You know her from her lead role in hit CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island or her recent work for Amazon Prime’s Tapestry movie. BELLA sat down with actor Tina Louise to discuss her career and new ventures.
You started acting really early on in your life. Did you ever consider other careers, or did you know acting and performing was the right path for you?
When I was in high school, they took us to younger children, and I got interested in teaching. I was later inspired by how I helped girls get ready for dances and events, fixing their hair and telling them what lipstick to wear. Everyone at my high school loved our drama teacher too, so these were all options at the time. I had a friend that I made along the way, and he got into a Broadway show. We went backstage, and at that point I thought to myself, “Wow, my friend’s in a play!” I went to college for six months, and somehow I joined the drama class, but I wasn’t enjoying the classes as much as the art of acting itself. My mother then enrolled me in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. My mother had a friend who owned a house in the country, and pre-production plays would rehearse and important theater folks from the city would go up to this “White Barn Theatre” over the weekends. I had the opportunity to audition for a musical there, and that’s how I got my first job. So basically, I was on Broadway when I was 18.
You worked on many Broadway productions like The Fifth Season and John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. What advice do you have for young artists in New York that want to work in theater?
I think that the best thing for people starting out is to have an open mind and keep their eyes peeled. You now have the internet, not just print newspapers, to find out who is casting and what shows are looking for actors. But most importantly, any young person should go to the theater before they go anywhere else, because it is the best training ground and the hardest work really. Getting a job, and the road that leads to it, has its ups and downs, but whatever you pick up along the way stays with you for the remainder of you career and life. One last thing I will add is that people should train in theater first before chasing after Hollywood roles.
You famously portrayed Ginger in Gilligan’s Island, and reached icon status in your 30s. How did you handle all the fame and your critics that came with it?
You know, I was too busy working that I did not worry too much about the noise. I did my job, and I enjoyed doing my job. I wanted to quit in the beginning, when I was asked to play my role more spitefully. I didn’t want my character to look polished but be hateful and nasty, I didn’t want to bring that into people’s homes. After that small dispute was resolved, they hired Richard Donner to make the show more campy and fun. I wasn’t partying, and after the first year I got married, so I really didn’t have the space to ponder upon what people were saying about me.
You took a hiatus between 2004-14. What made you come back into the scene? Did it take a lot of convincing or were you already thinking about returning?
When I moved back to New York, I got involved in the public school system, and education of youth. I became extremely immersed in that, and wrote a couple books between late 90’s and 2014. I wanted to share my stories from my childhood to empower the new generation. I then had some medical problems, fractured a couple bones, so I had to put everything down and rest for a while.
You star in Tapestry alongside Stephen Baldwin and Burt Young. How was working with them? Tell us about your experience playing Rose in that movie.
It was really exciting to work alongside them. It took a while to get the movie edited and released, but Amazon Prime bought it at the end. A lot of improvisation was involved, and it was really exciting, but I had lost my hope in it. I thought it was never coming out. We filmed the movie in 2014, so we waited a long time. I enjoyed working with the team, every minute of it. I’m pleased that it’s out now.
At BELLA, we believe beauty is defined by each. What does beauty mean to you, and how do you find it?
I think we have to find it on the inside. I love to read. I love reading the next book. We have to be responsible for ourselves and do what makes you happy and of course contributing to the other people’s lives. I like working out a lot, physiological wellbeing is really important to me. I love New York, so I love to walk. I am also a member of the Academy, so we have a lot of screenings leading up to the Oscars. And I try to take care of my skin as much as possible, and I hopped on the juice trend as well.