Mary Birdsong [Interview]

 

Hello, Folks! Well, as I am sitting here on a dreary English Saturday morning, a revolutionary figure has died, the earth is shaking, the air is unbreathable, and of course there is still this pandemic thing happening in which people are refusing to take such simple measures to prevent from spreading the globe. But, hey, let’s try our best to cheer ourselves up, shall we? Take a moment to check out this incredible interview we have from a brilliant actress that we love and adore so much. It’s Mary Birdsong, Everyone! Trust me, the sadness will come back shortly afterwards. Try to be a little bit happy?

If you can remember back into time to August in the year 2020 (I know, feels like an eternity, right?) you may remember that we had a wonderful guest from one of the greatest televised programs ever, which would be Reno 911!. That guest was Carlos Alazraqui, and he was great. Well, if you for some reason already couldn’t tell (how dare you?) we are headed back to the land of Reno again today! Mary Birdsong  jumped into the series portraying Deputy Cherisha Kimball and rocketed the show to even higher highs with her brilliant performance as the tough but maybe a bit clueless deputy amongst a whole batch of tough but maybe a bit clueless deputies.

Mary has also been involved with some other amazing work, and we are so excited to have her on the site today to tell us about what she is up to, her work on Reno 911!, singing in ice cream shops, being Judy Garland, and more. So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Mary Birdsong!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment?

It’s surprising even to me, but I had to be kind of pushed into it by other people who seemed to believe I had talent way before I ever thought I did. My best friend in highschool said we should try out for the play, so I did (it was The Mouse That Roared). And I also had a few teachers who took me aside and said “You know, you should really think about pursuing this professionally, or at least studying it in college. In acting, writing, and singing I got that kind of encouragement from very special teachers in highschool — Joseph Echle, Larry Delmasto, Michael Lorenzi, Fred Waters…

Was it something you had aspired to do since your youth?

No, not at all. I was painfully shy as a kid. I still am.  But acting and performing helped me find a way out of that shyness self-consciousness, and social anxiety. If I could make people laugh, or entertain them in some way, I think I felt like I was making myself useful to them, assigning some value to myself. And on some level- I do believe there’s an element of control involved in all of the arts. There’s an implied demand or directive (i.e., “Look at me,” “Listen to me,”) in anything one does creatively.

Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

At the urging of my best friend and my teachers and my mother, I decided to major in performing in college (initially I was going to study singing or musical theatre, but unforeseen circumstances led me to studying acting instead (acting with a capital “A!”). I found it VERY intimidating, but I hung in there– the discipline of it, and the exposure to all kinds of culture I’d never known about before were very good for me.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment?

I was as a singing waitress (does that count?) at an ice cream parlor where I grew up — on Long Beach Island (LBI), New Jersey. The parlor was sort of a “spin-off” business that grew out of the Surflight Theatre (a decades-old summer-stock theatre on the Island that put on a different musical every week, all Summer). I would’ve gone for a job at the theatre instead of the ice cream parlor, but I couldn’t AFFORD to live off the tiny salary an actor got paid for summer-stock. So I auditioned to be a singing waiter for the ice cream parlor, and I LOVED IT!!!

 

And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

I learned SO MUCH! I didn’t know it at the time, but we were basically getting paid to be in comedy boot camp all summer. It incorporated lots of improv, sketch comedy, choreography, singing, writing, etc. I am still drawing from the same well today, no matter what I’m doing.

 

We recently had the opportunity to share some words from one of your former (and current) co-stars, Carlos Alazraqui, whom you worked on the absolutely legendary series Reno 911! We said it then, and we will say it again, it’s one of the greatest of all time. So what was it that drew you to work on this project?

The same thing that draws most actors to a project— paying rent! 🙂 It’s such a luxury for an actor to be able to pick and choose which roles they say yes to and which they don’t.  I have been lucky enough to get to that stage many times in my career, but it’s a cycle of feast or famine.  At the time Reno 911 came along, I really DID need a job, and I had to audition for the role just like anyone else. I think the role opened up because Kerri Kenney was pregnant, so they needed another female deputy on hand, just in case there were things physically that Kerri might not be able to handle while pregnant. And luckily, there were LOTS of things that really did draw me to this project (even if I hadn’t needed to pay rent at the time)— the amazing talent behind it, the requirement to improvise 99% of the dialogue, the edginess that the show was able to get away with, the amazing fan base it has… I could go on and on.

 

 

And after the show was off the air for over a decade, what was it like coming back into playing around in this incredibly unique world? Was it a tough transition back, or would the bicycle analogy be a better fit for your experience?

I was a little nervous coming back for the new season on Quibi, because it had been so long, and I had hardly done any improvising in those 10 years. But I was delighted to find that I had MORE FUN THAN EVER this time around. I loved getting to work with the two actors I hadn’t worked with on Reno before (Ian Roberts and Joe LoTruglio). They’re fantastic actors and comedians, and just plain NICE, COOL GUYS. I just felt a lot more relaxed this time around, which was just a joy.

 

If you were handed the opportunity to create and/or portray in the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

Judy Garland, hands down. Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to do just that, several times already — I even got to play Judy Garland on Broadway! Judy Garland was one of many roles I played while performing with Martin Short in the Broadway musical, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. And before that role came along I devoted a few years of my life writing and performing a one woman show about Judy that I did in NY, in LA, and in Colorado at the Aspen Comedy Festival.

But since I’’ve already checked Judy off my list, I’d love to play Jackie O’, or Loretta Lynn, or Dolly Parton. Or ANYONE that would require me to wear a bustle, a corset, and/or a powdered wig. (I’m a total history nerd, and I’m vintage-clothing/costume obsessed, so period pieces are my FAVORITE!!).

Honestly, the roles I love playing the most are people who AREN’T famous or historically significant— they’re anonymous people you encounter on a typical day (the weirder the better, too).

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

Well, there’s more Reno 911 to look forward to— Quibi just announced that we’ll be doing a second season for them! And I’m currently pitching a 1/2 hour tv show called Hot Mess — a dark comedy about my mom and me. At this moment, I’d say it has a Grey Gardens meets AbFab vibe. 🤣 

And I just finished writing a feature film with my best friend Katty Biscone that I’m very excited about and proud of— it’s an adaptation of a great novel. I wish I could say more about it, but right now I can’t.

Other than that, I hope people check out my YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/marybirdsongtv where they can see my series of characters “365 Characters in 365 Days” (which I’m STILL working on finishing!!)

Other social media:

http://twitter.com/marybirdsong

http://instagram.com/marybirdsongofficial

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Will Hines.

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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