Vanessa Angel [Interview]
Oh sweet Vanessa Angel. How you were the modern day Ginger, but with the kind hearted sprit of Mary Ann for a formative young male when you shot to the screen on the hit television sitcom based on the classic John Hughes film, Weird Science
. And to top it off, you performed in what I still consider to be the finest Farrelly Brothers film to date, Kingpin
. Your beauty is as recognizable as your delightful acting chops.
Okay, I will stop withe fascinations now, just long enough to state that I am super excited that we have been allowed the opportunity to steal a few words from one of the most beautiful and prolific women who has ever graced the stage and screen. And although she took some time off to play the most important role of her life (mommy, of course) she has never truly faded out, and has had a great career that is definitely booming once again, and she is still just as impressive as she has ever been. Ladies and gentlemen – please welcom actress, model, fashion designer, mom, genius – the amazing Vanessa Angel!
Kingpin is by far the most superior of the Farrelly Brothers films, in my personal opinion. How was it making that movie and working under the legendary comedic duo?
Kingpin is definitely one of the highlights of my career. I feel very fortunate that Peter and Bobby Farrelly took a chance on casting me as Claudia and filming was just an incredible experience. They were coming off the success of ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and a lot of actresses were keen to work with them. During the auditioning process, they fought for me, as I was kind of the dark horse. I was on hiatus from ‘Weird Science’, so thankfully my schedule allowed me to be available for the film. I can remember Peter calling me to tell me I got the role and I literally jumped up and down with joy! They are just great guys with a wonderful, close knit family and everyone made me feel welcome and included. They have a lot of family members and old friends come to do cameos in their films, so the atmosphere on the set is very warm. We shot mostly in Pittsburg and surrounding areas, so we were all together, which helps create a bond with the cast and crew. I was a little intimidated to work with Woody at first, as he takes a while to warm up to people, but once we got our first scene completed, I felt a lot more comfortable. I knew Bill Murray a little, as I had met him through Dan Aykroyd and was so excited to get the chance to work with him. He helped me a lot creatively during the shoot and was so supportive. Randy Quaid was great too and it was so fun to watch him transform into Ishmael everyday. The role was written as someone in their early 20’s, hence the reference to him as ‘kid’ but Randy bought such a sweetness to him that it really worked. Peter and Bobby work so well together and really trust each other. They have great instincts and a brilliant sense of humor. Bobby would always be at the monitors and Peter would communicate more directly with the actors. They were always coming up with new ideas for funny scenes, so a lot of moments were added as we filmed and weren’t in the original script. You really have to trust their process and take a leap of faith. I was unsure of the scene in the parking lot when Woody and I fight and he punches my chest. I had to wear these mechanical cups that moved and I wasn’t really into the idea, until they assured me it would work and now I think the scene is hilarious, the way I can stand up to him physically and mentally. It took a while for people to discover the film and it wasn’t a big box office hit initially. I think after the success of ‘There’s something about Mary’, people took a look at the Farrelly’s previous films and discovered ‘Kingpin’. I think it has a lot of heart, as well as cutting edge humor, and audiences respond to the characters as well as the comedy and it’s wonderful that after all these years, it’s become sort of a classic. It was wonderful to work together again with The Farrellys on ‘Hall Pass’. It seemed like no time had passed and the set was fun and warm and I felt like part of the family again.
What was the dynamic like between you and your cast mates on Weird Science? What are your most memorable momements from being on that show?
There was a lengthy auditioning process for ‘Weird Science’. John Asher, Michael Manasseri and Lee Tergesen had already been cast, so when it came to the final few callbacks, I got to read/audition with the guys, which made it a lot easier. I got to know them a little during that process and we could feel that we had good chemistry. I was so excited to get the show, as I hadn’t done much comedy and wanted to see if I could step outside my comfort zone. I thought Lisa was such a fun and sweet character and I approached it as though she was seeing things for the first time, almost like a child, with innocence, yet a little mischievous and fun while she had also been programmed with smarts and wisdom. The show had been picked up for 13 episodes before the pilot was even shot, so we had the luxury of knowing we had some time to find the right dynamic. We actually shot 2 episodes before the pilot episode, so we had time to get the timing and tone right before we filmed ‘She’s Alive’. John was the funny, goofy guy, who worked very spontaneously and Michael was much more serious and worked hard on his craft and timing. Lee Tergesen is one of the funniest people I have ever met and the whole cast and crew were always happy when he was on set, making everyone laugh. I actually met my husband of 16 years through Lee, so I will be forever grateful to him for that! The show was filmed, one camera at Universal Studios. It was fairly new at that time to film comedy without a live audience but it meant the days were long, averaging 13/14 hours. There was quite a lot of special effects and blue/green screen, so it was the only way it could really work. We had a lot of fun together, although you’re always racing the clock on tv, so there’s a sense of urgency to get the day completed on time. The crew was so great too and really helped make the days easier. I would look forward to seeing what stories the writer’s had come up with each episode and what crazy, fantasy situation we were in. I had to sing, dance, play with different accents, so it was challenging at times to quickly hone a new skill. I remember having a quick drum lesson for the rock and roll episode and learning to tango with Michael for ‘Spies R Us’, as well as various other things. I sometimes had very uncomfortable costumes to wear and was always up at the wardrobe department getting fitted for some outfit. I even had the costume designer make my wedding dress, based on a dress I had worn on an episode. It was a wonderful show and it helped me to grow as an actress and also to step out of myself and not take myself too seriously. During the first season, my father was very ill and passed away and I remember feeling so fortunate that I had to go to work every day and step into the fun of the show, which helped keep things in perspective during a difficult time. I think of it now as such a special time in my life and have truly fond memories.
What is your greatest non-entertainment related influence in your career? Why?
I’m not sure about a non-entertainment influence but I grew up just outside London and although my family wasn’t in the entertainment business, my mother loved going to the theater and in school we read classic literature and plays at an early age. I had an older sister who was very smart and popular and I was kind of the awkward, shy, skinny girl, so I think I had an inner desire to be ‘seen’ from an early age. My sister and her friend and I would put on plays/vignettes for our parents and their friends and I would always have to be the ‘character’ role, being the youngest and I often got the laughs and I think it made me feel validated and that may have been an initial seed. I was a part of all the school plays and definitely felt more comfortable in that world. We even performed The Caucasian Chalk Circle when I was around 12 and other weighty material, as well as comedies and musicals. I never thought of pursuing a career in acting but after being discovered as a model and later having the opportunity to be cast in my first film, ‘Spies Like Us’, looking back it all sort of made sense and I think it was my destiny to take this path. I think this life has sort of forced me to face my demons. As an actor, your constantly in the position of being judged and it takes a lot of courage to be rejected so often. I think the need to come to terms with who I am and not needing others to validate me has been a constant learning curve in my life and you have to get to a place where you feel comfortable in your own skin, regardless of what others think of you. That’s been a big life lesson and influence that’s comes from being an actress.
Since I became a mom in 2001, I now take into consideration what my daughter would think when I consider a role. I have done a few films for fun, like Baby Genius 2, that I thought she would enjoy!
Can you tell us a bit about VANE LA? What made you want to get into the world of fashion?
I have always loved clothes and fashion and took ‘needlework’ classes at school and made a lot of my own clothes from age 9 on. Then when I started modeling at 14, I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best designer’s, stylists, photographer’s and fashion editors, who really influenced me. VANE LA kind of happened organically. I started making a few dresses for myself about 3 years ago, simple styles but in great fabrics that I couldn’t find made at reasonable prices in stores. I had a friend who worked at Ron Herman at Fred Segal, which is one of the most popular boutiques in Los Angeles and she put me touch with the buyer, who loved one of the dresses I made and ordered 200 dresses for their 4 stores. I had to figure out very quickly how to make that happen! I’ve had to learn a lot about the fashion business and am still working on growing the line. The initial dress sold really well and from there I started offering different styles, and introduced tops and t-shirts too. I like a simple, casual yet elegant kind of way of dressing and my designs try to capture that essence. I sell at a few boutiques, including Ron Herman and Rona in Studio City. I feel quite proud of it, as I literally do all of it, expect the actual manufacturing, on my own. A lot of people in this business get the chance to collaborate on some kind of fashion line but they are basically just lending their name. Not to knock them but I literally do all of it on my own, including delivery! I have a very basic web page, www.vane-la.com and a VANE LA facebook page to check out.
Can you tell us about Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft in which we will see you in this year? What will you be doing in the film?
Hansel and Gretel is a dark, modern day twist of the fairy tale. BooBoo Stewart from the Twilight films stars, so it’s aimed at more of a tween/teen audience. I play Ms. Keegan, the school guidance councilor, who is not who she appears to be! I enjoy playing characters that are hiding their truth and are deeper and darker than they show on the surface. To be honest, you have to keep in mind that this film was literally shot entirely in less than a week! David DeCoteau was the director, whom I’m really fond of and enjoy working with. It’s actually extraordinary how quickly he can make a film. Not easy to get 20 pages shot in a single day! I always say there are films out there that aren’t great that had several months to shoot, and they have no excuse, so if anyone is critical of this endeavor, keep that in mind! I am happy to have the opportunity to work with people I like and wanted to work with David and Eric Roberts. I think for what it is, its a fun watch.
What does the future hold for Vanessa Angel?
I hope the future holds many more years of feeling fulfilled creatively and a sense of contributing something meaningful. As a mother to an 11 year old daughter, I want to be the best role model I can be and help her to grow and flourish and navigate these next few years. I made a choice to cut back on my work once she was born, and although my career has suffered for it, I feel very glad that I have been able to be there for her in her most formative years. Now I’m ready to work more and I hope the future holds another tv series. I feel I have matured and have a different more experienced voice to share and would celebrate the chance to be a part of a show. I want to continue with my fashion line and get more involved with causes I feel are important. I feel more politically aware and have a sense of greater responsibility and a desire to be part of the solution to the problems facing the world. If I can find even small ways to do that, then I feel I am contributing positively.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I just saw an unexpected photo of a friend wearing one of my VANE LA dress at a red carpet event today, which made me smile and I was also getting some oranges off a tree outside my kitchen early this morning and a baby bunny hopped away with the cutest white bunny tail. Can’t help but smile at that. We have a rapidly growing family of bunnies living in our yard at the moment, much to our lawn’s dismay!