A talk with Kelli Maroney

Caps talks to 80s actress Kelli Maroney about her career and her retro past.
May 25, 2007
As part of a (hopefully) continuing series of interviews with famous people who saw retro culture first-hand, I now give you an interview I've done with 80s actress Kelli Maroney.

For the uninformed, Kelli starred in several of our favorite 80s movies, including the supporting role of Cindy in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" (She was the cheerleader who got pissed off at the student body for not showing school spirit) and a starring role as Samantha in the 1984 cult classic "Night Of The Comet" (Also playing a cheerleader, but this time fighting zombies and devious medical personnel in post-apocalyptic California). She's keeping busy to this day, working on a variety of projects ranging from the upcoming horror movie "Nightmare Carnival" to an upcoming kids' TV cartoon called "Snuggy Bear And The T-Shirt Kids", as well as being a member of California's East End Theater. She recently took some time out of her busy schedule to do an interview with me.

So, without further ado, here's:

The RetroJunk Interview with Kelli Maroney


Caps: When you were growing up, what were your pop-cultural likes (favorite movies, TV shows, music, books)?

Kelli: I remember Star Trek re-runs the most. We watched them while we ate dinner. The Brady Bunch, Partridge Family. I read all the Nancy Drew books, "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret," The Beatles, The Stones, CSNY. I watched old movies on TV with my mom. Also, Horror movies on Saturday afternoon and sometimes at night.

Caps: You went to school from the mid-60s to the 70s. On various websites I've been a part of, I've heard people say that now schools are too wussified and playing it safe. Would you say that school was different when you were growing up, or has it pretty much stayed the same?

Kelli: How would I know? I don't have any children. If anything, I hear about shootings and all that. I also hear that kids in school are more careful now, which is smart.

Caps: Your first big role was on the soap opera "Ryan's Hope". I know that soap operas tend to air without letting up except for holidays and the like. What's it like for the actors who work on these shows to be filming so many episodes at a time?

Kelli: Well, we usually did one show per day. RH was shot like a play, almost. Hour-long shows shoot differently.It depends on what kind of storyline you are in--it's very hard when it's such sustained emotional material. I bet it's a lot of fun if you're shooting in Paris or a great location, but I didn't get the opportunity to do that. I yelled and screamed and cried and plotted, mostly. It's great training for thinking and working on your feet. But it's probably more tedious if you are playing a 'good' character. I was a bad girl.

Caps: Your film debut was the 1982 classic "Fast Times At Ridgemont High". What was it like to work on this movie? Was the mood light-hearted, or was there any tension going on? I can imagine that there might have been an issue or two with Sean Penn, who wanted to be referred to by the name Spicoli all both and off the set. Am I right in making this assumption?

Kelli: I remember it as a very creative and exciting shoot. Sean is a consummate professional. I'm sure he had a very hard time trying to stay in character for such a long shoot, but he did it. I remember one issue where an extra in a lunchroom scene got real obnoxious and starting trying to take pictures and Sean made him stop. The extra was totally out of line.

Caps: Speaking of "Fast Times At Ridgemont High", there are people were born in the 80s (like myself) who enjoy the movie and can relate to it in many ways. What is it about this movie that makes it resonate with youth a quarter-of-a-century after its' release?

Kelli: Because although it's a time capsule now, the whole feeling of being in High School and not knowing how to fit in and feeling tested moment by moment by your peers because you're taking your self image by how others are reacting to you is timeless. Coming of age stories are all timeless. A quarter of a century? Hey, what is this, anyway?

Caps: 2 years later, you starred in the cult classic "Night Of The Comet". I enjoy seeing movies where women are the action heroes instead of eye candy or body count. Did you see this movie as one about women taking charge or as just a genre movie?

Kelli: In retrospect I do...when I compare it to the feeble roles that are available for women in this genre today I cannot believe how much the industry has regressed.

Caps: You and Catherine Mary Stewart were both in your mid-20s when playing teenagers in "Night Of The Comet". You had me convinced that the both of you were teenagers. A lot of 80s movies were like that (adult actors as younger characters). It's continuing to this day, but I find today's actors less believable than those in the 80s. Do you think that 80s actors were better at pulling off these roles, or do you feel that today's actors are doing as good a job as many of you did back in the 80s?
Kelli: I don't have any idea how old Cathy was, but you must be getting your information from the IMDb. They have me five years older than I am on there. I was 18 or 19, but I don't think that's the heart of this question. I really don't notice any difference, but honestly, I don't watch a ton of teenage stuff these days, so I'm not the person to ask. On both FTRH and NOTC all the actors gave up on trying to portray the kids we saw in schools because they were much more sophisticated than our characters. More make-up,and attitude in general than we needed for the film. That's probably true today. Maybe that's why. A big storyline in FT, for example, was Stacy being pregnant. There were lots of girls in that school who were pregnant or had kids. Gotta remember, there are films and there is real life. Real life is always much more harsh!

Caps: Two years later, you starred in the movie "Chopping Mall". I was watching my copy of it last night, and I really enjoyed it. Something I've noticed during my time on the Internet, though, is that this movie, and seemingly 80s movies in general, are described as cheesy. The dictionary defines the word "cheesy" as shabby and cheap, but people use it as a compliment. I don't think "Chopping Mall" is cheesy. There were times that I used the word to describe other 80s movies, but then I realized that I was denigrating movies that I supposedly liked. I no longer use the word myself, but I know plenty of people who do. I don't understand how an insult can be a compliment.

So my question is this: When someone uses the word cheesy to describe one of your movies, do you feel that it's a compliment or an insult?

Kelli: think if we substitute fun for cheesy? It's meant to convey that the movie is fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's not very flattering I agree. But, I am really used to cringing by now.

Caps: I read somewhere that somebody said that pretty much everybody in the entertainment industry in the 80s tried cocaine at one point or another. Would you say that there's any truth to that, and did you ever try it yourself? You don't have to answer that second question if you don't want to.

Kelli: I don't have to answer ANY of these questions if I don't want to, kid. : ) Seriously, I don't think you can make a sweeping statement like that and I wouldn't take many, many things that you read so literally.

Caps: I was watching the DVD of "Scream Queen Hot Tub Party", and you and the other ladies looked stunning in it. While I was paying attention to the nudity, I was also doing some thinking. Many of the teen horror movies made from the 70s up to the early 90s were released to theaters, and also had lots of nudity and violence. The teen horror movies that are released to theaters nowadays tend to be rated PG-13 with the raw stuff saved for the unrated DVD, and those that aren't go directly to video.

This next question is two-fold: Firstly, why are so many horror movies in theaters this decade so wussified, and secondly, will there ever come a time when horror movies with R-ratings are once again the rule instead of the exception?

Kelli: Well, you will need to define 'wussified.' It's important to note that the ratings system has changed, too. I will have to get out my crystal ball and get back to you. All kidding aside, since these films are geared towards males in their teens to early twenties, in fact, No. In two words, probably not.

Caps: On a related note, "Night Of The Comet", on a budget of 3 million dollars or so, was able to turn a profit in 1984, while the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez movie "Grindhouse" looks like it will have a long way to go to become profitable? What did you have back then that this decade's filmmakers don't?

Kelli: Less fear, certainly. Here you are believing everything you read again! NOTC's budget was a big $750,000 at MOST. I in no way wish to knock Grindhouse, though.
I haven't even seen it yet. We had to rely on the human relationships because our effects were not spectacular. That's why films are interesting in the end and why they endure or not. If you spend a lot of money on a film it will take that much longer to make a profit, no doubt.
In my humble opinion, the industry has gotten distracted by all the new toys of technology coming at us left and right. Hopefully it will balance out soon.

Caps: In your theater experience, have you ever participated in any musicals? It would be interesting to hear you sing.

Kelli: "Interesting' would be a very polite way to phrase it. I wish I could sing so much! Nope, no musicals. YET, because I'm thinking back on a few films where the actors couldn't sing but it didn't get in their way.

Caps: What was the wildest entertainment-industry party you went to in the 80s?

Kelli: I was invited to the Playboy mansion for a party because we were talking about me doing a pictorial. That was amazing. In the 80s it still had the shadow of the Dorothy Stratten tragedy. When I catch The Girls Next Door everything seems so much fun there!

Caps: Why didn't they cover "Night Of The Comet" in any of the 1984 episodes of the various "I Love The 80s" programs? I can't believe that, in 2005, VH1 felt that the anti-fur movement, which is still around to this day, was more worthy of discussion than a uniquely 80s project like NOTC.

Kelli: I have no idea. MGM was certainly thrown to discover how big the DVD release was for them. Industry people don't always know what people want to see, as you know.

Caps: Related to question 14, would you ever do a VH1 Celebreality show, or do you feel that reality television isn't really all that good?

Kelli: I will try not to be offended by that question. No. I would do one of my friends paranormal shows as myself for the fun of it. I am very upset about the damage that reality TV has done to our industry.

Caps: Finally, if you could go back to the 80s with the knowledge you have now, is there anything you would change?

Kelli: I would have more fun, take more chances and have more confidence. The burden of civilization isn't as bitchin' as we thought it would be. I took everything so seriously as a kid.
If you ask me the same thing at the end of my life, no doubt I will answer the same way.


I would like to thank Kelli Maroney for allowing me to do this interview. I look forward to future works from her.

Coming soon (if I get permission from the moderators), I'll be reposting an interview I did with Stacey Q for the now-defunct oldschool4life.
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