.L being a goldl tenor on the drama ‘Make Believe,’ but that dream was rivalled by my dream to be Fred Astaire, I was… at a very young age being introduced to the old movie musicals and for some reason, I just had an infinity for them right off the bat, those were the things… when people ask me about the cartoons and the things you remember from childhood, I remember my parents letting me stay up late to watch the black and white films, you know, and then carrying me to bed half way through when I fell asleep. That’s  sort of how the dream of being in New York and on Broadway, my love for music of that era, that’s how that all  began and then I was in a boys choir for many years, which was really a musical foundation for me, for eight years I sang from the age of seven I sang in a boys choir and got great training in that way. Then, by fifteen I went away to a school, a boys school where they had really great arts programme and all the sports, so I could do everything at once, and then I did a degree in music, in Ontario, then I moved to New York, which was always the plan from a very young age and studied acting for three years, and sort of carried on from there.

Of the various things that you do; acting, singing, dancing, composing, writing, would you say that one is more your master than the other?
Yes, I think that my foundation is probably my sensibility is as an actor first, my training was both musical and in acting but I think acting is my first… although singing is the biggest part of my life that’s for sure but I would say there’s… I’ve been very lucky I work a lot.. I mean my…  currently my sixth Broadway  show and I’m loving it, and I’d say there’s much better singers, better dancers and all that sort of thing, but I have a package that sort of suits me, I love to.. you know, I love to do all of it and luckily I’ve been getting to do all of it, so I feel very fortunate.

You mentioned earlier Fred Astaire, what are some of the other artists that have influenced you in the path of becoming an artist yourself?
Well, certainly from a young age it was Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and all those greats from that era, then, when I got to New York, I tried to imitate them as a kid, had a lot of fun doing that and then when I moved to New York I was in acting school and the teacher said “you remind me of Jimmy Cagney”, and I’m sort of built…I’m built just like Jimmy Cagney and looked quite a bit like him and you know, tap dance and do all those sort of things and I didn’t know much about him, I knew sort of, Yankee Doodle Dandy and maybe a couple others, but wasn’t really on my radar in a big way, I started watching his films and instantly became mesmerised with who he was as an actor first of all, just.. you… just his… he’s so dynamic on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him and at that point when I was really studying the craft of acting, really felt like he was someone who was ahead of his time in terms of his craft and all that, and then as I started reading about the man and who he was as a person how he worked and what his philosophy was on life and on his work, I just fell in love with who he was and I think he’s been.. James Cagney I would say has been the biggest influence in that way and that was currently dreamed of writing a show about his life, which, thanks to some collaborators who know a lot more about doing musicals than I do, we put a musical together, we’ve had three successful runs and we’re plugging away at…

What was the experience of working on and co-authoring and conceiving this Cagney show?
First of all when I got out of acting school, his estate, Cagney’s estate run by a woman named Marg Zimmerman was… they had a play that had been written by sort of, by a friend of theirs, of Margie’s and it… they held massive auditions around New York and everywhere, and I was just coming out of acting school, I guess it was about a year and a half out of acting school, it got down to me and one other guy and, it’s actually a vivid memory and in fact I have the audition on video tape, because it was the first time I’ve ever been picked up in a car, they sent a car for me and went up to this restaurant in Stanfordville that this woman Marg Zimmerman owned and all of Cagney’s old friends were there, this is in ninety four, and all of Cagney’s friends were there, Harrison the boxer and different people and I had to do a fifteen minute, sort of, act and that’s how I got the part, but it turns out the play, as I know more about creating a show now, was, really there was nothing theatrical about it, it was just sort of a biographical telling and we work shopped it in New York and it just fizzled out, the man who wrote it wasn’t really a writer, he was a marketing guy, he passed away and it sort of fell apart. But that put a spark in me that someday I’m going  to do a show about James Cagney, and then in the late nineties I really started putting pen to paper for a one man show about his life and sort of conceiving how that would, you know, the story I wanted to tell about who this person was, then in two thousand and two I was playing Tamone in Los Angeles in a production of Lion King there and a gentleman who I’d done a play of his up in Canada, who lived in Los Angeles, I invited him up to see the show, I met him when he came to see our production in Canada and we got chatting afterwards, his name’s Peter Coley, very successful playwright and I got chatting with him about my ideas about Cagney and he said “well, I love that era of Hollywood and I love James Cagney and let’s have lunch and we should talk more about it”, so we started talking. He really brought… well, I brought all this passion about Cagney and wanting to do the show and he really brought this knowledge of how to craft the piece and make something theatrical and we sort of hashed out a story together and he began writing it and I would sort of take it and be sort of the eyes and be the Cagney officinal, let’s call it that and sort of using my instincts as an actor and we sort of crafted the piece together and I started writing music and lyrics and we sort of tried to put in songs of the era but when we found they couldn’t completely tell the story, I started writing music and lyrics myself which I’d done some of before, it started to fit pretty well, so we kept going on that route and finished one draft of my music and lyrics and his book and a couple of the old time songs Cohan songs which you can’t tell a story about Cagney and leave those out. We did that, and for a year for the stage, a reading of it in New York and they agreed to produce it and they introduced us to a guy named Christopher McGovern who helped me flesh out the score and ended up really writing more than half the score and he’s a tremendous, just an amazing composer and smart about putting a musical together and the last piece with the Director named Bill Castellino who really started to help to break this all down and then build it all up in a much better way and he sort of served as dramaturgy and we… so we’ve got a piece now that we were still working on but, really, we found an audience that really respond to, we won the Carbonell award in Florida for the best new work when we produced it down there and we set two box office records  in Florida, it’s been a very exciting journey, probably for me the most.. even as much as this new album that’s coming out, it’s been like a baby to me, those are the two things that have really sort of been a dream in my head and then have come to fruition and that are so, so satisfying on every level, and I’m starring in it of course, so you know, satisfying on that level too.

I wanted to talk about the album, the new album coming out ‘Aint We Got Fun,’ what do you think of your new album?
‘Aint We Got Fun’ was one of the first.. I had two titles that I was sort of playing with it in the beginning, the other was old school, Robert Creighton old school and ‘Aint We Got Fun’ because I love that song and I knew I wanted it on the album, it really was right from the beginning what I thought would be the title of the album because I wanted that to be the nature of the album, I wanted it to be really fun and really something that people could… you know, most of the songs on there, even if you don’t know you know them, you know them, you’ve heard the melodies before, they’re so engrained in the fabric of our culture here and I have two original songs on it that I wrote for Cagney, but the rest… and I’m told they blend in well, some people who don’t know that those are the ones that are literally from the twenties and thirties, so, I really wanted it to be fun and I put on there songs that I love, that get stuck in my head and that I find myself walking down the street singing and like Cagney, it was sort of a project that I conceived and really was passionate about doing it because I just love that music so much, and I thought it would be a great thing to have when I go do my Cagney show to have in the lobby so people who love this music can take it with them, and then I was interested in a part and got in touch with Georgia Stitt and did a work shop of her musical called ‘My Baby’ that she was writing and it had some of this old music in it, and her arrangements were so great and she is so talented and such a great person I started talking to her, I said “hey, this is my idea, would you maybe like to get involved?” Then she jumped in with both feet and produced and arranged most of my album and she gave it this fresh take to the songs and I would sort of.. some, she would just say “why don’t we do it like this” and other times I would say “I want to do it like this” and then she would put these two songs together and she would figure out the puzzle of how to do that, it was a great collaboration, and it grew into something that I didn’t expect, I thought it would be this little thing that people would take with them and it grew into a really legitimate album that I’m very proud of with horn sections and band all the way through and motion and a lot of fun, so that’s what I wanted, it started out I wanted it to be fun and that’s where the title came from and I feel like we’ve accomplished that, so I’m excited for people to hear it.

Do you have a favorite song from the album?
Whooooo, that is a tough one, that’s a tough question. Do I have a favorite song? Well my favorite song, which is a song that’s been… looking it up on the internet, it’s been recorded fourteen hundred times by six hundred artists, so it’s not like anyone was scrambling for the next version of ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ but it is truly, since I was twenty one, in my early twenties I did a review right after singing that song, it’s one of my favourite songs and in our treatment of it a guy named Joe Burgsoller  played flugel horn and his playing on there, the thing on that song and when he added flugel horn, I just can’t get enough of listening to that part of it, him playing flugel horn, it’s so beautiful and romantic and passionate, so, I like that one, I really enjoyed singing it and putting together ‘Accentuate The Positive’ and ‘Look For The Silver Lining’ with my friend Tyse Bergis who sang with me on it there, that’s the real highlight of the album, it’s a big arrangement, lots of.. you know, the horn section and all that, I loved doing that one, and then of course getting to sing with Joe Grey, who recorded ‘Give My Regards To Broadway’ with me, we’re working together in ‘Anything Goes’ right now, we became good friends and he agreed to sing with me, that’s just a moment in time that was a gift to me that I’ll have forever, I mean he’s such a legend and just a great man and we got to go into the studio and do that together and that has great sentimental value to me.

How did you go about selecting which songs that you were going to record?
That was a bit of a process because, of course, there was a long list of great things from that era to choose from and one that I loved to do and who knows, maybe there’s another one coming, someday because there’s a lot that I wanted to do that we didn’t do. I knew I wanted to put my… these two of my original songs ‘Crazy About You’ and ‘Falling In Love’ on there because they are songs that I had, recorded  … we have a demo for the musical of course, but I wanted to record them in a really full way, because I really enjoyed writing them, I loved singing them and I knew they were going to be on there, and then, I knew I needed to have some George M. Cohan and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ has sort of been my signature song for years and years and that first review where I sang ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, I did a big version of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ and I’ve done.. you know.. that’s been my party song for years, so I knew that was going to be on there, and then when George agreed to sing with me, you know, I wanted it to be a Cohan song, which of course, he originated the role of George on Broadway and that was just a great connection that we have, cause the Cagney thing, and then the other ones, it just came down to artist’s songs that I just can’t get out of my head. ‘My Buddy’ is one of the most beautiful melodies ever I think, and I used to just walk around humming it, I thought “well, I’d better do that and get it out of my head”, the first track on the album is ‘Dad’s Medley’ and those were two songs that I remember singing when I was three and four years old, ‘Aint She Sweet’ and ‘Five Foot Two’,  my Dad used to sing them, my Dad… he would tell you this, I’m not speaking out of turn, he’s not much of a singer, but he loves to sing and dance and he used to sing it all the time and I remember singing them with him in the living room when I was three and four years old, so, I wanted to have a little dedication to him and put those songs together. Yeah, they were just, basically my favourites, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is on there, which I got to sing with one of my best friends Heidi Bookinstaff, which is just one of the most remarkable voices, it came down to a lot of my favourites really, to be honest with you, and there’s more to be mined from that, ‘I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl’ was one of my other favorite tunes of the era and it was Georgia’s idea to do that one, a male quartet, and so I had.. that turned out to be a really neat track because I got four of my buddies, great Broadway singers to do this Barber Shop quartet backing me up on that one, that was fun, it was a tough collection though. I’ll tell you one song called ‘Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,’ did you know that song before?

I did not know that song before.
Yeah and neither did I. Turns out it’s been recorded a tonne of times, but I didn’t.. and I know the music of this era pretty well, I had for some reason not heard of that song, and neither had Georgia and she was doing a show called ???? and I was going through that old music Tin Pan Alley and I was going through a thick book, just sort of reading lyrics and I had most of the songs I wanted to do and I was just looking to see what I was missing and I read the lyrics and then I sort of pumped it out on the piano, I was like ‘oh my gosh’.. I loved this song and I just walked around for days singing it and as soon as I introduced it to Georgia and she sort of played it out one time when we were together on the piano, and we were like ‘oh yeah, got to do this one’, and that turned out to be a really fun track to do with brass and the whole deal, but it’s such an up song and sort of reflects my philosophy on life and I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to do it,’ so, that’s probably a longer answer than you wanted but that was the process for choosing the material.

Well, the album, your album is entitled ‘Aint We Got Fun’, the new album from Robert Creighton, debut album, introduced by Georgia Stiff, she is a person that’s name comes up a lot on this show.
Oh great.
What was the experience of working with her like?
I can’t say enough good things about Georgia, I mean, she is.. I think her name’s coming up a lot because I think she is a really rising presence in the musical theatre  world and in the composition world, she is first of all.. I mean, basically she is super talented and super smart,  and then she has a really great ear for arrangements and how to flesh things out, take just a simple song and then… and make it something that’s going to be really fun to listen to, and she’s really smart about putting that all together, I feel like… I said this to her just the other day, she lives in LA now, but was visiting New York and I said ‘I really couldn’t have done this without you’ and I feel that way, I mean, she just.. she took my idea of doing this album and some of the songs and things and just came up with.. you know.. just made it all better, which was great, we had a very easy collaboration in that way, some of the songs she said ‘hey, what do you think of this, ‘My Buddy’ it was her idea to do just guitar and the ??? and I think it’s just a nice ‘breath’ in the album, you know, amongst all the other ?? songs and then, for example, all the medleys were my idea and then she just figure out, you know, the math of putting those together, for example the Barber Shop quartet, that was her idea, on the opening track there’s a kazoo, which turns out was her husband’s idea, you know, we would figure it out and she played what we had for her husband and he said ‘what about a kazoo’ and we all wentsaid ‘yep’, so.. it was a great collaboration, I feel very fortunate to have worked with her and I’m sure we’re going to do lots more together as we go along.

Everyone can visit your web site it’s what is the best thing about being Robert Creighton?
Well, that’s an easy question right now, I have a twelve week old son, also named Robert Creighton, Robert James Creighton III, and a phenomenal wife who is his Mother, so, I mean, yeah as to right now, it’s no contest, it’s the best thing about being me right now, I get to wake up with them every day, and that aside, there’s the ?? Foundation ?? and then, I’ve just been really lucky, I was a little kid living North of.. you know, a little town North of Toronto and the novelty has not worn off, I’m constantly aware  of how lucky I am to get to do what I dreamed of doing, and this album is sort of another manifestation of a dream coming true right now, so I feel very, very lucky.

I have a final question for you. We have listeners all over the place, so what would you like to say to the people who are listening in?
I would like to say that I don’t think there’s anyone who buys this album that didn’t have fun listening to it, even if you think ‘oh this is maybe not my kind of music’ or, you know, even young people I’ve played it for, I have a lot of nieces and nephews who are between the ages of eighteen and twenty three, who, ‘Five Feet Two’ and ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ is on top of their iPod list, of course they’re bias, but they’ve all got the album now and I’ve gotten great reviews even from that demographic, so I think I’d love people to hear this music, to be an album you can play, put in the car and just when you’re…. you need a ‘pick me up’, it’s something you can put in and it will accomplish that and I hope people have a chance to hear it.

So, Mr. Creighton, I thank you very much for this interview, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
Thanks Paul, it’s been great talking to you, thanks very much.


Jeff Daniels: Actor, Songwriter

JEFF DANIELS is another one of those singer-songwriters who is also an actor.  This interview was recorded on Halloween, on the stage at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, Georgia.  Jeff Daniels was kind enough to perform a song for us.

Daniels does a great job of talking about the creative life.  He is a great songwriter.  His serious songs represent his best work.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to welcome our special guest, fellow Michigander, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much for making the time to do this.

Thanks, Paul.

Who is the real Jeff Daniels?

I have no idea. That would take, um, probably a team of psychiatrists to figure out. I mean, if you look at the acting career it’s certifiably schizophrenic. It really is (laughs) because you can go from Dumb and Dumber to, uh, to Gettysburg or Squid and the Whale – there’s a lot of people in between those two, those two or three people. So, uh, probably the music, uh, is probably the closest but even in the music I go wildly comic to very serious so I’m probably still in search of whoever that is.

Can you remember and tell us some of your earliest musical influences?

I remember getting Tumbleweed Connection, the Elton John album and I didn’t even know who Elton was. And the album jacket, the cover, intrigued me at a young age and I bought it and I just loved it. And I didn’t know why I loved it. I’d never heard anything like it. And I think a lot of it was Bernie – Elton’s playing but Bernie Taupin, the writing. As I look back, I started to look at the writers. I started to look at the story-tellers and then that led to guys like Arlo Guthrie who could tell a story and then weave a song into that story. Stevie Goodman – I saw Stevie Goodman at The Bottom Line in New York – amazed at what that guy did with just himself and a guitar. Christine Lavin. You know, lately, guys like Todd Snider. Todd’s got such a point of view. Only Todd can write those songs and they’re almost like you can’t cover them. So, and that’s what you look for in writing – guys that have a singular point of view.

Yeah. When I was listening to the album that I got of yours, I thought ‘this guy sounds like Steve Goodman and Arlo Guthrie.’ That is what I thought (laughs).

Yeah. My heroes. My early heroes. They really, they openedthe door for you can just have a guitar, and you can write funny and you can write serious back-to-back and that – and Christine Lavin was another one. I chased all those three people. They were, they kind of led the way for me.

Could you pick a favorite artist that influenced you?

No, probably not because I’m still probably trying to, uh, define what it is I do and it’s influenced by a lot of people. Then you get guys like Stefan Grossman who I’ve been privileged to have lesson from and have also studied him since the ‘80s – his tab books on finger picking and the whole deal. Then you get into the blues. You get guys like, you know, Lonnie Johnson, Skip James, Robert Johnson – all those guys and what were they singing about? What were they doing? Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee. I remember listening to them in the ‘80s. A friend turned me on to them. They’re all probably in there somewhere. There’s a – Lyle Lovett is a guy that, again, as a writer only Lyle could write that song that way. If I had to pick somebody present-day it would probably be Lyle.

Can you remember the first song that you wrote?

Yeah. It’s in my notebook. My big, huge notebook of everything I’ve ever written. Yeah. I think it was about my dog, my first dog and it’s god-awful. It’ll never see the light of day.

You do this tour. You have four albums to your credit thus far. So you’ve recorded, you’ve written songs, you’ve performed. Could you pick a favorite part of music?

I think the moment – and it happens in some of the older songs now that I’ve played a few hundred times – but it’s, uh, certainly that moment when you find you get on top of that new song. And it takes a bunch of performances in front of people to kind of give birth to it. But you get on top if it, you get the phrasing right, you get the guitar right and then it connects. And you see and hear from an audience that this thing that really was just an idea in your head weeks or months ago is now something that you will be playing on a regular basis because it connects with people you don’t even know. It’s that moment where that first connection happens, that new thing. That’s pretty cool.

In the liner notes to one of your albums you talk about how these songs are like a snapshot and you’ve been keeping, like in this notebook, like a journal. Take it a step further and you record these songs and perform for people. What would you say makes you want to do that?
I’m living a very creative life but it’s creative on my terms. And this country, you know, uh, it – I wouldn’t say it’s exemplary in the way it treats its artists or supports its artists. I could argue that Europe does a better job of that or takes it more seriously. I think America has always been like that. There is certainly room, there is room for artists and art but you kind of have to make your own space, you know, if it’s what you’re supposed to do, which is what I was told at the age of 21. I had a director from New York see me in a college production and he took me aside and he literally asked me ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ and he said ‘Come to New York and join my theater company and chase an acting career. No promised but you’re good enough to give it a shot.’ And that acting chase led to a lot of sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring, for someone else to tell me it was time to be creative. The guitar, which I picked up in 1976, became that go-to creative outlet so I could keep that side of my life and that part of my brain, and that – just that part of me, which is probably the essential part, going 24/7. And I didn’t have to wait for the phone to ring. I didn’t have to wait for somebody in Hollywood to tell me that I’m hot and I can now be in a movie. I just was able to do it on my own. The music has probably, you know, fulfilled me the most of all.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re listening to an interview with singer-songwriter and actor, Jeff Daniels. Grandfather’s Hat – tell us about that tune.
That’s a song that – I wear a fedora. I really like those fedoras. They’re kind of timeless and, um, I was – my kids played hockey and, uh, high school hockey in Michigan, and I was wearing it to one of the games and a friend of mine came up to me. And he knew my family and he knew my grandfather, and he came up to me and he goes ‘Is that your grandfather’s hat?’ and I said ‘No, no. It’s just one that was very similar to …’ Before I got to the end of the sentence, I knew it was a song. Not just a song about my particular grandfather but your mother’s necklace or your aunt’s ring or your father’s knife. You know, Guy Clark has a great, great song, uh, about his dad’s, um, jackknife. And so it’s that, that kind of ‘missing someone who is no longer here’.
Well, would you like to play it for all the listeners out there
Sure. [Performs Grandfather’s Hat]

Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much. One of the things about music is you get to meet a lot of people. One of the tracks that you do, you did a cover of the George Harrison song, Here Comes the Sun. tell us about some of the exciting people you’ve met through your music.


I mean, first of all, George Harrison – say no more (laughs).
Yeah, that was pretty cool. Uh, the short version of that story is I was doing a movie called Checking Out in 1988 and it was produced by George Harrison’s independent film company called Handmade Films. And we were hoping he would show up on the set in L.A. and, sure enough, one day he did. And I had a guitar in the dressing room and I said ‘Would you mind signing my guitar?’ and he said ‘I’d be happy to.’ Took him into a back room so it wouldn’t be, like, 100,000 signatures. And he signed the guitar and then, before he gave it back to me, he flipped it over and, on that guitar, played Here Comes the Sun. I mean, just me – and two other guys – just the three of us sitting there. It was like our own little private concert. It was such a gift that he gave and he couldn’t have been nicer. He couldn’t have been more interested in anyone other than himself. It was just a great lesson on how to handle that level of fame or any kind of fame.

You have a theater up in Michigan and everyone can check out The proceeds from the sale of the CDs goes towards this theater, the Purple Rose of Cairo. We just reviewed that film. It was from 1985 but we did like a flashback kind of thing. So tell us bout the theater a bit.

The Purple Rose Theater Company is 20 years old this season. Uh, it’s mission is mainly to do new American plays, particularly plays about that part of the country. That’s how I was brought up in New York, at the Circle Repertoire Company. Every play was a new play. Every play, the months before, the playwright was walking around rewriting the second act, getting ready for rehearsal. There was a thrill to that versus doing what New York had done last year and being popular, or doing, you know, Shakespeare or the old classics and all, which are fine. And many, many theaters do those. I want new stuff. I want living, breathing playwrights writing about the people sitting in our seats. Write about them. Connect with them and then I’m interested. After 20 years, that’s what we’re able to do now, more often than not. I’m real proud of that place and the fact that that part of the country supports it. It means the world to me.

What made you call the theater The Purple Rose of Cairo? That movie is great. I got to interview Woody.

I was a young actor. I was 30 at the time. I’d been in New York about nine years. Terms of Endearment had come out and I got that movie ten days after Terms of Endearment had been released. So Terms was now the #1 movie in the country which, at the time, for a character-driven film like Terms – it bypassed Raiders of the Lost Ark and all those kind of at the time special-effect movies. You hadn’t seen a character driven comedy-drama in a long time like that yet there we were, #1 – due, in no part, to Jack, Shirley and Debra. Jim Brooks had a hit and, uh, I was, I happened to be in it. Ten days later, they were looking to, uh, recast Purple Rose of Cairo and they called me in and, you know, a screen test later and, you know, a meeting with the studio, I got it. So now I’m working with Woody Allen. And I get handed the script and it’s not a supporting role or it’s not one starring role. It’s two starring roles in a Woody Allen movie. And I’m going ‘OK. Everything I have ever learned, please God, let me remember now.’ (Paul laughs) and that’s how I went into work everyday. And about halfway through the movie, Woody said I was good. For a young actor who had been battling, you know, rejection and, uh, are you going to make it? What’s it – you know, is this really worth it? It’s nine years. Terms of Endearment, yeah, but is it two or three movies and done? You know, you just don’t – the business is so, uh, here-today-gone-tomorrow. And Woody said I was good. And so, I remember going home and saying to my wife, um, ‘I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business.’ And it wasn’t ‘I’m going to be a star.’ It wasn’t ‘I’m a genius.’ It was ‘If Woody Allen thinks I’m good, I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business because if I’m good enough for Woody, I’m good enough for anybody.’ And that was a turning point. So years later, when it was time to name the theater, we named it the Purple Rose Theater Company.

My two final questions. What is the best part about being Jeff Daniels?

So many people go through life having to do things they don’t want to do, or they have a job that they wish they’d never taken but there’s security in it. And I think the satisfaction that I’ve had – I’m going way back to that director, Marshall W. Mason from Circle Rep, when he said ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ What he didn’t say? It’s going to be hard. You’re only one who believes in you and you’re going to have to find people along the way. The fact that, decades later, I pulled that off and that now I’m still living a creative life and doing what I want to do, and that people in the business, whether it’s Broadway or film, TV or music want whatever it is I do – that’s the best part. It’s that I’m still relevant.

My last question. What would like to say in closing to all the people who are listening?

What I told my kids. I tell my kids, ‘Fall in love with tomorrow.’ Don’t worry about today. Don’t worry about the past. Fall in love with tomorrow. What are you doing tomorrow? That’s the creative process. That’s the creative life right there, is working on that next thing. Yeah. Fall in love with tomorrow.

Well, Mr. Daniels, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.
Thanks, Paul.