The Working Actor EDITOR'S INTRO
This is the thirty forth in a continuing feature at IndustryCentral profiling "The Working Actor". (See Archives below)
William Shakespeare said "There are no small parts--.". William Shatner may have said it too, but the longhair with the tights was first, or so the reports go. In this feature we will explore what it really means to be an actor working in Motion Pictures and Television.
Broad public acknowledgment may have eluded some who find their way to these pages, or perhaps they may have brushed against what is referred to as stardom by virtue of one or more remarkable performances. However for many, the rewards of plying their craft in a field which has allowed them to earn a living may exceed the burdens of public acclaim. Given the chance, some in this clan might prefer the longevity offered by anonymity over the potential for short lived fame.
These individuals, either by design or fate, have managed to sustain a career by crafting performances which rendered them a good casting choice. They are usually thought of as a face you recognize, but you just can't get the name past the tip of your tongue.
Most of these folks have spent countless hours on stage in theaters ranging from 20 seats to 2000, building characters from the works of Ibsen, to Eliot, to Williams, to yes even Shakespeare, and so many of the modern Playwrights. They have rounded their skills doing drama, comedy, & musicals. Their work is a serious venture.
These people have given us screen performances which quite often were the catalyst that brought an Oscar or Emmy to another and yet they continue to work as "Characters" or "Co-Stars" without the trophies and plaques adorning their mantle.
Mindy Sterling
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Mindy Sterling remembers what happened when she told her father, comedian Dick Sterling, that she wanted to become a performer. "At the age of 13 my dad decided to get me private acting lessons to do Shakespeare", the Florida-raised Sterling recalls. He said "If you learn Shakespeare, you'll be a great actor". And I was hideous - when you're thirteen years old, Shakespeare is NOT how you want to spend your free time! Needless to say, to this day I hate doing Shakespeare."

But this initial trauma was not enough to keep Sterling from her dream, and her ambition and talent have turned into a promising career as a comic actress. Best remembered for her role as "Frau," one of Dr. Evil's sidekicks in the hilarious blockbuster "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," Sterling reprised the role in the sequel "The Spy Who Shagged Me" and will also star in the film’s third installment due in theatres summer 2002. She was also featured in the New Line comedy "Drop Dead Gorgeous," a behind-the-scenes mockumentary about a beauty contest in small-town Minnesota, and in Ron Howard's "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas'" which starred Jim Carrey.

The daughter of a nightclub comic and a dancer, Sterling admits that performing has "always been in my blood," and began her career as an amateur appearing in local dinner theater and community theater productions. She chose to move to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career, specifically hoping to hone her comic talents. After working with a number of improvisational groups in Hollywood, she finally hooked up with the seminal group The Groundlings. Nearly fifteen years later, she is still one of the group's most active and popular members.

"Improv is one of the more satisfying and challenging forms of performance. It's very freeing, it's incredibly stimulating because you get to play God with a suggestion that's given to you. You get to create the character, the blocking, the story and develop that one suggestion into something so incredibly terrific - or horrible," says Sterling. She still takes the stage whenever she can: "I love it to death and still do the Thursday night shows. It's play time, and when you're playing with people you can trust, it's great."

In addition to the weekly Groundlings Theatre productions, Sterling also became one of the troupe's instructors. Among her prized pupils are past and present and "Saturday Night Live" cast members including Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, and Maya Rudolph. She also worked closely with "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow. "Teaching has brought a lot of confidence to my work, and it's such a reward when you see someone doing great stuff. You only hope that you have taught them something and added something to their success."

Her role in "Austin Powers" came about through a friend and fellow Groundlings Theatre alum Julia Sweeney, who recruited creator and star Mike Myers to appear on stage in some Groundlings shows. "Every time he did the show I tried desperately to be there because I found him to be a genius," says Sterling. She remembers feeling she did "horribly" in her audition for the role of Frau Farbissina, but she impressed Myers and director Jay Roach enough to win the role. Working with Myers on screen proved to be just as much of a treat as it was on stage: "Mike is very generous about letting you do things to add to the scene and the character. He's very playful, and he can go on forever because he's got so much confidence and passion." The scenes featuring Dr. Evil's dastardly cabal of villains are particularly memorable because of the interaction between Myers, Sterling and Seth Green, who played Dr. Evil's test-tube son Scott. "There's a whole level of stuff that wasn't written and was completely in the way we played it," Sterling explains. "People come up to me and say 'It's so funny that you were Scott's mother.' That was never in the script and never said, but we played it that way and it came through." There was more fun in the sequel, where the suggestion of a romance between Dr. Evil and Frau turned into an unexpected love scene for Austin Powers' nemesis. There are even more surprises planned for the third installment of "Austin Powers." "Drop Dead Gorgeous" featured Sterling as one of the citizens of a small town which is obsessed with a teenage beauty pageant. She put on a "really thick Minnesota accent" for the role, which also starred Kirstie Alley and Kirsten Dunst. She has guest-starred on numerous sitcoms including "Just Shoot Me." She had a recurring role in the zany "Manhattan AZ," and was a regular on the FX show "Instant Comedy with the Groundlings," which showcased her improv chops.

In addition to her busy Film and Television career, Mindy enjoys spending time at home with her husband, Brian Gadson, and her beloved seven-year-old son Max. Still, things are beginning to change just a bit for Sterling: "I was doing a voice-over for a cartoon and I noticed a bunch of sound engineers, whispering and pointing. Someone came up to me and said "They recognize you from "Austin Powers," Sterling says with an embarrassed laugh. Clearly, this gifted comic actress is just beginning to hit her stride.

Public Relations:
Lori De Waal
Lori De Waal & Associates
7080 Hollywood Blvd., Ste. 515
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Suzanne Jarrott
United Artists Talent
14011 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 213
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Mindy Sterling's advice to the aspiring actor:

"Always keep busy acting. Whether it be in a play, showcase or taking classes. Classes are great because you are learning even if you are not actually performing a scene. You are watching, observing and absorbing. You are with other actors, good and not so good, so you can learn from them. Also, it keeps you in touch with what is going on in the business. You hear someone is casting something, or you may get agent info. You are always networking. You want to be ready at any cost for that audition and job. The waiting is hideous, so stay in the game until that opportunity is given to you.

Have other passions and things that you are involved in. You need to grow as a person and not just as an actor. Plus your other life will help you be a better actor"

Mindy Sterling's Credits (partial)
"Austin Powers 3"
"Totally Blonde"
"Barstow 2008"
"How The Grinch Stole Christmas"
"Austin Powers 2"
"Drop Dead Gorgeous"
"Austin Powers"
"Ice Cream Sunday"
"Idle Hands"
"The Sky 16 Falling"
"Not Like Us"
"The Favor"
New Line
Extraordinary Films
Firebuilder Pics
New Line
New Line
New Line
Samsa Films
Sky Is Falling Prod

"Red Hot Tornadoes" (Animated)
"The Downer Channel"
"Dog Town" (Animated Pilot)
"Just Shoot Me"
"Manhattan, AZ."
"The Oroundling Instashow"
"Sister, Sister"
"The Parent Hood"
"Hiller &Amp; Diller"
"Alright Already"
"Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher"
"Dream On"
"Later W/ Greg Kinnear"
"The Second Half"
"Larry Shandling Show"
"Evening Shade"
"Saved By The Bell"
"Riders In The Sky"
"On The Television"
"Family Matters"
Series Regular
Guest Cameo
Series Regular
Guest Star
Series Regular
Series Regular
Guest Star
Guest Star
Guest Star
Guest Star
Guest Star
Guest Star
Guest Star
Guest Star

  • Acting: Ian Tucker, David Pryor, Cynthia Dixon
  • Improv; The Groundlings (Member-and-Introductor)
  • Voice: Elizabeth Barron, Rop Burton (Alto)
  • Dance: Judy Corfman (Jazz, Modern, Tap, Ballet)
Excels: Spanish, Southern, french, British, German, Yiddish, All American Accents.

For more info and credits see IMDb

-- End ---
Photo acknowledgments:
1) Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Photo by Ron Batzdorff - Universal Studios
2) Drop Dead Gorgeous Photo by K. Wright - New Line
4) Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me Photo by Mark Fellman - New Line
5) The Groundlings Photo by Carin Baer - FX Networks

Archives Chelcie Ross [march 2002]
Chelcie Ross
March 2002
Barry Jenner [February 2002]
Barry Jenner
February 2002
John Aylward [January 2002]
John Aylward
January 2002
Denis Arndt [December 2001]
Denis Arndt
December 2001
Bill Smitrovich [November 2001]
Bill Smitrovich
November 2001
Alice Hirson [October 2001]
Alice Hirson
Octobber 2001
Warren Stevens [September 2001]
Warren Stevens
September 2001
Stephen Elliott [August 2001]
Stephen Elliott
August 2001
Eugene Roche [July 2001]
Eugene Roche
July 2001
Jon Polito [June 2001]
Jon Polito
June 2001
Peter Riegert [May 2001]
Peter Riegert
May 2001
Bonnie Bartlett [April 2001]
Bonnie Bartlett
April 2001
William Daniels [March 2001]
William Daniels
March 2001
Dick Whittinghill [February 2001]
Dick Whittinghill
February 2001
Chris Ellis [January 2001]
Chris Ellis
January 2001
James Whitmore Jr. [December 2000]
James Whitmore Jr.
December 2000
Vince Grant [November 2000]
Vince Grant
November 2000
Judith Hoag [October 2000]
Judith Hoag
October 2000
Madison Mason [September 2000]
Madison Mason
September 2000
Jay Acovone [August 2000]
Jay Acovone
August 2000
Richard Riehle [July 2000]
Richard Riehle
July 2000
Charlie Brill [June 2000]
Charlie Brill
June 2000
Edie McClurg [May 2000]
Edie McClurg
May 2000
Miguel Sandoval [April 2000]
Miguel Sandoval
April 2000
Tom Bower [March 2000]
Tom Bower
March 2000
Amy Aquino [February 2000]
Amy Aquino
February 2000
Danny Chambers [January 2000]
Danny Chambers
January 2000
Eve Gordon [December 1999]
Eve Gordon
December 1999
Barbara Niven [November 1999]
Barbara Niven
November 1999
Bill Lucking [October 1999]
Bill Lucking
October 1999
Richard Roundtree [September 1999]
Richard Roundtree
September 1999
Pat Harrington [August 1999]
Pat Harrington
August 1999
Robert Donner [July 1999]
Robert Donner
July 1999

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