Royana Interview

Royana Black

Quitting the Day Job?

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Courtesy Page MuseumWelcome to L.A.

The next time you're in Los Angeles, visit the Page Museum. It's about a block east of Fairfax on Wilshire Blvd. There's no doubt it's probably one of the few places on Earth where you can see a life-size, styrofoam mastondon, gently floating on a lake of petrochemicals. The Page Museum, you see, straddles the La Brea Tar Pits, a curious intermission in the miles of banks, stores, boutiques, and restaurants that line Wilshire.

Okay, this is a weak opening, but stay with me here: surrounding this lake where prehistoric relics occasionally bob to the surface is also the world's greatest concentration of people with "DayJobs" - a purgatory of temping, waitressing, and filling-in that plagues the would-be entertainer. DayJob workers live with their eyes constantly on the horizon, scanning for that bubble which will lift them up from the murk of Customer Service into the bright light of stardom.

(Yes, I *will* apologize for this horrific metaphor, but keep with me for a few moments more). Obviously, the most-difficult DayJob situation is for someone who's been a celebrity (even briefly), and must return to the banal lifestyle they had hoped to leave behind. No more limos, no more craft services tables, no production assistants asking if they'd like a double-mocha latte. Staring off into the middle-distance in their work-cubes, remembering the past must be a daily event

Or, maybe not. Perhaps a taste of success spurs them on to further successes. There's no way to get back to previous celebrity status without hard work (or at least, a spectacular, televised trial).

Recently, I spoke to one young woman, a former star of a CBS series of the 80's, who's taking the Work Route back to the top.

Enough of the bad analogies - - let's get to the part where

The Interview Begins


I can't describe the amount of letters I get from people asking about shows from the 80's. Your show was in a corner spot in the 80's, and it might not be as well-known as the other ones, but I do get occasional questions on different series, so I'm hoping you'll be able to answer some of these...

Royana - [laughs] I hope so!

Royana Black todayRoyana Black, today.

Most of my readers are very avid TV watchers and they know all this minutiae and things, so I get a lot of questions about the business of - you know, what happened to different actors, and all that. Now, this isn't going to be like "Behind the Music" - where did you go with all the ups-and-downs of your career..

Royana - [laughs] This would be *really* boring if this were on "Behind the Music"... except for that heroin addiction.

Oh, okay...

Royana - I am *totally* KIDDING.

Well, if they name the clinic after you, that's a *good* thing.

Royana - Oh, true! [laughs]

I had a whole series of questions written down, and I left them at my office, but pretty much the questions that I'm going to ask you are about what it was like, half-a-lifetime ago, when you were in Raising Miranda, and where things went in-between, and where you'd like to go now. Oh, and since you're an Official Yale Graduate, with an English degree, I'm going to ask you about the narrative strategies of TV Single Dad shows - - since you were right in the thick of things, we can go over some of that, too..

Royana - Cool!

Let me just give you an idea of where this interview came from: I was watching the Fox Movie Channel, and they were having advertisements for a "Planet of the Apes" marathon. James Naughton showed up on screen (being from the TV series). I thought, "hey, that guy was in a TV series on my site," and so I went to look him up...

Courtesy Fox Movie ChannelWhat started this quest: Planet of the Apes!

Royana - Awwww...

So there's like ten million James Naughton hits, so I say to myself, "I wonder whatever happened to Royana Black?"

Royana - [laughs] Yeah - - it's so funny, because every so often, out of the blue, I'll just go look up my name, to just see if anything is exciting in there - - and I came across your site a while ago. And of course I was like, "God, that's not very flattering about Raising Miranda!" But I know *you* didn't write it...

Well, I wrote what I--

Royana - ... or maybe you did? [laughs]

I wrote what I saw of - - I mean, I've never seen your show...

Royana - Well, you and the rest of America... [laughs]

I mean, I may have seen it, but only because I was waiting for Tour of Duty to come on.

Royana - [laughs]

And at the time, I wasn't a single dad, so -- it's like someone said: when you're pregnant, you notice everyone who's pregnant. So now, I'm a single dad, and I notice those shows. But, looking back I thought, gee, this sounds like a very typical single dad show, based on the premise. I mean, it fit in with all the Punky Brewster-type shows in that period, in following a little girl growing up with her dad. And usually when I put out less-than-flattering series reviews, I get tons of email, usually from the mothers of the kids that were in the show.

Royana - [laughs] Ooh, how funny!

There was a show on about the same time as yours, and there was a whole slew of kids...

Royana - I know the show you're talking about - - I may have actually auditioned for that show.

Well, I still get angry emails from one of the kids' dads saying, "if you didn't like my little girl's show, you can kiss my foot!"

Royana - Well, you wouldn't be wrong about Miranda - if you did blink, you missed it. CBS buried it, in a lot of ways.


Miranda's Short, Brutal Life


Yeah, I was wondering why it didn't premiere until Election Day - what was scheduled before that time in the season?

Royana - You know, we were scheduled for the original season opening, and then they decided to reshoot the pilot. The initial pilot was completely different - it was called Close to Home. The mother was actually shown in the pilot. She's in the first half of it, and then she takes off, and you never see her again. I guess CBS felt that it was too hard to get to know the mom, and see them in action, and then have her disappear. And so, we ended up reshooting the pilot. If I remember correctly, it was sometime in August, and then it just got delayed.

Okay, this is a long time ago, but do you remember where you were the first time you found out you had booked the part? That you were on the show?

Royana - Yeah! Well, when I booked the pilot - - I auditioned in New York: I'm from New York, originally. And I was, gosh - - fourteen or fifteen at the time, I don't remember - - probably fifteen. I auditioned in New York, and didn't hear anything, and then I auditioned a couple more times in New York, and then I got a call that they were going to fly me to L.A. to test for it. And I should plan on being there for one day. So, my mom went with me, and I think she packed like, three days worth of clothes. And I ended up being there for about *two weeks,* just reading with different dads. I read with, gosh, Shaun Cassidy at one point - he came in to read. But they *never* told me that I had the part. They were just sort of -- I don't know, maybe they just assumed that I knew that, or whatever. But I thought that every time was *another* audition for me. So, I sort of freaked out.

Oh, okay!

Royana - And then we finally got the cast in place - - it was Jim and I - - and we went to the network, we went to CBS, and everything went well, and I was actually here in LA when I found out I got it. So, they told me they wanted me to stay another two weeks to shoot the pilot. So, I ended up being here a month, in total. And it was great! I mean, they put you up in a hotel... and I'd *never* been on a plane before, and I'd *never* been to L.A. before - - it was this incredible experience. And then I went home and went back to high school.

Wow.

Royana - Yeah, and then I waited until the announcement. And I had done a pilot before, with Robert Klein, about a year and a half before - and so I didn't expect it to get picked up or anything. And then, when I found out it got picked up, I just freaked.

Courtesy CBS TelevisionRoyana, with Raising Miranda co-star James Naughton.

Okay, so you just had to gird yourself for the expected - failure - and just assume it wasn't going to work out, and "I gotta do my homework" and all that?

Royana - Yeah, pretty much. The first time, I was sooo devastated that it didn't get picked up to go to series - I learned that I shouldn't get too invested in things like that.

Yeah, it seems like such a chipper / shredder - - you're just fed into it every time you go out for a part. Now, was this series filmed, or was it taped in front of a studio audience?

Royana - It was never taped live. Originally, the creators, Martha Williamson and Jane Anderson, both incredible people - - Martha's doing Touched By an Angel right now - - they envisioned a kind of Wonder Years thing for the show. They wanted it shot on film, and they didn't want an audience. CBS wanted an audience, and wanted it done on tape, and they compromised, and they did this sort of -mesh- of having it done on videotape, but without a live audience. Which I'm not sure if it *worked,* to be honest with you.

Yeah, if you didn't have that audience feedback, it must have been hard for script timing and things.

Royana - Yeah, and also - - the show was written to be kind of a "dramedy," but without the film quality, I think that it just didn't quite -"jell"- the way it should have.

Now, was this filmed at Television City for CBS?

Royana - No, it was filmed actually - - Grant Tinker, who is my hero in every way - - owned a studio out here called GTG - he worked with Gannett, who I think ran USA TODAY - - they owned what is now the Culver Studios, which is the old Selznick lot. And that's where it was shot. We had a sound stage there.

How many episodes did you wind up taping?

Royana - We shot nine, and they showed nine.

Oh, so it got all the way through.

Royana - Mm-hmm. We were supposed to do thirteen, I think, but we only did nine, and that's what they aired.

Now, did you go out to TCA [Television Critics' Association convention]? Did they have you out on the press tours, and all that?

Royana - Oh yeah - all over the Southwest. Over Thanksgiving, I think, was when I went. And my sister - I have a half-sister who lives in Las Vegas - and so we went and hung out with her, and had, like, Thanksgiving at Ceasar's Palace - we just did this whirlwind thing. And they were great - I mean, they were so good to me, the people who produced the show, knowing it was my first time, and my first series, and also - - I felt a lot of pressure, in that I felt that the show rested on *me* - and I remember going up to Grant - being an idiot, being fifteen, and saying "WHAT ARE THE RATINGS? HOW ARE WE DOING?" And he was like, "Jeez, relax! You know, you're a kid - you don't have your driver's license yet!" I was a *very* neurotic child.[laughs]

I can imagine that constant worry. I hate asking these kinds of questions, but: when did you realize that things were going south on series?

Royana - They never really went "north" for Raising Miranda. [laughs] We were pretty much close to dead-last in the ratings all the way through. And I *knew* that. I think that - you know, I never knew what to expect from week to week. We shot for three weeks, and then we were off a week - - and that week, Jim would go back to Connecticut, where his wife is, and I stayed in L.A. and concentrated on my school work - - and I just sort of prayed every day that I would get to go back. And as it turned out, when Grant told us that the show was cancelled, it was very quick. I mean, it was like - - on a Monday, and he said, "Friday's your last day."

Wow.

Royana - And that was just *so* devastating for me.

Wow - yeah. At least you had an inkling of what was going on. I've heard from other actors who - - it kinda blindsided them, and they were fully-prepared to move to whatever location they were filming the series, and all of a sudden, they get their plugged pulled. BUt even with that knowledge, I'm sure it was devastating at the time.

Royana - I think what was hard for me was that, you know, "Miranda" was in the title, and I really felt just a huge responsibility. I felt like *I* had let people down. And that I'd let myself down. In retrospect, of course, I know I'm lucky I ever *had* a series. And if that's the most devastating thing that's ever happened to me, I'm a very fortunate person.

Still, thinking about a fifteen-year-old girl, at the height of your "do people like me?" stage - -

Royana - That, and having to go back to high school when it's all over - - that's the part where you're, like - - "yeah, I was on that show, but it didn't work out...so here I am!"


The Surreal Life


Tonight - - I know it hasn't shown out on the West coast yet, but on The WB, they're showing The Surreal Life - with the B-list level of people who were once - - you get the Gabrielle Carterisese and the -

Royana - I heard about that show - -

Yeah, I just finished watching it a little while ago, and -- there's this strange fascination that most people have when they're standing in line at the grocery store, and you're reading the headlines of who's at the Betty Ford Clinic, or who didn't show up at an awards ceremony because they were stoned or something. I think that's what the producers were hoping for -- hanging this show on that kind of and ideal, that there would be some kind of - - sensational thing happening. I think what came out of the show was that these are ordinary people who have been in an extraordinary circumstance. And there's a constant study of them to be more than who they are, which is just - - they're human beings. Some of that came through on the show, which surprised me. There was a discussion of - - the drummer from Motley Crue - -

Royana - Vince Neil!

Yeah! - who said that - - they asked him about -- there were "things that hit him like a feather, and things that hit him like a rock" and they asked him to describe one of these "rocks." And he brought up the fact that his daughter died of cancer when she was four years old.

Royana - Oh, God.

You don't usually see that on an "entertainment" program. I think the problem with "celebrity" is that people forget that you're a human being with human emotions and feelings, and hurts the same as everybody else.

Royana - Yeah. Wow, I didn't know that about him - - that's awful. Poor guy.

Yeah, it was surprising they would bring that up in the show. *Anyway,* we were talking about you... When you found out you were cancelled, and your show faded, you had some appearances on The Cosby Show, and so - - were you going back-and-forth between coasts to audition and things? Were you doing auditions locally when you in New York?

Royana - Yeah, I basically - - when the series got cancelled, I flew back to New York, and I, you know, just sort of packed up all our stuff and moved on back home. And I went back to school and I sunk into - - an adolescent depression! [laughs] And then I - - yeah, I just started auditioning again in New York - I mean, I still had my agent in New York, so I did some more off-Broadway stuff, and TV things, here and there, and then The Cosby Show here and there. And then, I started really thinking about college.

Courtesy Ghadar & Associates

Back in the Day: Royana, with Paul Sorvino, in the 1987 film Almost Partners.

Now, when you were back in New York, did you think about getting on the "freight train" of soaps? A lot of people who I've talked to has said that's the "boiler room" of acting. They've told me, "if you want to keep working as an actor, you get on a soap, and you're on it every day, but you're working." When you looked at your acting career then, did you see where you wanted to go?

Royana - I was really - - lucky - in that I got to do a lot of theatre as a kid. I mean, theatre has been sort of my mainstay. And - - I would still love to do a soap, God knows, because I think it's great training. But I think theatre is sort of the same type of thing where you're just working every night and you're doing eight shows a week. I didn't really have a plan. I mean, I started doing this as a lark. My parents sort of gave me six months to try it, and six months later, I wound up on Broadway, with one of those fairy-tale stories. So, I just sort of took whatever came my way, and didn't really have a plan at all - - except that I knew I wanted to keep doing this. The only decision I think I had to face was: Grant Tinker had asked me to stay in L.A. at one point, after the series, and he wanted to do a development deal with me. I opted to go home, and go back to school, which, in retrospective, might not have been the best thing for my career, but I probably wouldn't have gotten into college if I had stayed, so I'm glad I didn't.

Well, of all the colleges you could have decided to go to, going to Yale wasn't a bad choice.

Royana - Oh, I feel really lucky! [laughs]

Yeah, it seems really fortunate -- you went off to Yale, and I guess you were in drama clubs there? Did you involve yourself in student theatricals? I know you have an English degree, but how far into theatre arts did you go?

Royana - Well, Yale's like - - I sort of got in, and didn't think "Oh my God, I got into Yale! I have to go there!" And when I got there, I was so psyched to realize that all of the theatre there is completely - - non-teacher involved. It's non-faculty oriented in any way. So basically, if you want to produce a show, you apply to this fund, you get two or three thousand dollars and you put up the show, and you cast it and you produce it, and you direct it. So, I worked it that way - - I didn't have to get involved with the Theatre department at all. My thought was that, if I were going to go to college, I might as well learn about *other* things, as opposed to learning about theatre, which, I felt like I already knew enough about it at the time. So, I did English, and I took psychology and sociology, and unfortunately, biology. And I did probably three plays a semester, every semester I was there. I got to *direct* a play, I produced a ton of theatre. It was amazing. It was a very *long* four years, but it was good.

Yeah, it sounds like you had a real Swiss Army knife in your pocket of things you got out of that experience.

Royana - Well, and also - I think on some level, I'm also more secure now than I was then, but on some level - I felt that they made a mistake by letting me in, that I wasn't necessarily smart enough to be there, so I overcompensated by doing theatre, which I *knew* I was good at. And my grades were fine - - they weren't great. But, hell, I graduated! That's all that matters.

When you were in college and you were directing and producing, did you like the "back end" of the business? I mean, previously, you were doing mostly acting, but in college you seemed to be getting more into the mechanics of it. I know you did the guest shot on Touched By an Angel, but I wondered how this affected you later on in terms up keeping up with the acting, or if you looked more towards the production side?

Royana - I think - you know, I don't have any experience directing short films or anything like I have directing and producing theatre. And I love - - I especially love directing theatre. I mean, I sound like such a cliched actor - "what she WANTS to do is DIRECT!" - - but acting is obviously my number-one choice, and I love that. But directing is a close second for me - - especially with plays. I mean, you get to work with the playwright, and you get to work with the material, and with the actors. It's just - - it's such a *collaborative* experience. And then on opening night, you get to just sit back and watch your baby. It's great. Producing's sort of the same thing. I don't like raising money, I'm not very good at raising money. So, I'm not the best producer in the world.

It's difficult making the pitch, I know.

Royana - Yeah.

Tell me about Ergo Productions.

Royana - That is a theatre company that I - - when I graduated from Yale, I moved to New York, literally the day I graduated. I started auditioning for some plays, and I realized that it was *really* hard to get back into it. Once you're four years away, you know, everybody sort of thinks, "Who are you?" Or, they assumed I was still fifteen years old, which is funny. So, I was auditioning, and I was auditioning, just having a really hard time, and I would do the occasional Equity Showcase here and there, and I finally thought, you know, I am going to start my own company, because I am going to create my own opportunities. Which is where the name comes from: "I want to work, *ERGO,* I'm creating a theatre company."

Ah hah!

Royana - [laughs] So, we got together a bunch of friends - - most sort of dropped out after the first few months, and three of my partners - no, *four* of my partners, actually: Elizabeth Faulkner, Robert J. Cronin, Joanna Pinzer, and Catherine Helzer - - we applied for non-profit status, and did all the paperwork, and got an attorney, and started producing. And it was GREAT. I mean, I don't think the company has yet made a profit, but it's non-profit theatre, so...

The enjoyment level is there - you got satisfaction out of the...

Royana - Yeah, and they're doing great. They're still getting stuff *UP* - so, God bless them. I left - I'm still the president on paper, but I came out here and they're still getting stuff up. So, I commend them.


Non Pecunia Ergo Ars


Were many of them ex-Yalies?

Royana - Yeah, Bobby and Catherine. Catherine was my roommate at Yale, and Bobby was a Theatre Studies major.

Oh, keeping it in the family...

Royana - Exactly.

So that was, about 1995, 96?

Royana - Yeah.

Now, that was about the same time as your "Return to Television?" when you were...

Royana - [laughs] Yeah, Touched by an Angel

Courtesy CBSThe triumphant return - - to CBS!

How did that come about? I know you were connected with the producer...

Royana - Yeah, well, Martha Williamson, God bless her, she got in touch with my agent and said, look, we have this guest-star spot, and I think Royana's right for it, but God knows I haven't seen her act in a few years, and what do you think? And my agent in New York put me on tape and sent it out there, and then they flew me out to L.A. to test, and then I was in Salt Lake City - - it was, again, one of those things that came about very quickly.

Right...

Royana - And it was really nice to work with Martha, and to play Darlene Cate's alter, younger self.


And then the phone clicked off. So, I called back...

The Interview Continues


Royana - Oh my God - - I hung up on you!

Not a problem.

Royana - I *clearly* cannot operate my phone. The phone was ringing, and my boyfriend said, "Flash - hit *flash*" Ack! Sorry!

It's fine. I think we were in the middle of Touched by an Angel...

Royana - Yeah - it was amazing. Darlene Cates is the mom in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? -- which is a movie I *love* - - and I got to play her as a fifteen-year-old. And just meeting her was trippy. It was a great experience. *And* one of the very small parts on that episode is [Joyride,Pleasantville] Paul Walker, who has since Gone on to Greatness.

You're like the Alternate Kevin Bacon...

Royana - Yeah, except - - no one knows who I am! [laughs] Well, like - - Kim Williams was in something I did, years ago. It was really funny.

Courtesy Fox TelevisionBryan Cranston: Miranda's Stand-In Mom?

It must be really strange, when you turn on the TV and you see Bryan Cranston and things, and ...

Royana - He's great.

I don't know - - well, you can answer this because you've *seen* Raising Miranda!

Royana - [laughs]

On the show, you said the Stand-In Mom - - would you classify Bryan as the Stand-In Mom?

Royana - Yeah, although - - he was a *mess* I mean, the character of Uncle Russell is - he's living in a van in our driveway.

Oh, like the Chris Farley character: he's in "a van, down by the river!"

Royana - You know, I have to say - - I know that's a big formula thing, that there's a Stand-In Mom, and I think that may be one of the problems with Raising Miranda - - Miranda was kind of the Stand-In Mom, which, I think, hurt the show.

Well, it can hurt a show, but it can also help drive it. If you think of a show like Who's The Boss? if you think of Alyssa Milano's character, she kind of drives Tony Danza.

Royana - True -

So, if your character had that - you know, you're telling Dad what to do next, and he's kind of befuddled as to how to handle a teenaged girl, I'm not sure if it's a help or a hindrance. I really need to see - do you know if your show's at the Museum of Television and Radio?

Royana - It is.

Okay, well - - the next time I'm in Manhattan, I'll track it down...

Royana - [laughs] Okay.

I guess you keep in touch with Jim Naughton?

Royana - Not a lot, but I do. I saw him in Chicago and I saw him in City of Angels, and we do Christmas cards and stuff. He's - - the best. Actually, I have to say again - - and I think that anybody you'll ever talk to that was involved with that show - - it was a dream cast, and a dream crew. Everyone was amazing to work with, and just really *good* people.

I wish there could be a cable channel of "short-lived series" - - a station that you could just watch -- because there's been a lot of shows that you'll see, where a network said, "this is great, but there's an insufficient audience," so, boom, it's gone.

Royana - That's a really good idea.


A long way from a Nedick's


Well, if I'm out in L.A., you can help me pitch it sometime! [laughs] It's really a shame, though - because there are so many good, short-lived series. I mean, so many great actors came out of these shows.

Royana - Oh yeah.

That wasn't the lift-off series for Bryan Cranston - but I think it may have been his second, or even his first series.

Royana - Yeah, I think so. And he is the funniest, nicest guy in the world, too. He's just great. He sort of *is* that character, on the show he's on now, just a bit. He's sort of wacky, and kinda cool, and he's really great.

Okay, let's go back to Manhattan - you were working, and you were in Ergo, and now, this past year, you decided on going back to L.A. ...

Royana - Yeah. Well, Ergo actually produced a play called "The Bonus Round" - which is this really wonderful play about a sixteen-year-old boy who wants to be a game show host. And there are all these great game show details, and fake game shows, and it was actually the one show of Ergo's that I was actually not in - - that I just produced. It was written by this guy named Hal Cantor, who lived in L.A., and we flew him in - - I *think* we paid for his flight - - and we gave him something like a dollar per day to live in New York, which was nothing, but it was sort of like, "here's what we can give you." So, we produced his play, and he and I met and started dating. And at that point, it was sort of the impetus I needed to come out here. I wanted to come out, I wanted to come out, and had always been scared, and always done the whole "I-Hate-L.A." thing. Then, I met Hal, and it just sort of happened that six months later, I wound up out here.

Wow.

Royana - Yeah, it was sort of perfect timing for everything. And hopefully, we'll get the play up again, somewhere - because it's really good.

The City of AngelsLos Angeles = New York City + palm trees - bagels.

So, how does it feel being back in L.A., after all those years ago?

Royana - It's really good now. I had built up so many expectations of how I was going to *hate* Los Angeles, over the years. I really associated L.A. with this sort of coldness of - you know, what you do when you're fifteen years old and your show gets cancelled.

Right.

Royana - So, I got out here, and the first thing that happens is - - I get to collect unemployment from New York! Which was great. So, that was like my first few months out here. You know, I've learned to embrace the things in L.A. that there are to embrace: the weather, which I'm sure is what everyone talks about. I like driving, I like having a car. It's *okay* here. It's different. It's taken me a while to acclimate. But I like it more than I thought I would. I still miss New York, and I will always love New York, and I came out here with the idea that I would make enough money to move back to New York.

Well, there's a lot of lonely New Yorkers out there, and it's amazing how they build up pieces of New York in L.A.

Royana - Although - - jeez, I would *love* to find a good bagel. All I ask is for a good bagel.

I guess Manhattan isn't the Manhattan you left - it's getting more Disney-fied every day. I was in Times Square a few months ago, and it's like - "this CAN'T be Times Square!"

Royana - Oh yeah, it's awful. It's horrible. And what Giuliani did - I know he did some good things, but it's sooo cost-prohibitive to live there now, and it's really gentrified. And it's just not as interesting as it used to be. But - it's still the greatest city in the world.

Were you there for 9/11?

Royana - I was not. I was here, actually. And - what can I say about that, that hasn't been said a million times before? I wanted to get in my car and drive back and dig people out with my bare hands. I can't even articulate what it is I feel.

You've been back since?

Royana - Yes, I've been back since. I've not been to Ground Zero. I sorta can't bring myself to go down there.

Yeah, I first went back in the summer - - I grew up in New Jersey, and I can't handle looking at it from the Turnpike, by Exit 15. There's just a big hole in the sky, and it's -- unnerving is the only way to describe the feeling. It just doesn't - - look right.

Royana - Well, can you - - I just can't wrap my head around it.

No, it's too - - it's too big. And I had some friends come in from San Diego, who hadn't seen it beforehand, and they didn't really know what was *missing*. They wanted to go down there and just see the area. And to me, it's like going to see the Hindenburg - I'd rather not.

Royana - Yeah, it's not - - entertainment.

Yeah. I went there, and the smell is all still there, and the burning, and the hole in the ground. And all the pictures and stuff are still on the poles -- it's just mind-boggling. Even seeing it, I still can't believe it happened.

Royana - I know. I went back Labor Day weekend this year, and it was about the third or fourth time I'd been back. It was the first time I came over the Queensborough Bridge. And I got my first real view of the skyline. And I *lost it*. I mean - you walk down Broadway and you look up and it's not there. It's the strangest thing in the world. And Hal went to NYU, so he looked at that every day. And I temped in the World Trade Center, and I had many friend who worked there the week before. I mean, I had a lot of close calls, but I was very lucky that no one I knew --- I hope everyone you knew is okay.

Fortunately, no. Anyway, this has been a very grim interview - - sorry about some of the questions!

Royana - [laughs] I know!

On a much-cheerier note, you're back in L.A. - -

Royana - ... and better than ever! [laughs]

I'm really sorry! I'm usually much better than this on interview questions...

Royana - Are you kidding? This is great! I'm having fun.


Cattle calls


Okay, now that you're back in L.A., going to auditions - - have you been out on auditions since you've been out there?

Royana - I've been on a few. A lot of theatre auditions. I recently signed with a manager who I just love, who has such faith in me, and is really excited about me - and is the first person who's been excited about me in a long time. It's been slow, but this is IT - I feel like this is going to be a good year.

Well, that's good - it's a good attitude to have. And you've already been down the route of disappointments and things, so I guess you can gear yourself to "hope for the best, expect the worst."

Royana - Yeah, and just let it *go* - - I mean, the most that I can hope for is that I go in and say, "this is what I've got, and I hope it's right." And you have to realize that the decision to hire you is 99% not about your talent. It's about eight thousand other things.

Yeah, it's about if you're not 5' 5" with blonde hair for this particular role...

Royana - Yeah, and if you remind the director of his ex-girlfriend, or whatever. And that's all stuff you can't control. You just go in the room and do your best. And hopefully, if they don't like you for this, they'll remember you for something else later.

How have interviews changed in the intervening years? When you go on these auditions - has the process changed at all, or is it the same chair-in-front-of-three-people, in front of a fold-up card table?

Royana - I think the process hasn't really changed at all. What's changed, though, is - - as I'm in my late twenties, there's a *lot* more competition out there. Now it's - it's funny: when you're a kid it's all about "can she read well?" and "can she make it seem as believable as possible, and look like a family?" And I think those things narrow your competition. But I think that, when you're in L.A., and you're in your late twenties, and you're a woman - - there are eight million people here, like me. So it's a little bit more challenging to differentiate myself from all the other people. But that's -- I spent a year learning how to do that.

Courtesy Fox TelevisionCast of 24. Sarah Clarke is at far right.

Yeah, it's funny - when you sent me your head shot, I thought you looked a lot like Sarah Clarke, who's in 24

Royana - Really? Thank you - - I think she's really pretty! [laughs]

Well yeah - it just hit me that, if she's trying for parts, you and she are in competition for the same roles.

Royana - Right, and the difference is that Sarah Clarke is on a series. So, they're going to see her before they see me. It's almost like I'm starting over again. And I'm sooo down with that - - it's all good. I'm starting over again, but I'm lucky in that I've got the experiences that I've had. So I won't get there again and freak out.

Yeah, and you're already in SAG, you're in AFTRA, so...

Royana - Oh yeah, I've kept up all my dues.

Well those are the best to carry over from before. That, and your Yale degree...

Royana - Oh, no one cares about the Yale degree! [laughs]

Is it something that you sort of have to - - not talk about?

Royana - Well, I'll tell you what's good about it: people ask me the question, "where did you *go?*" I can legitimately say, "I took four years off to go to college."

Ah!

Royana - And then I can say, "I moved to New York and started a production company." So, in that case, it's great to have a degree to back that up.

Yeah - Brooke Shields went to Princeton, you went to Yale - - and if Yale is good enough for Jodie Foster, then..

Royana - Exactly!

Would you rather do television or film? Where would you like to aim your career, is what I'm asking.

Royana - Ultimately, I want to do film. I mean, that's sort of everyone's dream. And I was raised on old movies, so I would like that. And I like the legacy that film leaves. But it's funny - I would really love to do an hour drama, on TV. It's like the one area - I've done sitcoms, I've done theatre - - I was in Radio Days - but I'd *love* to do an hour drama. I think that would be, right now, my short-tem goal. Just because I haven't done it.

How much time do you devote to your pursuit of your acting goals? I mean, I know you have a DayJob(tm), but how do you fit that in?

Royana - It's hard - I mean, I have a DayJob, and the two guys that I work with are really good about letting me go to auditions. And you know, they know that there are times during the day when I'm going to be sending out pictures and resumes - I'm going to be making calls. That's just what I *have* to do. I'll either stay late or go in early to do that stuff, usually, or I'll do it on my lunch hour. I do drop-offs. I can't really quantify it. I probably spend forty hours a week on my career, at least as long as - you know, my Job-Job.

Right - and that's just a typical thing in L.A. - -

Royana - And it varies, too. You know, when it's slow here, during the summer - - I don't spend as much time on it. But it's everything - - it's doing postcard mailings, and I'm actually trying to get a play up right now, that I *really* want to be in, to produce and get somebody to direct. So, it's *all* that stuff.


Too Many Mirandas


Most people who have been on TV have a favorite "recognition story" - do you have any times that you remember being recognized?

Royana - Actually, yeah - my *favorite* story is that - - my first or second day of Yale - - I was there and my aforementioned roommate, Catherine - we were suitemates, and we lived across the halll from each other. And she sorta came up to me one day and she was like, "Oh my GOD! You're MIRANDA!" And so I was like, "How do you know this?" And as it turned out, she used to want to be Brandon Tartikoff, and she collected all these TV Guides, and followed every series, *ever*. - So we became best friends because of that.

Wow.

Royana - And there was also another woman on campus who looked a lot like me - - whose *name* was "Miranda" - - so people would confuse us all the time. And I used to think people were recognizing me! They'd be like, "hey Miranda!" and I'd be, "Oh my God! They really watched my show!" But no, they thought I was the other girl, Miranda. And then she shaved her head, senior year.

Oh great. That solved it.

Royana - Yeah! [laughs] Too many Mirandas.

You and I are both clichés - - I'm a single dad, and there's expectations that people have - that I have an English butler at home and ...

Royana - [laughs] You have a Mr. Belvedere?

Courtesy of Royana Black"Oh, it's fine to be a genius, of course. But keep that old horse before the cart. First, you've gotta have heart." - Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, Damn Yankees

Yeah - I wish. Now, you carry the unfortunate moniker of "former child star" - -

Royana - Yeah.

What's the most difficult thing about having that as part of your resumé? I'm not exactly sure what you "get" out of that.

Royana - I think that - - you know, I don't want to sound ungrateful, because the plusses so outweigh the negatives - - I think the one thing you can say that's negative about it is that, in the term "former child star," the word "former" is in it. So there's an implication is that - I've "peaked" - - and that's in fact NOT the case, at all. But I think about Corey Haim and Corey Feldman - and it's - - I wasn't like a "real" star - I was sort of middle -level. I wasn't like Kirk Cameron, or any of those crazy celebrity people. But I do think that people say, "Oh, you can't transition - - you'll never be a good Adult actor." And I think that's the stereotype that is unfortunate.

Looking back on your life, if you had a time machine and go back, what elements would you have changed? Is there anything you would have changed?

Royana - Um - you know, on my darkest days, I think I would have stayed in Los Angeles, after the series, and just would have tried to get work, and not gone to college - - maybe not even finish high school. But, most of the time, I don't really regret anything. I met amazing people, I met the man that I'm in love with because of the people I met through Yale, and I don't know that I would change anything. But talk to me in five years, when I'm waiting tables in L.A. - - Maybe I'll sing a different tune!

Or I'll call your personal assistant and see if you'll take my calls.

Royana - [laughs] Oh, of course!

Now, I'm going to ask you to put your Yale cap on - you were in a single dad show, and sounded like a typical single dad show. Why do you feel (or if you don't feel, why don't you feel) -- why are single dad shows so popular, so common on television? Why are they so frequent, do you think?

Royana - Well, one of the reasons they are so common, I think, is that this town is run by a lot of men. And the decisions that get made in this town are made by men. And a lot of those men are single dads. That's part of it. I also think that there's - - I think there's more of an exoticism about single dads than there is about single moms. You know, because the single mom is sort of the put-upon, harried - -

Right, the One Day at a Time type...

Royana - Yeah, and we've seen that a million times, and I think there's something still exotic about a single dad. Like a show like Everwood, for example - - who *wouldn't* want to see Treat Williams as a single dad? And also - you know, I read your interview with Robert Urich, on your website. There's that whole thing about -- you can more easily introduce women.

Yeah, it's okay for Dad to date hot supermodels.

Royana - But it's not okay for *Mom* to do that.

Right, exactly. If Mom brings home a new guy, she's --

Royana - She's kinda slutty.

Yeah.

Royana - So, I think it's a convention that offers more possibilities. And I think it's great, too. I think that single dads came up more in the '80's because there *were* more single dads. They weren't really being recognized.

And your show kinda rode the crest of all that.

Royana - Yeah - Blossom ripped us off! [laughs] Don't tell Mayim Bialik, though.


Like Royana said, there are LOTS of young women in their late-20's, all vying for the few parts available in the City of Angels. Royana knows she's got a lot stacked against her at any audition. She does have three things that help, though: a clear knowledge of the business, the positive emotional support her boyfriend, and the stick-to-it-iveness and desire to get out and get noticed for a role.

With that kind of attitude, maybe she'll have a new DayJob soon - - the kind with a camera, and an audience.

Click here for a message from Royana Black.