Saturday, 25 October 2014

She ain't no fluke - An Interview with Jennifer Runyon

I scanned the university noticeboard... Rooms for let, cycling tours around Norway, a summer in Africa.. No, that was not  for me, not after that summer in    Mexico - beautiful countryand amazing food...  But did my stomach like it? No it did not! 

Anyway what I was searching for was way different  to the usual stuff you would normally find on this   board, Oh yes, I was looking for something more… Something more… Something more paranormal...

Then I spotted it, it was scuffed and tattered, my god it looked like it had been there since the mid 80s! The advert called for volunteers for ESP experiments and was offering payment… Perfect, interesting and the extra cash would come in handy, mind you… only 5 bucks? That wouldn’t even get you a coffee and a muffin these days… But money is money and I wasn’t in it for the cash anyway. I ripped off one of the slips at the bottom of the advert with the contact details on them… 

Dr Venkman… Why did that name seem so familiar?

I was deep in thought when I bumped into someone, literally bumped into them! Books, note pads and pens went flying, I apologised and helped the poor woman pick up her things, she noticed my scrap of paper, picked it up and laughed, it was then when I realised who I had bumped into... None other than Jennifer Runyon!

Jennifer Victoria Runyon was born in Chicago in 1960 and has appeared in a myriad of TV programmes    and films, from Another world to Charles in Charge and was even a Brady in 'A very Brady Christmas'! She starred in the comedy '18 again!' with George Burns, but what I will most fondly remember her for is as the object of Bill Murray's affections in the start of 'Ghostbusters'.

I offered her a coffee by the way of an apology and we got chatting.

So, what was it like appearing in Ghostbusters? How does it  feel to be in such a iconic film?
 “Such a great experience, of course I had no idea while filming would become such a huge Box-Office success...
…I was just excited to work with Bill Murray.

Who wouldn't be? I thought...

And I bet people quote lines to you all the time!?  “I get that a lot from Ghostbusters especially... strangers have approached me saying "you're no fluke Jennifer" I'm always so flattered by that.”

So what were the guys [Bill Murrey, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis] like to work with... and for? “It was probably one of the most enjoyable days I ever had on a never stopped laughing which really relaxed me... Bill was so easy to work with...”

Dear old Harold Ramis, all the people I've talked who knew him and they all say he was a lovely guy, wso what did you think? 
“Harold Ramis was such a lovely and kind man...”

So nice...

And did you socialise with any them off set?  “I went to dinner with Bill Murray once..he sang opera to the whole restaurant...then we ended up at Union Station in downtown LA...
He somehow convinced the engineer of an Amtrack train to let us drive it...only Bill Murray could get away with that...”

I nearly spat out my coffee, I had heard so many crazy stories about Bill, about him turning up at peoples parties, pouring tequila or going up to people and just eating their food telling them "No one will believe you" and then just leaving.... I wondered if Jennifer believed them... So I thought I'd ask...

So do you believe the stories? “Yes I've heard the stories...and after driving an Amtrack Train and singing Opera with doen't surprise me in the least....”

And I know Bill Murray is famous for his ad-libbing, did he do much during your scene? “Yes he did ad-lib a bit...I think that's what made the scene so great.” 

And did your character have a name?  “No my character didn't have a name in the script...I was "female student" but he called me Jennifer while filming the scene”

A perfect example of Bills Ad-Libbing, I thought.

So let's go back to the beginning... How did you get the part? What was the audition like? “I got the call to audition for a Bill Murray movie… I remember a lot of girls being there...I didn't hear anything for the longest time...I figured I didn't get it...I was working on another show when the call came...I was so excited..”

I'm not surprised I thought!
So have you been to the Fire station in NY? “I sadly have never visited the fire station...definitely something I need to do.”

Now we all understand Ghostbusters now, but it seemed a crazy idea back in 1984... How was it described to you? “They were very secretive while auditioning... we were not told the story line
...I am trying to remember when I eventually
was given the script????” 

I suddenly realised that I was going on and on about Ghostbusters when she had done so much more! I also noticed that I was nealy down to just the froth on my Cappuccino.

I know I keep talking about Ghostbusters, sorry... “No worries, I love talking Ghostbusters”

You played regular characters in both Another world & Charles in charge? “When I got the part I was so excited...I was nervous because 
I had always had a little crush on Scott Baio..."

What washe like, did he live up to your expectations? "He was great.. he ended up becoming like a brother to me...I learned a lot from working with Scott and Willie Aames...Willie by the way is one of my best friends...we do a radio show together with Susan Olsen called F.L.U.I.D. Amazing after 30 years Willie and I are working together again...”

Now you played two different characters in Murder she wrote, only a couple of years apart.. Did you ever question that? Did you ever wonder that people would realise? Is this a common thing to happen? “Murder She Wrote did this quite often...I wasn't the first to do multiple episodes...I remember someone telling me Angela liked bringing people back...
she was wonderful by the way...”

You were in 18 again with the incomparable George Burns, what was he like? “Eighteen Again was another one I had such a positive experience filming...I loved the cast and crew..George Burns was so dear...always telling amazing stories and singing little tunes... "

And was that cigar always burning?
 "...yes he had a chair that followed him around with an ashtray attached and a cigar always lit...I adored him.”

As a very attractive girl in Hollywood, you must have had some attention from actors?! Do you   have any good stories? “You are very kind, but I really was very shy. I never felt comfortable with the whole "Hollywood"   scene. I was pretty much a homebody when I wasn't working...oh dear...that sounds so boring and  sad..LOL...”

No, it sounded rather sensible I thought! 

Your dad James R Runyon was a DJ, did you have an interesting childhood? Were you surrounded by music royalty? Did he ever want you to go into the music biz?  “I never got to meet any music royalty..but my Mom and Dad certainly did... they met the Beatles back in the day...but I was too young to appreciate how cool that was...the cool part about my parents being DJ's was listening to them on the radio every morning while getting ready for school...”

And you have some pretty big named in-laws? It must be excellent at weddings & Christmas?! Have you worked with your husband or in-laws? “Yes Roger Corman asked me to do a movie for him called Carnasaur, I was 4 months pregnant with my son at the time..I didn't tell him..I wanted so badly to do the movie. I also did a movie for my father-in-law Gene Corman called A Man Called Sarge, we shot the movie in Israel and had such a great time...the cast was wonderful...”

So you must get loads, but what is your best piece of fan mail to date? “I'm not sure I have a favorite, I'm always so touched someone took the time to write to me...”   

And what would your dream role be?  “My dream role..hmmmm...I always wanted to be in a western...I love westerns...”

I tipped the last bit of foam into my mouth and checked my watch... I was going to be late for my lecture... One... or maybe two questions and I had to go!

So, going back to Ghostbusters just for a second, do you think Peter Venkman and the student did meet up at 8 o'clock?  “I like to think they did...but I believe he got tied up in the library investigating ...”

And lastly, are you afraid of ghosts?  “No...I've had a few experiences...I'm fascinated...”

thanked Jennifer, grabbed my briefcase and dashed out of the cafeteria, that was fantastic, what a coup... Jennifer Runyon... Wow! I was going to be late I knew it, I was going to get in trouble and miss some of the lecture... But hey, call it fate, call it Karma, I believe things happen for a reason... And anyway my students could wait another 10 minutes...

For more information on Jennifer go to:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Back to Green Gables with Jonathan Crombie

I stepped off the boat, it had been many years since I had been here, so many wasted years since I enjoyed the majesty of Prince Edward Island. 

The grass was as emerald green as I remembered, the houses were as picturesque, the vistas were as beautiful and in the air hung the sweet smell of apple blossom. It was as if time had been kept in a box and that box had only been reopened as I, once again stepped onto its soil.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself in a floating white cotton dress with a crinoline  underskirt,
the biggest puffed sleeves and a matching parasol, sauntering around the island, meeting friends for a glass of currant wine or enjoying high tea with a gentleman... when suddenly 'whoosh' I was nearly knocked off my feet by two boys on skateboards. Luckily I was wearing rubber soled trainers I thought, prompting me to take stock of my choice of outfit, jeans and a striped T-shirt, not exactly the romantic vision I had had for today, I sighed, things do change, I suppose... Time does move on. 

I wandered on, still 
I thought with a smile, however much things had changed a great deal has stayed the same; the road - although now covered in tarmac - was still tree-lined and flanked on either side by enchanting, white-washed wooden houses, with swing seats and painted gables. That bridge in front of me... That bridge could have just leapt out of a Claude Monet painting and that man leaning on the bridge... Well he could have, quite literally just walked out of a romantic storybook, for goodness sake that man could have just walked out of the romantic storybook, that man could have walked out of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 'Anne of Green Gables'... That man could have... I stepped a little closer... That man actually really could be... I was only a few feet away from the bridge now... Oh my, that man was the image of Gilbert Blythe, the man who stole Anne Shirley's heart... Another step... I was at the foot of the bridge now and I could see the man quite clearly and oh my goodness it was... It really was! It was Jonathan Crombie, it was Gilbert Blythe!
I tried to hide my excitement, but unlike Jonathan I am not a good actor and my face betrayed me, he turned and smiled, such a friendly, welcoming smile that, as such a fan of the series and an admirer of his work, was so familiar to me. Jonathan ushered me to his side and was more than happy to chat...

So, Jonathan, what is it like playing a character from youth to maturity in a matter of a few years? You changed a bit, but always looked a little older, but Megan Follows managed to pull off child and woman so smoothly… Was this a bit freaky to watch her and yourself ‘grow’ 
"First of all, thanks for letting me know I always looked older!!  Megan indeed pulled off the different ages of Anne with such aplomb.  Hair, make-up, and wardrobe helped of course, but it is a testament to her acting that the transitions were so smooth and believable. "

What is it like to be so associated with a fictional character that you are even referred to as Gill? Did you find the transition to other jobs easy? Or where you judged on your performance in Anne of Green Gables? "I think at first the Gilbert connection was strong, but I made sure to quickly take on roles that were different, and it’s never really been a problem, particularly in theatre. "

Your portrayal of Gill has left such an indelible mark on fans of both the book and series, do you get people believing that you are actually Gill?  
"A few odd letters, but nothing bordering on scary.  I imagine Megan has dealt with some stranger fan mail stuff than I have."
You star with such a fabulous cast, Wwhat was it like filming with Megan and the rest of them? 
"The cast was amazing, and particularly during the first two ‘Annes', we hung out a lot off set." 

It must have been so hot and stuffy in those clothes? 

I was fine in the costumes (but then again, I never get too hot—I like it scorching!)."

Talking of the costumes, you cut a dashing figure in your suits but were there any modern ‘adjustments’ made to the clothes to make them easier and cooler to wear?  
"I’m not sure of any little tricks wardrobe had to keep costumes cool or more comfortable.  From costumes to props to sets"

So... how authentic was the whole experience? (apart from the film crew!)

"All the components were incredibly authentic and very true to the period and story."

Did anyone occidentally bring modern items on set? I’ve never spotted any, I have to admit.
"Of course this was all before smartphones, but as far as I know all digital devices, modern magazines, coke cans, etc. were pretty much off set when cameras were rolling."

Were there any diva tantrums on set? Did anyone threaten to storm off? 
"If there were, I didn’t see them.  Too bad—I love watching that kind of stuff!"

Now it was set on Prince Edward Island, but where was it filmed? Did you even go to the Island? 
"Most of it was shot in rural areas and ‘pioneer villages’ outside Toronto.  There were a few days in PEI [Prince Edward Island], but I believe just with Megan and Schuyler (the stuff on the beach, showing off that beautiful PEI red sand). "

Well every location looked lovely
"Even though we weren’t in PEI, the locations they found were pretty awesome, and had wonderful histories of their own. "

So how did you get into character? Did you read the books to create you're Gilbert? 
"I did read the books and managed to collect some great information.  But ultimately, the script served as my main source—and I tried to remain faithful to that.  If I had worried about trying to portray the “definitive” Gilbert from the books, I think it would have really messed me up. "

Were there any goofs? (It’s not exactly the kind of series to have a blooper reel!) 
"Tons of goofs!  Forgetting lines, falling off horses, tripping over cables, you name it.  The blooper reel would be longer than the films.  I remember one day, Megan and I were so tired and giddy, we could not stop giggling,  and could hardly get through the scene."

I sneezed, the air was full of pollen... Hmm I wonder...

 Did anyone have Hay-fever during filming?! 
"Don’t remember hay fever, but I’m sure there were a few allergies going around."

You starred alongside the fabulous and charismatic Richard Farnsworth, what was like? He always played such quiet characters, was he actually that quiet? 
"I only met him on set once—and yes, rather quiet, but very sweet and very supportive of the younger cast members. "

And yo dou still see Megan Follows? 
"I just saw Megan in a play in Toronto not too long ago (she was of course incredible in it) and we went for a drink afterwards and ended up spending a couple hours catching up."  

So do people stare when they see you? 

"Don’t remember too many stares, but some of her castmates were teasing us as we left."

This did make me smile, I imagine I would probably burst into tears if I saw them together...

Why do you think that both the books and the series was so endearing to children and grown -ups, then and now,  I mean there are no robots, guns or special effects! 
"I think the character of Anne is so attractive because she is so empowered by her imagination.  It allows her to see the world in a way that transcends circumstances.  She is always armed with hope, determination, and an inexhaustible appreciation of beauty. "  

Was there any doubt in your mind that you orMegan would do the ‘The Continuing Story’ How do you think it compares with the originals? Is it true about Megan’s nose job? 
"Megan was already attached when they approached me.  I was set to go back to Stratford, but decided if they were going ahead, and Megan was a part of it, I should be as well.  I know it departs from the Montgomery stories, but Megan and I worked very hard to remain faithful to the original characters. 
Nose job?  Are you kidding? "

Andif another book was discovered would you ever consider reprising the role of Gilbert? 
"guess it would depend on the script itself, and of course whether Megan was involved."

How do you think it would have differed if Katherine Hepburn had accepted the role as Marilla? How would have that been for you? What an experience!            "It would have been very exciting, of course, but no more so than working with the amazing Colleen Dewhurst.  Not only was she sensational in the role, but one of the warmest, friendliest and most interesting people you could ever meet." 

I know Megan follows beat of 3 thousand girls to get Anne, how did your audition process go? 
"The casting agent saw me in a school play, and asked me to audition.  I did a couple of reads with the director and got the role (I think my curly dark hair at the time may have helped). " 

Now you’ve had a lot of very different roles since doing Anne (Excuse the pun), but what is your favourite?  
"Gilbert will always be special, since it was my first professional role, and part of such a wonderful experience.  But I gotta admit, playing ‘Man in Chair’ in “The Drowsy Chaperone” in NY and on tour was a total blast. " 

So, you created the perfect Gilbert but if you could play any other fictional character, who would it be? 

"The list is pretty long—there’s so many wonderful characters that I would love to do.  Yepihodov from ‘The Cherry Orchard’ has always been a particular favourite (but I’m perhaps a little too old now)."

And do you think you could have lived back then? I’d love to think I could, but without the net and TV I would probably go insane!  
"I think I could have managed—just sit me down with board games and I’m fine. "

I smiled at Jonathan, he had been so kind as I gushed over his stories, I could have stood chatting all day, but I knew I'd taken so much of his time, plus checking my watch my ferry was leaving soon and I had to be on it, so I had to just say one more thing, I said 'and lastly, thank you for giving me, my friends and now my daughter hours of enjoyment!' to which he replied kindly...
"Completely and utterly my pleasure! "

For more information on Jonathan and Anne of Green Gables go to: