Patrika Darbo – Acting Dead
By: Kelly Kearney
Q) Congrats on your recent Emmy win for the internet comedy series “Acting Dead.” Can you tell the fans what the show is about and where your character, Margot, fits in?
Patrika: Margot is a crazy agent that was a travel agent, but now is a talent agent. She’s sort of disorganized and she has no idea there’s something called the internet. She does everything with paper and lives in a world of clutter. She’s a little discombobulated and is constantly trying to get her client Tate [Brian Beacock] a job, but unfortunately he’s not booking because the only people working are zombies and vampires. So, he goes to this company and decides to become a zombie and then he’s working all the time. It’s just crazy fun. I get to be an agent to a brain eating zombie, it’s so much fun! With “Acting Dead,” you can have a little bit of fun and a good laugh in the afternoon. We are working on putting together another season, Season Two, but sometimes these things cost money. I’m very blessed to have won the Emmy, especially because we were the only independent show that was nominated there. All the ladies in my category, I was so honored to be nominated with. They were all on shows with big backers, you know the AMC’s and the BET’s. So, for an independent, we were and I am very blessed.
Q) You’ve done all kinds of work from film to daytime television. What’s it like working on a web series and how does it differ from some of the other work you’ve done?
Patrika: You know what it’s so interesting, it’s really not that different because it’s still a professional thing that we are doing. We have our cameras there and sometimes you have one person being the Production Assistant and then he’s the second A.D. Then, he’s in charge of getting the craft services together so everyone covers many jobs because the production is small. At the same time, I’m a union actor and the show was union so it was still a very professional and put together thing. Even though these things work on a shoe string budget, which is probably the biggest difference, it’s still professionally done. I was working [on “Acting Dead”] with very qualified people. Our producer Susan Bernhardt, I worked with her on another web series called “Misbehave.” Jillian Clare was the other star of that series and I worked with her on several things. Brian [Beacock] who was the writer, creator and producer and wore all those hats was also wonderful as the lead. I think the budget really is the only difference. The quality of the production and the actors is really all the same.
Q) What is it about “Acting Dead” that drew you to the project?
Patrika: It was such a fun script and I adored the people I was going to be working with. So when you have friends and your friend asks you for a favor or to do something for them, unless it’s morally offensive and you think they need to go into some sort of therapy or analysis, you’re going to help your friend out at all costs. Brian had this idea and I had not worked with him before, but I loved the script. Susan Bernhardt, like I said, I had worked with before and I knew what a quality prouder she was so I immediately said of course I’d do it. It was going to be a fun project and I thought it was going to be great and look what my paycheck was – an Emmy! You can’t beat that! You know, I mentor a lot of people and I also coach kids and the one thing I tell them is that yes, there are small parts but make them your own. Network with the people you’re working with. Unless its morally offensive to you, unless you truly find in your heart that this is not something for you, DO IT! There are some small parts, but you can make it your own and grow it into something big.
Q) What was your most challenging aspect of working on the project?
Patrika: Funding is always an issue. Any young or even older producer coming in and trying to get things started, financial things, they are always the most challenging aspect. I worked for what they call “deferred,” which means I did not get paid. So, when I say to you my Emmy is my paycheck, honey, that’s the best paycheck I’ve ever gotten! I’m so grateful and like I said, you do things for friends or if the script sounds fun or if you think it’s going to go somewhere… and maybe it won’t, maybe it will, but go for it!
Q) Is there any place where you connected to your character?
Patrika: If you come to my house, it’s sometimes cluttered and I do write notes on envelopes or paper. I’m always like, “Oh my gosh where did I put that and where did I write that….” Lord help me if someone ever got a hold of my phone. If you went to the little section on my phone that said memo, there’s pages and pages of memos. So, I can keep track of all my stuff. So I’d have to say yes, in my heart I am Margot. I did cut my hair a little so when we’re ready for Season Two, if it hasn’t grown anymore, they’re going to be wigging me because it won’t work. But the hair…[laugh] The hair was a lot of fun.
Q) What was your audition process like?
Patrika: For me there was not an audition for the series. They knew me, they knew my work and they thought I could do it “aces down.” So, I did not have to audition. When I was working on “The Bay,” Gregory Martin who is the executive Producer, Writer and Creator, knew my work from “Days of Our Lives” so he hired me to play Vicky on that show. So, the best thing I can tell any actor is to be nice to people and treat them the way you would like to be treated because what goes around comes around.
Q) Funding is always tough for web series, how was this show able to get up and running?
Patrika: Brian, the creator, had a lot of connections and friends and we all worked deferred. The things that normally come out of your pocket for these things are equipment rentals and a lot of that burden was on Brian. A lot of times you have a friend who’s a director or a Camera D.P. who have a lot of their own equipment or friends that do lighting and they come and help. It’s kind of like the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney days of “I’ve got a barn, I make costumes, dad has a horse, let’s put on a show!” I think what’s so wonderful is that the internet keeps growing and it really is where the future is going. You have all these young and creative filmmakers that are sort of using us old dolls who’ve been around the block a few times to come in to help make these things better… because I really do think I bring something to the party. It all becomes a collaborative effort. It’s what makes working on these shows so wonderful.
Q) “Acting Dead” is a dramedy. Do you have a preference for the types of genres you enjoy acting in?
Patrika: I am an actor and like all actors, acting feeds our soul. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comedy, a drama or something like this, a dramedy. We all just want to work. We all just want to take what we know how to do and love doing and put it out there for you. I know there are small parts and like I said I’ve deferred paychecks many times and on others I get paid for what I do. That’s why I said earlier what goes around comes around. You go out there and you do the best you can do. You treat people the way you’d like to be treated and listen and learn that’s the most important thing! Learn what people do behind the cameras and be sure you treat them with great respect because the A.D. today will be the director tomorrow and he will remember how you treated him and will be the one hiring you later. I adore the fact there are so many platforms now that offer me a place to do my job and perform somewhere. As an actor, you just start growing into the parts that you’re going to do so until they’re nailing me in my coffin I’ll be working. Hey, I could be that zombie coming out of my coffin to work! The most important thing is that all of this, gives us as actors an opportunity to work.
Q) Fans probably remember you from your work on “Days of Our Lives.” There seems to be a trend in soaps turning to web series as their network slots are diminishing. Is a soap web series something you’d consider doing now that you’ve been so successful with “Acting Dead?”
Patrika: Soaps, like when I was on “Days of Our Lives,” are different altogether in that they’re faster paced. They shoot six months ahead and shoot a movie script a day. Sometimes I don’t think people really appreciate how hard everyone works on soaps. I’m on “The Bay,” which is another soap opera web series on Amazon Prime now and it won the Emmy two years in a row and the leads won for Best Actor and Best Actress. As the time slots for soaps diminish, we have more and more platforms popping up where we can create something. Right now, there are only four major soaps left: two on CBS (“Young and the Restless” and “Bold and the Beautiful”). ABC has “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives” is on NBC. When I started back in ’98, when I was a newcomer to the daytime venue, there was like twelve soaps and that had dropped from eighteen. Now we have people like Tyler Perry who’s created two soaps on OWN and a lot of primetime shows are also episodic. The art of the soap opera will never disappear; it’s just changing platforms.
Q) You’ve acted in close to 100 roles over the course of your career and worked with many A-list stars, is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you hope to in the future?
Patrika: Oh I don’t know… I would just like to one day play a vicious villain that you don’t suspect. Any people out there that want to give me that job? I have worked with just so many from Sandra Bullock to Jason Patric to Clint Eastwood…I don’t know…I’d love to do more with Kevin Spacey, work with him again. I think he’s wonderful. My mind is totally going blank at this moment… Ryan Murphy, I mean look at how many wonderful things he’s done. He’s gone from “Glee,” to “Nip and Tuck,” to this creepy show that he’s got going (that I have to tell you scared the hell out of me) “American Horror Story!” I have to TiVo it and watch it with my finger on the stop button so I can run out of the room really quick because it’s terrifying. Kathy Bates! Oh my gosh I’d like her to be my nemesis. We could be twins, that would be fun! There’s so many people I’d love to work with but really I just want to work. There are some things I’d like to do. I play a good beaten down housewife. Just one time I’d like to be the vicious villain.
Q) Like most of the world, you’re on social media. What’s it like getting instant feedback from the fans?
Patrika: I think you mean my attempt at social media. I adore it! I tell my fans that I am on Facebook and if they message me there I will respond. I don’t do Messenger, but if you leave it on my page I will get back to you. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter, but I’m still figuring out these tweets and retweets! I can retweet and I can put in my little characters, but I have no idea about these abbreviations and haven’t gotten that down yet. I said to my husband maybe we ought to pay a kid to run these Twitter things because you know they could do it better. A two-year-old can pick up the phone and solve the problems of the world and I can barely dial it. Instead of paying a kid to come over and mow the lawn, I’m going to pay one to come over and teach me how to tweet. This could be a good business, maybe I should talk to the children in the neighborhood and start a Twitter business teaching the older generation about all of this. I’m sure just like there’s fan cubs people run, there must be people that you can hire to help you run your Twitter and things like that. It’s amazing and the fan base is different now. Coming from, “Days” and then going to “The Bay,” soaps are in your living room everyday like family and generationally because grandmothers and mothers watch it with their children, they grow up watching these shows and they are very loyal and diehard fans. Some of these fans, thanks to social media, I have become very good friends with and I talk to on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my fans and no one in this business would be. If no one’s watching, then we are just acting alone or just for our family. Fans are vital to us. They’re very important part of this business and should be embraced. Now, some can get a little crazy on social media but that’s just happens in life so I embrace them and I’m grateful for them.
Q) Now that you’ve won the Emmy, what’s next for you Patrika? Do you have any projects in the works?
Patrika: We are working on “Acting Dead” Season Two and I’ll be coming back to “The Bay.” In November and December, I’ll be coming back on “Days of Our Lives” and I know the fans are looking forward to that. I just finished doing Stolen from the Cradle from Michael Pfeiffer and he’s looking to Lifetime television for it. It was a wonderful script that will make you cry and it will make you happy a good Lifetime film. I just finished doing a voice over for “American Dad,” which I’m very proud of because that was my first foray into television animation of which I’m so grateful for. I’m doing a lot of things. In fact, Susan Bernhardt is doing a movie right this moment that I’m going to do a little cameo in later this month or the first part of November. I’m out there auditioning and doing things and the more Twitter followers I get, the bigger I’ll get. So, COME ON PEOPLE, TWEET ME!