The Movie Waffler Waffling With... Actress <i>TRACEY BIRDSALL</i> | The Movie Waffler

Waffling With... Actress TRACEY BIRDSALL

Actress Tracey Birdsall has enjoyed a diverse career, ranging from soaps to sci-fi. She chatted to TMW about her past, present and upcoming projects.

Interview by Eric Hillis

The public first saw you as a bikini clad model in a Sunkist commercial. Was your modelling career a help or a hindrance in transitioning to acting?

That’s a bit of a funny question, as I never really wondered what anyone thought! I was always a very driven individual, even in my youth. When my acting coaches in my younger years told me I shouldn’t do print work or commercials, I just didn’t talk about it with them or fellow students. It wasn’t like I could hide that I was on national television in commercials or on magazine covers in bikinis, but I successfully just didn’t talk about it with people who weren’t supportive of it. I loved what I did and I wasn’t willing to “pick” between careers. I always wanted to be an actress – but everyone knows there are stretches between jobs – so it just made sense. I had a lot of doors open to me. I couldn’t see why I should listen to the advice I was being given because then I would have had to wait tables like my peers. Print work and commercials made sense – and they were fun. Eventually the mindset caught up with the rest of the world and it’s finally “cool” to work within multiple genres and platforms. So to answer the question, I guess in my mind it was help but in everyone else’s minds it “seemed” a hindrance. Whew!

Your earliest screen credit was a 1986 episode of Family Ties. Did you get to work alongside Michael J Fox, who was pretty much the biggest star in America at that time?

I was very intimidated to walk on that set on day one. That entire cast made me feel at home from the very beginning. I was never intimidated walking on a set again after that! Although it was a memorable experience, most of all it was an enlightening experience… to know that we all had the same goal on set: to do the very best that we could. It’s really quite simple.

You have an interesting career arc, going from soaps to sci-fi. How did this transition occur? Have you always had an interest in sci-fi?

I’ve always enjoyed working and being onscreen. I’ve also always enjoyed anything physical and fitness. On top of that, I grew up as a Science Fiction junkie. Characters in drama and comedy are an absolute blast. When it forayed into Science Fiction, the action aspect is also there – and the love for the genre and all that I love thrives.
I first stepped into Science Fiction films working with Neil Johnson (Director) on Doomsday and Starship: Rising as a voiceover character (I was pretty excited to even be the spaceship computer voice, given my love for the genre). We then decided to collaborate and co-produce a couple of films. It’s been the most rewarding and fun I’ve had in my career yet J

There’s been much talk recently about the lack of strong roles for women in American movies, but sci-fi is one genre that’s always boasted strong women, for example Ripley in Alien, Sarah Connor in The Terminator. Why do you think other genres have lagged behind in this aspect?

I’ve been fortunate in my life to mostly play strong female characters, but perhaps that’s typecasting! I always imagined it to be similar to comedy where the intelligence makes us more apt to be fantastic at being dumb, but I’ve only had characters I’ve played that didn’t have huge arcs (at times in the past), never weak characters. I think it’s a huge part of what I love in Sci-Fi… the characters I’ve played are so huge and strong and capable… as we should be!
That said, I believe that so much of the movie industry is still led by men and they (most, not all) still have the “macho guy, weak girl… guy gets girl” mentality. The movie begins in the creation stage… the characters are created by the writers and the people who fund those productions. All characters are fun to play even if they aren’t strong ass-kicking heroes. Big bitches are the best to play though!

You’ve just wrapped Robot Fighter, in which you play a tough heroine yourself. How was that experience?

Robot Fighter was the best (is the best.) I documented the movie not just with my emotional twists and turns, but also with scores of photos of bruises (war wounds), which I was so proud to bear. It was an amazing film to shoot and really used all of me as a person to portray. I had to not only envelope the character’s emotions and feelings and challenges, but also her physicality and extreme capabilities. As actors, challenges are everything, and Neil Johnson definitely pushed me to the extremes, which I loved.

Next up is Who’s Jenna Jameson?, in which you play a lookalike of the former porn star. What can you tell us about the movie?

Who’s Jenna Jameson? is a hilarious comedy about a woman who resembles the porn star Jenna Jameson and the difficulties that causes her in her life, her new dating relationship (with Jonathan, played by Bill Sorvino) and her new boyfriend's best friend Andy (played by Joe D’Onofrio) who has a penchant for the genre and thinks she looks exactly like the actress in question. It’s really a fantastic project with a brilliant script and an amazing cast (including Garry Pastore). I’m super excited that this will be premiering about the same time as Robot Fighter! They are both high-profile projects in completely different genres so basically it’s going to be a re-do of my year last year (with the release of Dawn of the Crescent Moon and Do You Like Your Balls?) simultaneously… only better!