Interview with Kelly Mullis

Kelly Mullis: Actress, Writer, Filmmaker,
Photographer and Painter

Kelly Mullis was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. She grew up in Germany, where she lived for eight years, and lived in various states in the USA before settling down in Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress.

TSM: Kelly, it is so wonderful to have the opportunity to showcase your talent in TSM. Thanks so much for doing an interview with the magazine.

KM: Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of this wonderful magazine.

TSM: What inspired you to become an actress?  

KM: I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was very young. I was always a ham and loved making people laugh. I was always putting on skits with my younger sister. We’d sing songs all the time. I spent a lot of my childhood growing up in Germany. There wasn’t much to do but play make believe. Back in America watching TV shows like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and Little House on the Prairie had a big impact on me. I was so jealous that they got to be on TV acting. I thought, “I can do that!”

TSM: How did you get started in acting? And can you recall the very first role you ever had? 

KM: I started off in acting being an extra on Miami Vice in Miami. I went to Miami to start off in the business, thinking it would be easier there. But it became clear that I needed to be in Los Angeles, so I moved here when I was nineteen years old with my boyfriend who was an actor in Miami. First role I ever had was in a movie called Camper Stamper which was later changed to Moon Stalker. It was a horror film. I played a sixteen year old rebel who drank beer and smoked cigarettes. I ended up getting hit by a truck by the killer that was going around killing everyone! Fun role!

TSM: What would you say is the most memorable role you’ve played?

KM: I was on a show called Johnny Bago which starred Peter Dobson. I was directed by the great Frank Marshall. I played a sixteen year old runaway who gets into a winnebago that is owned by a guy who is on the run from the Mob, that’s Peter Dobson’s character. I had a lot of great scenes in that show. I loved working with Peter and Frank. The production was just so professional and I just loved the whole experience. I even got to climb up a flag pole and pose while Peter’s characters took photos of me. We were supposed to be at the Four Corners. So much fun! I also played a killer named Nadine on Diagnosis Murder who murders her boss. It was a big role and I got to do a lot of wonderful scenes with Scott Baio and Dick Van Dyke. I also starred as Marilyn Monroe in a play called Marilyn – My Secret at the Macha Theatre in West Hollywood. We got LA Weekly’s “PICK OF THE WEEK” (which is nearly impossible to get!). It was a dream come true to play Marilyn on the stage! That was definitely a highlight of my roles and career so far.

TSM: Tell us more about your Marilyn show and how that came to be. 

KM: One of my Facebook friends private messaged me about this casting she saw for a Marilyn Monroe character in this play called Marilyn – My Secret at the Macha Theatre. I submitted my headshot, but never heard anything from the director. From the casting notice, I knew the time and date, as well as, what the sides were for the audition. (Sides are the part of the script with the character’s dialogue). So I got myself into my Marilyn Monroe outfit and crashed the audition! There were about eight girls there waiting in the lobby of the theatre. I didn’t worry about any of them. I had all of this confidence when I walked into the theatre to audition. The director’s name was Odalys Nanin. She was the owner of the Macha Theatre. I got on stage and told her my name in my Marilyn voice. She looked at her list and asked me, “Did we speak on the phone?” I answered, “No, would you me to start with Happy Birthday Mr. President?” She laughed and said “Sure!” So on I went and gave the best audition as Marilyn Monroe ever. She just kept laughing. I asked in my Marilyn Voice (which is pretty spot on), “Why do you keep laughing at me?” She said, “Because you’re so good!” I went on to tell her that I knew all of Marilyn’s songs from her films. The audition ended and I floated out of there.  A few days later I got the call from her that I had the role. I saw so happy!  I ended up performing my role in that play forty times. She kept extending and extending. I finally got burnt out and she had to recast me. I was kind of sad about that, but I was exhausted. Theatre is a lot of work! But I loved every minute of it! 

In 2018, I wrote, produced and starred in a one woman show about Marilyn Monroe called Marilyn Monroe: The Last Interview. I performed it during the 2018 Hollywood Fridge Festival, which is an annual Theatre Festival in June where there are literally 400 shows happening in one month. Marilyn Monroe: The Last Interview was a big hit and kept getting extended to be performed at various theaters in LA. I ended up doing that show fifteen times. That was another dream come true.  

TSM: Who are some performers you admire and look up to?

KM: Of course, I am a huge Marilyn Monroe fan. She was very influential in the beginning of my career. I would always try to act like her on auditions and I used to book a lot of parts like that. I love Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchette, Margo Robbie, Michelle Pfeiffer and I really love the work of Maria Bello. The male actors I love are Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood and Johnny Depp. Most recently, I have become a big fan of Christina Hendricks in a show on Netflix called The Good Girls.  You can see my credits and demo reel at this website: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0612452/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

TSM: What inspired you to get into photography? And how long have you been working as a photographer?

KM: My ex-husband got me into photography back around 1995. He would shoot my headshots and I thought “I can do that!” I bought a used Nikon Film Camera and started shooting actor’s headshots. When the digital cameras came out, I wasn’t limited to only thirty six exposures per role, I could shoot unlimited photos. I’ve shot live bands, CD covers, models, and many actor’s headshots. I really started in 1998. You can check out my photography at: http://kellymullisphotography.com

TSM: What is your process for a photo shoot?

KM: Well, for actors, I usually send an email with clothing suggestions for roles that I think they might be cast in. Like for men, a detective, doctor, lawyer, bad guy. For women, I have them bring outfits that suggest a mom character, lawyer, politician, friendly neighbor, etc. If I’m shooting a band for a CD cover or for promotional shots, I try to come up with a concept for them and a location that matches the image they are portraying. I love shooting out at Venice Beach and I once did an amazing shoot of a band by the LA River with concrete full of graffiti. The photos looked amazing. One of my dreams is to do celebrity photography: portrait and concept photography like Annie Leibovitz.

TSM: I know you’re also a self-taught artist, influenced by your mother’s artistic ability. You began drawing at a young age and did your first oil painting at sixteen. What are your favorite subjects to paint?

KM: Yes, that’s right Jessica. My mom would have my sister and I draw pictures of fruit, squares, or triangles and shade them in these beautiful ways. We’d draw people’s faces from magazines. I did a few animal paintings when I was younger like lions or horses. In 1991, I painted my first Masterpiece copy which was a Renoir reproduction of a young Ballerina. I had this Renoir calendar and I found a couple of painting that inspired me and that’s how I really got into painting. I always use oil because I think it’s a lot easier to blend and I love the old, classic look of oil. My favorite subjects to paint are sad women. If there is a man in the painting, he is always emotionally detached or looking away. I’m also fond of female nudes. I think the female body is just so beautiful and it’s so fun to paint the female form. Those are just my favorite things to paint. I love doing Masterpiece copies. I have done quite a few originals. I’m very grateful to my mother for her influence and sharing her artistic ability with me. 

TSM: In ’91 you began painting reproductions of many master painters as a learning tool. So, who are some of your favorite painters?

KM: Renoir is my very favorite. I’m a fan of Picasso’s work from the middle of his painting career. I like Edward Hopper, Tamara De Lempicka, John Singer Sargeant, Manet, Klimpt, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” I like Van Gogh very much. I love to duplicate their brush strokes and figure out how they got the colors they did and how they captured the essence of their subjects. I love paintings that make you feel something when you view them.

TSM: How has the pandemic affected your work and creativity? 

KM: This pandemic as allowed me a lot of time for creativity. I’ve been writing, painting, and working on my inner self. I was able to shoot a short film during the Pandemic. I wrote, directed, edited and starred in it with my boyfriend of twenty years, Wayne. Actually, I played Marilyn Monroe and also I played a character that’s close to the real life me. That was fun. It’s crazy to think that in the blink of an eye, the entire world shut down. It was a scary, surreal time, but of course we are on our way out of it now. Thank goodness! My heart goes out to all of those who lost family members or businesses. 

TSM: What do you do when you experience a creative block? 

KM:  When I have a creative block, I like to go for a walk in nature. I listen to inspirational podcast, motivational speaker videos, Ted Talks and I get encouraged to forge ahead. I’ve also been meditating these days, but the real way to get bust through a creative block is just to sit down and do it! Make yourself sit down and paint, or make yourself sit at the computer and write. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Even with the pandemic, I’ve found myself very busy and running out of time. Time management is critical. 

TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?

KM: Oh my goodness, that’s such a huge question Jessica! If I could, I’d help with the poverty and Homelessness in America. This country doesn’t do enough to help his own poor people. It’s just heartbreaking to me. I’d also do something about gun control and mental health reform in this country! I’d get rid of these terrible, violent video games that are brainwashing our children. I’d encourage people to be more loving and kind to one another. Things have gotten so violent and dark in America and in the World! I’d create safe havens for women and children of abuse in America, India, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Haiti, Thailand, and wherever else they need them! Woman need to be educated that they don’t have to be subjected to abuse by men, that there is help available and they can be strong. They are just as smart and capable as men are. They need to realize their power and grow more confident inside themselves and get the life they deserve. I’d also love to create a matching service for Army Vets from Afghanistan and Rescue Dogs when the soldiers return from War. I think it would help with their depression and PTSD. Also, I’d love to help spread the message of “Black Lives Matter”. Police brutality against African American’s must come to an end.  
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?

KM: “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “Man’s rejection is God’s Protection,” “One door closes and another one opens.” “Just do it!” 

TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can our readers find out more about you and your work?

KM: I would just like to say that life is short and if you have any dreams that you’ve wanted to go for in your life, that the time is NOW! Don’t wait a day longer! Life is fragile and we must make the most of every moment we have here on Earth. Also, it’s very important to tell those who you love that you love them! They must know and don’t assume that they do. If you have a family member that has hurt you and you’re mad at them, forgive them and tell them you love them. In the big picture….LOVE is all that matters! Not success or material items! It’s the love you showed the World and the people of the World that matters most! Believe in God, have faith and stay positive! 

You can see some of my paintings on my Instagram @kellymullisart. Check out 
my photography at http://kellymullisphotography.com 

I am on a constant journey of self improvement and growing as an artist, photographer and an actress! I feel the best is yet to come. 

TSM: Thanks again for doing this interview and wish you all the best with everything in the future.

KM: Thank you so much Jessica! Best wishes and stay safe. 

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