If you believe the bad reviews about your work, then you have to believe the good ones as well: This is a no brainer. One cancels the other out, so I was advised early on in my career to save yourself the heartache and emotional rollercoaster and don’t read any of them. Know your truth and listen to the few you hold close to your heart and trust (not those who kiss your ***)
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dedee Pfeiffer.
After a 10-year absence from Hollywood, Dedee Pfeiffer is back starring on the new David E. Kelley helmed drama, BIG SKY. The series is set in rural Montana where private detectives search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway. The series will air on ABC this fall!
During her recent time away from Hollywood, Pfeiffer has been hard at work earning a Bachelors Degree in Psychology at Pierce College, Valley College and California State University Northridge. It was at UCLA where she earned a Masters of Social Work. Her area of concentration includes mental illness, substance use and homelessness.
Television fans will know this talented actress from her series regular roles on FOR YOUR LOVE with Holly Robinson Peete, Tamala Jones and James Lesure and from the award winning comedy series CYBILL opposite Cybill Shepherd and Christine Baranski. This series won a SAG Award for Outstanding Ensemble Series. Other notable small screen guest roles include but are not limited to ELLEN, SEINFELD, CSI, CSI:NEW YORK, WANTED, FRIENDS and ER.
No stranger to the big screen, Pfeiffer also had impressive roles in the films RED SURF opposite George Clooney, FALLING DOWN with Michael Douglas, TUNE IN TOMORROW with Keanu Reeves and INTO THE NIGHT with Jeff Goldblum. Early in her career she starred in the indie cult film VAMP with the legendary music icon, Grace Jones. In addition, she has dozens of other studio and independent films to her credits including producing the indie award winning film LOREDO. The short film, THE TUB in which she starred and produced won multiple awards including a festival Best Actress Award.
Dedee Pfeiffer, the single mother of two bright and talented young men is happy to be back working at her creative craft. She is eager to return to the living rooms of television fans everwhere with the highly anticipated fall premiere of BIG SKY.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Hi! Thank you so much for asking me! Well… My story growing up was not that different from others. We grew up in a little city in Orange County (far from the rich area) called Midway City. My parents were from small town in North Dakota. I have one older brother, one older sister, one younger sister and we had a little rescue dog named Candy (Mamapoodoo) & multiple rescued cats, etc. Dad was a blue collar worker, mom was a homemaker who didn’t drive (long story) and all four of us kids would get smacked around (old school) when we got in trouble. I was the stereotypical middle child and still carry middle child characteristics: people pleaser, mediator, bleeding heart, dislikes turmoil and welcomes good energy and peace…to mention a few. I was the kid who was always walking up the driveway with some stray animal in her arms pleading with my parents to let me keep it. I even bought a baby duck at a garage sale and told my parents that I found it on the streets. LOL.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I became an actor through trial and error. Long story short, by the time I was 18 years old, I had been working numerous jobs since I was 10. My sis (actress Michelle Pfeiffer) was working on Sarface and I told her I wanted to ‘try’ acting because everything else bores the **** out of me! She said stop there! Get into acting classes before you even think any further to see if this career was something that I really wanted. I realized immediately I sucked, BUT was not going to quit until I could figure out how to not suck (My dad used to call me a hard head…) Two years later, I had figured it out (somewhat) and as a result got bit by the acting bug.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
YES! I’m not only a clutz, but also not unlike most people, I get nervous around people I think are awesome! When I met Jack Nicholson, I was eating an apple (don’t ask me why) and while trying to act cool and have a conversation with him (and not show how nervous I was), I swallowed wrong and started choking, turned red, ran to the bathroom and asked the earth to open up and swallow me whole! Similar thing happened when I met Sting, but while drinking water and there was no bathroom to escape to, nor did the earth help me out then either by swallowing me up whole.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first acting gig was “Into the Night”. I discovered quickly that they do not teach you (or at least back then) anything about set edicate. So after a few shots, the director John Landis came up to me and said make sure to hit your mark. I laughed and said, “Sure! You got it! Lol!” After a few more takes and him saying that same thing after every take, I was like (inside my head), “OK! I get it! Get on your mark, get set, GO!” It was my sis who realized I had NO IDEA what he was talking about and quietly pointed down at my feet and whispered, “…See that piece of tape? That’s your mark! If you don’t hit it, you’re out of frame!” That marked the first time I asked that favor from Mother Earth!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There’s no doubt that my sister Michelle has been a huge part of my support team while on this journey as an actor. It would be unfair to not include my sister Lori, brother Rick, my in-laws, my two beautiful boys and a few close friends as well : )) I am truly the luckiest person I know because although we all don’t always agree on things, we all do truly love and support each other. When they say it takes a village, I’m the poster girl!
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
My suggestion would be the same as what my sis told me! Invest in a really good acting class/workshop that challenges you! Embrace versus resist the fact that it is a very competitive career, but if it is something you want 110%, don’t give up! Understand that hearing “no thank you” more than “yes you’re hired, is the norm and goes with the territory. It’s ok to be wrong, stay curious, and the minute you think you have all the answers (drinking your own kool aid), you’ll soon find yourself unemployed. Life is forever changing and as an artist, one must continue to change as well. An unhealthy ego breeds bad energy and breaks down teamwork. And finally, try to enjoy the journey and have another hobby that you’re passionate about that fills your days with joy while waiting for that acting gig!
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
What drives me to wake up everyday and the lense I use to look at life has never changed since I was a child: love, laughter & peace. I know it sounds so corny, but it is my truth, so I guess my truth is corny LOL! It is this same lense I use when looking at my career, but with the added element of being so grateful to be employed during such challenging times for so many people. I do not take my employment lightly and hold this opportunity close to my heart. Also, our country is going through some unbelievably crazy and tough times for multiple reasons (2020 is seriously on meth if you ask me), that I’m so grateful to be part of a new show for people to watch and maybe escape for a minute. So, until 2020 goes to rehab: / all of us in the US need some breaks to be able to breathe, and if at the very least, hit our reset buttons. I hope our show can be a part of that!
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I try not to look too far in the future, but along with presently trying my best to give everything I got in this performance on Big Sky, I am also, so very excited to say that although it took me 10 years and with two boys in tow, I finally earned my very first degrees: AA, BA of Psych, and my Masters of Social Work! I literally finished my last quarter of my Masters at UCLA during the pandemic, via zoom and while starting this show (there’s no stopping mamabear). My plan of passion is to join together my incredibly kind and loyal fan base with my education in a way where I can be most effective with regards to helping people in need on a macro, mezzo, and micro level(s) through the lense of a social worker or as UCLA calls us: Future Change Agents! More to come….
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
3 reasons as to why I feel it is important to have diversity represented in film and television:
- Fact: the real world is a big beautiful compilation of different kinds of colorful people, so why would film/television not represent this truth?
- People find comfort, less alienated, and seen/heard when they see characters like themselves in films/televisions (I know I do).
- Not all children/teenagers have positive role models to look up to or are being taught life skills to help them live a life worth living. Some films and television have the opportunity to introduce some life set skills to their audiences through their storytelling such as; resiliency, consequences for one’s actions, what it looks like to be accountable, humility vs ego, gratefulness vs entitlement, compassion vs detachment, and what true good looks like vs real evil. From my experience, I know when I say something to my sons, there’s a good chance it might go in one ear and out the other. But if that same thing is said by their favorite actor/actress, musician, peers, etc., they are more apt to hear it.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t take hearing “No’’ personally: Unfortunately, as an actor, hearing “No” more than not, can do a job on one’s self esteem. There are numerous factors that go into why someone gets a role and sometimes politics as well has a lot to do with why you got the dreaded “No”, and has nothing to do with whether that person was the best one for the role. Bottom line: you may have been perfect for the role and never know it, so knowing your truth is key and carry that truth with you versus letting the words ‘No” be the deciding factor determining your talent or value.
2. More often than not, there’s multiple different kinds of people who have to agree on one actor per role from a sea of choices: I’m here to say that as a producer, I witnessed first hand the process and how difficult it is to choose the right actor for the right role especially when you have many in the room making that decision with different opinions, not to mention all the fantastic actors to choose from! Remember going in, that only one person gets the role and you not getting it has nothing to do with you (unless ya tanked the interview like I have btw), but rather all people came in the room maybe had to come to a compromise ie: you get your choice for that character, if you give me this one for this other character. PS. That’s exactly how I got my first starring role in my first feature film (VAMP). The director gave the producer his choice for another character, as long as Richard got his choice for Amaretto (thank God it was me!).
3. If your happiness relies only on when you’re working, the majority of your time/life will not be filled with happiness: This comes from the fact that only 1% of actors regularly work at any given time, so doing something else as well that has meaning to you is important for your quality of life. It was all that damn down time that I hated so much, that became the very thing that changed the quality of my life forever, because I filled that time with volunteering at the Children’s Hospital, rescuing wildlife, volunteering for Project Angel Food and learned to sculpt in clay (nude males : ))
4. If you believe the bad reviews about your work, then you have to believe the good ones as well: This is a no brainer. One cancels the other out, so I was advised early on in my career to save yourself the heartache and emotional rollercoaster and don’t read any of them. Know your truth and listen to the few you hold close to your heart and trust (not those who kiss your ***)
5. Every hour of every day is an hour you will never get back: This one came with age. When you get to this side of the bubble (50+), life starts flying by a rapid speed which is scary for me because I am far from done with this life-in this body! So for me being mindful, present and in the moment, not living in the past (because there is no healing back there…), and not future tripping (because the future ain’t here yet), is my way to slow this part of my journey down, so I can truly appreciate all the things in life special to me. I’m not convinced one can teach this, but rather like with my boys? I just throw it out there as a suggestion for when they are interested in trying another way of living their lives : )
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
I think I kinda already answered that question above, but I’d like to add that I found for many years, I had lost sight of what my joy looked like. I had to rediscover what that looked like as an actress, single mother, student and human being. An example of what I was taught, was to make a quick list of what my values were. I never really thought of that before, but assumed I knew what they were and certainly thought I had been living by them (I was wrong and wrong). So, just the simple act of writing them down, then asking myself honestly if my behaviors were in harmony with my values, I quickly realized the answer was no and the cause of a lot of unhappiness, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance. Long story short, to fix this, I could either change my values or change my behavior (and trust me this is not as easy as it looks, but absolutely doable)! It is then when my energy changed and life just felt better! And finally, not having a purpose in life, gives a person no reason to even want to get out of bed, not to mention depression. I found having a purpose gives my days meaning and nothing makes me happier than doing random simple acts of kindness! I love seeing the face of someone in LA traffic who’s trying to merge in my lane and I ACTUALLY let them in? Just because everyone else is being an a** doesn’t mean I have to follow suit and change starts with one person not being afraid to go against the negative flow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My email is signed like this: ““You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body” C.S. Lewis. Have a beautiful day! Dedee”. My therapist had it on her email and one day I saw it. It went straight to my heart and was in harmony with one of my values, so I stole it from her and put it somewhere where I am reminded of this truth every single day. Someone so wise once said to me, “Think about it Dedee. What is the first thing any life form sees when they are born? Light. What do most say when they have been clinically pronounced dead, but come back to life? They saw a light…” Somehow this made the most sense to me and gave me comfort knowing those that I have loved, did not die, but rather went to the light.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I am not only a very lucky actor but also a brand new Social Worker (yes I have letters behind my name now LOL). My area of concentration, passion and social welfare concerns center on mental illness, substance use and people experiencing homelessness. I have every intention and am filled with excitement to explore innovative ways (through these challenging times/Covid) of blending my education and social platform together in a way where I can be most useful and effective. They told us at UCLA during our final year that we were not just social workers, but rather “Future Social Change Agents!” and I heard them loud and clear and I’m ready for the challenge! I am a huge fan of multidisciplinary groups that work in the field versus in clinical settings with people without homes, mental health struggles and addiction. The more minds, the better is my motto!
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Can I have 2? My choice is a 2-fer. My bff Carla and I call Chris Cuomo & Don Lemon (CNN) “our boys” or CC & D Lemon. These men alone are great, but when together they remind Carla and I (and others who are listening) to not lose sight of the playful child inside, to have compassion for others and more importantly that it is ok to have a friend or others that you don’t always agree with. CC & D Lemon helped us both get through some difficult and scary times. It would be an honor to grab a coffee with them and send a pic to Carla to make her jealous : ))) PS. Carla is a New Yorker, so the level of jealousy would be off the charts… LOL!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
I finally broke down and got an Instagram account (my 1st and only social media) which I am still trying to figure out how it works LOL! It was important to me to help support our show and this appears to be the way to do that! Yet, my teenage son made me promise to not get political with my social media because “My friends do not like that mom!” So, I behave… for the most part… or maybe I do it in a very subtle and not in your face kinda way, so my son will not stop speaking to me : /
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Oh thank you so much for inviting me and have a beautiful day!