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 Tanna Frederick Interview 
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I've been lucky. Over the years, I've experienced some wonderful interviews with the best, and occasionally worst, that the indie film world has to offer. I've interviewed a few widely known celebs, as well, including Patty Duke, Anthony Perkins, director Greg Mottola and even Larry the Cucumber. For the most part, perhaps owing to my more relaxed and conversational interview style, my interviews over the years have been awesome experiences. Every so often, an interview seems to transcend simply being an "interview" and becomes an authentic connection that lingers far past the confines of the actual interview. Names that instantly come to mind for me include writer/director Robert Zappia, character actor Googy Gress, actress/producer Tara Cardinal, screenwriter Andie Redwine and others.  Now, I can add to the list actress Tanna Frederick, who is making a rather incredible name for herself in the indie world working on both stage and screen with frequent collaborator Henry Jaglom, easily one of this generation's most important voices in indie cinema.

A native of Iowa and graduate of University of Iowa, Tanna Frederick left her small hometown of Mason City (Yes, THAT Mason City) not long after graduation and headed for the West Coast as a wide-eyed wonder determined to make it in Tinseltown. She worked for years as a waitress, supplementing what acting jobs she could acquire and eking out an existence that wasn't always easy but she was living life on her own terms. A not so chance encounter with Jaglom led to her being cast in his next film, and she's worked steadily ever since. Frederick is an actress, a devoted activist and still quite the hometown girl who returns to and owns a home in Iowa. In an interview that may very well have lasted longer than my marriage, Frederick chatted at length with The Independent Critic about her life, her career, her home, her charity projects and, of course, Queen of the Lot, recently released on DVD with Breaking Glass Pictures.
The Independent Critic

(After having exchanged several e-mails, including one where I found myself postponing the interview due to my own confusion over time zones, Tanna and I finally connect by telephone on her day off from performing As Sylvia in A.R. Gurney's hit comedy of the same name at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica). Okay, so first off I have to apologize about my confusion over the time zones. Obviously, my brain is a bit fried. Things have been really hectic lately.

Tanna Frederick

That's alright. I'm playing a dog in A.R. Gurney's Sylvia and I think it's simplified my brain. All I think about now is food and sleep.

The Independent Critic

Okay now, well, I have to be honest I Googled you.

Tanna Frederick

Awwwww.

The Independent Critic

Well, I had to you know? Anyway, it was hilarious because I kept seeing these references to a dog.

Tanna Frederick

Oh my God, yeah. Yeah! (Laughing). That's right. We ran at a different theater about an hour and a half away from here and it did really well. The funny thing is that people always told me that I should play Sylvia. I had never read it, but people always told me I should play it. The opportunity came up because one of my friends who plays the dog came over one day crying because they were going to have to cancel the show. The woman who was playing the lead, Sylvia, had to drop out. It's about a husband and wife and this dog that comes into their lives and basically becomes the other woman.  I was like, wait a second here. I need to go on stage. She was like "Are you crazy? It's in 12 days." I was like "I don't care...I'll talk them into it. I'll get the part." The next day I got on the phone with the producer and the directors and weaseled my way into the part...not really weaseled. It was more like I was trying to help my friend out. She'd just moved out here from New York. It was her first play. So, anyway, I learned the part in 12 days which was something I'd always wanted to do - to just jump in and panic. It is a perfect role for me. We ran in Los Angeles, then the Edgemar picked us up. We've been getting amazing reviews...knock on wood. Well, not knock on wood I guess because everybody's already reviewed it. It's so much fun. It's really exhausting. Sarah Jessica Parker originated the part in 1995 and all the part is, well, I'm on all fours and rolling over, jumping and barking and humping. (laughing). I'm in heat. What are you gonna' do? So, my resources have been tapped. It sounds like yours have been, too.

The Independent Critic

Absolutely.

Tanna Frederick

And you know what's really crazy? This is really L.A., but while we're doing this interview we're going through this lunar eclipse for 100 minutes. I've been watching it live. I guess this is really off the subject. This lunar eclipse has thrown everybody into this weird chaotic space energy wise. It's supposed to be this very emotionally taxing, physically taxing lunar eclipse. I'm not too "woo woo" or anything, but it has been fascinating because a lot of people around me have said that they've been in chaos, life has been chaotic, their schedules have been all weird. It has been interesting. That's just a little tidbit of information. Right now, we're going through a lunar eclipse that hasn't happened for 84 years.

The Independent Critic

I don't think I can tell here. Our sun is shining brightly.

Tanna Frederick

No, you can't. You can't. But, you can go live on the internet.

The Independent Critic

That's right. I completely forgot that Google is webcasting the entire thing.

Tanna Frederick

I wonder how Google does that? I wonder how Google does the cool information stuff.

The Independent Critic

They are pretty amazing. It's a little scary, actually.

Tanna Frederick

It is a little scary, because you know it was started by like a little 14-year-old. You know, like Facebook started by some 16-year-old in high school...I don't know. I don't know who the founder of Google is...anyhow.

The Independent Critic

Oh wow. I can feel it. I'm never going to recover from this (Tanna laughs). So, do you have to perform tonight?

Tanna Frederick

No, tomorrow.

The Independent Critic

Good, so you won't have a lunar eclipse hangover on stage...which could maybe be a little frightening for you and the audience.

Tanna Frederick

Yes. Yes, it could. What I did last week...I was in this really dark place. You know, usually a dog is like happy and playful. A dog has to be stoked about everything. You can't play a dog not happy.

The Independent Critic

That's so true. There's nothing worse than a suicidal dog.

Tanna Frederick

Exactly. I was in a really weird place and the audience didn't laugh on Saturday. I had some people in the audience and they were "Wow, this is so depressing." It was like Dog of a Salesman or something. I realized it wasn't a play like one of Henry's...I really had to be happy and playful. It's a learning experience to learn to make yourself not be torturous but to make yourself be happy.

The Independent Critic

I wondered about that because you kind of come across as happy, even in short e-mails. I was thinking to myself "Either she's really happy, or she acts really well...which you do, so that's a possibility or you're completely high. It's one of the three. (Tanna erupts in laughter).

Tanna Frederick

No, no. I suppose I have a good sense of humor. That's so funny...No, pot's not my thing.

The Independent Critic

Maybe I'm just not used to people being "stoked" to talk to me. A lot of actors and film industry folks, I think, consider this kind of thing to be a bit of a chore.

Tanna Frederick

Oh my God, are you kidding?

The Independent Critic

I love interviews. I have a blast with them.

Tanna Frederick

I do too. Oh, my God! What? People aren't excited to talk to you?

The Independent Critic

Well, at least not quite on the "stoked" level.

Tanna Frederick

Well, I'm stoked. I'm very stoked. I mean you write for a reputable publication. You like my work. Are you kidding me? I'm very stoked. What more can a person ask for? DUUUUUUUUUUUUDE! I guess I'm just, I don't know, still like a kid with it all. I'm so excited to have this interview. I feel so lucky about it all...I mean look where I came from and look where I am now.

The Independent Critic

Mason City!

Tanna Frederick

I know! Don't ever take anything for granted. You're in the Midwest?

The Independent Critic

Yeah, I'm in Indiana.
Tanna Frederick

So, you're Big 10?

The Independent Critic

I was excited when I saw you were from Iowa.

Tanna Frederick

Yeah. I was homecoming queen (at University of Iowa). You wanna know the funny thing? The year that I was homecoming queen...and I wasn't in a sorority, I was a total nerd. I was friends with everybody, but I was president of Phi Beta Kappa and I was in Pi Sigma Alpha, which was the national honor society for political science. I was in nerd sororities, but had a lot of fun. I had a lot of friends in sororities, but sororities weren't my thing. So, anyway, the year that I was homecoming queen we lost every single football game except we beat you guys (Indiana University). I was like "If we win, I get to wear the crown and people are going to be excited." It's a big deal. You walk out on the field. It's a big deal in college, and something I couldn't accomplish in high school because I was a geek. So, it was pretty cool. We won that game...the only game we won that year. I got to wear the crown and people gave me free shots. It was sweet.

Were you born there?

The Independent Critic

Yeah, lifelong. That's a little sad, but yes.

Tanna Frederick

That's not sad. Are you kidding me? I just bought a house between Mason City and Clear Lake. I go back there as often as I can. All my close friends are still in Iowa. My best friend's living in my house in Clear Lake. I grew up with nine aunts and uncles. We don't lose those connections. They're so solid. It's hard to beat. Pretty much all my close relationships are in Iowa.

The Independent Critic

So, it's not like you were anxious to get out and never go back?

Tanna Frederick

No, not at all. I've never understood that. Ashton Kutcher graduated from University of Iowa and I think he goes back sometimes. I don't understand when people are like "I don't ever want to go back." I think if I'm lucky enough to do what I love and be successful in it then my biggest hope is that other people in my community can realize they can be successful at it as well. I think when you're in the Midwest, there's such a humble attitude. You get this feeling like "I'm far away from Hollywood and the entertainment field." That was my reason for starting the Iowa Independent Film Festival, because I wanted local people to start making films there. With technology, it's totally realistic that you can make a great film and with things like WithoutaBox get submitted into film festivals. Now, we have all these great local filmmakers that have emerged in Northern Iowa. So, I think it's really important to stay with where your roots are and to encourage other people to do what they want to do.

The Independent Critic

See, I love that...My site emphasizes independent film. I suppose that's obvious since I am The Independent Critic.

Tanna Frederick

Right on!

The Independent Critic

I work with a lot of microcinema, film schools, students. I even cover shorts. I work with a lot of these folks before they even hit the coasts. It's a lot of fun, because you get to follow someone from the birth of their career.

Tanna Frederick

That's so cool. Do you see a change in their personalities when they get to Los Angeles?

The Independent Critic

Some do, quite honestly. Some don't. Some are really amazing...I mean, I have actors who send me, quite literally, every film they work on. I think I'm actually more popular on the coasts than I am in my hometown. I'm more of an East Coast guy, though. I love the stage. I was a theater minor.

Tanna Frederick

What was your major?

The Independent Critic

Counseling Psychology.

Tanna Frederick

Do you still do that? Do you still counsel?

The Independent Critic

I spent 10 years working in an emergency room doing suicide intervention.

Tanna Frederick

Holy shit. Are you kidding me?

The Independent Critic

No, no. I loved it.

Tanna Frederick

That's so amazing. Oh my god...That's incredible. That gives me goosebumps. You could write. Seriously, you must have incredible stories.

The Independent Critic

I actually do write creatively. I have had plays produced, but I think I've really found my niche' with being a film critic. Actually, I don't really consider myself a film critic. I'm a film writer. I try to work cooperatively with the filmmaker. I mean, I will give an honest critique but it's not my job to determine if a film is good or bad. It's my job to give the audience enough information to decide if the film's for them. My hope is that I help people find films that will entertain, inspire, educate and empower them. That's my goal.

Tanna Frederick

God bless. I love that. I've never heard that from any reviewer. That's such a great attitude.

The Independent Critic

That's how I view it.

Tanna Frederick

I like you! I really like you. I wish you lived out here, because we'd be buddies.

The Independent Critic

Awwww.

Tanna Frederick

That's really awesome. You're a really positive person. My mom is actually a nursing professor. She teaches to current nursing students psych and peds. She was like a therapist as a mother, more or less.

The Independent Critic

She'd love me...I'm a paraplegic, I have spina bifida and I'm a double amputee. I'm like a peds wonderland and I worked in suicide intervention.

Tanna Frederick

Really? Wow...Are you kidding?

The Independent Critic

Nah, I was one of those kids who wasn't supposed to survive, was supposed to be developmentally challenged. Some would say I am. Most would say I'm not. Like you, I was my college valedictorian. Like you, I also have a strong devotion to serving others. I read about your Project Save Our Surf, which I think is amazing. I definitely want to talk more about that. I've traveled over 3,000 miles by wheelchair on fund-raisers, mostly in the child abuse prevention area.

I'm talking more about me here. Isn't this supposed to be your interview?

Tanna Frederick

Oh my god, you are so... You have to write a movie. You should be the one being interviewed by other people. Your life story is remarkable. So remarkable. You're so...You're just so Midwest humble about it all...You're like "Yeah, my life has been really cool." It's one of the most incredible things I've ever heard. Have you written a book?

The Independent Critic

I wrote a book of autobiographical poetry.

Tanna Frederick

Can I have it? Can I buy it? Can I get it on Amazon?

The Independent Critic

Amazon will tell you they have it, but I know for a fact they don't. I published it, and I know for a fact they don't have it.

Tanna Frederick

So, you sold out of it?

The Independent Critic

I pretty much sold out of it. I think I have a couple copies in my house somewhere. I've been thinking about re-releasing it or updating it. You know how it is, you get older and remember more and feel differently.

Tanna Frederick

That's incredible. Your writing is fantastic. It's incredibly intelligent. Henry really loves your review. You were valedictorian, too. Wow.

The Independent Critic

In college. I was a C-student in high school.

Tanna Frederick

Me too. Well, I was in honors courses in English. When it came to biology, my mind just can't put those things together...math, too.

The Independent Critic

Absolutely. Me too! I think I got a 350 on my Math SAT.

Tanna Frederick

I took the ACT, but same thing. I got C's in Algebra I. Then, you get into college and you can pick the courses that you're going to excel at. You did the same thing I did and picked the courses where you would excel. It makes you question the educational system, doesn't it? I mean, I totally tuned out in my classes in high school when I wasn't in English classes.

The Independent Critic

It saddens me that my drama instructor in high school didn't tap into what was later recognized to be talent. I'm not saying that I was ever a great actor, but there was a gift there for public speaking and directing and especially writing. In college, I had a really amazing drama professor who immediately cast me in the play Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Tanna Frederick

I didn't get cast in anything. I did community theater and I did children's theater. I rarely use this word, but the drama teacher in my high school was a total c**t. (both laugh). Don't not like me for saying that word.

The Independent Critic

Heck, I think I like you more.

Tanna Frederick

She really was. I got cast in nothing, because she wanted me to play this small role, a drunk role. It was like "No, I don't want to play a small, drunk role." She was pissed and never cast me in anything. I never did one production in high school. It's so cool that you were finally recognized in college. Is that why you gravitate towards the independent films? You root for the underdog.


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