Annette Arnold [Interview]

Hello Folks! We have another absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all. We have a brilliant and legendary performer of the screen and stage, it’s Annette Arnold, Everyone! Annette jumped into the public eye when she performed in Tamara Jenkin’s Sundance Special Jury award winning film Family Remains, alongside fellow greats like Kevin Corrigan and Donna Mitchell. She was amazing in it, and has been taking on some amazing projects ever since. In fact, two of those projects were the original reason I initially reached out to receive the honor of having Annette grace our digital pages, and we will discuss them below. Suffice to say that they are two of my Top Ten films of all time, and whenever we have a cast member, or anyone who was involved with the project on the site, we simply HAVE to ask about it. Today will be no exception. 

So, Folks, please enjoy some brilliant words from the even more brilliant performer, Annette Arnold!


 What inspired you to get into the world of performance? Was it something you had wanted to do since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I don’t come from a family of performing artists, but, my father was always a great storyteller. I learned early on the power to move, excite, anger or captivate people through storytelling. I began putting on ‘backyard plays’ at a very young age. When you’re eight, and you create a living breathing character in front of your neighbors, then stand back and observe the very unique and different ways in which each of them reacts to or responds to it, well, let’s just say, that is very powerful and I’ve been enthralled ever since.  

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work to date?

My very first paid gig in the entertainment world was the Sundance Jury Prize winning film Family Remains. I was honored to be directed by the very brilliant Tamara Jenkins for my debut film. It was also the very first time I stepped foot on a set. Tamara taught me so much then, about both film and artistic integrity. Tamara and Gabor (our cinematographer) would set up each and every shot, step back, call me over, and then have me look through the lens. Tamara allowed me to view each shot, assess my parameters, and understand and actually see what the camera was seeing. When does that ever happen to an actor?? Ummm…NEVER (and never has it happened again). The opportunity to learn about space, angles, close ups, to see the difference between a two shot, master, medium, and experience the importance of lighting, taught me lessons that still inform my work today. No matter what my approach to a role is, my goal is always a truthful performance. But, film is a medium and that lens is there for a reason. There is a world to view through/inside of it. I learned to know what it is, then forget it is there. It was the ultimate MASTER CLASS! I am so lucky to have worked with Tamara several more times after that. I’m not sure she would even remember those moments, but, I hope she knows how grateful I am. 

You have done some amazing work on both big and silver screens, the stage, & beyond. With that in mind, what would you consider to be your most beloved type of performance?

Well…my most beloved role is yet to come! Having said that, at this stage in my life and creativity, I feel the most uninhibited, unencumbered and inspired, than I have ever been. I have a lifetime of stories, humor, love, anger, and unbridled rage to share. And, no walls. Maybe that came with age? I don’t know, but, I am able to access parts of me I didn’t know existed or didn’t want to, and it’s unpredictable and exciting. So my most beloved types of performances have been ones that both challenge me and are just that, unpredictable. I recently played a housewife who dreams of being a stand up comedienne. In the last minutes of [a particular] play, my character finally takes the stage and delivers her first crack at stand up. Although the play and that final routine was written by the wonderful Alyssa Haddad, just like real stand up, it could and would change every evening depending on the audience response. I often had to improvise or change things up, based off of their reactions, comments or even heckling. It was both terrifying and exhilarating! 

In back to back years, you worked on two of my absolute favorite films of all time. The first would be the seminal indie classic film Trees Lounge, which also features our old friend Michael Buscemi. So, I am curious to know what drew you to this project? And how was your experience working on this project?

TREES LOUNGE!! One of my favorites too! I remain a huge fan of both Steve and Michael Buscemi. Steve drew me to this project. He had seen me in Family Remains (at Sundance I believe) and called me at home! Now remember, there was no internet, no email. Just an answering machine. My boyfriend Chris Wilson (now my husband) and I, came home to a message on the answering machine from Steve. Steve Buscemi!! My husband and I kept replaying the message and screaming…’Mr. Pink’!! I think we did that about 15 times before we actually listened to it. Steve invited me to be a part of a reading he was having at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Again, because it was the old days, we met at a coffee shop so he could hand me the script (or else he would have had to send it snail mail, remember that?). The reading went extremely well and not surprisingly, the script was incredibly well received. It was about a year later I received a call offering me the role of Sandy. Not only did I get to work with an enormously talented cast that included Steve and Michael Buscemi, but Kevin Corrigan, Michael Imperioli, Seymour Cassel and Chloe Sevigny, but, I earned my SAG card!! I will never forget it. 

The next year, you worked on another classic film, in my opinion, Deconstructing Harry, which features another dear friend of ours, Hazelle Goodman. So, same question basically, what drew you to the project, and how was your experience?

It seems like all roads lead back to Family Remains, so I guess, this is no different. Casting director Laura Rosenthal, who cast Family Remains, worked out of Juliet Taylor’s Casting office at the time. Juliet Taylor was the casting director on most, if not all, of Woody Allen’s films back then. A few years after Family Remains was released, Juliet Taylor called me in to audition for Deconstructing Harry. I read for her and was asked if I was available to meet with Woody Allen the very next day. I not only read for him, I read with him! I guess it went well because I was offered the role that evening. My experience was fantastic. You’ve seen the film, so you know, there are so many famous faces in it. For an actor in their early career, it can often be intimidating, but, every actoron set (famous or not) seemed equally nervous/terrified and excited to just be in a Woody Allen film. 

If you were handed the opportunity to portray any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

Carol Burnett. The very first woman ever to host a variety sketch show (and the most awarded tv shows of all time). She’s groundbreaking. She is fierce, fearless, and a superior physical comedian. Throughout her devastating personal tragedies, she revealed herself through her comedy. As a young girl I was always attracted to dark material: films, poetry, etc, art that revealed the darkest depths of the soul. Yet, every evening when I heard the musical opening of The Carol Burnett show, I knocked over whomever was in my way at the time and would sit directly in front of the television…it was transcendent. Like some of my favorite confessional poets, her humor always revealed her humanity. I NEVER felt like she was wearing a mask. She is one of the most influential women (and people) in television history.

What does the future hold for you? Anything our readers should be on the lookout for?

With an actor/singer/filmmaker daughter and writer husband, we have many performing opportunities/collaborations on the horizon. However, these quarantine and pandemic times had me writing! I wrote a short film and a series pilot titled Apartment 3RN. Without giving too much away, I took the age old advice ‘write what you know’. It’s about a family of artists living in Hell’s Kitchen. They encounter a series of racial, fantastical and even violent missteps, all while seemingly never leaving their sofa.    

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My daughter, Zoe Wilson, as I mentioned, is also a professional actor, just booked a great role. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, or even who got the gig, that feeling, that excitement, never gets old. 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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