Valerie Mahaffey says to us “You do know I’m half-Canadian, right? My mother is from New Brunswick” The actress has appeared in a number of outstanding productions and the half-Canadian comment seems to inform our immensely enjoyable interview. She does not bite on our state of the country question: “I don’t want to be put on some sort of list” For the record, we sort of knew that the she was but this wasn’t the reason that we wanted to speak with the star of the cutting new film No Pay, Nudity, which comes to VOD on December 13th. Instead, we wanted to pick her brain about the rich legacy of acting that she has provided over the years and she didn’t disappoint. Here is an abbreviated version of our conversation.
Scene Creek: Do you have people come up to you often and say that they recognize you?
Valerie Mahaffey: (sighs) This movie for an actor is like a dagger to the heart. It’s like “Oh my God, I’ve been through that”. “Oh, don’t I know you?” And sometimes, I get it almost daily. But sometimes it’s “Oh don’t I know you from somewhere”, and it’s like “oh, I’m an actress”, and usually it’s like “oh that’s it”, but sometimes it’s like our daughters go to school together, or it’s like “oh, you look so much younger in person”. What? Do you realize what you’re saying? Do I look like shit in the movie? But yeah, that thing of this old man and his dog is dying. Just don’t.
SC: How has your career path gone so far?
VM: I have gone through the comeuppance and self-doubt that Gabriel Byrne’s character goes through in the movie. I just thought early on “I’m going to do it all” and that carries a young actor for a while, the confidence. Somewhere…in my…middle age…I had my balloon popped a bit and I had doubt and fear creep in, yeah. It interests me, that I talked to Lee, our director, about that guy and how everybody feels that way and it’s all relative and he said that Nathan Lane said to him, “Yeah, I feel that way”, you know, jealous of certain people, and he said “Nathan’s doing great” but it is all relative.
SC: So you feel strongly about No Pay, Nudity?
VM: I kind of love this movie. I feel very happy for my friend Lee (Wilkof), the director, that it’s having some sort of success here. Doesn’t happen to all independent movies, you know? I do remember reading it, and the moment I read it…”this is so good”. This is a story of actors that should be told. I’ve heard people compare it as being the best one since Birdman. It’s all about an actor’s life and I quite agree.
SC: Gabriel Byrne and Nathan Lane both undergo quite the transformation in the film.
VM: I know! And in my mind, because Gabriel’s a bit…as far as I know among the women I know, it’s oooh, you’re a bit of a heartthrob. I thought, “how is he going to play this schlubby down and out actor?” and I thought he did a great job of that, and then Nathan Lane, I have to say, I know Nathan briefly from before, I think he’s very good,but this is my favourite thing I’ve ever seen him do. It’s sort of a funny and moving…but not as large as he’s usually required to play. Well, large, as he had a fat suit on.
SC: So glad to hear that this project was a great fit for you and you knew that it was one of which you are proud. Have there been others that you would like to identify?
VM: I just did a play in March, it was the West Coast premiere of Casa Valentina by Harvey Fierstein. What a wonderful play, that even Harvey didn’t know that there was this group of transvestite men in 1962 that had to have a place to go to dress in women’s clothing. They were mainly heterosexual, which he didn’t realize that there was a component of the cross-dressing world that was mainly heterosexual. He wrote this play which is so beautiful and I had such a happy experience in that. David Lee directed it, who co-produced Cheers and co-created Frasier and Wings, and it was wonderful and then Northern Exposure on TV (for which she won an Emmy) I had so much fun doing it sometimes that translates into pride. I had a little stint on Wings, that was a riot. Then there was a Norman Lear series, also Marta Kaufman and David Crane, who then went on to do Friends, it was called The Powers that Be and I loved doing that, Norman kind of had to convince me to do it, but it was great. Then my friend David Hyde Pierce (who also starred on the show) went on to do Frasier. I tell my daughter, “I just missed the boat on what Marta and David did next, right?”
No Pay, Nudity is now available on Digital Download, DVD and VOD from monterey media.