Marla Mindelle on her starring role in “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Scream”

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Marla Mindelle is a Broadway star who made the move to Los Angeles a year ago to try her hand at television, but she’s not staying away from her musical theater roots. The out actress/singer is currently starring as Gale Weathers in The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Scream, playing at LA’s Rockwell Table and Stage, the home to campy, fun, musical spoofs of movies like Cruel Intentions, Clueless and Romeo and Juliet. In the musical, Marla takes on Sheryl Crow‘s “Every Day is a Winding Road” and Meredith Brooks‘ “Bitch,” among other popular late ’90s tunes, and makes Gale Weathers more likable than ever before. 

SCREAM OCT. 17, 2015 318all photos by Abel Armas Photography

We chatted with Marla about doing Courteney Cox justice and why she won’t be the new Shane McCutcheon any time soon.

AfterEllen.com: These movies-turned-musical shows are becoming more and more popular. How important is it to you that you enjoy the movie it’s based on? Are you a Scream fan?

Marla Mindelle: Actually I—oh, God, everyone’s going to be up my ass about this—but I have never seen it all the way through. I’m actually genuinely scared of scary movies, although if I watched it now, it would be really cheesy and hopefully I would find it funny. But I never made it all the way through because I was 14 when it came out, and I was on a date and I remember kissing the guy and not even watching the movie, so I have no idea what happens. So, no, it doesn’t matter to me if I like the movie or not. If it’s a bad—not bad, but a ’90s movie, I’ll probably love it because I love the kind of spoof they do on it and putting music to it and not taking it too seriously and having all these cult fans come out and see it. And I really think it’s become more popular because Kate Pazakis has really helped shape and mold this new kind of genre of movie spoofs, which is really popular to LA people. And then they come see it and then there’s all these Broadway stars doing it, and they’re like, “Oh shit! They’re really talented.” So it makes for a really great combination.

AE: So since you haven’t seen Scream all the way through, you must not have done a lot of studying of Courteney Cox in the original role. Did you just want to make it your own completely?

MM: I remember Courteney Cox, and I love Courteney Cox. I’m a huge Friends fan even though Friends has been off TV. But I do remember some of her things, and I do remember her being a ballbuster. Last year I came in last minute. They basically were like “Hey, this one person had to drop out suddenly. Can you pick it up and learn it?” I just moved to LA and I had about a day to learn it. And so I watched Nicole Parker do it, because at first I was like “What the fuck is this?” I didn’t understand what it was. I didn’t understand what type of show it was. But when I watched Nicole do it, I was like “Ohhh, I get it. You can be funny and you can really play with it.” So I feel like I have actually deviated from Courteney a lot, but hopefully, I have the essence of her, but I think I kind of made it completely my own. Which is fine. I think people are fine with that, too.

 

AE: Scream is different from the last one I saw there, Cruel Intentions, which was pretty faithful to the script and used songs from the actual soundtrack. Scream has the addition of the Screamettes and a general campiness and makes fun of the movie. Have you found people enjoy that?

MM: I mean, I think so because if you stuck with Scream all the way through, it would probably be a very scary musical. What I like about this is, at the heart of it, we’re trying to entertain people and we’re trying to do it in a funny, creative way. I love the fact that we deviate. I love the fact that we improv, because the audience loves it. Playing around with the audience or kind of trolling them the entire time. Looking at them or touching their heads or something like that—people get the biggest kick out of it. So I think for them, that’s really fun and people have a true interactive experience. I mean, some of them might hate it. Who knows!

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AE: What prompted your move from LA to New York?

MM: My background is Broadway. A bunch of people who are also in Scream have migrated from Broadway as well. I came out here to try my hand at writing for television and also being in television. And they definitely have a lot of that in New York, but I found that, for me, I don’t know—I just had to take a break from musical theater for a little bit otherwise I feared I might have just done that for the rest of my life. It was wonderful and gratifying, but there are a bunch of other things I want to do.

So I have a writing partner and we came out here to do something called Film Independent, which is a screenwriting lab. We were selected with a movie script we had written and we were in this workshop called the CBS Diversity Showcase, which is a television showcase where you write performance sketches and you have to be diverse in some way, and being gay counts as diverse. In some places and at some networks, being gay does not count as being diverse. Thank god, in that respect, because both me and my writing partner are gay and we got in.

That was about a fourth month process. And then afterwards, basically how the showcase goes is you write sketches for four months, you perform in some sketches and then a couple of people get holding deals, meaning the network will pay you a sum of money the entire pilot season to only audition for their CBS projects. So I was lucky enough to get one of those, and so it made sense to stay out here for pilot season.

LA is different than New York in that it takes more time. It’s just a bigger place, and everyone here does entertainment in some way. Whereas in New York, the musical theater world is still really competitive but it’s small. And here, LA is just huge, and everyone is an actor, is a writer, is a director, is a producer. So I wanted to stay out here and kind of build a new kind of life for myself, and it’s scary and different, because I’m a huge advocate of New York. I love New York and I want to move back there, but at the same time, I’m really grateful for things like Scream, because it gives a chance for us musical theater people to do something that is kind of our heart and soul.

 

AE: Do the things you write with your writing partner have queer content and characters in them?

MM: Yeah, actually. Everyone always says “write what you know,” so we’ve definitely written things with gay characters. We tend to write strong female characters in general, but the thing that we are writing, the central characters are a lesbian couple. So, yeah, we definitely do that but it’s not gay all the time.

 

AE: What has your experience been so far in pitching it and people’s interest in, say, a sitcom that stars a lesbian couple?

MM: I think it’s—there’s actually so much. I think the trans community now, too. It’s really wonderful and a lot of these diversity programs, like the thing my writing partner and I did, they really kind of nurture all different kinds of people. But I’ve noticed a huge influx of thematically gay shows, thematically trans characters and I think it’s really wonderful. People aren’t really shying away from it at this point. People love stories that are individual to the person, so if you are a gay person and you write about that, they eat that up. They think that that’s wonderful. So it’s been eye opening just because five, 10 years ago, you didn’t see anything like that, and now I think you’re seeing it all the time. And it’s not scary to people, which I think is the most important part.

marla-mindelle 

AE: Do you get sides or scripts sent to you to go out for lesbian or bisexual roles? I am curious if they might want you to play a more feminine lesbian role or if they think you don’t look “gay enough”?

MM: There’s actually not been many gay women roles I’ve been sent in for. Quite frankly, I’m not usually sent in for that. I don’t believe that I am the “stereotypical”—even though there’s so many different forms of that. But usually people don’t even know that I am. Because I am “femme, superfemme.” And I have gone in for a couple things where they wanted a more masculine person and it’s not even something that’s within my wheelhouse, necessarily. I go in for quirky mom, girlfriend, best friend. I’m in that Judy Greer category. I’m not necessarily in that Shane from L Word category.

 

AE: [laughs] So that would be a challenge for you.

MM: That would be a little bit of a challenge for me. Yeah, actually, that would be a huge challenge for me. And for some reason, people don’t see me as that. 

 

Follow Marla on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Tickets for “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Scream” are available from the Rockwell Table & Stage.