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Check Out Maureen Kedes’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maureen Kedes.

Hi Maureen, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I started acting on stage as a kid. I always played characters. I was tall for my age so I would play the mom, grandma or the kooky aunt. I convinced my parents that voice lessons counted as a musical instrument and gladly put aside my clarinet. I spent freshman year in high school in London doing local theatre — along with drinking spiked cider after rehearsals, scarfing potato chips (“crisps”) pastries and candy. By the time I got back to California, I was chunky, so they always gave the ingenue part to someone else. I wish I had known what a gift that was! As I grew up, and even now, I draw on that character core to add subtle color and nuance to roles. While living as a Stanford University “faculty brat,” I pretended to be a college student and performed in a major campus musical and with a cabaret group. One of those Stanford producers who cast me is now an Oscar nominee.

I wanted to attend a performing arts university, but with my professor father and businesswoman mother, they insisted I have a regular education (“In case you need to fall back on something”). Who knows if this was the right path? I can tell you that my educational core not only saved me during my protracted hiatus, but it has helped me find the meaning, subtext and the context of different roles when I analyze a script. Giving that kind of input to a director has helped me get cast on more than one occasion.

I ended up at Barnard College of Columbia University in NYC with a BA degree in English Literature. I wrote for the school paper and spent free time doing plays Off, Off, Off, (did I say ‘Off?) Broadway at the Hammerstein Theatre in Harlem. Slowly, I lost the baby fat and blossomed as an ingenue, back when slenderness was required of leading ladies. During summer breaks from college, I attended the immersive program at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and lived in a cockroach-infested apartment with a close friend, David Spitzer, who is now a producer. The hookers downstairs watched out for me after night rehearsals.

After college, I attended Lee Strasberg Institute for Theatre in NYC full time. Al Pacino would come in to teach. I also studied with legendary Andy Anselmo of The Singer’s Forum Foundation. My lessons were sandwiched between Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin. After a year of hitting the pavement in NY and getting very close on a few juicy roles, I moved to LA.

Soon, I got agents and managers and booked some guest spots and movies. Most of the time, I was being told I was “too ethnic.” With the exception of a few, all the roles were hyper-sexualized. My reps took me to appointments to bleach my hair blonde to “look more caucasian, All-American,” and my hair turned brassy red, a nightmare with my skin tone. Producers and networks told me to wear a tight black mini dress and push-up bra with heels; even to parts that didn’t require it! “Producers love women and legs.” I never minded being sexy if it fit the role! I was second choice for scores and scores of major roles and lost out to blonde, caucasian-looking girls and it eroded my confidence. I felt so stressed at callbacks that I couldn’t focus on my work and did a lousy job. One manager told me to start drinking or to take pills to calm down.

I didn’t like the roles I got. I didn’t get the roles I wanted. I didn’t like the process of auditioning and being treated like just one of many. Finally, after being propositioned as a hooker on my way to a tight-dress audition, I screamed at the unsuspecting John, “I’m Ivy League, go fuck YOURSELF!” I knew then it was time to get out. Plus, I wanted a family one day.

So, I reinvented myself with that wonderful education fallback. I ended up working at a PR firm. Then starting my own firm. Which was fun, thrilling and lucrative for many, many years. I had a VoiceAmerica radio show, a blog and a separate home office with six employees at one point. And the best accomplishment of my life is my two sons.

Finally, I sold the business. Had a few years of not working, just being a carpool mom. It was nice but then the “itch” came back. I had to get creative. I started singing; then went to acting class at The Actor’s Circle in Culver City. I learned all the new digital platforms and how the business works now. I came back as a mature woman after a 22-year hiatus. It was hard to see myself on film older but now I’m used to it. My credo has been, say yes (most of the time) and keep working. I’ve done over 40 indie projects, mostly small films, since 2019. Even though now I’m getting bigger roles, more important roles, and full-length films, I still will open myself up to even something like a thesis project at a film school, if it sounds intriguing. You keep improving. You keep meeting new people. You keep getting to work and surrounding yourself with young creatives trying to make a difference. If the pandemic has taught us anything, THE WORLD NEEDS ARTISTS! And I love being around my people.

Now I’m represented again. I just got put on “avail” for 2 union TV jobs. I just wrapped a lead role, a location shoot, on a hilarious film, The Greatest of All Tina.  I leave again soon to shoot a drama, Thundercloud Lane, in Oregon. They are both the best scripts I’ve ever been handed. But, guess what? I’m still auditioning for a student thesis film because it’s a musical and I’ve been wanting to do one! I’m also producing/writing a pilot with a director I worked with.

My son joked with me one day, calling me “Hollywood’s comeback mom.” So, I wrote about it. You can search for it. The article is still number one on Google! I think I struck a chord with people. My story inspires not only actors — because starting over at my age seems like a hurdle. But I never think of it that way. I certainly don’t think of my age! I think of every opportunity (yes, even self-tapes and auditions) as opportunities for me to share my craft and create. I do my work, focus on what I worked on, and let it go. I treat every audition and every job like I’m putting on a play and the curtain is going up with a live audience. It’s thrilling.

If I could only give a pep talk to my younger self, it would be three-fold: 1. The process is the career. If you are not enjoying the process, get out now. 2. Get good at Improv. I spent years training and then going live on stage at a major comedy club for a long run. I cannot emphasize how important that is for acting, but even if you are not an actor, just take a class, it opens your brain! 3. Get something in your life — the other thing that you do that you are passionate about and earns you money. Don’t just be singular! Be a well-rounded soul who doesn’t have to add financial stress to the already stressful career choice. It makes you more interesting, confident and grounded.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Here’s some of what I’ve heard:
You are too old.
You are too young.
You are too pretty.
You are not pretty enough.

I’ve had people blown away by what I’ve done and they book me, to people who don’t like me, yet I’m doing the exact same level of work. If you think about it, there are actually people who say they don’t like Meryl Streep. She’s a goddess in my opinion! So, you cannot worry about what others think about you; you can’t please everyone. People are trying to sell you or teach you. Take what you want from whomever you want but remember to listen to your gut!

I am sure my greatest struggles are ahead. But, I think of struggles as milestones. I had one audition for a lead in a Netflix series with five callbacks that entailed four monologues. I had to be off book, verbatim. The script was recorded and transcribed from an actual person speaking. With every “uh” and “um” had to be exact. And they were LONG monologues. It would be as if you were filming a movie and all your big scenes were being shot in one hour. But I looked at it this way: I’m a theatre performer. You need to be able to go live. Also, it was good for my brain to learn them and I will always have them under my belt. Plus, I got to really test my ability to connect to the material and perform for people and hopefully move them in some way. And guess what? I did! One producer was choked up. I didn’t book it, but I still feel that performance and accomplishment inside me.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I do comedy and drama. I love both equally. I will never sign with reps who force me to pigeonhole myself. I’ve heard the term, “get rich in your niche,” telling actors to specialize. And I see the efficacy of that, but my niche is more like a gulley, it’s big, and it’s working for me. I love being diverse. I have five full-length films coming out where I get to play a mix of characters: a sick and twisted therapist (Addy Daddy); a southern comic diner waitress in a blonde wig (Angel of Death) ; rich, annoying lady (Heart ‘N Soul); a caring, soulful mom (Thundercloud Lane) and a hysterical, comic mom (The Greatest of All Tina). I approach every opportunity with the best of my professionalism: be nice; be on time; know your lines; and throw your talent and passion into it.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I’m always open to hearing from creatives with a good script, a budget and if you have distribution…all the better!

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.maureenkedes.com
  • Instagram: @maureenkedes
  • Facebook: Maureen Kedes actor
  • Twitter: @kedesmaureen

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