Aaron Rodgers, Ken Grossman…Tim Bluhm? There are a handful of hometown heroes that have become household names across the country, but the number one Chico success story in showbiz has been Amanda Detmer. Her Hollywood resume boasts an impressive amount of roles ranging from Jim Carrey’s love interest in The Majestic, to her heartwarming role in the timeless classic Saving Silverman, all the way to her unforgettable encounter with a bus in Final Destination.
We’re very fortunate to have Amanda back in Chico for the next few weeks as she performs in the dramatic comedy, God Of Carnage, scheduled to open this week at the Blue Room Theatre. Amanda took time out of her hectic schedule to talk with Synthesis over the phone from Los Angeles about her upcoming Chico performance and also provided a little insight into her life as a working actress.
How did this whole production come about and how does it feel to be performing once again in Chico?
Coy Middlebrook, who is the director, had discussed doing the play over a year ago but the rights weren’t available because it was on Broadway. When the rights became available they decided to revisit it. We’ve been working on it for a while already in LA and we’re certainly having fun doing shows together again. We’re all really looking forward to it and treating it as a bit of a vacation as well. A trip back in time I guess…
What originally inspired you to start acting while growing up in Chico?
My brother did a lot of theatre and I kind of had a tendency to follow my brother around and do whatever he did. My parents have always been very supportive of everything we did, but I certainly didn’t automatically decide this is what I’m going to do with my life. I just knew that by the time I finally got out of Chico State that it was something that I wasn’t willing to stop doing.
Can you tell me about your character in the play?
I play Victoria. She’s invited this other couple to her home to rationally try and settle a dispute that their two sons had where one son ended up with busted teeth. My character is definitely trying to be the voice of reason; trying to make everyone care as much as she does. And as the play goes on, the characters start to question how much each one of them really cares about what happened…Or are they just feigning interest because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a good parent?
Have you played characters before where you’re sort of the voice of reason?
This is definitely a new one for me. I’ve done work in TV and film and it’s usually pretty silly and funny and cute so nothing quite this serious, but in the theatre I’ve certainly played more serious characters. The good thing about this show is that as serious and dark as it is, we want everyone to be laughing the whole time whether it’s uncomfortable laughter or what. These people are funny in spite of themselves – I think that’s the best way to put it. It’s a good play, man.
Is your time mainly filled with theatre productions, film, or television?
Predominantly television. Last year I had a show that only lasted five episodes on the air, but we shot thirteen so that takes a pretty good amount of time. Doing a pilot and getting picked up to shooting a series is about a year and a half of time so even though the shows don’t air, you’ve been working awhile.
You’re still paid for that time…
Yeah you’re paid for what you shoot. And I’m on a show called Necessary Roughness so that takes up another part of the year. People sometimes invite me to do a guess spot here and there, which is always great.
I’m part of a small theater company here in LA called Red Dog Squadron. It’s a lot like the Blue Room. We do new plays with young playwrights and I’ve done several shows with them – I think six. And then I just did a main stage
production for the first time in like 10 years at the Geffen Playhouse, which is a really beautiful theatre here in LA as well.
How do you like the two different platforms for expressing yourself as an artist?
It seems that at this stage in my life I’m allowed to challenge myself more on the stage than I’m allowed to challenge myself in television. In other words, the role that I play in the theatre is a little more complicated and much more fulfilling as an actor than always playing this silly best friend, which is fun but not always very challenging. It pays the bills so I’m not dissin’ it, but the goal is to get better and better parts, and eventually get that same challenge sometime in front of the camera.
Do you have to spend much of your day worrying about that kind of stuff? Or do you have agents that worry about that kind of stuff for you as far as getting those parts?
I have an agent and a business manager and a manager so everybody worries and everybody tries hard to get me work. I mean that’s part of the whole business. You have to have all those people in place and then I may get my audition. I always think ultimately getting the job is on you. People have different opinions about that but mine is if my agent gets me in the door, then it’s my job after that.
What would you say was your first big Hollywood break?
I did a four-part mini-series for NBC called To Serve and Protect. It was a very big thing because I was the lead and, ya know…I had seven dollars to my name. I borrowed money from my agent to buy a new suitcase so I didn’t have to be embarrassed on the plane. I got a very good part and a very good paycheck. I was very lucky to get that.
Do you have any favorite actors you’ve worked alongside with?
I loved working with Jack Black and Steve Zahn on Saving Silverman. That was a good time and young and fun and new. I’ve been really lucky to work with lots of great people that have gone on to be hugely famous…James Franco. I remember working with him.
Oh, I love him.
It was his first movie and he was such a kid.
That was like pre-Freaks and Geeks era?
Yeah, pre-Freaks and Geeks. I did a few episodes of a show with Bradley Cooper, but I also know Bradley as a friend. One of my dear, close friends from theatre is Eric Stonestreet on Modern Family and that’s another great success story. We did American Crude together and now he’s hugely famous.
That’s funny you should mention Jack Black and Steve Zahn because I was going to ask, can we ever expect a Diamonds In The Rough reunion tour?
Those guys? No, probably never. But there IS a Neil Diamond cover band and they actually played at our wrap party. They’re really good…but yeah I wouldn’t hold your breath on seeing those three together.
I love Jim Carrey – he’s kind of a hero – so I had to include one question about him. What was it like working with the funniest man on the planet?
Well I’m glad you said that because he’s awesome. He’s a great, funny, sweet, generous dude who works really hard and cares a whole lot about what he does. That was a big deal getting that movie. I remember one day we were shooting this big scene and I stopped in the middle of the role and just kind of got misty-eyed and thought, “If this is it…if this is as far as this life goes for me, then I can always say that I was there and I saw what it was like to be in an A-movie.” I just hope it happens again.
God Of Carnage will be running at the Blue Room Theatre this Wednesday, January 16th through Sunday, January 20th and then again next Wednesday, January 23rd through Saturday, January 26th. All shows begin at 7:30PM and tickets cost $20 general, $18 for seniors, and $15 for students.