• Los Angeles Glow by Kumar Appaiah

Tanna Frederick

Written by Ysmay on .

You may recognise Hollywood based stage and film actress Tanna Frederick from her role in "Queen of the Lot" with Noah Wyle or "Hollywood Dreams" with Justin Kirk. Tanna has taken on the new role of director with the play "Why We Have A Body" (written by Claire Chafee) at the Edgemar Theatre.

A recent review by Highlight Hollywood describes the play as "engrossing, entertaining, comical, whimsical and makes you forget about the world for an hour" and says "From the moment Frederick steps on stage, you are transported to a different world."

Tanna talked to us about her career, her play, which runs til the end of April, and making a life in the City of Angels.


Tell us about your "Joan of Arc calling." What was the moment like when you decided to become an actress?

I was 7 years old and went with my Girl Scout troop to see my best friend in Oliver and I fell inlove with the character of the artful dodger and the whole stage scene. I remember I was sitting in the aisle and my butt hurt because it was oversold but it was the most magical moment. I decided I wanted to be up there and be the artful dodger, and the rest is history. Come to think of it, all of my characters have been kind of dodgy and shifty characters in their own way. Charismatic and naughty in their own sweet way.

Some say "acting is acting" and it's irrelevant whether you're on a stage or in front of the camera. What are the differences for you between being on a stage or in front of a camera that alter your performance?

People used to warn me that because I did theater, I would have no idea what I was doing when I got out to Los Angeles. I gotta tell ya, it’s not that big of a deal. All theater I do is intimate theater. 99 seats. Sometimes I’m big. Sometimes I’m small. When you are shooting a film, sometimes you are big and sometimes you are small. The only thing that changes is the frustration of them yelling “CUT” instead of being able to get through the whole play and vice versa, doing one brilliant take and then never having to do it again.

What have your favorite roles been?

Luckily, I have loved all of them. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to choose roles that I am completely fascinated and intimated by and provide them with endless investigation and intrigue. I love giving the audience something they can leave feeling actually filled up emotionally from and with my prior
role, Sylvia, felt like I really pulled it off. Everybody left with tears and smiles on their face, so that was sort of ahead of the pack in terms of all of the roles I have played. I do love the character I am playing now, Mary, because she is more challenging and it has been more slippery to fit into her skin because she is one wild and deep lady. I really do love her and I’m looking forward to the run.

"Why We Have A Body" was first performed in 1993. Did you see it then or later on?

I performed it in college in 1996 and it - pardon my Iowa euphemism - stuck to my ribs since then. It’s one of those plays, or rather the only play, that has ever really haunted me throughout several scenes in my life. I felt it tugging at me to do it again and somehow looked at my sea of play books and said it’s time to do “Why We Have A Body” and it’s time to direct my first play.

What was it like directing "Why We Have A Body?"

Directing a play has been a very clear streamline for me. I had a very precise vision about what I wanted and this is what it is all about - pushing forward to achieve that vision.

What is it like working with Barbara Bain?

She is absolutely phenomenal. At first it was quite intimidating giving her direction. I remember the first day we were working together and I told her she didn’t have to come to rehearsal the next day because I thought she would be relieved at not having to deal with this first time director since she was absolute perfection and she shot me this look of extreme pissed off-ness and I realized, "Wow, she really wants to work with the director and I’M the director." So, I told her we would have rehearsal the next day and that put a smile on her face and from then on I assumed the courage of a director whether I warranted it or not.

What can the audience expect at the show?

A whole lotta hoopla!! This play has so many nooks and crannies it goes down. So many rabbit holes. I have no way of knowing which rabbit hole a particular person will fall into or which particular theme or word might haunt the audience once they leave the theater, but I do know that Claire Chaffee’s lines are indeed those that haunt and the magical playground in which I’ve given the actors to work will only heighten that, but then again with what? No way to to predict...

What's next for you after “Why We Have A Body"?

“45 Minutes from Broadway” will be released co-starring Judd Nelson and a wonderful cast. Also getting ready to shoot the film, “The Farm” in Iowa, which is part of a film project called, Project Cornlight, that I devised to reinvigorate the film industry in Iowa. After that, “The M Word,” directed by Henry Jaglom should be coming out, a film I did co-starring Michael Imperioli of “The Sopranos” and Corey Feldman, Francis Fisher, and Gregory Harrison.

engrossing, entertaining, comical, whimsical and makes you forget about the world for an hour
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