Meet The Woman Behind The August Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine: Emmy Winner Jodi Long

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Film, television, and stage veteran Jodi Long, best known for her roles in “Sex & the City,” “Sullivan & Son,” and “The Hot Chick” recently won her first Emmy for “Outstanding Supporting Actress” on behalf of her role as the bold and fabulous “Mrs. Basil E” on Netflix’s “Dash & Lily.” She is Lily’s stylish and extravagant great-aunt who offers wisdom and pushes them to enjoy life. She is also the glue that ties Dash and Lily together. Interesting fact: Her character is an homage to the eccentric character from the novel “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” She is the mentor and best friend we wish we all had and were! Dash & Lily was nominated for a total of 6 Daytime Emmy© Awards including a nod for “Outstanding Young Adult Series.”

Although best known for her roles as the power lesbian ‘Patty’ in HBO’s “Sex and the City” and her role as the Korean mother in The Hot Chick (“Ling Ling! You forgot your bling bling!), Long has been working consistently in Hollywood for decades following her roles in hit TV series “Café American,” “All-American Girl” and “Miss Match.” She starred on Vince Vaughn’s TBS sitcom “Sullivan & Son” playing ‘Ok Cha,’ the ever-amusing Korean immigrant mother of ‘Steve’ played by comedian Steve Byrne. Long’s extensive list of TV and film credits also includes “Franklin & Bash,” “Desperate Housewives,” and Beginners alongside Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. Not only limited to acting, Long is also a talented filmmaker creating an award-winning documentary Long Story Short, her personal family story which tells the tale of her Chinese-Aussie tap dancer father and Japanese-American showgirl mother (‘Larrie & Trudie’) who became a popular husband-and-wife nightclub act in America in the ’40s and ’50s even landing a performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Born and raised in Queens, Long graduated from the High School for Performing Arts in New York and graduated with a BFA from the acting conservatory at SUNY Purchase. Long’s love for acting came from traveling with her vaudevillian parents and growing up backstage which eventually led her to star in her first Broadway show at just 7 years old in Sidney Lumet’s Nowhere To Go But Up. After an illustrious theater career in several Broadway and off-Broadway productions, Long would eventually win an Ovation Award for the 2002 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (her father starred in the original production in 1958). She also starred in Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s theater production of The World Of Extreme Happiness which ran in both Chicago and New York last year.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Jodi to discuss her recent win at the Emmy Awards and here’s what went down:

This is obviously a very personal project for you. What was your reaction when you saw these nominations pop onto the screen?

I didn’t see the nominations pop on a screen until the day of the actual Awards ceremony. So by then, that was the least of what was going to happen in the next few minutes! The day I found out I was nominated, it came in an email from the showrunner/creator of Dash And Lily, writer Joe Tracz. He created such a delicious part in Mrs. Basil E that I was so happy to hear the news from him first.

Of course, we definitely have to congratulate you on your Emmy win this year! Can you describe the feeling you had when you heard your name called and that moment you held that Emmy in your hands?

Thank you! I was stunned with disbelief when I heard my name called, can someone pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming?! Holding the Emmy? Exhilarating!

Photo Credit: Benjo Arwas

You were nominated for “Outstanding Supporting Actress” on behalf of your role as “Mrs. Basil E” on Netflix’s “Dash & Lily.” Can you tell us more about your role in this TV series?

I play the Great Aunt of the main character Lily. She’s a Broadway musical diva who is very rich, very grand, and quite eccentric in a bohemian way. She is also very wise and a bit of a fairy godmother to Lily. Like Glinda with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Mrs. Basil E is always asking the right question at the right time, encouraging Lily to make her own decisions.

What sort of person is going to relate to this character?

Everyone, young and old! I mean, who doesn’t want a fairy godmother in their life right?

How is this character like you? Different?

Well, I have been on Broadway doing musical theater in the revival of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song playing a character who had quite a lot of stage presence and “je ne sais quoi”. I’m different in that I don’t lounge around my house in sequined caftans with rings on every finger!

What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?

The biggest challenge was it was freezing in NYC while we were shooting in my fabulous townhouse answering my front door. I had hand warmers under and in every part of my costume just to keep warm!

If you could actually play any other character in this series, who would it be?

I think I won the lottery with Mrs. Basil E even if I was young enough to play Lily.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?

There is really no difference between working in front of a camera for a movie and TV series except the time you get to do a scene. With a TV series, if you are lucky enough to get more than one season, you and the writers have more time to understand and develop a character which usually yields you a bigger arc.

Photo Credit: Benjo Arwas

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

I don’t feel I have any weak points! The most important thing for an actor is to be in the moment of a scene and take it a moment to moment.

What are your strong points as an actor?

I guess you would classify me as a character actor. I like to challenge and stretch myself as an actor and subsequently have a large range. I am also not afraid of taking chances as I explore a scene.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

If you mean on a set, I am not a person who can read a book! Some actors like to retreat into a book. I have to stay focused on the world and character I am inhabiting. I can read a magazine or check email, but nothing too involving as I like to stay focused. When I am not working, I do a lot of yoga, garden, and do Tai Chi.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

The hardest part is sometimes you can be on a great work roll and sometimes it’s slow. You never really know why but that’s when it’s important to keep your center and be creative anyway. As an Asian American woman actor, the most difficult part at the beginning of my career was to be cast in parts that weren’t specifically Asian. In those days, Asian written parts were few and far between. But I was and still am determined to change things for more inclusive casting. My part as Mrs. Basil E in Netflix’s Dash And Lily, for which I won an Emmy, was originally played by Ingrid Bergman (in the movie version) and then by Lauren Bacall (in the tv movie). It’s been a long time coming but now that’s progress.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

The good ones trust you. The bad ones will try to micromanage you if you let them.

Photo Credit: Benjo Arwas

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

It really depends on the script and the role because each has its own challenges. Some require research into a character or a way of life and some just learning lots of lines!

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

I think an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress is pretty memorable!

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

The most interesting people I’ve met have all been artists and creative types. Why? Because most of the ones I know are critical thinkers and I enjoy hearing different points of view and how they manifest within their creative process. Don’t get me wrong, business-minded folks can be very creative thinkers too.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

We’ll leave that up to the casting director (laughs)!

Can you tell the readers any new projects you have coming up that you are excited about?

I have a movie coming out in September, although I can’t say what yet. And I am currently in talks for my one-woman show SURFING DNA to be produced on the East Coast.

What advice would you give anyone who is looking to follow in your footsteps?

Follow your dream and keep the naysayers away. Work on your craft and let your instincts guide you. Most importantly, do what you love, for even though you will work hard, it will never really be just work, it will be creative PLAY.

Photo Credit: Jim Krantz