A Talk With Kathleen Wilhoite

My newest interview is with one of my favorite underrated actresses.
February 23, 2011
As a major fan of 80s movies, I've become familiar not only with the big names of the decade, but also with those who may not necessarily be acknowledged that often, but nevertheless had an impact on the decade's cinema.

My next interview subject is one of my favorite underrated actresses, Kathleen Wilhoite.

It was either "Murphy's Law" or "Private School", I forget which, that introduced me to Ms. Wilhoite's work. I was impressed immediately. She looks good, sings well and is one of the most active actresses in the industry today, but she took some time out of her schedule to work with me.

Without any further ado, I give you:

The RetroJunk Interview With Kathleen Wilhoite!


Caps: What were your pop-cultural likes growing up?

Kathleen: I spent a great deal of time in my room when I wasn't rehearsing for plays. I was always involved in plays. Theater is my training ground for all of it. For the writing, for the songwriting and for my acting. I read plays. I listened to musical soundtracks, and I fantasized about playing all of the great roles. As far as pop-culture is concerned, I grew up in the late seventies, early eighties, so at the risk of sounding like the biggest dork in the world, I'll go chronologically.

MUSIC: As a little kid, the youngest of 5 children, I liked whoever, and whatever my older brother and sisters were into. I liked, Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, ACDC, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, of course. Then, when I got to junior high, I started developing my own musical tastes. I liked The Knack, The Pretenders, The Cars, Pablo Cruise, Kansas, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel.

I started getting leads in shows and became more interested in some of the music my parents liked:
Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Junior, The Anything Goes Cast Album, the Fame album, Hair, Godspell, A Chorus Line, The Fantasticks, West Side Story, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter.

Then I got into songwriting myself and singing so I started listening to Joni Mitchel, Rickie Lee Jones, Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Holly Near, Patti LaBelle, my friend Kay Bess, Bette Midler. Stevie Wonder.

After that I went to Nashville and got into R.E.M, Keith Richard's first solo album, The Questionaires, Jay Joyce, Tom Petty, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, The Indigo Girls, Crowded House.

TV: As a kid, I liked the Brady Bunch, the Partridge Family, H.R Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, but the single greatest influence on me, the thing that has remained consistent is "I Love Lucy". I liked That Girl, Mary Tyler Moore. I watched on Sundays, The Wild Kingdom, and Disney, then my mom and dad would let me watch Columbo. The Waltons, Family (loved Kristy McNichol).

MOVIES: Fame, Saturday Night Fever, Diary of a Mad Housewife, Midnight Cowboy, The Rose.

Caps: What were your school days like?

Kathleen: I was a loner in my early years. I had one friend, Annie Bancroft. I never felt like I fit in. I thought I was pitifully ugly. I thought no one understood me and no one liked me very much. Then I changed schools in the 4th grade, maybe 5th, I can't remember. The new school I went to did big productions. I could sing. I got good parts and felt valued. I suddenly had friends. Theater again saved the day for me. I went to school with the same people on through high school so socially I never had that much of a problem after that. I was a clown. I liked to make people laugh, even if it was at my own expense. I'm sure I was a grotesque prima-donna when it came to theater. I know this because it's what I'm now told at all of my reunions. In general, I had a lot of laughs.

Caps: What inspired you to become an entertainer?

Kathleen: Survival. My ability to sing made me feel important. I have a love/hate relationship with attention. I come from a joke-telling funny family. My father writes songs and sings. It picked me, as they say, I don't think I picked it. If I'd had my choice, volleyball and surfing were valued in my family much more than my weird little drama programs.

Caps: What jobs did you hold before becoming an entertainer?

Kathleen: In high school I worked in a movie theater and at a bakery. I came to L.A and a month later did Private School. I worked a market research job after that when my money ran out, but then I got Quarterback Princess and have not had to get a regular job since.

Caps: One of my favorite lesser-known 80s movies is "Private School". It was your first movie, according to the IMDB, so what was going through your mind as you stepped in front of the camera for the first time?

Kathleen: I thought you got cast in a movie and that was it. You had arrived. There were no ups and downs, just up. It was a harsh reality when the movie came out and I was forced to work my market research job. I also thought that scale plus ten made me a millionaire.

Caps: Another one of my favorite smaller 80s movies is "Murphy's Law". What was Charles Bronson like to work with?

Kathleen: Fantastic. Everything you'd imagine. He was smart, funny, tight-lipped, and a really good actor. He was kind to me and we joked around a lot. I stayed out of his way though and never got too familiar with him. I had a healthy respect that I felt was well deserved.

Caps: I enjoyed "Witchboard", and I think your role as Zarabeth was the best part of the movie. Do you believe that the Ouija board can affect what's going on around you, or do you think it's just a child's toy?

Kathleen: No. However, nothing scares me more than a good movie about the devil with some gregorian chants added to the orchestral soundtrack. I can crawl out of my skin with horror movies like that. So, I will tell you that I don't believe in that stuff, but if I see it in a film, I'm scared out of my wits, so maybe on some level I do believe it. Evil is here. Evil exists--period. I think devil stuff taps into my fear of that.

Caps: A year after "Murphy's Law", you returned to Cannon to work on the movie "Under Cover". Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus stand as 2 of the most interesting figures in 80s cinema. What were they like?

Kathleen: I don't remember Yoram, but I do remember Menahem. He did a development deal with me and we used to watch movies in his private theater together. It was fun. I remember seeing Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Apartment with them. I learned some Hebrew too. That was a long time ago. My memory is shady.
Caps: You played Carrie in "Road House". That movie has become a cult classic in recent years, although the level of appreciation for the movie varies depending on who you're talking to. What do you think "Road House" has that makes it appeal to audiences after all these years?

Kathleen: Patrick, Sam and all the good old fashion redneck ass kicking. It's a theme the men in my life will never tire of. I love it--the mysterious millionaire philosopher, but what he's really passionate about is being a bouncer.

Caps: I've sort of grown out of most 90s cartoons, but "Pepper Ann" is one of the few I can make an exception for. I thought it was a intelligently written show. How did you come to voice the title character?

Kathleen: This guy Jaime liked the character I played in ER. My agents told me I already had the job, so I went in there thinking I was recording a cartoon, never with an understanding that I was auditioning for it. Thankfully, I got the part or it really would have been confounding for me.

Caps: The show was made when Michael Eisner was still head of The Walt Disney Company. Opinion on him is quite divided among fans of Disney. What are your thoughts on him?

Caps: I have no opinion of him.

Caps: What roles did you audition for, but didn't get?

Kathleen: I'm still waiting to hear on Footloose. I'm leaving that up to God though. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. (KIDDING) Okay, so there are a few: Footloose, Big, I went to network on Friends...Oh, a few of those Bratt Pack movies:
Sixteen Candles, The Mare Winningham part as the nice Jewish girl--can't remember the title--oh, St. Elmo's Fire.

Caps: Besides acting, you're an accomplished musician also, having released several albums and frequently playing gigs in California. What does music provide you with that acting doesn't?

Kathleen: A form of personal expression. Acting for me is about becoming a human puppet. Other people's words, other people's stories and trying to nail down other people's visions with as much truth as possible. My songs are mine. My songs are about my life. My songs come from my guts and can fill me with joy sometimes and can hurt me sometimes. I have never felt like "the universe" has ever supported me as a singer/songwriter in the way that makes me think that is something that will ever be lucrative and that bums me out sometimes. I hope I'm wrong about that but I am getting "long in the tooth."

(Broken YouTube Link Removed)

Caps: What 5 musicians have you always wanted to work with?

Kathleen: David Harte, Kay Bess, Gene Reed, Chris Wagner, Chris Joyner, Tony Gilkyson, Jay Joyce, Deana Carter. I think I'd plotz myself if Bonnie Raitt ever sang one of my songs, or Anne or Nancy Wilson, or Aretha, of course. I love the people I play with.

Caps: On a similar note, if I were to look in your CD collection, what 5 artists would I be most surprised to find?

Kathleen: Sammy Davis Junior, Free, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Ohio Players, Queen.

Caps: You combined singing and acting through your work on the TV show "Cop Rock". In 2009, a poster on the IMDB message board for the show suggested that it might have been an influence on "Glee". Do you agree with that assessment?

Kathleen: Uh, I don't know. I don't think they have anything to do with each other. Cop Rock did original music. Glee does covers. Different thing.

Caps: Your IMDB page shows you to be quite an active actress, so what would the perfect day off for you?

Kathleen: I get my kids off to school. I go deal again for an hour with my cohorts that think and strive for the same things I do. I come home and write until 2:00 when it's time to go running. On the tail end of my run, I stop by my kids' school. I pick them up. We walk home. I hang out with them, homework etc. My little feller likes to play Around the World at the moment. My daughter is playing Elphaba in Wicked at her school, so I like to practice her lines with her. I make dinner. The fella comes home. We eat, we hang out. I put the little feller to bed. I put my daughter to bed. I study Spanish with my oldest kid. He goes to bed, then I hang out with my cute, smart, funny, talented husband. Life is sweet.

Caps: On a similar note to question 14, what 5 directors have you always wanted to work with?

Kathleen: Well, Scorsese, of course, Billy Wilder, my friend Stephen Kay, my best friend Kari Lizer...
Oh, I love, love, love the people who did The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rome. Don't know their names but my hat is off to them. I loved those shows.

Caps: If you had to choose between acting and singing, which would you prefer to go with?

Kathleen: Singing--by a long shot.

Caps: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?

Kathleen: Oh, my God, yes. I've been a perpetual malcontent my whole life. I thought I was fat when I was skinny. I thought I was a failure when I was full steam ahead on the road to becoming successful. I thought I was unlovable when everyone around me loved me. I've always thought I was a big dumb ass, when all of my friends were super smart. Birds of a feather. I would tell young Kathy Wilhoite to "Shut the fuck up. Life is sweet. Enjoy every second of it."


I would like to thank Ms. Wilhoite for agreeing to do this interview with me.

For more information on Kathleen Wilhoite, please visit her official website at http://kathleenwilhoite.com/
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