20 Questions: Tanna Frederick

Tanna Frederick may seem like a drama queen on screen (at least, in her role as Margie Chizek, in Henry Jaglom’s Hollywood Dreams, recently released on DVD), but she’s really pretty down to earth, as seen in her preference for fishing with her dad and stealing forks with her mom. And she doesn’t need a scriptwriter’s lines to be funny — that comes naturally.

Like her character, Margie, she really does hail from Iowa, albeit with Honors in both Political Science and Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa, where she graduated Valedictorian of her Liberal Arts graduating class and president of Phi Beta Kappa. And she really does know Tae Kwon Do — even though it looks like she’s just faking it in the movie.

Indeed, Tanna is a formidable figure whom you can expect to see more of on the silver screen. More on that, below, as she speaks with PopMatters 20 Questions about the cat’s meow, the best hot chocolate money can buy, and her intriguingly dexterous toes.

See PopMatters‘ review of Hollywood Dreams here.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Be Here Now. I have issues with meditation. A friend suggested this book to try and help me become more centered. I couldn’t handle it. I cried. Then I tried to do some home yoga tapes, thinking they might work. I started crying again. I think I have anger issues with yoga. I’m working on it. I always tend to get out aggression, sadness, pain, whatever angst I might have on the forefront through surfing or sparring. I don’t know, must be an Iowa thing. I’d rather wrestle a pig then do the down dog position.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Betty in Betty and Veronica. She is always trying to get the guy, always losing out to some hot six foot one slick supermodel chick with mountains of cash. Seriously, I grew up with glasses the size of coke bottles, braces, and a huge permed head of hair, not to mention a large nose that has particular ramifications in terms of physical confidence.

I asked a lot of boys out in middle school, and I tended to skip right past the guys in choir and band with me and shoot for the top — the star football players and such — and got knocked down and then made fun of. So I wouldn’t even say Betty, I guess, I would have to say Madge, Jughead’s girlfriend. OK, this Archie comic book analogy is making me spiral into dark places.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Free To Be You and Me. My mom started playing it for me when I was a wee tyke, and I think it’s the most influential piece of art that’s had the most profound effect on my childhood. It gave me confidence to be a girl, a strong female, and gave me respect for those who were boys…Plus how can you pass up the fact that you’re six and listening to Mel Brooks, Alan Alda, Dionne Warwick, Kris Kristofferson…I mean for a children’s album it was high art! I still listen to it…Don’t tell.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars. I, like many young and blossoming girls in the ’80s, began my sexual awakening with this quintessential movie…You have two basic men, Hans and Luke, one the sweet, virtuous doll, and the other the rebellious, wise cracking emotionally unavailable male.

I believe in developmental psychology, and for those of us who grew up with said film in our midst, we ended up dividing men into two categories — sweet and innocent (Luke) or dangerous and aloof (Hans) — and unfortunately spent most of our time going after guys like Hans Solo because the Luke Skywalkers of the world were either too sweet to keep us interested or ended up being our brothers.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Wow. Like, literally? Ummmm, wasabi peanuts. Like figuratively? The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld. And Rutger Hauer’s autobiography. Expose your brain to all of these at once, it will implode.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Because I get to answer questions about whether I like Star Trek or Star Wars and people will actually read it. And because I’m proud to be making films that rely on a budget of what some studios spend on one day of lunch when filming – it’s exciting — the actors are exciting, the environment and texture of the set, the sort of intensity created by such limitations is exciting…And seeing beautiful work come out of it is exciting. Orson said, to quote Henry Jaglom quoting Orson, ‘the enemy of art is the absence of limitations’. I think that’s brilliant and true, and demonstrates itself in indie filmmaking.

Tanna Frederick and Justin Kirk. Photo credit: Paul Smith Photography

7. You want to be remembered for…?

Working hard and never giving up.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Judd Nelson.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Porky’s I, II, and especially V. But not Porky’s III or IV.

And Stomp. I wish I could say I choreographed Stomp. But if I had choreographed Stomp, it would have been very different. I would have incorporated staplers and day planners. And it would have been one big show of people stapling and slapping day planners together. And it would have been very boring. So it’s best I didn’t choreograph Stomp.

10. Your hidden talents…?

I can handcuff people with my toes. They are long and dexterous, like Martian tentacles.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

My Dad said there are three grand essentials of life: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. I think the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) supports all three of those essentials, and I am a proud supporter of that organization. My parents have both been deeply involved with the North Iowa Area Transition Center since I was little…And it’s safe and successful rehabilitation programs have helped so many people.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Long pronged forks. My mom and I steal long pronged forks from restaurants. Not the whole entire stash from a particular restaurant, just one. Or two. My mom started this habit when she was in grad school and I was in fourth grade. She’s an incredibly moral person, and never steals anything. But she loves her long pronged forks, and for some reason she doesn’t want to buy them.

We bond over our long pronged fork memories. We sit at home and eat our salads together and talk about the experience that stolen long pronged fork is from and laugh. Now that I’ve told you this we’ll probably get barred from restaurants.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

One of my Dad’s old pair of sweatpants and faded triathlon t-shirts and mucklucks. Let me add to that. In Wisconsin, on a fishing boat with my pop, huge musky lure on the end of my fishing line, eating jalapenos and Wisconsin cheddar cheese and belching obscenely loudly with my daddy as we sit and stare at the loons in silence. That’s good stuff.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

George Clooney. He’s the cat’s meow. To me he’s the modern day equivalent of the Golden Age of film stars. I’ve watched that man work a room better than I imagine Cary Grant himself could have done. He’s got elegance, finesse, gads of talent, and a face to melt a thousand ships (is that how that saying goes? Well, nonetheless, his does). Sink. I think it’s sink a thousand ships.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Back to the days when they made lard into soap. I think I’d like to make lard soap.

And sausages with intestines. In Des Moines, Iowa at this place called Living History Farms, there are women dressed in bonnets and old Prairie clothing and they sit in 105 degree heat while little kids watch them make lard soap and intestine sausage just like my forefathers and foremothers did. What a great job.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Tae Kwon Do. On a hit man. While getting cranial sacral therapy. Smoking Prozac.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?

7-11 hot chocolate. With lots of their magical cardboard marshmallows. Or, you can always take the janky vanilla latte route at 7-11. May not be Starbucks, but it’s a little piece of heaven. And you can still sneak the cardboard marshmallows in.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Anywhere the surf is good, bra. Costa Rica is where I’m headed this summer with my Channel Islands short board and Stewart long board for some long days of nothing but riding the waves and grilling seafood with my folks.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

On a positive note, I’d like to say, ‘Hey, I bet it’s tough to have your job. Can I take you out to 7-11 for some hot chocolate and cardboard marshmallows?’ Okay, that might sound like the easy way out, but it’s a tough job, I’m sure it’s tough to be president of the VFW let alone the United States of America, and I’d have to say I think more support of anyone, Democrat or Republican, is critical in this juncture of our nation’s history.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I have a movie coming out, Irene in Time, about fathers and daughters, and am filming a sequel to Hollywood Dreams titled Queen of the Lot this fall.

From Hollywood Dreams