Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.
The actor: When Twin Peaks became a pop culture phenomenon, several members of the show’s cast suddenly found their profiles increased significantly, but the definitive poster girl for the show—the one that wasn’t wrapped in plastic, anyway—was Sherilyn Fenn. Before being cherry-picked by David Lynch for the role of Audrey Horne, Fenn had done a bit of TV as well as films ranging from teen comedies (Just One Of The Guys) to decidedly more adult material (Two Moon Junction), but Twin Peaks increased her opportunities considerably, leading to projects like Ruby, Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, and the Showtime series Rude Awakening. Fenn recently appeared in the second season of Starz’s Magic City, which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Magic City (2013)—“Madame Renee”
Sherilyn Fenn: That, for me, is just Mitch [Glazer] and Kelly [Lynch], who are so near and dear to my heart. I love them so much. It’s like a reunion. I love the show, I love the Butcher, I loved everything about it. It was so cool to be a part of it. I can’t believe it’s been canceled. I don’t understand… well, there’s so little about Hollywood that I do understand!
The A.V. Club: When I talked to Kelly a bit ago, she said you were initially “very, very nervous about playing Madame Renee.”
SF: Yeah, well, you know, she’s so bawdy! I also had been busy being a mom for my second time. So, yeah, I got scared at first. But that’s always a good sign. Then my manager, who’s known me since I was 17, says, “It’s Mitch! He wrote it for you! Just do it!” [Laughs.] And I got to read the book and got excited. Then I worked with somebody on it, which is oftentimes my process… You know, it’s a weird, vulnerable business that we’re in. It’s strange!
AVC: How would you describe Madame Renee?
SF: I think she’s a whole woman. Like I said, she’s very bawdy. I was nervous, because I felt like I had on so much weight, but then I felt like it kind of worked for her. This is what she does: These are her girls; she mothers them, she takes care of them. Her hands are, for the most part, clean. That’s why she can hang out with the Butcher and have the connections that she does. When she needs to be strong, she can be strong. She’s a cool lady, I thought.
AVC: Did you ever imagine her as being Audrey Horne if she’d never left One Eyed Jack’s, or was that just the Twin Peaks fans who did that?
SF: Yeah, that’s just them. I’m like, “Are you kidding? Audrey would’ve taken over her father’s business and would’ve been married to Agent Cooper with many children, doing everything correct. She wouldn’t have a fucking brothel!” [Laughs.] Not at all.
Silence Of The Heart (1984)—“Monica”
Out Of Control (1985)—“Katie”
AVC: In trying to go as far back as possible in your filmography, it’s kind of hard to determine what your first on-camera role was, but it looks like it could’ve been playing Monica in Silence Of The Heart.
SF: No, but that was pretty close to the first thing I did, which was a movie. In Silence Of The Heart… It was so long ago, but I know I was a girl at a funeral with a couple of others. Charlie [Sheen] was doing it, and other people I knew were in it. God, it just makes me feel like a child when I think about that. [Laughs.] I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m Friend #2!” Or whatever it was. I was freaking out!
AVC: What was the first thing you did?
SF: The first thing was a goofy movie in Yugoslavia that… [Hesitates.] Originally it was called Cross Winds, but I want to say that they eventually named it something stupid. I think it might’ve been Out Of Control?
AVC: That’s it.
SF: Okay, yeah. That was Martin Hewitt and Betsy Russell, and I’m just the shy little sister, which was perfect, because that’s what I really was. I was frightened the entire time.
AVC: You come from a performing arts background—your aunt is Suzi Quatro, your mother [Arlene] used to play keyboards in her band, and your father managed Alice Cooper for quite a while—but what made you decide to pursue a career in acting?
SF: Well, I know it wasn’t a conscious plan on my part. I’d moved to L.A. with my mother when I was 17 or 18. She loved show business and I was young enough that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought it was, like, a diversion for not really knowing what I wanted to do. I said, “Oh well, I’ll act.” I started to study, but I didn’t know what I was doing, and I don’t know that I was taking it very seriously then.
AVC: Was there a particular project that you can look back on as the moment when you first started taking it seriously?
SF: I think I was exploring up until… Well, I was trying to take it seriously, because I’d met a few teachers who were really remarkable, but I was 17 and coming out of Michigan, and that’s very different than 17 or 18 in L.A. I was desperate to understand how one reveals truth through their work, not how one pretends. If you’re a young woman in Hollywood, then they want you to look a certain way and paint you in this and that. To this day, it’s hard to find people like us, who want to kind of find deep truths, not just skirt above the top of it. I think that’s why I liked that [Silence Of The Heart] was about suicide.
What happened was, I got Twin Peaks, and the part was basically written for me, which was a really big shock. I think everything really changed with the right teacher coming together, but before that I worked with Sondra Seacat; she’s amazing and very spiritual, but I hadn’t worked with her on specific roles. I just was in classes with her. Then I got Twin Peaks, I did the pilot with David [Lynch], and in between shooting the pilot and the series, I met this teacher, Roy London, and he changed everything for me. Before that, I had done, like, Two Moon Junction and stuff like that.
Diary Of A Hitman (1991)—“Jain”
SF: That’s what Roy London did for me. He took a play [by Kenneth Pressman] and made that for me. He took that part and said, “Show everybody in this stupid town what you can do!” And Forest Whitaker is one of the most authentic, gentle, beautiful souls that I’ve ever gotten to work with, and I loved him. I loved doing the film. But it was scary. Usually I’d plan with Roy and then go on the set, clear in what I was doing. But since he was going to be on the set, he wouldn’t work with me ahead of time. So I was like, “What? No! You have to!” [Laughs.] So it was really intense. It was intense therapy. But I loved it.
The United States Of Leland (2003)—“Mrs. Calderon”
SF: That was cool, getting to work with Ryan Gosling. I knew he was going to be a huge star after I saw him in that Showtime thing that he did when he was really young [The Believer]. I think the most fun thing about that was I’d never seen somebody that had so many questions about the specifics of everything: where you ate, how much you ate, how much you drank. He’s very special. I mean, that wouldn’t necessarily be my way, but he sure did introduce certain things that, to a certain extent, I now bring with me. Questions about what happened before the events you’re playing. I hadn’t thought of that before, but that does affect every moment that you’re in. I liked the film. I thought the script was sad and beautiful, and Kevin Spacey is… well, he’s Kevin Spacey! [Laughs.] I mean, what do you want? He’s excellent. I love him.
Of Mice And Men (1992)—“Curley’s Wife”
SF: “Why didn’t she have a name?” was the most annoying thing to me ever. I was so fucking pissed about that. I’d think about all these different names, but it was like, because [John Steinbeck] didn’t name her, we couldn’t. I was like, “What would he have called her? Try to ask his wife if he ever had a name for her!” [Laughs.] But it was one of the best experiences—we actually got to rehearse!—and it’s a classic story. John Malkovich was amazing, and the whole thing was wonderful. John Malkovich was just so relaxed on the set. He’d just sit there and read the newspaper, then he’d come over and do a really important scene. I’d be aware of how I’d have to obsess over it and worry about it. And he’d be like, “Oh, stop it, you’re fine!” But I was just certain that I had to be completely beating myself up or needing to do more.
It’s a great gift when you get to do such a beautiful story, but I also felt like Gary [Sinese, who directed] had seen me in a different way. She’s the only character in the book that he interprets a little bit differently. In the book, she’s a little bit mean. She threatens to get cooks lynched, and… she’s much more of a bitch. He said that he saw her as more of a sad angel who was almost, like, held hostage in this freaking place. Sometimes she did just want to talk to the guys. She just wanted to talk to somebody. She wasn’t always… [Seductively.] “Heyyyyyyy…” She wasn’t always on the make, you know? So he wrote me an extra scene, and it was just great. They had a beautiful story together, Lenny and George. I think it’s a love story. Lenny needs George as much as George needs Lenny. I loved it, loved it, loved it. So proud to be a part of that.
SF: Oh, my goodness. Well, I’m not big with an audience; I get very nervous. They’d fired somebody—I don’t know or remember who—but I know it was on a Wednesday. And they were like, “You have to go do this right now!” [Laughs.] I remember getting the call. I was so afraid. I’m like, “But it’s live! It’s live! I’m not doing it!” “If you drive there right now, they’ll want you to do this role! It’s no big deal that it’s live!” This was on a Wednesday, it was filming by Friday, and I was terrified. They were all really nice on the show, that’s for sure. It wasn’t that. It’s just that it was a different medium, with all these different cameras.
I remember I had a scene with Matthew Perry, and at the end of a take, he would, like, do a mug to each camera, because he’d been doing it so long, and he knows the button on a scene, a look he might give. But I didn’t know what the hell was going on, because I don’t usually work that way. I still felt really shy and scared. But it was funny, and I still remember the line, “Foot in the water! Foot all in the water!” [Laughs.] That was just the funniest line. But for as big as the show was, I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I mean, I knew it was huge show, but I wasn’t, like, watching it all the time. It was just this sudden call like it was an emergency. “Quick! You have to go do this… because it’s Friends!” I was just, “Oh, my God, okay!”
Dawson’s Creek (2002)—“Alex Pearl”
SF: I don’t remember much about that character. That was another thing where I got it really quick. I remember having so much dialogue that I was overwhelmed. That’s what I remember.
AVC: Most of your scenes were with Joshua Jackson.
SF: He’s a sweet guy. Really smart. But I don’t really remember anything about the character, only being up really late at night trying to learn a lot of dialogue.
The Dukes Of Hazzard: The Beginning (2007)—“Lulu Hogg”
SF: Oh, good lord. Good lord! [Laughs.] My friend Bobby Berlinger, I love him. He did so many of the Rude Awakening episodes, so it was fun. It was fun and it was embarrassing and… uh, yeah, “fun and embarrassing” kind of sums it up. She’s in a dress, trying to attack this guy, but she’s got a turkey. Oh, my God. It was stupid, but it was funny.
Rude Awakening (1998-2001)—“Billie Frank”
SF: I loved Billie! I feel like that changed my life in a lot of ways, and I loved doing it. I wish I could do something like that again. Everyone’s like, “She’s not funny!”
AVC: So how did Rude Awakening come about? Did someone develop a sitcom specifically for you, or was the show developed independently and they just decided you were right for the part?
SF: They were looking for somebody to play it. Claudia Lonow, who is a great writer, wrote that and produced it, and that was her life! When she was young, she was, like, on Knots Landing as Michele Lee’s daughter, and she says that, when she was 15 or 16, she was doing all kinds of coke, she was a total alcoholic, just a wild thing. And when she got sober, her whole life changed for the better, but she’ll say her craziness just got crazier. [Laughs.] I remember my agent at the time called me and was like, “I’ve got it! I’ve found it! I’ve found your role!” I worked my ass off to get that role, because I think me and three or four other girls tested for it. But it was a great time.
I mean, fuck, Lynn Redgrave as my mama? It was amazing. Richard Lewis, Jonathan Penner, Rain Pryor… We had a lot of fun. We had takes where we just couldn’t stop laughing, and when that happens, you can’t even get a fucking scene finished. It was great. We had one where Lynn was just so mad at us, but we still started laughing every time. I can’t really do it justice out of context, because it’s such a politically incorrect thing that’s being said in this scene, but Lynn Redgrave would call my sister-in-law a vagina, and every time she’d say it, we just couldn’t stop laughing. If it’s still out there on tape, it’s just the funniest thing ever. Oh, Lynn was so mad. [In a crisp British accent.] “We are never going to get this!”
AVC: You know, they’ve finally released the first season on DVD.
SF: I heard that! And I’m so excited! I mean, it’s such a… Well, to me, it’s so off-balance, because on one hand there were three different entities, each of which wanted it to be something else, and they would fight amongst themselves. And that made it hard. And then because it was on Showtime, there’d have to be the token naked girl in every episode, where someone runs through and has a line—or not!—and is whipping her boobies around. [Laughs.] Sometimes there’d be things said that I’d be embarrassed about! But it was one of the first cable sitcoms that was multi-camera and no audience. It wasn’t like Friends, where everyone’s like, “Oh, we’re so attractive and we’re so funny!” This was about fucked-up people who were doing the best they could. I thought it was funny, and I’m very proud of that show.
AVC: How much were you able to bring to the character of Billie, and how much did you just kind of let them mold you to match what they wanted from the character?
SF: I was bringing my heart and my soul, but then a lot of times they’d guide me. Sometimes we’d be in the writers’ room and be like, “This isn’t working.” I remember this one time something wasn’t working, and Claudia comes down and… [Hesitates.] Sometimes it’d be the writers against us on the floor, because it’d be hard making it work at first. I’m like, “Well, how am I supposed to do that? That doesn’t work.” “Look! You just go like this…” She takes both her hands and beats them on her head and goes… [Makes a series of crazy sounds.] “Okay, that’s how you do it!” So we did it, and we all just started laughing… because it worked! Sometimes she’d just have to show me that it had to be something more outrageous. And it ended up being wonderful. We did it for three years, and it was just so cool.
Just One Of The Guys (1985)—“Sandy”
SF: Oh, my God. That’s one of my earliest things. My third, I think? It was fun! I thought Joyce [Hyser] made a really cute boy. I did! I was like, “She’s actually cute!” It was sweet. Instead of making Friday The 13th, Part VIII or whatever, I was making the girl-meets-boy, girl-meets-girl-dressed-as-boy movie. It was fun. I liked it. It’s goofy. I look back at myself and think, “What the hell was I doing?” [Laughs.]
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)—“Audrey Horne”
AVC: You mentioned earlier than David Lynch wrote the part of Audrey Horne for you. I didn’t realize that.
SF: Yeah! Well, he met a certain number of people in my age range, maybe a little younger, and he talks to you for a while. It was the first time I’d ever actually been myself in an interview and tried to just be open. But it went great, and they called and said, “Yeah, he’s writing you this role!” When I got the pilot, a two-hour script, it seemed like nothing, but I don’t know. David’s just kind of a wizard. He sees things in certain people and knows how to weave them into a story.
AVC: When you look back at Audrey Horne, is there a defining moment of the character for you?
SF: Well, she was defined by David. She was who she was because of him. What you read on a piece of paper is one thing, but when I got there, they couldn’t find saddle shoes, and he’s like, “You have to have saddle shoes!” And you see that there are these certain things that are so specific to him. One of the biggest things, though, was taking that pencil in the coffee cup. [Laughs.] One of my two older brothers was like, “That’s so like you!” He meets me, this stranger, and sees something, knows what it is, and puts her in. That was really kind of cool.
AVC: What was your reaction when the series became such a phenomenon?
SF: I was shocked. I didn’t understand it. I think it was after we had done the entire first season, and my manager and I went to New York for something, and people shouted “Audrey!” across the street. I do remember that moment and being in complete shock. Like, were they talking to me? Then they’re waving and I realize they are talking to me. Suddenly I wasn’t in the same little world that I’d been in for however many years I’d been in L.A. up to that point. Suddenly I was on this show.
AVC: I’m required by law to ask you about the scene where Audrey ties the cherry stem with her tongue, and if you ever successfully managed to do it yourself.
SF: [Laughs.] No. I thought it was silly! I didn’t understand why we were doing it. I was like, “Nobody does that!” And they said, “Yeah, they do it in college,” blah blah blah. I had no idea that was going to become a thing. No idea.
AVC: You weren’t in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Was there a specific reason why? Some sources say you didn’t want to do it, some say you did but couldn’t work out the scheduling.
SF: I was just doing Of Mice And Men. David was mad at me. I was going to do it. I was set to do it! I was like, “What am I supposed to do?” And then they were going to have me do it in between that and whatever I was going to do next, but he wanted my hair to be cut, and there was this stupid thing where… [Dismissively.] Really, if they’d really wanted me, they could’ve figured it out. Not that they didn’t really want me to do it, but productions like to have you and just you, you know what I mean? The dates were completely conflicting, because I was supposed to be in Santa Ynez filming Of Mice And Men for eight weeks, so… that’s what happened.
AVC: It seems like there was set to be a lot more Audrey if things had gone differently. Reportedly, there was a discussion about Audrey getting spun off into her own series, and Billy Zane has said in the past that Audrey and his character [John Justice Wheeler] were supposed to get together on the show.
SF: Oh, my God. [Laughs.] Um… the Audrey spin-off that would’ve come about, it really ended up being the original idea for Mulholland Drive. That was either in between the first and second season or after the second season, but they were like, “What if we did a movie, and it’s Audrey in California?” And they talked about an opening scene of her driving along Mulholland Drive, and how she’s a little bit older. Whatever it was going to be, it never ended up happening for me. But I was young, and I thought it sounded weird, because no one ever really did that. I was, like, “Okay, but do people do that? Go from TV to a movie as the same character?” Then all those years later, David made the other one, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.
I love Billy Zane, I think he’s a sweetie, but… it was a silly thing that Audrey Horne and Agent Dale Cooper didn’t stay together, because that’s what should’ve happened. It happened organically, without anyone making a plan for it to happen. But they had to stop it because… [Takes a deep breath.] People got mad and jealous and… it was just stupid. Ugh.
AVC: People on the show got mad and jealous about the characters staying together?
SF: Yes! I… I’m bad. I’m not supposed to say it. But David knows I tell what happens, and what happened was that Lara [Flynn Boyle] was dating Kyle [MacLachlan], and she was mad that my character was getting more attention, so then Kyle started saying that his character shouldn’t be with my character because it doesn’t look good, ’cause I’m too young. Literally, because of that, they brought in Heather Graham—who’s younger than I am—for him and Billy Zane for me. I was not happy about it. It was stupid.
Psych (2010)—“Maudette Hornsby”
SF: That was just fun to go back. Those guys were so great. And we got to see a lot of our friends, and… it was fun.
AVC: For a lot of people, the “Dual Spires” episode of Psych is literally the only time they’ve ever watched the show. But it’s hard to resist a Twin Peaks reunion.
SF: [Laughs.] Yeah, the guy who plays Shawn [James Roday] is so sweet. We were all in a bar—we all met there—and he was, like, getting emotional. He had tears in his eyes. It was so cute. His girlfriend was like, “Oh, my gosh, look at him!” But he said, “I just can’t believe it! This is my favorite show! I can’t believe this is happening!” He was so sweet.
When you’re in it, you’re just part of the show. You don’t really know. It’s just kind of a weird, surreal thing that happens. You’re doing your work, and some people get along and some people don’t, and whatever. Then all of a sudden, it becomes something else. I don’t know if other people’s experience was that they completely knew that it was going to become what it is, but I certainly didn’t! I didn’t at all. I was just bumping along.
Wild At Heart (1990)—“Girl In Accident”
AVC: Did you do your bit for Wild At Heart between seasons of Twin Peaks?
AVC: Did David just have a part and ask, “Are you busy?”
SF: No! He said [Does a passable David Lynch impression.], “She’s a china doll, she’s broken and she’s bleeding and she’s almost ready to die. It’s the last moments of her life… and it’s you! And you need to do it!” So I said, “Oh, my God, okay!”
AVC: I’m becoming increasingly convinced that there’s no such thing as a throwaway part in a David Lynch film.
SF: No, every single thing is completely planned. But that’s a mistake that other people make, too. I mean, this is only my personal observation, but if someone even just walks through the frame sweeping the floor or is an extra… My perspective is that he honors every single person’s story, every presence in every moment. He just knows how to be grateful for the present, and he knows how to see the magic in the seemingly mundane. Some people are like, “Oh, no, just do it quick, we have to shoot the lead,” but for him, that’s not finding the truth. He’s great.
Boxing Helena (1993)—“Helena”
AVC: What was it like working with two generations of Lynches?
SF: The best. I wish I could only work with the both of them. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you detect any genetic similarities in their styles?
SF: Sure, but David—I call him D.K.L.—always says that Jennifer did a great job of raising him. [Laughs.] That’s his buddy. They’re, like, best friends. And she’s actually one of my best friends. She’s one of the most honestly brilliant young women I know. She’s amazing. I love her! We have all these ideas of things to do in the future together.
AVC: It’s well documented how Boxing Helena was received, but how was the experience of actually making it?
SF: It was great. It was challenging. It was a lot of different things. But it was one of those things that people didn’t know how to receive it then. As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy with it just as it is.
AVC: When I talked to her a few years ago, Jennifer summed it up by saying, “For a long time, I couldn’t look at it, but now I find it as something precious. When you finish something and you let it out there, it is completely out of your control. You’ve done what you’ve done, you haven’t done what you haven’t done, and now you are up for judgment.”
SF: [Wistfully.] Yeah.
AVC: When it was mauled by the critics, did you roll with it, or were you taken aback?
SF: Well, I went to the Cannes Film Festival, and I was seven or eight months pregnant, so I had something far more amazing on the verge. I felt that I did the best that I could, and some things come together and some things don’t. I poured everything I could into it, and sometimes… Actually, in a perfect world, that would be enough all the time. If I believe the good, then I have to believe the bad, you know what I mean? So I didn’t read a lot of things. I knew they said a lot of really cruel things about Jen, but, you know, you have a life beyond wondering, “What did they say? What did they think?”
I showed up to the premiere here, and these women were out picketing it! They had these T-shirts on, with their arms inside their T-shirts. The movie they were there to complain about wasn’t the movie that Jen and I had made. I don’t think these people had even seen the movie. I don’t know, maybe what we tried to do didn’t come across to all people. She was 19 when she wrote it. It’s a trippy thing. But I’ve had many people come to me and say, “Oh, my God, that movie tripped me out, and I loved it.” There’s no blood in it, and we tried to… there’s so many different levels where you could think of what it feels like to be boxed in. We did the best we could.
21 Jump Street (1987)—“Diane Nelson”
SF: Well, 21 Jump Street was scary just because I was acting with the person I was in a relationship with [Johnny Depp]. I had to go in and read for it, and I remember the scariest part was that somehow I wasn’t going to be able to do the emotional scenes, and this was Johnny’s show, and they were going to think I got it because of him, or I’m going to disappoint him. That’s what I was more afraid of, I think, than anything. So I stayed in my own little room and tried to focus.
AVC: If Dummies, the student film that you and Johnny worked on together, were to suddenly surface, would you cringe?
SF: No, not at all! That’s when we met and fell in love, and our dear friend Max is in it. Max Perlich. He’s, like, 16 in it. And Laurie Frank directed it. So, no, I wouldn’t cringe at all. I have pictures from the set! We were so goofy and cute. [Laughs.] It was fun! It was a great time.
Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story (1995)—“Elizabeth Taylor”
SF: Loved it. I’m proud of it. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was great.
AVC: You haven’t done much in the way of biopics. You obviously had the advantage that she was still alive at the time, but how much research did you do? How familiar had you been with her work?
SF: I was familiar with her, and I did a fair amount of research. My favorite research was the candid footage of her where she was, like, yelling at somebody or, you know, just being the broad that she was. I was interesting in discovering more about her, and I always tried to focus more on the woman than the legend or the icon and everybody’s own individual version of what that is. She was badass! [Laughs.] Really strong. And eccentric and fiery and powerful and clear and blunt. Spoke like a sailor. She was extreme, but she had the ability to love again and again and again and still believe in it every time.
AVC: I don’t know how she felt about the film, per se, but did you ever hear if Elizabeth Taylor appreciated your performance?
SF: Well, I never met her, but I heard it from a little woman that pulled me aside in a dermatology office, oddly enough. [Laughs.] She said she was her friend, but God only knows. I mean, sure, I worked hard. But they made some moves that I thought were bad, and I would fight to not have 20 scenes where she was fat. It was a crazy experience, working six-day weeks for eight weeks, playing her in her life from ages 16 through 63. I thought I was losing my mind. And my first child was still so young. In fact, he plays Liz’s youngest son in one of the scenes. If you watch it, there’s my little guy there, maybe five months old or something. So it was hard, but it was great. I learned a lot.
Fatal Instinct (1994)—“Sandy”
SF: [Sadly.] My grandma was dying during the making of that. But it was silly fun. Here’s the bad part, though: I don’t like those kinds of movies. [Laughs.] You know, those Airplane! type of movies, they’ve never been my cup of tea. But it was fun making it, and Carl [Reiner] is amazing, obviously, and a legend. Kind and good and funny. He actually said to me, “What role do you want to play?” I said, “I want to play the girl Friday.” He said, “Oh, you don’t want to play the vixen?” I said, “No. I want to play the girl Friday.” He said, “Okay!” But I didn’t think the film really worked.
The Wild Life (1984)—“Penny Harlin”
The Wraith (1987)—“Keri Johnson”
AVC: We’ve talked about a couple of the teen films you did in the ’80s, but is there anything worth telling about the others?
SF: Well, The Wild Life was with Christopher Penn, and it was written by Cameron Crowe as somewhat of a continuation of Fast Times [At Ridgemont High]. Bless his heart. He was great. Thrashin’ was a silly skateboarder movie, and it’s funny and dumb. And The Wraith… Well, that was just Charlie Sheen. [Long pause.] Don’t I sound excited?
AVC: … she said with all due sarcasm.
SF: [Laughs.] Exactly.
AVC: That’s now on DVD as well, you know.
SF: Oh, I’m sure it is. By popular demand, no doubt. [Laughs.]
Three Of Hearts (1993)—“Ellen”
SF: I loved doing that, because that was where I met Mitch Glazer and Kelly. It was getting crazy on the set. I think Kelly, Billy [Baldwin], and I all had the same lawyer, so he came down hard because this freaking director could not pull it together, and they brought in this would-be writer who would make this all come together… and that was Mitch! He would write the most amazing pages, the poor thing. [Laughs.] The director, Yurek Bogayevicz, said to Mitch [In a Polish accent.] “Can you stand by me on the set? Because after every scene, the actors look at you, so it will look like they’re looking at me.” Mitch said, “I felt so bad for him!” But he didn’t know what he was doing, and we were all scared. Then Mitch pulled it all together. It was funny to work with him all these years later on Magic City, because he figured out that it was almost 20 years to the week from when we first met, and here we were working together again. It’s just a travesty that they canceled the show. I’m still so sad about that for them. I thought they were doing such great work.
AVC: Do you recall having to deal with any outcry at the time about the film?
SF: I don’t think I paid a lot of attention, honestly. But I do remember a girl coming up to us in the park, teary-eyed, because she was gay and she had just watched us do one of our scenes. People have always got something to say, but… just look at your own truth, you know? Life is short, and nobody was trying to do anything wrong there or do anything offensive, in my opinion. If you think differently, then don’t watch it. [Laughs.] There’s millions of other movies you can pick from! I think at that time a lot of people weren’t really doing anything like Three Of Hearts, which was a sweet little story.
Birds Of Prey (2002)—“Dr. Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn”
AVC: You were in the original pilot for Birds Of Prey, but not in the eventual series.
SF: Yeah, that was good fun! I don’t remember what happened. It might’ve had to do with some kind of financial situation, because I thought it was fun. It was easy to play. It seems like I had to go somewhere after I filmed it, but… I don’t remember! Sometimes I’m like Dory from Finding Nemo. I can’t remember facts. [Laughs.] “What happened?” Something happened, though, because I know we had a good time filming it. It was probably money or something. They had all of these other girls, and I wasn’t supposed to be a main character, so… there you go.
Two Moon Junction (1988)—“April”
Meridian: Kiss Of The Beast (1990)—“Catherine”
SF: [Long pause.] Meridian, I really just think of going to Italy and living in a castle, which was kind of strange. Two Moon Junction… Seeing it, I felt that it was very exploitative, and I had to recognize after that movie that sometimes I have to be really clear with a director and really hear what they say, and not be so idealistic and think that what I’m making is something prettier than the real version. Because, you know, I was in my 20s. I was still just getting started. I didn’t really know.
AVC: When you first saw it, were you instantly appalled, or did you still think that there still might be merit to it?
SF: You know what? I don’t know that I’ve seen a lot of things I’ve done from beginning to end. I think I’ve seen clips and freaked out. I’m not somebody who watches things they’ve done. It was more… [Hesitates.] I was just feeling like I was being judged or something. And in a weird way, my mother was like that woman, so… I don’t really know. There’s just certain things about it. I thought it was a love story, which was really a primary difference—and a problem—between me and my director. For him it was not at all, and for me it was. I mean, that’s why I felt she was willing to let everything go. Without love, it’s nothing… and that’s a big difference! [Laughs.]
Gilmore Girls (2003, 2007)—“Sasha” / “Anna Nardini”
SF: I loved doing Gilmore Girls. I love Amy Sherman-Palladino. I’d do anything with her.
AVC: Given what a pop culture aficionado she is, I can just imagine her coming to you and saying outright, “I loved you on Twin Peaks. Will you be on my show?”
SF: You know, she said to me that she would’ve actually had me read for Gilmore Girls, but I was doing Rude Awakening at the time they were casting the pilot. And then they were going to do a spin-off with Milo [Ventimiglia], and she wrote this great character for me named Sasha. Milo leaves and goes to Venice Beach to find his real father, and I had short white-blonde hair and was the stepmother, and I had, like, 20 dogs. It was so great! But then the network said that Milo wasn’t strong enough to hold his own show. Then, of course, the next thing you know, he’s got Heroes. [Laughs.] Anyway, that’s when I first met her, but then when she wrote this other role a few years later, she knew my hair was dark again, so I could come back as a different character, so she asked me to play Anna. And I said, “Yay! Yes! Anything you write!”
Ruby (1992)—“Sheryl Ann DuJean / Candy Cane”
SF: Loved that movie. It’s a great story, and it was fun dancing. [Laughs.] I like those kinds of movies, things set in that era. It was kind of my chance to put a spin on Marilyn.
AVC: As far as the dancing, did you actually have a coach who helped you prepare?
SF: Oh, my God, yes. It was really scary! It was really hard, too. I got in a fight with Danny Aiello, because him and his, like, crazy little goombah friends are calling other guys to come sit in the audience when I’m going to dance. I could hear them on the phone! [Does a New Jersey accent.] “Yeah, come on over, she’s gonna dance! Yeah!” And I’m like, “Whoa!” I’m trying to work, and I’ve got my own issues with trying to do that kind of a role, I wanted to push through and not be afraid… and they’re calling people to watch me! So, yeah, it was… interesting. [Laughs.]