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Sunday, 5 January 2014

JENNA ELFMAN Interview

I love Jenna Elfman. What an amazing actress! She's typically described as energetic, funny and quirky, and while she is all of those things, it's important to not dismiss the fact that this is an extremely hard-working and talented actress (and mother of 2!) at the absolute top of her craft. 

Like many of the characters she has portrayed, Jenna is an breath of fresh air, even when doing an interview by email in the midst of a hectic work schedule. 

Jenna is one of my favourite actors, and to get the chance to ask her questions was a blast. Here goes. 



How's it going? What are you working on? 

It's going great! Just finished filming the movie Big Stone Gap with Ashley Judd, Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Wilson, Jane Krakowski and John Benjamin Hickey.  Now I'm busy filming a new comedy series for NBC called Growing Up Fisher, with J.K. Simmons.

Busy as always! I first got to know you, as I'm sure many did, through the wonderful 'Dharma and Greg', but you were acting for a long time before that. What were some of the most important moments for you in your career in the years leading up to Dharma?  

The TV show I was on right before I got Dharma and Greg, which was an ABC comedy called Townies, which starred Molly Ringwald, Lauren Graham and myself. It only lasted one season, but was my first series regular role and and because of it, I got to be able to have Dharma and Greg created for me.



You've zig-zagged between TV and film over the years -- when you were starting out, movies were the cool place to be, now, arguably, it's TV. How have things changed for you personally? 

The shift in the entertainment industry and media platforms for entertainment over the last 10-15 years has been mega and it's still calibrating and finding itself.  So, for me as an actress, I've had to also be creative to keep relevant and on top of all the possibilities and adjustments in my own industry.

I love your podcast. That's a form that has really taken off in recent years. What do you get from podcasting that you don't get from your other work? 

Thanks, glad you like it! Doing our podcast is really liberating for me.  It is just my husband, Bodhi Elfman, and I sitting down and chatting about our marriage, marriage politics and funny stories from our 22 years together, unscripted and unedited.  Not careful, not conservative— just us. R-rated comedy chatter. Nothing withheld.

You can find Jenna and Bodhi's podcast on iTunes by clicking HERE

Going back to 'Dharma and Greg'; there were a lot of great sitcoms at the time, it was the days of 'Friends', 'Frasier' and so many more. I don't know what it was like in the US, but here in the UK; it had a much smaller audience, but the fans were loyal, it had a real cult following -- what is it about the show that connected with people in a way that I think is often different to those other shows? 

I think our show was truly based on joy.  Dharma was a unique character, Greg's voice was more the one of the "sensible" audience watching— and Dharma inspired people and gave them relief and let them laugh and imagine.  I think most women characters on TV at that time had been worried about love, their careers, their friends.  Dharma was not neurotic or worried.  She was genuinely happy and it was well-written, and I think it was just a burst of light into the television landscape.

I think what a lot of people love about you and your work is your great energy, your personality. I can imagine when it's late at night, you've got a headache and you're out for groceries, people want you to be the Jenna Elfman they see on TV. Do you ever find that difficult, or are you always bursting with energy?  

Well, I AM energetic, however I AM human and a working mother of 2 young, energetic boys and I'm married to Bodhi, which, if you've listened to the podcasts, well you can imagine what that's like!  (And SO GLAD I'm married to him, don't get me wrong.)  But ya, I get tired, cranky and frustrated just like anybody else.  But MOST of the time, I'm pleased with the great gifts I am fortunate to have in my life and I am grateful for all of it everyday.  Unless I'm tired and cranky.

Your career has gone through a great deal of changes - as is the same for any actor -  how do you maintain a sense of control throughout it all? 

Who said I had any sense of control?! (Bursting out laughing!) I maintain my sense of humor and that gives me tolerance for all the other craziness around me. And my husband helps me a lot, too. He's my best friend and comrade-in-chaos!

'Accidentally on Purpose' was a really fun show - it was great to see you take the lead in a sitcom format again. Like so many great shows, it didn't make it past the first season. Do you think that was just the case of networks being networks, or is there something about the show that didn't quite work?

Well, that's always hard to say- there are so many factors that go into making a show, let alone one that goes on to become a hit and many of those factors are beyond any one person's immediate control.... But I hear lots of people are enjoying it on Netflix, so that makes me happy!!

A few questions about how you go about your craft --- How are you with auditions? And how often do you have to do them compared with just getting offered a role based on your work? 

I hate auditions.  I RARELY have actually gotten hired from an audition (for films.)  All the films I got were not from auditions, but some other meeting, chance luck, offer, etc.  I used to like auditions early in my career, because I actually GOT JOBS by doing auditions.  But now that I have a career, I haven't gotten a single job from an audition.  They are a real buzz kill for me.  Argh. Need to solve that one! LOL

How do you maintain your craft? Although I of course think you are fabulous already, I always find that the top actors continue to learn and improve their craft-- I'm interested in how! 

Well, I am a people-watcher! I just always have been.  That to me, staying present in life, aware of human behavior, not removing yourself from people, but instead staying involved in the world around you, paying attention, watching how people look, carry themselves, react, dress, hide, pretend, dodge, etc. is the best acting lessons ever.  We are, as actors, playing people,  after all.

Is there anything you have not yet achieved with your career that you hope to in the coming years? 

I just want to continue to try new kinds of comedy and roles and tones that I have not explored yet.  I just want to keep expanding, in whatever , various, interesting ways that manifests itself, I'm IN!

Care to share?

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