Interview: Catching Up With Actress Carol Kane!

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Carol Kane has had a prolific career in theater, film and television, from her Emmy award-winning turn in 'Taxi' as Simka Dahblitz-Gravas, to Madame Morrible in the  Broadway musical "Wicked." Her film credits include 'The Princess Bride,' 'Carnal Knowledge,' and 'Hester Street', for which she received an Oscar nomination. Kane most recently appeared on Broadway in the revival of 'Harvey' opposite Jim Parsons

The multi-talented actress chatted with BWW about her latest project, voicing the 'Sea Witch' in the Halloween episode of Disney Channel's JAKE AND THE NEVER LAND PIRATES. 

What can you tell us about your character, the Sea Witch?

It's a real fun character. I have an ongoing story with the Pirate Princess who I'm constantly attacking and wanting to turn into gold. So it seems as though I'm just a mean character, but it turns out in the end that we knew each other when we were little and I wanted her to be my friend very badly. I would do little tricks on her thinking it would make her laugh but instead, it kind of frightened her away and so she didn't become my friend. So that's why I'm angry, because I wanted her to be my friend.

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Ah, so you hold a bit of a grudge.

Yes, I guess I feel hurt by her so I'm trying to cause her some hurt. And then when the truth comes out about the fact that my real desire is to be friends, then we eventually do become friends. It's an interesting thing you know, when I think about how many times that situation can arise in real life. When there's just a basic lack of communication that gets misinterpreted and one side thinks it's one thing, and one the other and nobody manages to talk to each other and figure it out and then it explodes into this giant misunderstanding. So I think it's a good lesson for kids to just talk it out and not assume.

It's great that the show not only entertains, but teaches important lessons as well.

I mean to me it does. I haven't checked with the powers that be to see if that's what they meant it to be but to me, that's what it is. I mean I had a recent conversation with a very grown-up friend of mine just the other day who was upset about something that he felt somebody had done to him, and I said to him, "Well did you ever tell them what you wanted?" And he said, "No I thought they would know." So I think we do that a lot. And I'm always amazed to find out that no, they didn't know, and you actually have to say what you mean!

Yes, such a simple thing. How did you come up with the voice for the character?

I think I tried a bunch of different things. I've been recording from New York and the team is in LA so I go to a studio in New York and I put on my headsets and they're in there, in my headsets, they're very tiny! (laughing) And I tried a bunch of things initially and they chose the one that they liked. Since it's complete fantasy, you can try anything.

As you record, are you just reading from a script, or are you looking at animation as well?

I saw an initial sketch of the character, but I'm not watching anything animated when I record and I'm reading from a script. And occasionally I'll add a little twist here and there. If they like it, they encourage me to keep it, and if they don't, then they say,"take it away!!". They're very fun guys.

So will the character of the Sea Witch recur in future episodes? 

Yes. I just found that out actually. I'm excited!

You have such an impressive resume in film, TV and of course Broadway. Do you have a preference for any one of them?

My preference is for really good writing and I just really don't care where it is. Because if you don't have good writing, it just doesn't matter what else you have, it's not going to work. You know you can fake a lot of stuff, but you can't fake if the story isn't there and if the writing isn't good.

Regardless of the medium.

No you really can't. That's my preference. I guess I'm lucky in that I started working very young in all three of the mediums. I started in stage first and then I moved into film, also very young and when I did 'Taxi' for instance, it was live in front of an audience but also filmed, that was a fun combination. And I didn't build up a big fear or preference for any of them except for, as I said, the words you get to speak.

How early on did you know wanted to be an entertainer?

I didn't know I wanted to go into entertainment, but I knew I wanted to be on stage when I was about seven. I saw a play, like most kids do, at a children's theater in Cleveland, and I just saw them up there and I thought, 'that's where I want to be.' And I think that's a pretty common story. It's like a love at first sight thing.

Although not every story ends up the way yours did!

I guess not, but it's all relative I guess. As an adult I thought of other things I could have loved doing, but I'm not really properly trained for. I guess I was lucky that my love was rewarded and is rewarded to some extent.

You mentioned 'Taxi', which was one of my favorites.

Well, right there was some of the best writing ever. It was insane. You know when I got to say things like 'now peel me like a grape so I can get out of here.' The lines I got to say it's like, are you kidding me? I would have paid them to let me say those lines, and meanwhile, they were paying me!

And you worked with the great Andy Kaufman. What was that experience like?

Oh, a true adventure. He was always very kind, but there was and there never will be anyone quite like him. He was unique and creative. And you know he's a performance artist, you had to enter his world to work and that's quite an education. It was really amazing. I consider myself very lucky.

You recently appeared opposite Jim Parsons in the Broadway revival of Harvey. 

Yes. It was so much fun. It was too fun - magnificent. And of course there you go with the good writing again. I hate to be so repetitive, but that play won the Pulitzer Prize. And we did have a wonderful director, Scott Ellis, but the writing is the platform you can stand on no matter what.

Any upcoming theater plans you can tell us about?

I'm planning to do a play off-Broadway in the beginning of 2013 at the Atlantic Theater. It's a new play by Craig Lucas called 'The Lying Lesson.' And hopefully I will be doing something between now and then, but that's my next definite plan.

Terrific. We'll look forward to it!

Don't miss Carol Kane's guest voice appearance on JAKE AND THE NEVER LAND PIRATES premiering on Friday, October 5 (8:30 – 9:00 a.m., ET/PT) during the Disney Junior programming block on Disney Channel. In the episode titled "Season of the Sea Witch," Izzy dresses up as the Pirate Princess to fool the Sea Witch (voiced by Kane), who has returned to Never Land to turn the real Pirate Princess into gold. 

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

Image credit: ©Disney Junior

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