20 08 2016

I almost didn’t write this post – because I don’t think it’s a very interesting topic.  I think we could spend time talking about so many other aspects of the acting business, the craft of being an actor, and… good God – about a million other interesting things besides this.

But I have my panties in a twist now – so I am going to write about it.

It is disgusting to me that the majority of our discussions around female actresses center around three things:

  1.  Their fashion sense
  2. Their weight
  3. Whether they are aging gracefully – or not

When did the world become a Middle School Locker room?

I am never knocking my skinny sisters – you go girls – you do you – but why why why why do I read endless attacks on actresses who are NOT super thin?  Why?

And not just the attacks – why do we TALK ABOUT IT as if it is the most fucking interesting thing about these actresses?

Think about your Grandma.  Think about your sister.  Your daughter.  Your best girlfriend in high school.  Your Mom.  Your Aunt.  Were they all super skinny?  If they were – YAY genes, but you probably have several women you know, love, and find ATTRACTIVE that are bigger than a size 8.  Size 8, incidentally, is the size Carrie Underwood was when everyone talked about how “fat” she was.

Think about your Grandma, sister, daughter, girlfriend, Mom, or Aunt, and imagine if millions of strangers, the media, magazines, newspapers, Facebook posters, and Twitter posters, took it upon themselves to publicly comment (usually in very vicious fashion) on their:

  1.  Fashion sense (What is Grandma WEARING?)
  2. Their weight  (Whew, Aunt Georgia really let herself goooooooo…)
  3. How well they are aging  (WOW, your MOM needs some BOTOX.)

And see if that doesn’t strike a nerve.  If it doesn’t… check your pulse.

The biggest victims I see lately of the keyboard-warrior-weight-police?  Actresses who have had babies.  Lemme tell ya – I am amazed by women who are able to be back in their high school jeans mere weeks after having a kiddo – I won’t pretend to know their methods for doing so.  BUT – imagine this:

You have watched your actress friends who tried to commit to being a NEW MOM, breastfeed, be up late nights, rearrange all their life priorities, and also – KEEP WORKING, only to see them ridiculed for not “losing the baby weight” fast enough.

So, YOU, the actress who has witnessed this time and again – you have your baby… what might you sacrifice in order to avoid that criticism?  Breastfeeding?  (Again, formula-on my formula-feeding sisters – you do you – this is no knock against you.)  Because not all women LOSE weight when breastfeeding – some women’s bodies actually hold ONTO weight until they STOP breastfeeding.  To avoid that criticism, might you decide not to breastfeed, and get back on a strict diet as soon as possible (which would make milk production rough anyway).  You might, right?

Might you decide you need your rest, so – let’s say you have the money – perhaps you hire a night nurse to get up with the baby so you can sleep.  Your heart aches to do it, but you know that not enough rest makes you hang onto weight, and you don’t want TrollGoober78 to plaster his opinion on your post-delivery thighs for all the world to see.

Might you decide you need to hit the gym for three hours a day, but your husband works too, so – assuming you have the money – you hire a nanny to watch the baby so you can go to the gym.  Again, your heart aches to leave your firstborn, but you need to amaze the public with your bikini-body “JUST SIX WEEKS AFTER GIVING BIRTH!”  (Again, some women come by the NATURALLY, but not all women do.)

Understand, I am not judging the Moms who do these things – I am SAD for them that the public feels so justified in criticizing a woman WHO JUST MADE A PERSON – to the point where that actress Mommy is willing to give up their sacred moments of motherhood to avoid the dreaded commentary from the public, the media, everyone who SHOULD BE FUCKING WORSHIPPING THE GODDESS WHO JUST BROUGHT THE MIRACLE OF LIFE INTO THE WORLD.

Same with aging.  Same with fashion.

Isn’t there ANYTHING more worthy to talk about?


26 06 2016

I am working on a new show for CMT right now, playing Gladys Presley – MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET.  The director of all the episodes, a brilliant move on CMT’s part, is Roland Joffe.  You can see his imdb profile here:


He directed one of my favorite movies of all time – THE MISSION.

This is the first time in my career, probably besides with the film SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (coming out in Feb 2016), where I have had a significant enough role to where the director has really spent time with me.  There is something about being a day player, or a weekly player, or a secondary character, that means you kind of need to nail it the first time – every time.  There is not as much discussion, interaction, and collaboration.  It feels more like trying to be sure to be super professional, stay out of the way, and DELIVER.  This is a necessary part of the process – there is so much to be done on set, and a director has to reserve their energy!

So, initially, the collaborative spirit Roland works with was disconcerting for me.  I felt like I was failing at giving him what he wanted.  But then I realized, this was more like I felt working in the theatre as a professional.  In the theatre, it was a given that I had something to offer the production.  It was a given that I possessed the talent necessary.   It was a given that I would be prepared and emotionally available.  The director and I then became a team, and worked together, to create a nuanced, truthful, performance – with his/her guidance to be sure each scene lined up correctly with the arc of the show.

I haven’t had that feeling in quite a while, and so I didn’t recognize it.  But once I did, it felt so good to feel like I have a champion and collaborator again.  At one point, Roland said to me, “Annie,” (I love it that he instinctually calls me that), “if I don’t say anything, it just means I love what you’re doing, ok?”  I smiled big at him.  We are 7 episodes into working on this show, and within our first few hours together I felt completely safe putting myself in his hands.  I have my own ideas, sure, I have done my research, and I am ready to be raw and real and available.  But, I don’t feel like I cannot seek his guidance without everyone thinking I am not worthy to be doing this work – which is how you are made to feel (sometimes) in lesser roles.  Like no one can to be bothered with you.

This is bliss for me as an actor.  I crave the eye of the director, the one who sees objectively what I cannot.  And Roland is a master at specific direction – not the specific micro-managing kind of direction (which makes you feel like a neutered robot in a cardboard cut-out world).  His direction is SPECIFIC, and SIMPLE.  A few days ago, he said to me, “I think this is much more casual.  I think you are just doing this side work, and you are delivering this advice to Elvis, and then it is just conversational.”  The result?  It opened me up in a gorgeous way, and allowed me to just deliver the scene from the heart.

In another scene, it was quite emotional.  I was getting where I needed to emotionally, just by taking in the circumstances and the setting around me – but I would get stuck when I tried to look back at Elvis.  Roland simply said, “Annie, I think what you’re doing instinctually is quite lovely – you don’t need to turn back to him.  Keep staring at what you are looking at.  Stay there.”  And it worked – brilliantly.

It takes a combination of brilliance, sensitivity, intuition, and an ability to let go of ego for a director to move an actor in the deep way he moves me.  In some cases, directors want so badly to be sure their work is seen, that they control everything, that their fingerprint on the project becomes more of an giant anvil squashing any instincts the actor has.  In this case, Roland pays such rapt attention, and sees the layers of what the actor is trying to create… then he helps the actor bring the truth out.  The result is – he IS an auteur – and his fingerprint is light, but indelible.

I am so thankful.

Taking Credit

31 05 2016

I have had quite a few discussions about this lately… and I want to talk about it – as it’s something that bothers me immensely as a teacher AND as a student.

I was coaching with an actor out of another country via Skype about 2.5 years ago.  I wanted to have another opinion on what I was auditioning for – BESIDES my own – and I love the collaborative feel of working NOT ALONE.

Fairly early in our process together, it became clear to me that this coach wanted to make me dependent on them – in the way that a bad therapist makes the patient feel like they are never going to be “well” in order to extend the life of their professional relationship (and the money that it generates.) (Kudos to the good therapists who DON’T do this – I know there are many of you!)  So, I broke off the relationship, and felt like I could breathe again.  I cited money issues, when I should have been honest about how this coach made me feel completely inept…

A month or so after I separated from this coach, I booked The Walking Dead.  The coach posted on his webpage about how Ann Mahoney, HIS STUDENT, had booked The Walking Dead.  I was livid.  And again, I didn’t attack him the way I should have.  It should have sounded something like this:  “I have been onstage since I was 4, I got my BA and MFA in Acting, and have been professionally pursuing this for 17 years.  I had THREE sessions with you – that I PAID you for, and you are taking credit for my WALKING DEAD booking???”

Teachers, coaches, etc you need to be careful.  It is tempting to see the success of a student, and pat yourself on the back, and tell the world how “you taught them.”  But in truth, as a teacher ALSO, I can tell you that it is essential to not take credit for your students’ success.  Especially in a way that indicates you think that student OWES you for their success.  Especially if they PAID for that education in some way – tuition, coaching fees, a workshop, etc.

If the student wants to identify you as a mentor, an influence – fine.  But to take that status as the student’s SAVIOR, and the ONE WHO MADE THEIR CAREER is egotism tinged with jealousy in a lot of cases.  The student has talent, and drive, and individuality, and tenacity, and you may have taught that student some important stuff…. but their success – is THEIRS.  Don’t take it away from them.  Be proud and shut your mouth.


13 05 2016

Here’s the thing: you never get over doubting your ability to deliver what the script asks of you. Maybe I need to keep that personal – I NEVER get over doubting my ability to deliver what the script asks of me. 

The night before I go to set is absolute agony. Can’t sleep, upset stomach, racing mind… But then!  Once I am there, that familiar clutch in the center of my stomach – not a knot, like a hand in there grabbing (not hurting) – that comes to me and I breathe into it….

And then I am home where I want to be. Doing what I love. Terrified and vulnerable and alive. 

Just a few more hours…..

Breaking Into the Business

29 12 2015

I am going to address this, because I have been asked by a LOT of people over the last several weeks – how do I get on THE WALKING DEAD?  How do I become an actor?  I think having a blog post I can refer folks to will help expedite explaining my journey, and help those searching for how to break into this business.

I can only speak from my experience – but it was not a matter of being “discovered”, or just being talented, or just wanting to be an actress.   It was a concerted effort – for many years – doing the RIGHT kind of work, getting the RIGHT kind of credits…. 35 years of work to be exact.

So here is how I “broke into the business” – this phrase is deceptive – because it seems to suggest that one definitive thing will happen and BAM!  You’re IN!  But this is not the case – I will explain further.

To start, I was onstage by age 5 as a dancer.  In high school I was an avid (nationally competitive) speech and debater :-), and I did my high school plays.  I decided to STUDY acting in college, this was THEATRE acting training – I got my BA in Acting.  Then, I went on to get my MFA – also in THEATRE acting.

In those theatre years I collected quite an impressive number of theatre credits – including major regional theatres like Berkshire Theatre Fest, Long Wharf Theatre, Southern Rep, Ma-Yi Theatre (Off-Broadway). I worked with Tony award winning actors.  Like I said, I thought I had quite an impressive resume.

HOWEVER, when I got an agent to try to start getting my foot in the door for film/TV acting, (my agent came to see me in a play on the suggestion of one of her clients and signed me), NO ONE CARED about ANY of my theatre credits.  I was initially miffed.  The training I had WAS meaningful – film/TV folks recognized that I must be somewhat of a serious actor to have received both my BA and MFA in acting.  But the regional theatre credits?  The Off-Broadway credits?  The Tony award winning actors I had worked with?  The fact that I had played HAMLET?  Nobody cared.

It was like starting over in many ways.  My theatre credits didn’t tell film/TV folks a thing about if I was able to act on camera.  So they didn’t care.  I had to start garnering film and TV acting credits, to have footage from those roles to show I could do the type of acting necessary for film/TV work.  And then, it took another 12 YEARS in the film/TV business before I got to audition for THE WALKING DEAD.

I don’t get irritated when people say, “How can I break into the acting  business?”  But you will rarely hear someone ask an architect, “How do I break into the architect business”?  Also, our positions as actors in this business are precarious at best.  So to ask an actor who is not an INTIMATE friend of yours for many years to vouch for you, and try to help you get your foot in the door…. yikes…. that would mean putting our already precarious position (that we have worked many many years to get to) on the line.  Something I would only do for a dear actor friend who is MASSIVELY talented.  The risk is too great.

Now, as a creator and writer of several TV series that are currently being pitched, I can tell you – my hope is to give several actors that I PERSONALLY KNOW, whose work is OUTSTANDING, the opportunity to get a series regular or recurring role.  But those are actors I know who have pursued this relentlessly – in training, in life, who have credits, and who are amazing talents.

If you want to be an actor – pursue it as you would any other profession you are serious about.  Love!

Career Day/Facebook Posting/2nd Theatre Class

25 09 2015

Career Day:

A friend of mine – who now teaches high school – invited me to call in to talk to her class.  They wanted to ask questions of all different kinds of folks from different career paths.  A genius idea, I think!

They asked very insightful questions, and I found – as I usually do – how many misconceptions there are about being an actor/the life of an actor/the financial circumstances of an actor.  So here are their questions, and my answers.

“What is your typical day on set like?” Usually a 12 hour day.  If it is a day shoot, we are arriving around 5:30am or 6:30am, and we work till 5:30pm or 6:30pm.  There is a lot of waiting.  But when it is time to GO you need to be INSTANTLY ON.  If it is a night shoot, we usually arrive on set around sunset, and stay through the night till the sun comes up.

“How did you get ‘discovered’, and what was your path to that discovery?”  I started acting when I was 10 years old.  My first movie was a bit part in FLETCH LIVES, but I was in plays starting at 10.  I did Speech & Debate, and all kinds of professional and school theatre throughout MIddle & High School.  I got a BA in acting and then my MFA.  I was doing a play in New Orleans, and an actress I was in the play with – Lara Grice – told me I should really get into film & tv acting.  I told her I thought I was ‘too weird looking’ for film.  But she was kind enough to introduce me to her agent. I booked the very first job I auditioned for.  But truly, The Walking Dead is the break-out moment for my career.  And I will be 40 next year.  So…. 30 years.”

“What is the typical salary for an actor?”  There is a misconception that actors are all extremely wealthy.  In the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), only the top 2% of actors are really making the big bucks.  Your Julia Roberts, and Tom Hanks, etc.  The majority of the rest of the actors you see, for the most part, make “scale” on the projects they work on.  Scale right now is in the neighborhood of $850/day, and $3500/week.  Which sounds like a lot, and it is – but remember, not many actors work 365 days a year.  Most of us end up working 4-5 months out of the year – not by choice, by casting.  So, you can do that math.  It is not a profession you get into to get rich.  You do it because you love the craft.

“What would you do if a director asked you to do something that was morally disagreeable to you?”  It is all about context for me.  Nudity – context.  Is the nudity necessary?  Does it tell the story?  Then YES.  Is it to make fun of someone in a mean way, or just to have boobs on screen?  Then NO.  Subject matter – context.  Does the subject matter intrigue me, and ultimately stretch me as an artist to use my God-given gift?  Then YES.  Does the subject matter have no redeeming quality or present no challenge to me as an artist?  Then NO.

I thought their questions were awesome.


Piggy-backing on this career day experience, I had a rather un-delightful experience last week on Facebook…. imagine that.

A few caveats:

  • I am not Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks, and am just beginning to have a career that is viable.
  • I do free demo reel work for actor friends of mine all the time.
  • I do free teaching, reduced fee teaching, and all kinds of other charitable work related to my profession – which I have studied and earned two degrees in

So – I posted on Facebook about my need for someone to do make-up for me for THE WALKING DEAD premiere, which I will be doing this October.  I promised to give red carpet pics, Twitter credit, etc.  At no point did I say it would be free, but I suppose that could be implied.  I am certainly looking for something less expensive than the $300 a session (PLUS!) fees I was seeing in NYC.  Why do I need a reduced fee/free makeup help?  See the above caveats.

Add to the above caveats the following:

  • I am a mommy of two kids, one of whom I have to PAY FOR school for
  • I own a home
  • I live in a flood zone… insurance is a you-know-what

A friend of mine responded to my post by tagging a makeup artist friend of hers who lives in NYC.  Let’s call her AMANDA MAKEUP.  Amanda Makeup proceeded to respond – on my wall – about how belittling it was to her profession to ask for free makeup work.  She did go on for quite some time, in a very mean fashion.  I replied, “Thank you for bringing up this issue, I agree with you in certain situations.  If you would like to private message me, I would be happy to share my particular story/circumstances with you so that perhaps you can understand why I am asking at this point in my career.”  Her response was to say that she didn’t think a private message was needed.  Again, she said I was “devaluing” her profession, and that red carpet pics were nothing unless I was a Kardashian, etc.  WOW.

So, I deleted her comments, and I blocked her.  On Facebook and Twitter.

Because here is the thing.  She doesn’t know me at all.  She took an opportunity to bash me on my board, without knowing anything about my specific circumstances.  It was a real turn-off.  I hope if I am ever in this same place, I react lovingly.  And if I don’t, I hope I am open to gentle reminders.


Lastly, I taught my second Kindergarten-2nd grade theatre class at my son’s school today.  It is a 2 hour class.  I can tell you this:

K-2nd Grade Theatre Class teaching is NOT for the faint of heart.  But it IS good for the soul.

Afterwards, I feel tired – but accomplished.  I feel like I am being given an unprecedented opportunity to pay forward the gift I was given from my teachers through the years.

When we sit in a circle at the end of class, and I ask everyone what their favorite part of class was – and everyone loved a DIFFERENT part of class… it just makes my heart swell.


First Day Teaching

11 09 2015

Today I began teaching theatre class (after school) at my kid’s school in New Orleans.  It is a curriculum I am designing, and they will be doing an adaptation of several of Shel Silverstein’s poems from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS.

The last time I taught elementary level drama classes was right after I got my MFA, and I taught Kindergarten – 5th grade drama once a week at a Catholic school in Queens.

I can remember, in a very visceral way, exactly how overwhelmed I felt about that teaching job.  I had never taught such little kids.  I was fresh out of grad school, having done some wild and esoteric theatre over the summer at THE BERKSHIRE THEATRE FESTIVAL, and having completed an internship with LONG WHARF THEATRE – where I got to act alongside some theatre greats – JEFFERSON MAYS (who won the Tony for I AM MY OWN WIFE) and FRANK WOODS (who won the Tony for SIDEMAN).

But I felt majorly out of my league teaching these little ones.

And I felt that again today.  BUT, the difference was, I didn’t feel AFRAID.  I felt like I would figure it out.  I have kids of my own now, and so know better how to negotiate and redirect.  I am so much less afraid to make things a work in progress at this stage of my life – whereas back then, I felt I had to know everything.  I was afraid to not know everything.

I want to try and blog about this teaching experience, along with other aspects of my career over the next several months – as I think it is time to take stock again.

SO – to sum up – here is what I learned today:

  1.  You must run little children like horses first, if you expect them to focus on theatre after a long day at school.  Next week – we shall run them ragged!
  2.  As much as it hurts to do so, you have to be pretty strict on the first day of class, to establish your role as the authority figure.  I definitely utilized time-outs, and talks, and as much as I hated to make a couple kids sad, I think it was necessary for a good start to the semester.
  3. Although the world would have you believe that all our kids are TV and video game zombies, this is not the case.  The sense of wonder I encountered, as I helped my littlest ones read through SARAH STOUT by Shel Silverstein, was enchantment at it’s best.
  4. I don’t care if the play is “good”.

Let me clarify that last one – of course we will practice, and do our best.  But it is lovely to not care about product as much as I used to, and care more about the experience.  I have so much to learn!  Talk soon!DreamPlay