Hi Victoria and a big thank you for taking time to speak with Vents! Getting the proverbial ball rolling, how has 2021 been treating you thus far?
Hi! Thrilled to be here. 2021 has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been busy with work, but also doing my best to stay safe and keep those I love safe, too.
Congrats and kudos on a very busy time for you: Starting from the top, you have a brand-spankin’ new anthology web series that is winging its way to us this coming spring entitled Pilot Season. For those not in the know, can you tell us a little bit about Pilot Season?
Pilot Season is a miniseries running Tuesdays from February 16 to March 16. Each episode is a different sitcom pilot, and they range from a multi-camera family show to a darker, more intimate dramedy. I wrote and am directing all five pilots, and I’m appearing in two. We have some amazing cast members, too, like Stuart Pankin (Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Dinosaurs), Richard Steinmetz (Passions), and comedians Tabitha Brownstone and Brooke Forbes. And I’m still talking to people, so keep an eye out for more casting news!
As noted in the question above, Pilot Season is a web series; how has the explosion of all-internet-all-the-time altered the Hollywood landscape for both better and for worse?
It’s definitely got good and bad sides. My dad [television director Neil Gordon] and grandfather [three-time Emmy-winning comedy writer Al Gordon] came up in an era where there were three networks, and if you didn’t have a show on one of those three networks, that was it–you were out until next season, which was a year away! Now, anyone can create content and put it out there at any time, which allows so many more people to share their visions and connect with others. But on the flip side, event TV has vanished, and I wish that weren’t the case. I love television history, and the idea that millions of people sat down to watch, say, Rhoda’s wedding on Rhoda, is just so foreign to me. We don’t have the same experience of everyone sitting down to watch television at the same time and then recapping it later. I miss that.
The next thing on your dance card is a series of sold-out and socially distanced cabaret performances which has piqued my ever-lovin’ Liza Minnelli curiosity! For a fan going to see one of these cabaret performances what might they expect?
Ha, love that description! I’ve been doing virtual cabarets since last March, when my in-person Sondheim birthday salute was canceled due to the pandemic. Originally, I was doing biweekly five-song shows that were themed. I did one for Sondheim, one for Andrew Lloyd Webber, one for composing duos, one for patriotic musicals…I had a lot of themes. But then, for Halloween and Christmas, I did fuller shows with songs to match the holidays, interview segments, and lots of costume changes! Now, going forward, I’m aiming to return to a mix of the two: longer shows with more music and creative freedom, but more of a live experience. I’m excited to see how that comes together!
You’ve been described as a traditional pop vocalist. Musically, who has inspired your own work as a singer?
Well, the number one musical inspiration for me is my fellow curly-haired Broadway baby: Bernadette Peters. I adore her shows! I’d also add Jane Krakowski, Andrea McArdle, and Karen Carpenter to that list. And, of course, Ethel Merman. I’m obsessed. There is no bigger legend than Ethel Merman!
You are genuine Hollywood royalty: Your grandfather was legendary television comedy scribe Al Gordon who plied his wares in such classic shows as The Jack Benny Program (which as a kid I devoured religiously in late-night syndication), The Colgate Comedy Hour, Get Smart and Three’s Company; also, your great-uncle is Dr. Ernst Katz who was the founder and conductor of the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic. Does having this type of pedigree make your own efforts in Hollywood easier or more difficult?
My family definitely gave me a lot of direction and exposure to some wonderful people. I got to meet all kinds of celebrities growing up. I have an autograph book from my childhood and every name in there is just so cool: Debbie Boone, Weird Al, Stefanie Powers, Cloris Leachman…I could keep going! So I had a lot of knowledge and awareness of what the business looks like. But at the same time, my grandfather retired around the time I was born, so it’s not like he could just call his agent and get me a meeting. The same goes for my great-uncle, but in both cases, I’m really grateful that they made it so I could grow up in an environment where I experienced a taste of Hollywood. And I’m grateful that I had them, and their stories and histories, in my life as long as I did. They taught me a lot. My grandfather used to sit down with us and watch old episodes of Jack Benny’s show. Having a writer sit there and share stories from the writer’s room of a classic television show? It truly doesn’t get better than that.
Your press material describes your work as a performer as something akin to a bridge between the nigh legendary Old Hollywood of Times Past and the present-day industry. Do you feel a sense of responsibility in carrying on in the entertainment tradition that your family pioneered?
To an extent, I definitely do. I’m descended from some extremely creative people who entertained a generation, and continue to do so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched something my grandfather wrote and said “I know that was his joke,” or how many people contact my family to tell them that my great-uncle had a huge impact on their lives. Frankly, I even think he was the inspiration for the Maestro on Seinfeld, so if any Seinfeld writers were members of his orchestra as teens, I’m onto you!
At the same time, though, it’s not like I feel that I have to keep up with their success or build a career in their stead. One thing I can say about my family is that everyone is very encouraging, and I know that they want me to achieve what I want in a way that reflects who I am.
You’re an actor/writer/director and producer. Do you have a preference amongst these, or is it all apples and oranges?
I enjoy doing them all. I love performing, so anything that puts me in front of an audience or a camera is fun. Producing is also such a pleasure for me because I’m an organizer and a planner, and I love writing because I get to express myself and find new ways to share stories and experiences. Directing has come more recently for me, and I enjoy getting to really adapt my scripts and put my signature on the finished product. I enjoy getting to be involved in everything, but I also love working on other people’s projects as an actress because it gives me such a great chance to focus on one thing instead of everything.
You were recognized for your work in 2015 with the IFS Film Festival Vanguard Award for Breakthrough Performance. Does it feel like validation to be recognized by peers and contemporaries in such a way?
I remember waking up the morning the awards came out, seeing my name, and just being so excited. That was–and remains–such an honor. I was especially honored because the Vanguard Awards are awarded at the discretion of the IFS team, and they watch literally thousands of films every year. Singling me out for an award that is only given out when they feel that a performance merits it was so validating. Plus, Malcolm McDowell won best actor at that festival, and he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman.
The first bit of acting I have listed for you is in the television series Gregory Way TV. Any special memories of that freshman effort?
Oh, my goodness. What a throwback! That was Tom Gregory, who is such a great guy and a huge philanthropist. I was playing a girl who was auditioning to be Dorothy in a Wizard of Oz stage production, so I was dressed as Dorothy and I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and talked about how cool it would be to be Dorothy. It was fun, and it was my first real TV experience outside of commercials.
Who in or out of the business inspires your own efforts?
My big inspirations in entertainment are Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Maggie Siff. I adore these women and their dedication to their work. Plus, I get compared to Julianna Margulies and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Casting, take note!
Tina Fey, Mary Tyler Moore, and Pamela Adlon also inspire me because they all took the plunge to really create their own work and shape how they wanted TV to look. As a writer, Susan Harris, who created Soap and The Golden Girls, made me want to create amazing television from unique vantage points. I also look at Tyler Perry’s model of production as a guide, and admire Kurt Sutter’s A-plus treatment of his fan base.
How has the worldwide pandemic affected the entertainment industry?
Well, at first, everything shut down. Then, we had to pivot. And that was a challenge. Figuring out how to do Zoom auditions, Zoom writing sessions, Zoom meetings, basically just living on Zoom, was a process. Then, the online shows started. And now, things are back, to an extent, although I think we’re all looking over our shoulders, waiting to be shut down for two weeks over a positive test. It’s scary. But we’re all trying! The creative minds of the industry are being tested and, in my opinion, really showing how good they are.
Are there any directors that you would like to work with one day?
Having grown up on classic television, James Burrows! Then there’s the amazing lady group in comedy, like Nicole Holofcener, Beth McCarthy Miller, and, of course, Pamela Adlon. Truth is, I think directors are incredible–having a TV director dad will do that for you–so I want to work with as many voices as possible.
Final (Silly) Question: Better violin player – Jack Benny or Larry Fine?
Sorry, Larry, but I’ve got to go with Jack Benny! Funny story: my grandfather and my great-uncle weren’t related and only knew each other through my parents. Before that relationship started, though, Jack Benny received an honor from the Jr. Philharmonic in 1970. When he came to accept his award, he grabbed the concertmaster’s violin and serenaded the audience mid-concert! It’s one of those full-circle moments from my family history that I just love.