You might remember her face but not her name. Siobhan Fallon is one of the most successful character and supporting actresses today. Some of her biggest roles have included Men in Black, Forrest Gump, Seinfeld, and 30 Rock. In her latest role, Fallon plays Renee Zellwegger’s secretary in New in Town.
Her character has a similar religious background to the one she lives daily. She is a practicing Catholic and a mother of three that has turned down big money to do things that were against her belief system. Hollywood is an industry where religion is not always an accepted subject, but Fallon has stuck to her guns and continued to have a thriving career.
Listen to the Siobhan Fallon interview:
Chris Yandek: You’re in New in Town out on January 30th with Harry Connick Jr. and Renee Zellwegger. What was it like to work with these two stars?
Siobhan Fallon: “Well, it was fabulous. From the first day I met Renee, I knew it was going to be great because she is so warm and welcoming. She’s hilarious and Harry is hysterical. The three of us had the same sense of humor so what could be more fun than laughing every day at work? We just had a great time.”
CY: What are your experiences with small town people being from Syracuse, New York?
SF: “I am actually from Cazenovia, which is right outside of Syracuse. It has 12,000 people. I could relate to my character Blanche so much because in my town everybody knows everybody else. I love living in a small town and as a matter of fact, I go back to Cazenovia. We have house there in the summer. I prefer living there and I am a perfect small town gal because I love all the information, all the gossip. I love knowing everybody and seeing everybody and seeing at least 10 people you know every time you go out the door or go downtown. One thing I really love about this film is that the writer Ken Rance, he’s from Minneapolis, and when I got the script I couldn’t believe it because I am an Irish Catholic and I was raised in the Catholic faith.
I have three kids and I raise them in the Catholic Church and they go to Catholic school. My character talks about Jesus three separate times and she kind of walks the walk and talks the talk. It’s not done in a disrespectful way. It’s done in a respectful way. I made sure to not make a mockery or make a Tammy Faye Baker situation out of it. In a small town like I grew up in, in this town they picked in Neu Ulm in this movie people do talk about their faith and Jesus and they’re not embarrassed to. It hasn’t been done in films for so long that is particularly attractive to me to do this film.”
CY: So what did you getting out of playing your character Blanche Gunderson?
SF: “Well, I got a huge thrill to play a character that I could be an example for my kids and say my mom is playing a character like she teaches us how to live. I also had a blast doing it. It was a great honor to work with Harry and Renee and JK Simmons and Frances Conroy. The character is written in such a comedic way. Of course I have to play it as truthfully as possible. There is nothing worse than watching someone who thinks that they’re funny playing something funny. Just an extra gigantic bonus that this woman is a Christian woman and it’s done in a respectful way so that people are Christian or Catholic or have the beliefs that my character is can go to the movies and say, ‘Hey! They didn’t make fun of us for once.’”
CY: You have had a lot of supporting roles in a lot of big movies and TV shows. What do you think has been the thing that has helped you to continue to get roles as the years go on?
SF: “I really think two things. I think because I have kids that it’s almost like when you’re dating and you’re like hoping a guy will like you and you’re so desperate they’ll never like you (Laughs) and when you have kids it’s like oh my gosh, if I get this part it’s going to really screw up my life. You’re not indifferent but you’re sort of thinking if I get this it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth. I am not as desperate as someone else who really…really wants it. I think when you’re not desperate then it frees you up to act and be really relaxed when you audition or do a role.
Also, I think that I’ve really, hopefully stuck to my guns on what I believe is good work, quality work, and moral work. I’ve turned down a lot of work that could’ve made me really wealthy. Needless to say I am not wealthy but I am happy because I’ve done stuff that I am really proud of that I thought goes along ethically what I believe ethically and what I believe in my faith. I choose roles according to that. I’ve quit shows according to that also.”
CY: Considering the current economic climate, Hollywood really did pretty well last year. Are you concerned in any way as a working actor about the current economic situation in this country?
SF: “I have to say that I am not because I think that there is that old theory of escapism where I think the reason why Hollywood is doing so well is because people’s night out is to go to the movies and escape. Also, going to the movies is a lot cheaper then going out to dinner or throwing a big party. I think people are getting back to basics and especially this film. It’s so oddly, timely that it’s about a factory and people wanting to keep their jobs. I think this movie will draw people in because it speaks to what’s going on today in America, but I really think actors hopefully if I am right about this that people want to be entertained when times are tough.”
CY: Well, as you said you turned down some pretty big roles that made you wealthy. What was the biggest thing that you were ever offered that you turned down?
SF: “There was a movie. Actually Renee was in it. They wanted me to be in really compromising, sexual positions with two different guys. I am like no thank you. They’re like you got to be kidding me? I am like no. I won’t be doing that. There was a TV show, I had a great recurring part in it and TV scares me because you never know where it’s going to go. They can change your character at any time. Of course my luck they wanted my character to begin in an affair and she was going to begin her affair at mass.
I was like ok, I need to talk to the producers. Look, I am a Catholic and I am raising my kids to go to Catholic school and I can’t do this. But you’re an actress. Don’t you tell your children you’re playing a role? I said no. That’s what you tell your children. I don’t tell my children that. Actually people aren’t offended by it. As you get older – I kind of feel sorry for younger actresses if you have a body of work behind you it’s easier for you to do that, but also you become more confident and realize your life is not about your work when you’re trying to get into the pearly gates. To me it’s more about the big picture it’s not about project to project.”
CY: So never worries about your image? Let’s just go with it?
SF: “Yeah. It’s been a problem. My agents have said you’ve gotta be kidding me and excuses where they’ve said you know, we’re gonna let you go and I’ve said ok. Gosh. What’s going to happen to me now? Truly I feel like I have stuck to my guns. I don’t want to sound like Tammy Faye Baker, but I’ve really prayed about and I feel like my prayers have been answered. I’ve been given some great roles in some really quality films and I feel like telling the younger actresses you can do it. You don’t have to sell out. You don’t have to do a bunch of garbage.”
CY: Is it difficult having a more spiritual background in a Liberal community that is Hollywood?
SF: “Definitely. Especially when you’re younger and you’re afraid to say it and you’re afraid to stick up for what you believe in it. Now I think they almost find it refreshing and they’re shocked. They can’t believe you won’t take the money and run. They’re like what? Or I’ll do this but you gotta change the language here and here and I am not doing this. They’re like who do you think you are? But they actually like it. One of the first nights of the film, the producer said to me, we all went out to dinner. It was like a fancy dinner and it was a little stiff because everyone is just getting to know each other and he said, ‘Tell me about your self.’ I said, Well, we lived in New York City for a long time. We have three kids. We moved out to New Jersey to go to Catholic school. But you’re not a practicing Catholic are you? It’s just a cultural thing right? Oh no baby. I am a big Catholic. I am a holly roller. Then he asked me several points and challenging me and I had no problem saying it because that’s how strongly I believe. Also he loved it because I think other people are like I will pretend I am what you are and I am not going to do that and if you have a sense of humor about it. After that I used to call him reverend. (Laughs) Good morning reverend. How are you? I’d sing like Come Back To Me. For my character I’m wearing my crucifix. I want that part on my costume. I think that helped me in the role because I did not knock that she was religious.”
CY: Well, whether you’re Alec Baldwin’s sister on 30 Rock or Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s roommate on Seinfeld, do you feel like you have been a witness to lives of many other recognizable stars and seeing who they really are as people?
SF: “Yes. It’s so funny when I think about it looking back. Alec Baldwin is great. He actually has a big affiliation with my hometown of Cazenovia and knows a lot about it because his mom is up in that area. He has a fabulous Irish sense of humor and he’s a great guy. Julia, I loved being on Seinfeld. They’re such hardworking actors and their work obviously came to huge reward. I could be like this girl that hey, I’ve worked with everybody. People are always like what do you think about so and so? I really believe too that what goes around comes around. I would never say anything negative about anybody because what is that? Why do people get off on hearing something negative about someone else? I will just say quietly oh they’re great. If it’s someone who I really loved working with, I think they’re a fabulous person, I’ll just say something positive. I don’t go for that whole negative. I don’t understand what the interest is in negativity.”
CY: So do you get a lot of when you’re on the street weren’t you the person that was in so and so or I remember you from somewhere?
SF: “Oh my god! So much. I always know I look terrible if people were like hey, weren’t you in Men in Black? I am like ugh, I should’ve worn makeup or I’ll get how do I know you? One of the funniest how do I know you stories is that I was up in Syracuse and this lady says how do I know you? I’ll never do this again and I’m like I do a lot of TV and film. She’s like no. What did you do Fourth of July? I’m like I was at my Uncle Mickey’s. She said, ‘So was I.’ (Laughs) The best part is can I have your autograph? And they’re so sure and they’ll say what’s your name or what were you in any way?”
CY: In closing, as someone who’s been on Saturday Night Live, how often do people ask you if you’re related to Jimmy Fallon?
SF: “Oh my gosh! It’s so funny. I had a tiny part in Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and the guy that picks me up at the airport said, ‘That was so nice of your brother to give you this part.’ I recently just saw Jimmy and I said, Jimmy, people think I am your sister all the time, which is a compliment. I love Jimmy. He is a great guy.”
New in Town is in movie theaters nationwide January 30th. Visit http://www.newintownmovie.com/ for more information.