Tanna Frederick, the redheaded superhero bombshell of Los Angeles, is back.
I had the pleasure of talking to her for the first time last June and was struck by her drive, her big heart, and her outstanding sense of humor. Now, almost exactly a year later, I find that despite all the increased demands on her time — professionally and philanthropically — and the increased recognition of all her good works, none of these things has changed.
If anything, the actress/director/philanthropist/surfer/'40s-era enthusiast/2012 CineCause award winner is just as hilarious and down-to-earth as ever, and so excited to talk about her current and future endeavors, as well as her obsession with to-do lists and the impact her rural childhood has had on her Hollywood worldview.
What projects are you most excited about right now?
Probably what I'm most excited about is Project Cornlight, which is really stimulating the Iowa creative industry, one that gave me so much while I was growing up. You know, this is a little low-budget film, and we had 300 people from across the state show up to audition. And everything we use is local — local talent, local crew, local writers, local food, local sets — everything. And it's just breathtaking to see how warmly it's been received.
We're also doing a thing in [California] where we're sending [a group of] inner city kids to camp this summer. These are kids from Anaheim which is about 30 minutes from the beach, but they've never been outside a city. We take kids like this on field trips to the mountains or the beach and they literally ask questions like, "Are we still in America?" You know, they've never been anywhere like this — they see a stink bug and they think it's mechanical. It's incredible to think how much we take our own back yards... our trees and rivers and streams and bugs, just our ecosystems, for granted. And it's so cool to be able to open up these kids' horizons to what's just a short distance away.
I've also got a new film coming out this summer with Henry Jaglom called Just 45 Minutes from Broadway, and I guess I'm so excited about this because it's such different work from what I usually do and it feels great to branch out. The characters also feel more real and fleshed out to me, probably because we ran it on stage for a year before making it into a film. And I just loved working with Judd Nelson; he was so great.
So, your to-do lists must be a few miles long. How on earth do you have the energy to do everything?
Oh my gosh, I don't know if I've ever talked about this before, but I am obsessive about to-do lists. I literally keep a rotating stock of four notebooks and across all four of them I keep my to-do lists. The same list might be in two different notebooks, but it's because I know if I forgot something on the first list, I'll remember it on the second. I find lists wadded up and scattered around — it's crazy. It's probably really unhealthy or something, but I guess it's good too because it keeps me on track and knowing what I need to do next.
I'm naturally just a really energetic person (and I drink WAY too much Diet Coke for my own good), but what I'm trying to work on right now is learning how to relax ... I really want to learn how to be able to take a vacation or two a year and actually enjoy them instead of thinking about all the productive things I could be doing instead.
You seem pretty gifted at taking things you love and making "jobs" of them; where does that inspiration come from?
The thing is, growing up, conservation and activism were never really something weird. It was sort of expected that you'd go to a rally, that you'd want to read Greenpeace's publication, that you'd try to protect the environment. Growing up on a farm, the environment is all you have; we didn't come from some corporate line of farmers — we used everything. If something didn't get eaten, it was composted or fed to the animals. We had to take real care with what we put into the ground, because you have to put good things into the earth to get a good yield. You have to take care of your animals so you can get good meat, good eggs. Even if the chickens you cared for since they hatched became — not to be gruesome — fried chicken at some point, it was just a very holistic way of growing up. That's a way of thinking that gets lost now, I think, but that needs to be protected.
So I think the thing really is that nothing I do really feels like work, because I love what I'm doing so much. It just feels so great to inspire people and to work with them and to make a difference.
I have to ask — I saw another interview where you talked about your passion for digging up underground music. Got any recommendations?
Raya Yarbrough (amazing!), Slightly Stoopid, The Gourds, and look up users’ soundtracks for individual episodes of The Sopranos on iTunes — I don't know who picked the music for that show, but they were brilliant.