Tanna Frederick is the hardest working actress in Hollywood. The award-winning beauty is on contract with Rainbow Films, and she has earned every one of her film roles, and also her on-stage roles as well. Tanna’s vision as an actress now takes a backseat to directing her first theatre production, and if you had been able to see the past week of rehearsals of her upcoming hit “Why We Have A Body,” you will see that the extraordinary artist is weaving a perfect production and cast into one of the most outstanding upcoming L.A. theatre productions in Hollywood history.Like Bette Davis at Warner Bros., she has her detractors; people who lack talent, class or the work ethic she does to make their dreams come true. Now comes news that Frederick has replaced some of her talent, and has brought on an extraordinarily talented actress in Cathy Arden, who is as loyal and talented as she is beautiful. Frederick has worked on stage with Arden for over a year, starting in “Sylvia” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in the Valley, then taking “Sylvia” to the famed Edgemar Theatre under Gary Imhoff’s direction. Catching up with my friend Cathy in between rehearsals, her joy and gratitude for this role is palpable. She adds a level of professionalism and solid acting that cannot be compared, and the choice of director Frederick to tap Cathy in this pivotal role is a decision that audiences and critics will most definitely agree with.
Here’s Cathy in her own words. And a disclaimer here. I’m a huge fan of Cathy Arden, who I co-starred with in Henry Jaglom’s upcoming film “The ‘M’ Word.” She is dazzling in it, as she is in everything, and by the end of this interview, you’ll see what an exceptional actress and director Tanna Frederick is; and not just because I say so, Cathy does as well.
Q-How are rehearsals going with “Why We Have A Body,” and what is it like being directed by someone with Tanna Frederick’s great energy, talent and acting instincts?
A-“After working with Tanna (Frederick) in SYLVIA for a full year (how lucky was that!), and then working with her on Henry Jaglom’s THE “M” WORD — I was so excited to be cast in WHY WE HAVE A BODY, by Claire Chafee, with Tanna directing. Tanna Frederick is an amazingly inventive and creative actress and she brings the same brilliant traits to her directing. Her instincts are spot on, and, I’m telling you, she’s now exploding onto the scene as a fantastic director as well. Acting in a show with Tanna is a great experience for an actor — she’s so generous and so creative you can’t help but become a better actor by being on stage with her. Being directed by Tanna is the same. She knows everything about what is going on inside the actor, she knows the freedom an actor needs, and she knows how to make the actor feel both safe and open on stage. Watching this show come to life in Tanna Frederick’s hands is like watching one of those beautiful slow fireworks climbing up to the sky and suddenly exploding into a million sparkling lights.”
Q-You and Lisa Pescia have joined the cast, which is excellent news in my opinion. Are you two working together in the storyline?
A-“Tommy, I met Lisa (Pescia) a few months after moving to L.A., just over a year ago, and then I had the pleasure of seeing her in Tina Lifford’s, THE CIRCLE. Lisa is an extraordinary actress, so funny and so touching. I’m honored to be working with her in WHY WE HAVE A BODY. I don’t want to give away the storyline, but, yes, Lisa and I are quite linked in the play!”
Q-Tell us about your character and how did you prepare for playing the role?
A-“I play Renee, a paleontologist who is passionate about her work, and always wanted to do this ever since she was a child. She’s one of those people who never questioned what she’d do with her life. I’ve been both a writer and actress throughout my life, and I can completely understand my character’s passion and devotion to her work. I know what it feels like to have a one track mind, to feel so focused on your work, and to love what you do so much that you feel excited in every moment of the process. Of course, I’m now also spending a lot of time doing research on dinosaurs! When I was in high school in NYC, the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West was my favorite place to go. I lived only blocks away, and went to school right near there. My 10th grade Anthropology teacher took us to that museum every single week. It was my second home. I studied those dinosaur bones and committed them to memory. So it’s interesting now that I’m playing this role, and I get to go back into those archives of memory and fascination.”
Q-After such a great experience with Tanna and the cast in “Sylvia,” what are you bringing to this role and opportunity that you would normally not be able to offer?
A-“Working with Tanna makes me feel brave. I completely trust her. She inspired me as an actress in every performance we did of SYLVIA. I learned more from Tanna on stage than I had ever learned in any acting class. And now there is a new learning dimension with Tanna as my director. In her gentle, yet firm manner, she’s guiding me into the core of myself, opening up areas that most people keep hidden, and coaxing me to basically let it all hang out! Under Tanna’s direction, I have the opportunity to expose more of myself than I ever have exposed before. As an actor, you can’t ask for more than that.”
Q-When does the play open, and are you nervous?
A-“The play opens on :February 24th, with previews before that. I don’t dare let my nerves take over yet! But, on opening night, I’m sure they’ll pay me a visit, as they always do. I feel confidant, though, that the show will be wonderful and I’ll be looking forward to people seeing it. It’s always great to finally move out of the rehearsal process and to begin performing with an audience present.”
Q-All women, right? So tell me, do you all get along? And before you answer, I know you get along with Tanna. Anyone who respects and loves talent will get along fine with her.
A-“Tommy, we all adore each other! I knew Tanna and Lisa, and I’m so thrilled to be working with them on this extraordinary play. And now having the opportunity to not only meet, but work with Barbara Bain is a blessing! Barbara is a piece of heaven, both as a person and as an actress. She’s amazing to watch — every moment sizzles! Although everyone knows Barbara Bain most from the original TV series, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, I was so thrilled to discover that Barbara worked with my father, George Bellak, in London for four years, on the television series, SPACE: 1999. My father, George Bellak, a screenwriter, co-wrote that series with Christopher Penfold, who is still a close family friend. We are all finding core connections not only on stage, but off stage as well.”
Q-What was the experience like acting and being directed by Henry Jaglom in “The ‘M’ Word”?
A-“Well, where do I begin with the brilliant Henry Jaglom? That’s an article in itself! Working with Henry Jaglom is an actor’s dream. I have no idea how this happens, but Henry makes improvising a complete joy, by giving actors a freedom they would never have otherwise. I’ve never felt so blissful as an actor on a set, not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera as well. I had the opportunity to “shadow” Henry when I wasn’t in a scene. He saw how excited I was, watching the whole directing process, that he ended up giving me a headset so I could hear what he was hearing, and watch the monitor with him.
“To tell you I was in heaven would be an understatement! Working with Henry Jaglom on the set of THE “M” WORD has made me hungry to get back to a movie set as quickly as possible! Theater has always been my first love, and I will always want to keep doing theater. But now “movieland” beckons me as well!”
Q-How has your new LA (Santa Monica) life being since we last spoke?
A-“I feel like I’ve always lived in Santa Monica! It’s truly my home. I just wish my adult children lived here as well — I still hope they will someday! A mother can always hope! As I’ve been working ever since moving to L.A. a year and a half ago, I still haven’t gotten around much. I’ve hiked a couple of times, I’ve biked to the ocean, of course, I’ve been to the Getty, had wonderful dinners with friends in great restaurants, but I still have so much to explore! When my son, Micah, visited recently, we took a drive to Palm Springs as I always hear people talking about Palm Springs. However, we arrived at night, went to a spa that had mineral baths, had dinner, and drove back to Santa Monica late that night. So I didn’t really see much of Palm Springs at all! Oh — and I did spend two days in Las Vegas. Now THAT was an experience! I don’t understand how an entire city was built in the middle of Death Valley. I mean, really. What is that about? I made the mistake of driving there — and was terrified when I saw the temperature gage that tells you the outdoor temperature, rising past 109 degrees! You drive forever with no stores, no gas stations — nothing! — on the road. I think I had a vague panic attack driving back and forth to Las Vegas. Can you tell I did not fall in love with Las Vegas? I’ll keep you apprised of my future excursions in and around California. But no driving for hours through deserts anymore! That kind of journey should only happen in the movies!”
Don’t miss this play. It’s an incredible theatrical work, led by a woman (Tanna Frederick) who is truly possessed of great talent, and when the critics see her in the director’s chair, they will again proclaim, she’s Queen of The Lot! Cathy Arden is perhaps one of the best actresses of this generation as well, and I am so crackling with excitement at the idea of seeing all of these talented, classy ladies on stage together! Wow!
For your tickets, go to: https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?e=19bec3b09f68aca3736e4cf15985792e&t=tix
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Written By: Tommy Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Cathy Arden by Lesley Bohm Photography and Why We Have A Body Poster By Rainbow Films
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To learn more about actress Cathy Arden, go to her official website at www.cathyarden.com, tell her Tommy sent you!