Hanala Sagal [Interview]



Today we are talking with a truly inspiring figure in the world of art and entertainment. And I am deeply ashamed to admit that I am only now beginning to learn just how amazing she truly is and has always been. Hanala Sagal has been a Hollywood staple for a very long time, and has done some incredible work in her wonderful career. One thing would be her involvement in the film Elvis & Nixon, which was the reason I initially reached out to her. But, what I would learn about Hanala would be even more fascinating.

Hanala is truly a breath of fresh air in a world that seems absolutely polluted with proverbial ignorance and hatred. She has truly lived a life, with enough ups and downs to be a ride at Magic Mountain. But, in the end she has come out clean and thriving on the other side. She was a YouTube sensation before we even knew what that was going to be, and she has spent the majority of her life being an inspiration to millions, which is just about as admirable as it gets.

But, how about we let Hanala speak for herself? She was so kind to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions and tell us some stories. So please enjoy some great words from Hanala Sagal!

When did you first realize you wanted to join the world of show business? Was it something you had always gravitated towards, or did you just sort of fall into it?

​I was on stage in Montreal, playing the role of a little girl separated from her mother in the Holocaust. The audience laughed and cried and I was hooked. I liked playing this daughter of survivors much more than the one I play at home! One day while watching The Beverly Hillbillies, I asked my mother “How much do you have to pay to be on TV?” She said “They pay you!” I decided to grow up and move to where I could be on TV and out of the snow. Plus, my mother paid attention to and believed what she saw on TV so I had to get on TV. 

Hitler spoiled my parents for regular suffering. I’d say, “Ma the girls in school don’t like me” she’d say “You think they liked me in Poland?” If I couldn’t be Opie of Mayberry I would play him. I wanted to be Ritchie on The Dick van Dyke Show. I also wanted to be Laura Petrie. I like to sing and dance for people. My parents bought me a car when I was 21, I said thanks, drove south, made a right at Ohio and came to L.A. to get into TV. I got into drugs, limos with strangers and eventually I got sober, became an aerobics instructor a motivational speaker and created my Comedy Wellness brand. Shape Up, L.A. began as a 1980’s Public Access show and cost about sixty bucks to produce — which proved my mother wrong. I was paying to be on TV. 

What can you tell us about the origin of the brilliant 2016 film Elvis & Nixon that you co-wrote and also starred in? Where did the idea for this project come about, and what are your thoughts on the final product that was given to the world?

Elvis & Nixon began as a micro-budget vehicle for my ex, also an actor, and me to star in. I’d just finished writing a bromance screenplay (I love writing about men working together) so when I learned Elvis took his buddy, Jerry, to see Nixon, I had my angle. I wrote a funny part for myself and was thrilled to finally achieve commercial success. I was so buzzed, I filmed a segment for my YouTube channel on how I was a 30-year overnight success. Hashtag whoohoo. At first, I was treated well by the producer. Then I brought in a lawyer who’d worked with the producer. He looked at the deal I’d been offered, was empathetically offended and agreed to work on the contract for a percentage. I went from being the darling to being the bitch. I was yelled at, criticized and eventually ghosted. Lately, I’ve been asked about Kevin Spacey, but it was the big-deal producer running the show who really creeped me out. He’d produced Oscar winning movies and I was stunned to be bullied by someone at that level. He gave the role I’d written for myself to another actress, cut me out of the production and gave writing credit to his brother on Twitter. I went to bed for a year. It was the best I could do. Then I got out of bed and wrote a new screenplay and  TV show and started a new book. And that’s why I’m the Bounce Back Kid.

Scrolling through your IMDb credits, I can’t help but be intrigued by the fact that you were a dancer in the most iconic music video of all time, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Watching that video seems like it could have been a pretty grueling month, she​ of fun to work on. So how was your experience on this set? Did it surprise you at all how infamous it would become?

​My agent sent me to dance on something called a Music Video starring Michael Jackson. I said “You mean from The Jackson 5?” ​I didn’t recognize him but was amazed to discover at the end of the day the lovely, talented woman in flowy robes who led us in choreography was Michael Jackson. It was hard work for little pay and I didn’t think it was going anywhere so I only showed up for two days. I think I went home and worked on my tan which has faded, unlike Thriller which never will.

You became a YouTube sensation before we even knew that was going to be a thing!  So, what made you decide to get into this world? Also what do you enjoy about the format, and what keeps you continuing to put out hilarious content?

​YouTube was just Public Access TV on steroids. I knew how to talk to a camera. I liked the camera and it liked me back. I’d become petty famous in L.A. (with fans like Eddie Van Halen and Marlon Brando) because I said funny, inspiring, profound things — and I did it in tights. I was like clean porn for self-esteem. 

​In 2008 I got a phone call from YouTube. I was, “Wow, you’re a place?” They said, “You have a million views on one of your videos, you should monetize it.” I said, “You have the wrong number.” I checked, YouTube was right. The channel is now at 300M views and 300K subscribers! They didn’t call, but they did send a trophy.

It’s an opportunity to reach and inspire millions of humans each week with my Comedy Wellness brand, to perform regularly and to try out new material.

Check out Hanala’s work on

When you look back on your brilliant career in the world of show business, what would you say you are most proud of? Why?

It was cool that Elvis & Nixon won Centerpiece at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, but what I’m proudest about is the 15 years I was on Public Access TV. The show had a dream-come-true social impact. ​A father told me that until he saw my show where I dressed as a little girl, he had no idea how screaming at his kids impacted ​them. A woman say she’d watch my show (on crack, which is the only way she could watch it) and ended up with me in her head so much that she started going to AA and is still sober. I created the show because I wanted to work regularly but was audition-impaired so I hired myself.

I adapted my TV scripts into a book published in 2006. In those dark moments, when I feel like a commercial failure, I read the Amazon comments from readers who describe how My Parents Went through the Holocaust and All I Got was This Lousy T-shirt inspired them to understand their experiences, to heal, and to laugh! Anthony Hopkins and Kirk Douglas know me and my family because they read my memoir. I remember making Barack Obama laugh at Oprah’s house in 2008 and how that moment would have impressed my parents.  

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to tell our readers about?

It took 12 years, but I finally finished the screenplay adaptation of ​my memoir (My Parents Went through the Holocaust and All I Got was This Lousy T-shirt.) ​​I cried for the ​​first 10 years​​ so I could spend the next two making it funny.​ ​​​Traumaland is a #metoo story of epic dysfunction and spectacular recovery​ for today’s audiences. We’re also developing a new TV series called Boat Karaoke. It’s like Carpool Karaoke but prettier. Music and comedy on yachts cruising Marina del Rey harbor… Singers share secrets by the seashore. Micro budget and huge worldwide potential for distribution. Get onboard at boatkaraoke.com!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Smiling is powerful stuff​,​ ​mood altering, that’s what ​the ​poodle is for. My little reminder to cheer the f*ck up.​ I realized, after 35 years of therapy and 12-Step meetings, that I’m just a clump of habits, so I created ones that make me happy. I enjoy doing what I’m good at and I get good by practicing. The way people practice complaining (mostly to the wrong people) you’d think cranky were a desirable state. I practice gratitude which leads to smiling. This can also cause pissiness in others who have not been able to tap into their joy. Joy dies from lack of use. Another thing that makes me smile — being effective! Life is messy and when I get two things done out of the seventy things I wanted to do, I smile. ​

Learn more from Hanala at hanala.com, and check out some of Hanala’s wonderful work on YouTube, right here:

 

Traumaland:

Boat Karaoke:

 

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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