Cassandra in Vulkar's Revenge (8_90)

Wizards and Warriors
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Don Reo
James Frawley
Jay Kerr
Louise Huebner
Peter Wooley
Phyllis Katz
S. Bryan Hickox
Tim Dunigan


(photo courtesy of the
Sherman Oaks website

Phyllis Katz, the actress who played Ariel's handmaiden Cassandra, is still active in improv, screenwriting, and television. Several months ago, we contacted Ms. Katz via one of her many improv groups, and found her gracious enough to consent to an interview.  Anna M.C. conducted the
interview by phone on January 30, 2001.

After you read Ms. Katz's thoughts concerning her work on W&W, Sherman Oaks, and her career in comedy, be sure to view her most recent project!  iFilm is hosting "Shoedini", a 17-minute infomercial spoof which Ms. Katz wrote, directed, executive produced -- oh, and she starred in it, too, in both a major and minor role. Just type "Shoedini" in the search box to find and view the film.

Interviewer:  I'm really grateful to you for giving us this opportunity.  Thank you!

Phyllis Katz:  Oh, you're welcome!  It's a lot of fun!  It's kind of a kick to find out that your work meant that much so many years later.  It reminds me that everything you do counts.

Interviewer:  What have you been doing since Wizards and Warriors?

Phyllis Katz:  Everything from sulking to working.  I've done a lot of stage, and I've been very active with the Groundlings Theatre, of which I was almost an original member.  I helped put their school together, I directed a few shows there, and I still teach there periodically.  In terms of teaching, I've worked with a lot of different groups. I've worked privately, and I work with outreach programs, including a group called Arts Expand that's run by Annie Cusack.  Actually, I've given workshops for their teachers.  As for acting, I've done plenty of stage, a little bit of film, and a lot of TV episodic work. As you know, I had a nice, big, fat part on Sherman Oaks which was so much fun.  It was really a fun show.  I've also been writing, and hopefully getting ready to do an independent film soon that I've written. I'm in the early stages of it. I'm also getting ready to mount a stage show with the same character that the movie is about.  There's been some interest, but I can't name any names yet.  Nothing's on paper.

Interviewer:  In terms of stage, was there anything in particular that stands out?

Phyllis Katz:  Well, I remember all of it.  I did a play that I wrote a few years ago. It was called Co-Dependently Yours, and I have written a screenplay based on that.  I've written other screenplays that I now have an agent hawking for me, but this is the one that I'm going to do, and I'm going to play the part in.  So I did that, and it was fun for me. I also did a one-woman show some years back, called Katz: Music and Characters. I received a Dramalogue Award for performance in that.  I worked out with a lot of different improv groups, here and there.

Interviewer:  So, what would you say was the best role you've ever had, and the worst role?

Phyllis Katz:  I don't think I've ever had a role I didn't like. I just love to act.  I won't name names, but I've been on some sets that were not comfortable, although not many, but I've never had a role that I can remember that I didn't enjoy.  So, there is no "least favorite" that I can think of.  My favorite is usually whatever I'm doing, but I so love this character that I've written this movie about.  Her name is Gloria French, and she started out as a monologue and in a song improv at the Groundlings many years ago.  She's not the kind of sketch character who has a weird voice and wears a funny wig, but I love her so much. I've been doing her for so many years that if I had to pick one that I was going to do for the rest of my life, and I could never do anything else, I would pick her.  But I loved my role on Wizards and Warriors, and I loved Beverly on Sherman Oaks.  They let me give so much input.  They encouraged us to work with them on the development of the characters.  I just love getting somebody's material, doing a take on it, and working together. There's a lot that I write myself that I do, too.

Interviewer:  Do you generally prefer live performing or filmed performing?

Phyllis Katz:  Well, I love them both. There's a plus on each side and a minus on each side.  In live performance you're making an immediate connection with the audience, and you're feeling the energy of the response to your work.  There's a night at the Groundlings that comes back to me often.  I think it was the very early 80's, when there was a devastating plane crash in Chicago.  Everybody heard about it on the news, and we had to go do a show.  When the audience came in, we had a full house. You could just feel what mood everybody was in.  We were all in shock. It was just a hideous tragedy, and we did a really good show that night.  You could feel the response from the audience. You could feel how grateful they were to have been taken out of that.  I was grateful that I could be there to do that. I remember going to somebody's house after the show and eating and having a glass of wine. On TV, they were showing a list of the names of the people who had died, and I just burst into tears.  But for that suspended time that we were on stage, you could feel this immediate connection.  If you do a film, you're not in every audience. So there's a certain kind of electricity and a certain sense of everybody's energy making this evening, even if you've done it a hundred times and you know the character backward and forward. It's not like you're letting your audience affect how you're going to perform, but, just the same way you do in a room with anybody, you can't help but be connected to that energy. It can fuel you, which is wonderful.  What's great about doing film is that you can enter that world, and you're not waiting for a response.  You're not used to hearing applause here, or some specific reaction.  You have the luxury of the time to work things out. If it didn't come out right, you can do a take again.  On stage, forget it!  So, they're two different things, and I really love them both.  I wish I could do more film.  I love films.  I go to every movie I can get to.

Interviewer:  As somebody who was an insider on the set, do you have any memorable anecdotes about the show?

Phyllis Katz:  I remember one of the episodes. It was the week of Thanksgiving. Everybody wanted to get out as early as possible, and go do whatever they were going to do, because we worked very long hours.  The last scene of the night, I believe, involved me running into Jeff Conaway in a hallway. He was trying to go take care of some business while I was hanging on him and he was dragging me all across this long, long corridor. We did it in one take, and everybody went crazy, applauded, and said, "Okay, Happy Thanksgiving!"  Then we got back after the holiday, and they showed us some dailies.  They said, "Watch what happened."  So you see him walking down the hall and me hanging on him and dragging, and you see somebody from the crew peering out from behind a pillar and laughing.  They completely couldn't use the take. [laughs] So I remember that.  I don't remember any other anecdotes from the scenes, because people were really prepared! [laughs]  They would just do their stuff and go.  I remember it being a fun set, and I remember everybody being nice, friendly, and excited about this show.  If we hadn't been on opposite Different Strokes, I think we would have had a big chance. [laughs]

Interviewer:  [laughs] Oh, I would hope so!  That would restore my faith in humanity, there.

Phyllis Katz:  I had a friend who ultimately became a very big producer in TV. He called me up the night the show aired for the first time and said, "You're on a hit.  That's a hit show."   [laughs] And then it was over really fast.  There are all different reasons things stay on or go off the air, and sometimes you've got the lucky number and sometimes you haven't. It was unfortunate because it was really fun. Right before we took our break at the end of the shooting, Judy Allison [Executive Producer] said to me, "Well, if we get picked up, we're offering you thirteen out of thirteen."

Interviewer:  Episodes?

Phyllis Katz:  Yeah.  That was always the plan, that I was going to be integrated into it more and more.  They wanted to establish their main people, whom the stories were mainly about: the princess, the king, the queen, the villain, and the prince.  Then they were going to gradually bring the rest of us in more and more. Also, as you probably saw, Julia and I had started to develop a closer relationship in the show, so I guess they thought there was fuel for that. I would be both her friend and her servant, which was kind of an interesting combo.  So, it was disappointing on a lot of fronts that it didn't work out, but boy, was it fun while it lasted.

Interviewer:  What were your favorite and least favorite aspects of Wizards and Warriors?

Phyllis Katz:  Oh, the least favorite was just the hours: twelve to seventeen hours, sometimes, [laughs] in that costume!  I do remember that. Because I wasn't in major parts of it, I would have time off, but I needed somebody to go with me to go to the bathroom [laughs] because of the costume.  They let me take my headdress off during breaks, so I figured out how to do standing Yoga postures [laughs] so I could keep my energy up all those hours.  I would be in my trailer in that enormous dress and the corset, trying to do Yoga. I tried Yoga breathing in that, but it was . . . You learn to work with these situations.  When I say least favorite, it's hardly a complaint.  But the hours were long, and we all had other lives.

Interviewer:  And those hats were incredible.

Phyllis Katz:  Unbelievable!  My favorite thing about it was getting to play that character and develop it. I also have to add that Judy and Don [Executive Producers] knew me, and they had a lot of faith in me. At that time, my confidence often came from somebody else's belief in me. They helped build my confidence.

Interviewer:  How did you get the role of Cassandra?  Was it from knowing them?

Phyllis Katz:  You won't believe this. I was teaching an advanced class at the Groundlings. At the beginning of the class, I had a whole bunch of announcements that I had to make.  It took up about five to ten minutes of the beginning of class.  "They need someone to run the lights on Thursday.  Does anybody have this?  Does anyone have that?  We're not going to have class on Wednesday the seventeenth."  It just went on and on. At the end of the list, jokingly, I said, "Oh, and if anybody hears of any acting work, let me know," and everybody laughed.  Then, when we went to take our break, this one guy in the class said to me, "Oh my God!  I do know of something.  I'm one of the costumers on this new show that's going on, and you look just like one of the sketches! I'm going to call the producers right now." So he called, and said to me, "They know you!"  I said, "What?" and he said, "Don Reo and Judy Allison."  I said, "You've got to be kidding me," because Don Reo had been my brother Allan's writing partner for eight years.  They had seen my work, and so they called me in.  When I went in for a meeting, they said, "There's nothing for you to read, because in the first episode she doesn't have any lines. But the deal is this:  she's the handmaiden to the princess, and everything she does has to be perfect, or the fear is that she'll be killed.  The princess is almost like a teenager in her behavior, so she'll brush her hair and then she'll just throw the brush. If you don't catch it, you die."  I said, "This sounds like fun."  We laughed and we joked, but they didn't have me read. We just shot the breeze, and they said, "Okay, thanks for coming in."  When I left, I felt disheartened.  I thought I didn't get it, and I didn't know what to do to get it.  Then, when I got home, there was already a message on my machine from my agent that I'd gotten the role. When I went in, Judy said to me, "I was so glad that we got that call, because I don't know why we didn't think of you.  It's just that we hadn't seen you in a long time."  Then they sent me to the costumer, and when I looked at the sketch, it looked like me!  The character was built like me!  It was astounding.

Interviewer:  Maybe they had you in mind, and didn't even know it.

Phyllis Katz:  Probably!  From a metaphysical standpoint, could it have been more meant to be?  Do you believe that?  I wound up with a series based on making that joke at the beginning of a class.

Interviewer:  And the costumers involved!  It all comes back to the hats. [laughs]

Phyllis Katz:  Yeah, oh, that hat. [laughs]  I think in one of the episodes I scratched the horn like my head was itching, and so people used to walk by on the set and scratch the horn.

Interviewer:  How did you approach playing Cassandra?  I know you mentioned that, "If you don't do it perfect, you're dead."

Phyllis Katz:  Right, that's what they had said. That part was easy, because they gave that to me.  "You're in fear for your life all the time" is terrific.  Actually, it was a benefit not to have lines to start with, because I really had to find the inner stuff. I didn't have any words to protect myself from vulnerability, but I combined that with my devotion to Ariel.  So, I love her, I'm devoted to her.  Those were the two things that I started with in mind. Also, I'm not really that great of a catch if you throw me a ball.  So, I would just try really hard, but I would position myself a little off.  I gave myself a kind of myopic perspective. If I saw the brush coming from somewhere, I would just stop short of where I knew I could really reach it.  The other thing was that Julia Duffy and I really got along well.  When we were sitting long hours waiting for scenes to be set up, we started to talk about personal things. We got along beautifully, and she was very generous about my scenes with her. We would just sit there and come up with stuff to try. Judy and Don are great to work for, since they just want it to be funny.  If you have an idea, it's welcome as long as you're not taking up a lot of time and always trying to change what's there.  We'd say, "How about if we try this?  How about if we try that?"  The reason that show was so funny, and so much fun, is that they were really having a good time watching their cast. [laughs]

Interviewer:  So quite a bit of improv was retained in the final shooting?

Phyllis Katz:  Well, I don't mean that we improvised. I mean that we would work out behavior when we weren't actually shooting.  We would go through our scenes, and we'd say, "Well, how about if, when you throw the thing here, I do that, and then you fly and you fall." That kind of thing.  So if there was time, when we'd get to the actual shooting of the scene, we would say, "Can we try this?"  Sometimes they would just laugh and say, "Yeah, it's great."  Other times they'd say, "That's fun, but let's just do it the other way."  What I'm saying is, they welcomed some of that. After you get to know your characters, and you're working with each other, and you have a sense of each other, you start to get into a rhythm that is almost like improv, even though your words don't change. Julia and I just started to fall into a relationship that was very easy for me.  Her character was very clear, so there didn't have to be much approach beyond that.

Interviewer:  Is there anything you would have wanted to change about Cassandra, or a particular way you'd have liked to see her evolve?

Phyllis Katz:  There wasn't enough time to see if I would change anything.  In terms of evolving with any character, you want to see as many aspects of their lives as you can.  They were talking about developing that romantic relationship with Walter Olkewicz's character. That was a plan, that he was going to wind up as a boyfriend, that we perhaps had a thing for each other.  I think I would also like to have seen her dream develop as the show had gone on.  What is it that she really wanted?  Did she just always want to do this?  Where did she see herself in the coming years? Was there maybe some secret dream? [laughs]

Interviewer:  The introspective scene in "Vulkar's Revenge" with her and Marko looked like a good jumping-off point for that.

Phyllis Katz:  Right.  Where she's saying, "Oh, I've always loved Ariel, and what else would I want to do?"  Characters evolve, and if life goes on, there might be something else she dreamed of doing. Then you could see her doing that alone sometimes. I don't know if it wound up in any of the episodes or not, but there was one scene where they had me playing a harpsichord. [laughs]

Interviewer:  Oh, yes!  The classic tap-dancing scene!

Phyllis Katz:  Yeah!  When they sat me behind a harpsichord, I got a huge kick out of that. [laughs] That's what I mean -- if, periodically, you just see her fantasies of herself, if things would be different. It would be the equivalent of a rock band in those ages.  So you see her at the harpsichord, and the crowds applauding.  [laughs]  Just some kind of other dream of herself, whatever it is, or what her hobbies would be. What is life when she's not doing that. It would have been nice to see, and it would have been fun to do.  I'm sure eventually they would have come to that kind of thing. If you watch any show, if it's on long enough, they start taking everybody through all the trials of a lifetime. Also, the fact that Ariel and Cassandra were developing this almost girlfriend relationship was great.  You'd like to see what would happen. What would actually make Cassandra angry, and how would she be able to show that anger?  There are just all kinds of things, but I get heavily into characters anyway.  I love exploring everything that's going on, layer under layer under layer, but you don't do that in every episode.

Interviewer: You mentioned that there was good energy and dynamics on the set, and people got along. Was there anybody in particular you were friendliest with, besides Julia Duffy?

Phyllis Katz:  Well, she was the one I was around most and friendliest with, but Jeff Conaway was a lot of fun and very sweet.  I hung out a little with him, but mostly in a group.  She was the only one I actually sat in a corner with.  I saw Walter Olkewicz around afterwards a couple times, and I liked him, but I wasn't in that many episodes, so there was no momentum.  Everybody was friendly and nice, but those especially. Especially Jeff Conaway, for being the lead in something. He just hung out, and was very open to everybody on the set. It made it comfortable.

Interviewer:  Are you aware that there are Sherman Oaks fan websites out there, as well as Wizards and Warriors fan websites?

Phyllis Katz:  No, I know there's one on Showtime, but I didn't know there was a fan website.  Wow.  Well, that's interesting!  That's good to know.

Interviewer:  Did you enjoy the character of Beverly Baker [on Sherman Oaks]?

Phyllis Katz:  I loved it.  They encouraged me to create the character with them.  They brought the character to me, but they encouraged the development of the character. Chris Beard and Ken Hecht, who were the men who actually created it, and put all the characters together, said, "Give us your input.  We're not women," which I thought was wonderful. They gave me a character who was extremely frustrated with her life, and in a horrible marriage.  She was a terrible mother, and her kids were a mess. She was one of these women who would participate in and attend all these New Age courses and classes. She embraced the theories behind New Age living, but she just kind of attended and didn't learn anything.  So she'd go to a guru, and she'd spout off all that stuff, but she'd never change anything in her life.  She was still this kind of creampuff, trophy wife who would never peel the layers away and examine what was really going on. She wouldn't deal with it and attend to it.  She'd do all this external stuff instead, as opposed to myself, who [laughs] gets into a lot of that stuff, but for real!  You go through the pains that it brings up, and the changes you have to go through. It's tough if you do it right.  So I really loved being able to take this character who'd been so guarded and hardened by the disappointments in her life and to find her vulnerability; to try to take somebody who is a terrible mother and make her vulnerable, and hopefully sympathetic.  She loved her kids, but she was selfish. And that was a lot of fun. The producers and the writers helped me every step of the way.

Interviewer:  That sounds like a great experience.

Phyllis Katz:  It was, because she started out . . .  bitchy.  We all worked and toned that down so that it became frustrated more than bitchy. It was fun.  It was a real collaboration. That isn't to say that I take credit for the character.  I'm just talking about my acting input into it. My take on it was welcomed.  They would write something, and I'd do an interpretation, and then my interpretation would spark a little change in the writing, and the change in the writing would spark a little change in the interpretation. So everything just kept growing and growing and growing.  I thought the second season was much better than the first, and was hoping that the third season was going to be much better than the second. I retained close friendships since then with cast members, with the director, Chris Donovan, his wife, Maggie Elliot, who also worked on the show, and Chris Bearde.  I just did some other work for Chris Bearde. Nick Toth and I stayed close, and Tyler Bearde . . . we see each other.  Jeremiah, we get together when we can.  A lot of the guys stayed really close. They go shoot hoops all the time.

Interviewer:  What drew you to comedy initially as opposed to drama?

Phyllis Katz:  I was attracted to both, and I do both. I now would give anything to get into some of this dramatic work, because that's all I watch.  I watch the ten o'clock shows, [laughs] The West Wing, The Sopranos.  I don't think I've missed an episode of NYPD Blue since the second season.  I was attracted to acting, but I found improv first. Improv is basically geared toward comedy. I do write comedy, and I come from a family of people who really appreciate irony and laughter. We tried not to take ourselves too seriously. Laughter gets you through life, so of course that appealed to me. I was writing a lot of that, but some of my short stories are really dark. [laughs] I was attracted to both, but I found myself doing improv and loving it. It was playful and joyful. Improv was comedy.  That's not all improv is, but that's what it usually is in a class.  Once I was in L.A., and working at the Groundlings, I started to get work from that stage, and so, that would be comedy.

Interviewer:  You were a director of the Groundlings?

Phyllis Katz:  After I left there, I went back several years ago and directed a couple of shows. Then last year, when they had their 25th reunion celebration, they did twenty-five different events.  I was a part of five of them: four as an actor, and one as an actor/director. I periodically go back and teach special classes, or I'll sub if somebody can't make it. At Christmas, they had me come in and direct a couple of alumni improv shows.

Interviewer:  I know some of the names associated with the Groundlings were Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman, Cassandra Peterson, Paul Reubens.  Had you worked with any of them?

Phyllis Katz:  Yes, all of them.  Laraine was in the company when I first joined, but then she got Saturday Night Live. As for the others, I was their teacher, and their co-worker.  When Cassandra and Phil and Paul first joined, I was already teaching, but I was in class, too.  There were several teachers, and some of us were in one class, and teaching another.  So some nights I would be their teacher, and then the rest of the time I was in the company with them.  That was a pretty phenomenal company, when you'd see Phil come out on stage, then Paul Reubens, then Cassandra Peterson, and then John Paragon and Vicki Carroll, Shirley Prestia, Doug Cox, Edie McClurg, Lynne Stewart and myself.  We were all in the same company.  I could go on and on. I'm leaving people out. Every time somebody came out on stage, you saw something you'd never seen before. Nobody reminded you of anybody else. Nobody was imitating anybody.

Interviewer:  That sounds like a once in a lifetime energy.

Phyllis Katz:  It was pretty remarkable. I wouldn't trade those days for anything.

Interviewer:  Had you worked with Second City as well?

Phyllis Katz:  I got my initial training when Jo [Josephine] Forsberg was directing the workshops in Chicago. I was briefly in the touring company there, which was their second company. Then a group of us moved out to L.A. Then I joined the Groundlings.  I've worked with other improv groups out here.  I was with a group called "Funny You Should Ask" for eight years.  Fabulous group.  Really amazing group.  We would do a two hour show that was all theatrical scenes.  Somebody would just stand up and say, "What's a reason to go on living?" Then you'd shout something out, and we'd just do a scene.  Then somebody else would get up and say, "What's the worst gift you ever got?" and then we'd do a scene. We'd just do two hours of that every Saturday night for years.  They were together for fifteen years.  I was in the Groundlings, and I would go see them, and they'd come and see the Groundlings.  A lot of us were in circles like that. When they had Sunday night shows, if they needed a sub, I would be called in to work with them. As the years went on, things shifted around, and they had an opening in their group.  Somebody took a maternity leave, and I filled in. When she didn't come back, they said, "How would you like to just take her spot?" I said, "I would be honored."  I know people throw the word "genius" around a lot, but if you saw these people . . . Michael McManus.  He's writing now. Hennen Chambers, John Bates, Neil Thompson, and Doris Hess.  It was really an honor. Their sister group is a group called "Off the Wall," with whom I also worked out when they were doing regular shows. Somebody took a sabbatical there, and I did nine months with them.  The Groundlings doesn't take subs in from another company, but these other groups do. If somebody isn't available, you go in and you work out.  Whereas at the Groundlings, they have a huge company, and they have a set show; with these other groups, it's just two hours of improv.

Interviewer:  While we're talking about improv, have you seen the British or American versions of the show Whose Line Is it Anyway? Do you think that's having an effect on the popularity of improv?

Phyllis Katz:  I think it makes everybody think that they can improvise! [laughs]  It's just the same way that, all of a sudden, all of this stand-up several years ago made everybody think that they were really funny stand-ups. Then they all got up and imitated each other. Still, I think improv is so good for the brain, and so good for the spirit, that if people are getting up on stage and making it up as they go along, more power to them.

Interviewer:  How do you teach improv, especially comedic songs?  It seems like it would be incredibly difficult.

Phyllis Katz:  Well, what you're doing is giving tools. There are certain rules that make something work.  A big one that I think everybody teaches is: "Don't deny. Everything is true."  So, if we're in a scene, and you come into the scene and you say, "That red dress looks beautiful on you," I cannot say, "That's not a red dress.  It's blue.  Are you crazy?"  No, if you say I'm wearing a red dress, I'm wearing a red dress.  Now, we go on from there.  You're always adding information. There are all kinds of tools. You learn to know when it's your turn to talk, [laughs] and when it's not. It's like dancing.  Actually, I think of it as theatrical jazz, or jazz acting.  You'll find that a lot of improv junkies are people who write and act.  It's a beautiful combination of the two that makes a third form.

Interviewer:  Both of those energies going into something new.

Phyllis Katz:  It's not the kind of writing you'd do if you were going to sit down and write something.  It would be a much cleaner piece of work. In acting, you'd work on your character, and you'd know what your character was doing ahead of time. However, as in real life, you don't know (when you're in an improv).  You're in that moment. It really fueled my acting tremendously.  I think doing improv made me a much better actor.  With regard to the song improv, it's the same thing.  I give the tools. I have a keyboard player. Basically, I'm setting up an environment in which you can let your brain work the way it wants to, in order to create songs.

Interviewer:  But you don't actually play harpsichord, do you? [laughs]

Phyllis Katz:  [laughs] I wish I did! I don't play a musical instrument, and yet I write songs. I hear harmonies. I hear it all.  I just never learned to put it down on any instrument.  In fact, the show I'm about to put up has eleven songs that I've written with composers.  I wrote all the lyrics and on one of the songs I wrote the music. The other tunes I worked on with composers.  Since I hear it, I'll come to them with something. I'll say, "This is what I'm hearing." They'll hit a chord, and I'll say, "No." Then I can figure out the chord.  It's kind of a shame that I never really learned to do all that.

Interviewer:  You mentioned Don Reo had worked with your brother prior to Wizards and Warriors. Was M*A*S*H the first time you had worked with Don Reo? 

Phyllis Katz:  The first episode of M*A*S*H that I did got me my SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card. The great thing about M*A*S*H is that they usually called you back.  If you did a M*A*S*H, you usually got to do at least two.  I wound up doing four of them.  That was great, but I didn't really work with Don, because it wasn't an audience show. I came in, did my scene, and went home. He wasn't down on the set for that, but I knew Don through Allan for years.  Over the years, I think I worked with him on a few things.  I know I read for him for other things. Judy and I did a little bit of writing together for a while, and that was a lot of fun.  They're tremendous fun, the two of them.  They really are.  They’re one of the happy Hollywood couples.  They've been together for a long, long time. They work together and they have fun.  They were very supportive of each other, and nothing pleased them more than when people were funny!

Interviewer:  Do you have a favorite memory from working on your episodes of M*A*S*H?

Phyllis Katz:  They were all pretty nice, but they were small roles.  The first day, on the first one I did, I was extremely nervous.  It was my first big job.  Well, it seemed like a big job . . . . It was a great show, but I only had a few lines, and I was behind a mask in the operating room.  Customarily, when you're doing a show like that, the people with the smaller parts are called in first in the morning.  They do your make-up and kind of get you out of the way as everybody else comes in.  So, it was the first day, and I was really nervous.  Prior to that, a couple days after I moved out here, I had met Alan Alda.  I don't know if he would remember me now, but he certainly knew me then. He wasn't on the set yet, although he was in the scene with me.  Now, it's not that people were being unkind to me, but I was sitting around with some of the extras, and nobody was talking to me.  It was not very inclusive. I didn't know how to get in on the conversation. I didn't know where to go sit, or where to stand, or anything, [laughs] because they hadn't started. That went on for at least an hour, and I was really uncomfortable, and scared, and [laughs] feeling like a real beginner. Then they got ready to do the scene, and said, "Okay, let's have a rehearsal." Alan Alda walked in and said, "How are you?" and threw his arms around me, and gave me this big hug!  He said, "It's so nice to see you!  I'm so glad to have you here."  I said, "Thank you!" Then we did the scene, and when it was over, all these people who wouldn't talk to me came running over. [laughs]  "Hi!  Hi! I'm Ruthie.  How do you know Alan?"  It was that kind of thing, and it was classic.  It's not like they'd been unkind to me before that, but they'd dismissed me. [laughs]  So, that's certainly a strong memory, but M*A*S*H was a very professional set.

Interviewer:  Well, I don't want to keep you any further. We really have grabbed a lot of your time here, and we appreciate it so much.

Phyllis Katz:  Oh, listen, I love what I do and I love that somebody, all these years later, would appreciate what I do!  So, I'm flattered.

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