Carolyn Hennesy is an Emmy-winning actress, acclaimed author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She was seen most recently in ION’s A Snow White Christmas as Victoria and can be seen in the upcoming movie St. Agatha. I got the chance to talk to this charming woman about both projects, how she got into acting originally, her love of ABBA and The Andy Griffith Show and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say.
First, tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
My father was a production designer for motion pictures. My aunt was an actress. She’s still living, so I guess you could say she’s still is an actress although she doesn’t act anymore. Her name was Barbara Rush. And my father Dale Hennesy was an academy award winning production designer, so I walked onto my first sound stage at the age of four. And it was instantaneous. I mean it was almost a symbiotic kind of relationship that I had with that big black room. People were bustling about and then suddenly it got very quiet and then suddenly something happens and suddenly the director would yell ‘cut’ and people were bustling again. I just knew that I needed to be a part of whatever that was going on there.
So would that be the moment or experience you would credit with helping you decide acting is what you wanted to do or was there another moment later on where you were like, “No, this is what I’m actually meant to be doing”?
I think it was that moment coupled with a moment when I was 11 or 12 and I was in an elementary school play and I heard applause and knew that at least some of it was for me and said, “Well, this is it.” It’s like oxygen, making people laugh is like oxygen… knowing that you’ve touched people on a certain level is like oxygen to me. As I got older and realized that there were more profound ways of doing that, I said,” There’s really nothing else for me to do on this planet in this lifetime.”
I’m curious, you’ve obviously had tons of different roles on tons of different mediums, but do you have an acting bucket list of different roles you still want to try out in your career? And if so, what are some of the things on that list?
One of the things that sits at the top, and unfortunately everyone in the cast would need to be aged up considerably because it is Elizabeth Barrett, who becomes Elizabeth Barrett Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street. It’s a film with Nora Shearer and Charles Laughton and she is so incredibly vulnerable. She is very wise but very delicate. She’s got a steel spine yet she kind of caters to her overbearing father a great deal and defied him in the end. But it’s almost this intrinsic sense of vulnerability and goodness that emanates from her, which is completely different from most of the roles that I am offered. And so that’s the kind of thing I would do, a role where you can just show incredible vulnerability and a steel spine, laughter and tears.
I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your most recent project that just premiered over the Christmas holiday, A Snow White Christmas. What was your audition process like for that?
I was offered the role. There was no audition process.
Is that something that’s become a little more commonplace for you in your career or was this like a one-off [thing] and usually you still have to audition for roles?
No, I’m happy to report that it is becoming more frequent.
That’s awesome. So A Snow White Christmas is an adaptation of the classic Snow White story. How did this particular adaptation differentiate itself from previous ones you’ve seen?
Humor, tremendous amounts of humor. There was a lot of fun and funny stuff happening in this particular adaptation. Another interesting twist is that the mirror, which figures so prominently in all of the variations of Snow White, is personified in this movie and it is portrayed by an actor named Rich Barnes. Rich plays Zane, who is my yes man, lap dog. He is everything to Victoria. And then, every once in a while he will turn on Victoria and he will give her the straight scoop about who is the fairest in the land. Victoria didn’t like that so she gets to take it out on a real person as opposed to a mirror.
What did you like most about playing Victoria?
Again, the humor. When you can combine evil thoughts and evil deeds with a tremendous sense of humor, you have the most interesting combinations at play. Also the shoes.
Did you get to keep any of them?
Yes, I did. What I didn’t walk away with, they just sent me.
Yeah, that’s definitely got to be the best part. I got to see the movie and they looked exquisite.
We owe that to Clinton O’Dell and Jessica Pribble. Clinton O’Dell, who was the costume designer, had a field day with Victoria’s stuff because he was able to be outrageous, for both Victoria and Zane. We had a great time with him and Jessica Pribble.
I know obviously Christmas season is over, but it seems that it’s more socially acceptable these days to watch Christmas movies all year long. So why should people still watch A Snow White Christmas?
Who doesn’t want to see the queen of evil get her comeuppance? Who doesn’t want to see this and laugh while doing it? Who doesn’t want to see fun and funny evil get a swift kick in the you-know-what? That’s a timeless lesson that can be learned at any time of year. Don’t be an awful person or awful things will happen to you.
Very true. Switching gears a little bit, you’ve been starring as Diane on General Hospital. Is there anything you can say about any upcoming episodes? Are you scheduled to appear anytime soon?
I’m not, so I can’t say anything period. I wouldn’t be able to say anything even if I knew because that would land me in the hot seat with the executive producer. And as much as I think the fans, the audience, your readers love spoilers, I truly believe that they don’t want to know what’s coming up. They want to be surprised, excited, devastated and exhilarated because if you know that something’s coming, the anticipation can very often kill those wonderful highs and lows that we feel with you.
For sure. I definitely agree with that. It’s like a love-hate relationship. It’s like you want to know so bad that you’d be willing to be spoiled, but then, as you said, it ruins it at the moment and you’re like, “Oh, well darn. That wasn’t as exciting when you actually see it.”
Exactly. I think I would [probably call that anticipation] foreshadowing or knowledge of what’s coming up.
When you do appear on General Hospital, what is that shooting schedule actually like? Because I know soap operas are notorious for doing things extremely fast and efficient.
You just said it, it’s fast and efficient. There are very often portions of the three shows, at least two shows, being shot every single day. You get a blocking rehearsal, a camera rehearsal, and then you go. And if it’s something that’s truly screwed up, they will let you take it again. If you completely forget where you are, they will let you do it again. But they love one take because sometimes they have to do 140 pages a day.
Wow. I can only imagine.
It’s a workout for your brain. It’s a mental gym.
So I also wanted to ask you, I know you have a role in another movie coming up, St. Agatha. I don’t know how much you can say, but just share a little bit about that film and what role you play in that.
The premiere of St. Agatha is in early February, so it will be in theaters after that in limited cities and have limited release but is something that I think everybody should see. I play the Mother Superior of a convent that takes in girls who are in trouble and by trouble in the 1950s I mean they are about to be unwed mothers, so we offer a safe haven for these young girls who can come and ride out their pregnancy, deliver their babies in safety and then move on. Or is it? Because the truly dark underbelly of this place makes itself very evident very early on in the movie and one girl tries to fight against it. Mother Superior and her hench-nuns, as I call them, are far too powerful. This is the case of evil with probably no comeuppance, no retribution. This is not funny. This is a horror film from Darren Lynn Bousman, the director who has an incredible pedigree with Saw II, III, and IV. He wanted a psychological thriller with gory moments and that’s exactly what we’ve got. There is no fun Mirror Mirror on the wall. There is no humor. There is very little but bleak and black.
Was this your first time doing a solely horror/psychological thriller film?
What was that like?
And starring in it. There was a sense of responsibility I felt, of course, not only to the word and the audience but to myself, to really kind of go deep with this character. This is the antithesis of something like Emily Barrett. This is just Lannister and Hannibal Lecter. So it was tough but, again, fun. A whole lot of fun. And it’s the sort of role where you can do things and then you get to walk away and live what you hope is a fairly normal life.
I just have one last question for you — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. So what is something you nerd out about?
I listen to ABBA.
Oh yes. I love ABBA.
And I watch The Andy Griffith Show.
Oh, such a great show. Two great things. Are you a fan of the Mamma Mia movies?
I have not seen them, so I cannot say one way or the other.
Gotcha. I was just curious.
I’ll tell you what else I’m nerding out about, the fact that I have been tapped for and have recorded the role of General Leia Organa in Star Wars Resistance, the animated series and Lego Star Wars, also an animated series. It’s been released and it’s out there. So I’m also nerding out about that. It’s sort of like an out of body experience where I get to nerd out about the lines that I say, things like, “May the force be with you” and I just crumble into a heap because the legacy is so rich and the responsibility is great.
Featured Photo Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin