Interview with actress Tovah FeldshuhMarch 29, 2016
A veteran actor with years of work in theater, television and movies, actress Tovah Feldshuh became instantly recognizable after her work as Deanna Monroe on AMC’s hit TV show The Walking Dead. Recently, we had the chance to talk to Tovah as part of a round table interview while she was at Toronto Comic Con.
In comparison to the comic, does your character and the show reach back into those comic roots and does it do an accurate job?
Tovah: Thank you very much, what an interesting question. My birth name is Terri Sue Feldshuh and when I was at university I fell in love with a boy, not from my particular tribe, and he said what kind of name is Terri Sue for you, and a few boys in the class were named Terri and my godfather’s dog was named Terri, and it was a bisexual name, long before bisexuality and androgyny was the fashion and I’m just a boring heterosexual, what can I tell you. When I saw fifty genders I thought that I was on Mars because now they’re defining genders in huge categories. Anyways, to make a long story short, when I changed my name from Terri Sue to Tovah, my perceived value was that I was foreign and perhaps religious which I’m not, but I do believe in the goodness of mankind. Then my career took a turn, I came to Broadway with a musical, Cyrano opposite Christopher Plummer, we played the Royal Alex here in Toronto. I will be back in Toronto by the way June 5th to 19th with Golda’s Balcony, the biggest hit of my Broadway career and the longest running one woman show in the history of a hundred years of Broadway and I’ll be doing that at the Greenwood Theater and it’s not a big theater so it’s great for me. It’s great when a patron can pay the fees for me and my company and still play a small house, that doesn’t happen very often.
Do you have a favorite role or character that you’ve played over the years?
Tovah: I’ve played many dramatic roles and because of the nature of my name, I mean I’ll be offered King Lear sooner then I’ll be offered a British queen, it’s very interesting. I’m in a series now called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I play the mother of the crazy ex-girlfriend, it’s a musical comedy, I get to sing a five page solo called Where’s The Bathroom? I love to laugh and I even tried to infuse Deanna with a great sense of wry humor. Rick has shaved his beard off and is looking very well, having come into Alexandria, and trying to make them comfortable I knock on the door and I walk in and I just look at him and go ok, so whenever I can give her some sense of irony I did and as I get older, roles like Deanna Monroe, you lean on the positive aspects of any character. I’m glad she wasn’t a villain, I’m very relieved, she was a visionary and she was a positive force on the environment, on culture, on civilization and engendered in Rick finally, the hope that they could find order in the world.
The show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical comedy, something you don’t usually find in sitcom form. What’s it been like working on that show, especially after working on something totally different like The Walking Dead?
Tovah: It’s brilliant, I’m mad for it. But my best job ever in television is still The Walking Dead. These are the kind of people, obviously when my time came on the series they gave me a party and then the head of AMC took me out to a very extravagant lunch with his high executives, and we’d like to work together again, we’re putting out heads together. People are extraordinarily kind on the set because our leading man, Andrew Lincoln, is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met. This is New York talking, I’m not kidding around, I’m not trying to, as we say in New York, ‘schmere’ him with whip cream or kiss his beautiful behind, which we all got to see in episode one, season one, that’s how he made his debut, ass first. We take our work there very, very seriously inside our sacred space but we don’t take ourselves seriously. So I was knew on the series and Andy wasn’t working that day and he came to the set and I said, what are you doing on the set and he said I came to watch you work, I want to learn from you while you work, I couldn’t believe it. He gets to the set early so he can hug everybody in the hair and makeup room, her greets the gardeners. I’ve headed companies myself on Broadway and I said learn from this man, this man is a real leader and he influences everything. He influences negotiations, nobody wants to leave the series so how hard do you think we are to negotiate with? He influences money, that’s how far reaching his goodness is and then we have a great show runner. There is very little fear on that show, the only fear is that you are going to be written out and everybody comes on The Walking Dead to die and the question is, when is it going to be your time, and I’m sorry that mine came after twelve episodes which incidentally was my original pay or play contract. I was going to be paid for those twelve episodes whether I was in them or not so that’s what they did, I was hoping they would extend it but they didn’t.
I want to thank Tovah for taking the time to speak with us