OK, let me just start by saying that Elizabeth Regen is an AMAZING actress. It's true! I'm not just saying that. I recently saw her in a play in LA called "Where The Numbers End," written By Amanda Moresco, and she knocked my socks off. Or, more accurately, her dynamite, searing and powerful performance kicked me in the balls!
When you meet her, you immediately know she's a New Yorker. What I found out, once we spoke, was that we grew up not only in the same neighborhood in New York but in the same building in the TriBeCa neighborhood. Of course, I loved her at first sight!
You've all seen her work, I guarantee it. She's in the very famous "Sex and the City" episode, where Samantha throws a melon through a glass door in the Hamptons. Go check it out. Yes, that's gorgeous Elizabeth Regen in a bikini that barely covers her stunning body!
But, you also know her from "2 Broke Girls," "Entourage," the sitcoms "Sherri" and "Whoopi," and the Luc Besson masterpiece, "The Professional."
We sat down to talk, and I could've stayed there with her for days.
M: I was born and raised in NY, as well. Tell us what it was like for you growing up in NYC in the '70s and '80s. What was your TriBeCa experience like.
E: I was born in St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village. Same hospital my mom was born in. My mom and dad were both born and raised in Chelsea. So were my grandparents so - I'm a third generation Manhattanite. My parents lived on 8th Ave btw 18th and 19th Streets when I was born but moved to Tribeca when I was 9 months old in December of 1975. Tribeca was a ghost town when I was a kid. Literally, no one lived there - no one came down there - no one had ever heard of it. You know this Michael - you're from there as well!
M: Absolutely. There was nothing there. No restaurants, no dry cleaners, nothing. I remember we had to get on the subway and go up to the Village to go food shopping.
E: Right. It was abandoned dairy houses so it smelled like sour milk and cheese. Infested with rats. The boys in the neighborhood would play football in the middle of the street on the weekends because no cars came below Canal EVER. It was such a private experience, right? Like small town living in a big city. My grandfather owned a candy store called "Betty's" on Greenwich and Duane across the street from Washington Market Park - we'd hang out in there on cold winter days and play Pac-Man and drink Manhattan Specials and eat free Candy.
M: Manhattan Special Coffee Soda! Oh, my God, I used to love that stuff. I wonder if we can find that now.
E: It was kinda the perfect childhood, really. Me, in stonewashed jeans and a side ponytail- with pink lace fingerless gloves and Jodi Watley playing from my boom box... I mean - it's 1989 and does it get any better?
M: How'd you get into acting? What made you decide to be an actor? Was there a defining moment for you when you knew that this is what you wanted?
E: I was always performing from the time that I knew my mother and father were watching. I remember being very little, maybe 3 or 4, and putting my mother's bra on over my clothes and walking into the living room and my mother and father started laughing - and I didn't know what that meant but I knew I got a reaction and I liked THAT reaction... the laughing. I wanted to do that all the time - make people laugh. I remember watching Saturday Night Live and the Carol Burnett Show. Archie Bunker and Three's Company. I wanted to do what John Ritter did and what Carol Burnett did. And what Lily Tomlin did - whatever that was... I knew from before I could articulate it that I was good at whatever that was. I took a tap dancing class when I was 5 and there was a girl in the class named Tanya - and her mother's name was Paulette - and Tanya booked a national commercial and I saw it when it aired. And I was dumbstruck. I remember asking my mom what TANYA was doing on TV? And proclaiming that I, TOO, wanted to be on TV- and from that day on my mother took my requests very seriously and we started auditioning.
M: We all want to know...any delicious "Sex and the City" stories?
E: Not really. Kim Cattrall is very nice. Cynthia Nixon wasn't a lesbian yet... well - she wasn't out yet. She was pregnant and so was SJP. Yep. They call her SJ. And sometimes SJP. When I auditioned for the part it wasn't originally written top-less by the pool - but when they called, they pitched the idea of me being topless and asked if I had a problem with nudity. I did not. I was breastfeeding at the time - I was 27 years old and if ever I wanted my nakedness documented it was then. My boobs were big and naturally gorgeous! I only wanted to run it by my husband, mom, and dad and see if it would upset them - and none of them cared and so there you have it. I'm not a SATC fan. I never watched the show before I was on it. And I wasn't a fan after. I like my episode because it was fun to film - but I don't like the show. I don't like anything that does not depict NYC realistically.
M: Luc Besson... what was THAT like?
E: Fun. Scary. Looking back. At the time - I was 18 and had no idea who he was so I didn't care at all. He was just a short, chubby French guy who was quirky and silly and had a good story to tell. I was inconvenienced because we were shooting the week of my senior trip and I was missing it to film this weird film, "THE PROFESSIONAL," with this little kid "NATALIE PORTMAN," and who has the time - right? Cut to - NOW and HOLY SHIT! Gary Oldman and Ellen Greene and Jean Reno... and yes Luc Besson. How lucky was I? That was my first feature film and it was an amazing experience.
M: Oh... and Whoopi?
E: Oh, Geez. The hits! They just keep on comin'! I feel like THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Do you remember that show? That was a show, wasn't it? Or did I dream that - in the '70's?
M: Yes, it was a show, and of course I remember it.
E: Whoopi was wonderful. She was a SHERO to me growing up. I loved her. I was a huge fan. Like I said - I identified with the female comics and I watched her HBO one-woman show and I was floored, and I saw GHOST probably 25 times in the movie theater on 23rd Street in the Summer of 1990 when I was 15. I wanted her to win the Oscar so badly and she did. And so when I booked the show with her - and got to work with her for 22 episodes of a network sitcom - NBC - no less... I mean... I don't have the words. My dreams came true. I've done it. I've accomplished it. She's fantastic. A beautiful person. A fantastic friend. A true New Yorker. She actually is the reason I booked Sherri - I reached out to her and she helped me.
M: Oh, ok, tell us about Sherri. She's had an interesting history with the gay community...
E: I don't know anything about her history with the gay community - I'll google it - but she was lovely to me. Again - very sweet and genuine. When I shot the pilot for Sherri - I was playing the sexy girl in the office. The DAY after I shot the pilot and I mean the DAY after - I found out I was pregnant. The show got picked up and we were going to start shooting the series in NY in Aug. By that time, I would be almost 6 months pregnant - and I thought they would fire me because clearly I would not be able to play the sexy girl in the office. Sherri was the first person I told. And she had my back - she said the baby was a gift and she would call the higher-ups at Lifetime and tell them that this was a blessing and she didn't want anyone else for the job. They kept me. They didn't write the pregnancy into the script. They hid my belly behind plants, and folders, and desks - but I really appreciated her having my back.
M: You shot both those shows in NY. What do you miss about NY? What do you love about LA?
E: I miss everything about NY because my NY doesn't exist anymore - it's gone. The bodegas and the mom and pop shops and the Twin Towers and the hustle and bustle of the 9-5ers - and the authenticity has been washed away by steel and high-rise glass. And foreign transplants that know nothing about the city that never sleeps. My father is dead from toxins inhaled after 9/11 and my mother lives here now. I don't ever want to see NY again - like my first boyfriend who broke my heart. And there's nothing I love about LA. When I first moved here, I liked the weather - but that has changed. It's now humid and unpredictable. I've been here 12 years. I like that my children can play outside year round and I like to hike and I like that I don't really have any emotional ties to this place at all. I don't belong here and it doesn't belong to me... I like that.
M: Well, you have a new acting studio here in LA!! The Street Smarts of Acting! Tell us everything! Why did you start it? What do you want for your students? What do you want them to know?
E: The Street Smarts of Acting makes me HAPPY! I started it because after my father died in July of 2016, I wanted to quit acting. I didn't want to do it anymore. When he was alive it was fun and I liked to call him and tell him about how close I was or wasn't to a job - he was rooting for me - but when he died - I didn't care about anything. Then about 6 months after his death, I found a bunch of letters he had written to me throughout my life and they were so inspirational. My father was very street smart and accomplished a lot in life by just being him and he taught me to do the same - and I started to think about all of the young actors in Los Angeles who were dreaming of doing the things I've done as an actor and of going to the places I've been as an actor, and I was thinking maybe they didn't have a father like mine to guide them and root for them - and I realized I could be that for them. It brought me great peace knowing I could share with them all the lessons he had shared with me and maybe that would help them realize their dreams. And so we started -just me and 5 students and now we are about to hit our 6-month mark and we are at 16 students and it's been mind-blowing. It's changed my life in every way. I want every one of my students to know that they are the most brilliant and daring individuals I know. I want them to know how deeply I appreciate each of them, and what I want for them is eternal contentment and for all of their dreams to become reality much sooner than later.
M: Since you're an amazing actor, I very much wanted you to be in my series, "Child of the '70s," so I wrote a role for you, "Luisa DelForno," a completely off-her-rocker Broadway Diva! How'd you like that? Was that fun for you?
E: So fulfilling! YOU ARE AN INCREDIBLE CREATOR. The role I got to play is probably one of the best I've played in my entire career.
M: Thanks so much. You were hysterically funny.
E: I need to see some of this footage! I loved working so fast and furious. I loved Tom Pardoe, our director - I loved the cast - I like to work under pressure and hard. And that's what the day of filming was. Hard, under pressure and extremely fulfilling in every creative way I could have imagined, so thank you a million times for that.
M: Seriously, thank YOU! It was a joy! But, you have THREE kids! All GIRLS! Holy Shit! What's that like? How do you have time for anything, much less auditioning and teaching? What's a typical Elizabeth Regen day?
E: It's like a never-ending menstrual cycle. 16, almost 8, and 19 months. Raegan. Reign and River. God Help us All. 3 more of me. MY TYPICAL DAY -
Up at 5:45 AM to my baby saying HI, MAMA. Change her diaper - take her out to the living room. Contain her in the high chair - Put the tv on - give her some Cheerios - let her watch Mickey Mouse Club House while I make a cup of tea and feed my 3 dogs and 2 cats - then I wake up Reign at 6 am and make her breakfast... then at 6:15, I wake Raegan up - then I give Reign her clothes and she gets dressed - then I get River's clothes and dress her - then I tell Reign to brush her teeth - then I tell Raegan to get up AGAIN - then I brush my teeth as I tell River not to touch absolutely everything in the house. Then I try to take a very quick shower and get dressed. Then I pack Reign's lunch. I tell Raegan we are leaving in 15 minutes. I put some makeup on. I do Reign's hair. I ask Reign to make sure she has everything she needs in her backpack. I pack my diaper bag for the morning for River, with snacks and wipes and diapers and a change of clothes. I pack my computer and my phone and the chargers. I get Reign and River in the car. I turn it on and pump the AC - I tell Raegan we are leaving - we all wait for Raegan for about 20 minutes and then I drive them all to school. Raegan to 11th grade in Van Nuys and Reign to school in Encino. Then it's just me and River and we could do 1 of 1 million things. Maybe we go on a hike, maybe we go to a play space and she plays while I write an article for my column, "THE WAY I SEE IT," in FEMININE COLLECTIVE, the online magazine I write for. Maybe I place orders for my Arbonne clients- maybe I prep scenes for my students in THE STREET SMARTS OF ACTING - or get a writing prompt ready for my students in THE STREET SMARTS OF WRITING - maybe I food shop for my house of 6 people and 6 pets - maybe I prepare for an audition for myself - maybe I visit my mom in Woodland Hills - maybe I prepare for grief group - maybe I come back home and clean and cook for the week - maybe maybe maybe - but by noon I give River a nap and get ready to turn back around and pick them up from school, and the afternoons and evenings consist of me driving my kids to and from their activities, auditioning, teaching, coaching, visiting, mentoring, sharing, crying, screaming, laughing, loving and living. Yeah - living. That's what I'm doing and I'm pretty fucking fortunate to just be living... right Michael.
M: Damn right!