When you think of film acting, chances are you think of Los Angeles: palm trees, gigantic egos, and a pack of the phoniest swine ever to walk God’s green earth. Movies are churned-out there like so many McNuggets — and, as a rule, they are just as uniformly bland and unhealthy-for-you as the aforementioned fast food item.
However, plenty of filmmaking goes on in New York City, as well. And while a fair percentage of it is just as glossily obnoxious as the stuff coming out of it’s West Coast counterpart, there is more opportunity for an actor to appear in gritty, realistic films by directors like Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Abel Ferarra, etc…
Alison Gordy has worked with all three. But chances are that you’ve never heard of her, because — though she is a part of that minuscule group of working actors who actually earn a living–many of her acting gigs fall under the virtual umbrella of thespianism known as “extra work”.
Gordy (who is also a singer for a band called, Blonde & Blue, and has a CD out called “Mad As Hell”) was kind enough to talk to Film Threat about the realities of the unglamorous world of the “extra”–including a run-in with jerky John Laroquette and the casting director of “The Sopranos”.
[ How did you break into movie acting and extra work? ] ^ “Break-in” is a good way to put it, because of how hard it is to actually make a living as an actor! I started acting in childhood but I got a lead in “Ten Little Indians” in junior high because my best friend was directing. That should have been a big clue that knowing the director is probably the single best way to get a damn part, but not any kind of guarantee–the only guarantee in this business is if your parents were famous. Mine aren’t.
[ Okay, what happened when you came to New York City? ] ^ I did a lot of plays and musicals, and soon realized that theater was like taking a vow of poverty. I joined AFTRA (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists), largely because there were no qualifications needed other than the $300 dues, that entitled me to work on soaps, “Saturday Night Live”, and certain tv series and sing on recordings. I didn’t get a single job through AFTRA.
[ So, what did you do? ] ^ I created my own job by writing a song with a friend called “The Union Song”, making my mother an AFTRA signatory (she signed a piece of paper that said she promised to pay union wages) and then we paid ourselves through her company as principal singers. We then took the ‘contract” over to SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and joined up for another 300 dollars plus 26 dollars for the first biannual dues. Now I was in the union I wanted to be in in the first place.
[ Once you were a SAG member how did you get movie work? ] ^ I registered at all the casting agencies that did movie extra work and I got a call in two weeks to work on my first film which was Abel Ferrara’s “Fear City”. Since then, 1983, I have worked on 350 different movies, tv shows, commercials, MTV, soaps. Of those, about 60 have been principal parts where I got to speak, or was integral to the plot–and was paid the principal rate. It sounds so impressive, but it feels like I’ve done almost nothing!
[ What are some of the more popular movies you have been in? ] ^ I get to speak in “Mo’ Money” and “Married to the Mob”. I am “visible” in “Crocodile Dundee”, “200 Cigarettes”, “Rounders”, “Donnie Brasco”, “First Wives Club”, “Basquiat”, “North”, “Naked in New York”, “Deconstructing Harry”, “Johnny Suede”, “Bad Lieutenant”, “Frankenhooker”, “Slaves of New York”, “Death Wish III”, “Moscow on the Hudson”, “Goodfellas”–and many more that I can’t think of.
[ Yeah, so you’ve worked extensively. You’ve also done some TV? ] ^ Plenty of that. On “Saturday Night Live” I did the dominatrix to Jon Lovitz’ Marv Albert, and recently I was a ‘graduate’ of the Anna Nicole Smith University with Molly Shannon. I did some fun parts as Anna Fluuuge, Miss Amsterdam 1984 on Comedy Central’s “Viva Variety”. That skit had David Johansen in it as well, he was terrific to work with. I did “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns” as “Tree”, a bartender in a strip joint–and, also, as “Thug #2”, which was supposed to be a guy, but I was tougher than the guys who were there. So, I got the part.
[ Yeah, let’s face it, there aren’t too many tough actors around. Anything else? ] ^ I also did a CBS TV Movie of the Week called “Hot Paint” with Gregory Harrison and John Larroquette. Larroquette was an a*s, because he felt the need to ad lib a line about my breasts that completely robbed me of the laugh–because he got the last word in.
[ Yeah, I’ve always thought of Larroquette as an unfunny goon. How have you been treated on films where you had bit parts? ] ^ Fine. I know a lot of actors bitch about the treatment, but frankly I don’t know of any other job where the single requirement involves showing up on time, doing what they say and getting paid 13.50/hour plus time and a half and double time for doing a lot of waiting. It isn’t as easy as I am making it sound either–it requires a ton of patience as well as endurance to heat, cold, smoke and rain at times. Every once in awhile it’s a beautiful day and it’s a real pleasure. Most days are 12-14 hours at least and if it’s a day shoot you have to be dressed and ready to go when you arrive at 6am or so. Then there are the night shoots where you work from 1am to 9am and your schedule is screwed up for the next week. But it’s okay, they feed you.
[ Did you ever encounter the ‘Casting Couch”? ] ^ Sometimes I wish it was as easy as simply sleeping with someone to get the part. No, it’s much harder.
[ Okay. But do you feel you’ve been “typecast”? ] ^ Most definitely. Because I am an unknown to the casting people, the best I can hope for is that they will call me in purely off my picture-which is me on a motorcycle. I get a lot of biker chick roles–I play a biker chick in my commercial for Mrs T’s Pierogies along with Bam Bam Bigelow who plays my boyfriend. I play hookers, punks, bartenders and other fringe type people that they can’t quite figure out. It beats saying “Here’s your coffee, Sir.” These parts are usually more interesting and, hopefully, funny.
[ You’ve worked on “The Sopranos” before, but you just recently had a problem with them. What happened? ] ^ I got called in to ‘read’ for the one line part of “stripper #2”, which in itself was not offensive; what bothered me was the insipid lines that the bouncer in the scene said as well as the passivity of my character and oh by the way she just happened to be topless when she was talking. The capper to all this was the casting director instructing me “don’t act”. That did it. James Gandolfini can act all he wants, but I have to lend reality to this hackneyed script–with three topless women saying trite dialogue–reinforcing this stupid male fantasy! I wrote a letter to the casting director saying as much. I don’t expect to be doing very much work on the “The Sopranos”.
[ So, what did you do during the recent five month-long actors strike? ] ^ Commercials have really paid the rent. I haven’t even auditioned for much of anything–now that it is “over”. I may get some work that really pays again!
[ To sum it all up: What have you learned from your years as an actress in New York City? ] ^ Don’t try this at home!
Visit for more info Allison Gordy’s official web site.
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