Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Marking Milestones in The Underworld

Hello my loves! We've been scarce for the last couple of weeks, but there was a method to the madness. You see, this is Poseidon's Underworld's 700th post (!) and I wanted to mark the occasion with something a little different and special and it took a bit of time coordination. I think you'll have to agree that this is what has come to pass because we're celebrating the occasion with this site's very first celebrity interview!

Thanks to one of our dear and loyal readers, we found ourselves in touch with one of the 1980s' busiest young actresses, who left her mark on several films with cult followings, was featured in some high-profile TV miniseries and who is still working today (and looking sensational as ever!) So we offer our gratitude to one Barry Langford. And now proceed to today's guest, the lovely Miss Catherine Mary Stewart!

Stewart burst onto cinema screens with the leading role in 1980's The Apple, a staggering futuristic musical that has run the gamut from riotous flop to sought-after collector's item and fan favorite. (Miss Stewart agreed to speak with us even after the lambasting we gave this outre film in the early days of Poseidon's Underworld!) This was followed by a short, but popular, stint on Days of Our Lives. Then came a pair of sci-fi oriented movies that left her with a substantial cult following, The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet (both 1984.)

She next had featured roles in two of televisions most delicious miniseries, Hollywood Wives (1985) and Sins (1986), before joining in the shenanigans of yet another cult favorite, the whacked-out Weekend at Bernie's (1989.) Marriage and family took precedence for a while after that, though she has continued to work all along.
Kelly Preston, Doug McKeon, Chris Nash and Stewart in 1985's Mischief.
The daughter of two highly-educated Canadian college instructors, she broke a bit from the family's academic mold through her love of performing. She enjoyed singing, acting and particularly dancing and eventually wound up studying performing arts in London, England. This is when her professional career unexpectedly came about and where we begin our Q&A:

You intended to merely dance in the 1980 musical spectacular The Apple, but were instead handed the leading role! Just how heady an experience was that for you? Was it overwhelming at times or were you energetically along for the ride? After the movie's release, did you ever again see or hear from costar George Gilmour?

"I just happened to show up for the dance audition for The Apple with a couple of friends who I met on their way there.  I decided to tag along.  I was completely unprepared but wanted to experience that kind of professional audition as a dancer. The director thought I looked right for the lead role, so he auditioned me right there and then.  It was a crazy experience, like nothing I’d ever experienced before, but it all happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to think about it.  I just went along for the ride and I loved every minute of it!  I did see George once or twice after filming but I haven’t seen or spoken to him in decades.  He is a wonderful, talented man."
In the wake of The Apple, now situated in California, you had the occasion to appear in a teensploitation/party type of flick called The Beach Girls (1982) in which your chief contribution seemed to be kissing a fellow actor for a lengthy take and then gathering around a bonfire. Was that a fun and frolicsome time on set or was it a hot mess?
"Yes, I had a tiny role in the movie The Beach Girls.  By uttering a couple of words I was able to apply for my Screen Actors Guild union card.  If you blink you miss me.  I think I said something like… 'Who cares…?'  I was probably on the set maybe half a day so I really had no concept of how the shoot was going.  I always love being on sets. From that perspective I’m sure I had fun."

Stewart is seen at far left.
You soon began appearing on Days of Our Lives as the first Kayla Brady, a young, forthright nurse. Was there a family atmosphere among the long-term actors on the show or was it more about the work and getting it done?

"I think long running soap operas with the same cast definitely becomes like a very close family.  It is tough work so it’s great to have a good support system!  DOOL was probably the hardest job I had in acting.  We shot a 60 minute show in a day.  If you have a big storyline you might need to know 50 pages of dialogue for one episode.  Memorizing that kind of thing is hard!!  I am in awe of soap opera actors!" 
Before too long, big screen opportunities came calling again, including The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet (both 1984.) These are but two of several fondly remembered sci-fi oriented films of yours which have amassed a cult following. Do you attend conventions and, if so, do the fans surprise you with their enthusiasm and knowledge of the movies in question? 
"I have attended conventions and the fans are astounding in their knowledge and enthusiasm.  I often joke that they know my characters and movies way better than I do.  I am so grateful to have been a part of these charming, character driven movies that have touched so many people in an often profound way.  I love talking to the fans and hearing their thoughts.  I never expected that these movies would have the impact that they have to so many people.  It’s incredibly gratifying."
[Editor's Note: Night of the Comet had the distinction of featuring two young female leads against not only a horde of zombies, but a sinister group of scientists, making it a unique action film of its time - and after!]
As pretty as you are, was this really the best date you could find to the Starfighter premiere?
Very funny, regarding the 'date!!'  Hey, that thing was cute!"
In the mid-1980s, you entered the world of the then-popular TV miniseries. First came Hollywood Wives, a star-studded, highly-glitzy affair in which you were the wide-eyed young girl tossed into a world of money, power and fame (and, if I recall correctly, drugs!) First of all, what were these photo shoots like, in which you were elbow to elbow with a variety of famous and sometimes infamous actors and actresses? Any competition for the center spot, etc...? And what did you think when you first saw Andrew Stevens in his alter-ego role of the deranged, bearded twin? 
Predating the Geico caveman, Andrew Stevens as his own evil twin...
"I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was to work with some true legends.  I worked with Rod Steiger twice!!  TWICE!!  The 80’s were a huge decade for mini-series like these and I was SO fortunate to be up and coming at the time and filled the niche of the young innocent that seemed to appear in many of them.  I was young and innocent but I so appreciated the likes of Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson (who took me under her wing), Anthony Hopkins, Roddy McDowall, Robert Stack, etc., etc.  It was mind blowing!  The joke was Andrew Stevens as his alter ego looked like Charles Manson.  It was so creepy!!  He went for it, man!  The photo sessions we did for Hollywood Wives, just cemented the wonderful experience of working with these talented actors.  There was literally no competition between the actors.  I was very shy and intimidated and in awe of the cast.  I was so grateful to Angie Dickinson for making me feel comfortable.  She is a saint."
Stewart, alongside Mariette Hartley, in her second project with Rod Steiger, the 1989 TV-movie Passion and Paradise.
This same telefilm had her hurled into the arms of one Armand Assante, at the time riding a wave of successful TV projects such as Rage of Angels (1983), Evergreen (1985) and Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987.)
Not long after, you were selected to play the teenaged version of Joan Collins' character in her miniseries Sins (1986.) Did working on her sister Jackie's Hollywood Wives play into this in any way? Were you selected by Joan (who was also producing) personally? As young Helene, you had to endure a lot of the torment of the character that later became vengeful once Joan took over. How harrowing was that?
"I don’t think being in Jackie Collins' Hollywood Wives had anything to do with getting the role in Sins in terms of Joan and Jackie’s relationship.  I was working a lot at that time and certainly it didn’t hurt that I was in Hollywood Wives.  It showed that I was a popular commodity. I loved playing the role of the Helene Junot in Sins.  It was a complicated, emotional role so quite challenging.  We shot in Paris and the surrounding area.  That was absolutely fantastic!  It was an incredible experience and another legend-filled cast!  I’m still in touch with Joan through a good friend of mine to this day.  She is an icon."
Stewart's Sin-ful selection led to an article in TV Guide wherein she shared recipes and dished about getting to meet La Collins!
Photographer John Findlater and Stewart divorced around this time after two years of marriage. It is her present husband Richard Allerton (who she wed in 1992) with whom she shares two children, Hanna (born in 1993) and Connor (born in 1996.)
You seem to have worked with some really well-regarded actors in your early years, from Robert Preston to Robert Mitchum, Karl Malden to Shirley Knight to Rod Steiger, Also up and comers like James Spader, Holly Hunter, Jon Cryer. Are there any particular things that you learned from any of these people (or from others not mentioned) or that you particularly enjoyed about them?
Robert Preston in The Last Starfighter (1984.)
"Working with these actors you see why they are as highly regarded as they are!  Robert Preston was a lovely, kind, giving actor. Lance Guest always speaks of him with such love and respect. I only met him on the set once because I had no scenes with him, but he literally seemed to glow.  He kissed my hand!!  Some of these actors would challenge me, some intimidated me but they were all amazing, professional actors that knew what they were doing.  I tried to learn as much as I could just being around them.  I still carry many lessons to this day!"
Little known is the fact that you, joined with Julia Campbell and Ally Walker, filmed a TV pilot for The Witches of Eastwick (in the role originated by Michelle Pfeiffer.) The vast majority of your acting career, however, has been split between features, TV-movies and miniseries with only the very occasional American primetime TV series appearance (for example, no guest roles on one of the big soaps, on the almost obligatory Murder, She Wrote, a girlfriend of Jerry's on Seinfeld, a killer or victim on one of the endless CSI programs.) Is this by design or just the way things worked out?
"I have never had a specific plan for my career.  I feel like that could be limiting.  I never want to limit myself as an actor.  I never want to be 'branded,' which seems to be a 'thing' these days.  Of course there are many roles that I didn’t get that I would have loved to have but I could never complain about the path my life and career has taken.  I am so grateful that I’ve been able to pursue something I truly love.  I feel like there is so much possibility out there and I want to take advantage of it all."
In 1993 you worked with both Charles Bronson and Christopher Reeve in The Sea Wolf. Do you have any reflections about that experience with these two actors that almost no one would ordinarily associate with one another (or on Reeve, who was paralyzed only two years later)?
"The Sea Wolf was another wonderful experience.  I did a lot of research into the time period and the character was something I hadn’t done before.  It was fantastic being able to submerse myself into this very complicated character with a couple of incredible actors!  Christopher Reeve was lovely, intense and talented.  Charles was kind, sweet and not nearly as intimidating as you might think he is. We became great friends.  Working with incredible actors forces you to really step up to the plate. Sadly, both he and Christopher Reeve have passed.  Again, I feel so fortunate and grateful to have known and worked with these people."
Apart from a period in the early 2000s when you were focused on caring for your son and daughter, you have never stopped working! You've acted alongside one-time pretty boys who've continued to hone their craft (such as Grant Show, Rob Lowe, Billy Zane and Alec Baldwin) and I believe even two of The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan and Betty White! Most recently, you joined Eric Roberts (with whom who worked on a TV-movie eight years prior) for the film When We Dance the Music Dies. What can you tell us about this and what sort of things do you look towards in the future?
Miss Stewart in the forthcoming When We Dance the Music Dies, in which she plays the wife of William Ragsdale, once the young lead of Fright Night back in 1985!
"I have been able to keep working pretty regularly, with some terrific actors.  I plan to keep that up and get more in to directing.  That is a passion of mine.  On every set I’ve worked on, I spent as much time behind the camera on my days off as I did in front of the camera.  I wanted to know everything about the technical side to putting a show together.  I love being on a set and I hope soon I’ll be behind the camera directing!"
You survived the '80s, a time when RIGOROUS punishment was done to hair and you almost always utilized your own luscious locks for all the many and varied characters you played and yet you still have amazing hair that always looks wonderful... Secrets please for our many female readers?!
"Fortunately hair keeps growing!  I’ve had every color, every style, every length under the sun, but part of the reason I’m OK with it is that I know hair will always grow out.  …and it’s really fun!!  I loved the ‘bigness’ of the 80’s.  Big hair, big shoulders, bold colors, big makeup, crazy jewelry.  It was a great time and I enjoyed every minute of it!"
Miss Stewart embracing, while also becoming one of the faces of, the unforgettable 1980s.

You have often been described in the Canadian press as a "good girl." I always think of the words "appealing" and "fresh" when your name comes up. Did you ever play a down and dirty bitch role and, if not, do you want to? 
"Absolutely!  The darker characters are the MOST fun.  Certainly, earlier in my career, I was cast as the girl next door but it wasn't long before I broke out of that mold with Night of the Comet. Especially as I get older there are more opportunities to play characters with lots of dimension.  I’ve played alcoholics, bitches, you name it."  
We know you like Modern Family and once played the mother of Nolan Gould in a telefilm [Ghoul, 2012.] It would be awesome to see you pop up there in a zany guest role! 

"I would LOVE that!!  I’m primarily in New York so that cuts me out of a lot of the series that shoot in LA.  I plan to be more bi-coastal now that my children are grown."
Lastly, can you offer an explanation for this photo? Was it your own wedding?!

"The wedding gown photo was from a photo shoot I did for a magazine.  I got to work with the incredible photographer Harry Langdon on this shoot.  I worked with him several times over the years.  Love him!"

We're so thankful that Miss Stewart was willing to take the time to answer these questions. My own first exposure to her was when she played the first Kayla Brady on Days. I was fifteen at the time and developed a bit of a fixation on her! I remember being so excited when she was later featured amid all the stars of Hollywood Wives. She worked on so many things that we never got to touch on, but I didn't want to take advantage of her graciousness in supporting my li'l ol' site. And she is indeed such a gracious, amiable and - as you surely could tell - kind and appreciative person. We look forward to much more from her, including her efforts behind the camera.


BloggerJoe said...

I loved this post! I've been a fan of hers since I first saw The Last Starfighter. It was great catching up with the news and learning more about her character. Thanks!

Gingerguy said...

700! the only thing more mind blowing than hitting that number is your get for this interview. The Apple for God's sakes! It's staggering how many of my favorites she was in and I didn't even realize it. I think Night of the comet is my favorite, because I really like it, Hollywood Wives (who came up with that ladder?) comes in second. Her name was Coco in it I think? She looks a lot like Robin Wright Penn. So gorgeous and she seems so nice. You asked great questions. Thank you 700 times over for all the fun and incredibly detailed information you have given us over the years. I think I have read every posting or close to it. Long live The Underworld!

Poseidon3 said...

Thanks, BloggerJoe! Glad you liked this, and her! :-)

Gingerguy, it might be due to recently reading Jason Priestly's autobiography (yes... such an animal exists! - LOL), in which he recounted a photo-shoot smackdown between the gals of "90210" over a red dress, but I'd have sworn that the "Wives" would have been competitive and jostling around (climbing the ladder to the top!), but apparently not so... these must have been some secure, compatible actresses. Good for them! I do think she played "Angel" in the miniseries? Thanks for all your support of P.U. :-)

angelman66 said...

Congratulations, Poseidon, on your 700th post! Bravo!

Wonderful article on the beautiful and prolific Miss Stewart--her stories of working with all those legendary actors are fascinating...her heyday being in that "sweet spot" where Classic Movie Hollywood met New TV-Multimedia Hollywood...I remember all her films as this is my era!

And Stewart is as beautiful as ever, and you've captured her exuberant personality in your great article!

Gingerguy said...

LOl it was Angel on Hollywood Wives, I think a hairdresser called Coco named her that. I realized it in the middle of the night.

Poseidon3 said...

Chris/Angelman, thank you so much! I agree completely about the sweet spot you mention. That blend of Old Hollywood and the newbies is part of what made those epic miniseries and prestige TV projects so wonderful... I still long for a cable channel of only TV-movies and miniseries, though I probably would never leave the house! Glad you liked this and that you enjoyed the interview with Miss Stewart. I should add that, though I certainly didn't ask anything too untoward or salacious - no Barbara Walters or even Connie Chung am I! LOL - there was NOTHING I asked her that she didn't answer even though I had let her know that she could pick and choose which questions to acknowledge. A real gem.