Interview with Carolyn Bridget Kennedy

Today on What On What’s Good with Jovin Tardif, I am here with Carolyn Bridget Kennedy.  Caroline is an award-winning SAG-AFTRA actor and filmmaker living in Los Angeles.  Kennedy’s projects have garnered over 60 awards for her work from film festivals around the globe.  Projects include The Bridget Linden Show, Danger Pay, Super Speed Dates, and more.  She does improv and performs stand-up at comedy clubs in LA.  Let’s follow her journey as we discuss topics including switching careers, stand-up comedy, voiceover work, her role in ‘Father Knows Best’, and much more.

Carolyn Bridget Kennedy
Carolyn Bridget Kennedy Award-Winning SAG-AFTRA actor and filmmaker living in Los Angeles Projects include: The Bridget Linden Show, Danger Pay, Super Speed Dates, Father Knows Best and more. Photo Credit Dana Patrick

1. Explain the transition and decision to switch from paralegal to the entertainment industry.

I really enjoyed being creative in my teen years. In junior high, I was interested in both band and theater. I was cast as a lead in one of the school plays and really enjoyed the experience. My high school had a prominent music program. I narrowed down my interests and focused on band and jazz band. I almost went to University to study music. But, at the last moment, I chose a more “practical” occupation – a paralegal.

I worked as a paralegal for over 20 years. In 2011, a friend casually told me that he thought I was funny and could see me on television. He put me in touch with a local actor who connected me with an acting workshop. A little later, I was cast in a background role in a television series. Then another, which I really enjoyed. I had reawakened my creative side. I was falling in love with acting and wanted to do more. But there wasn’t a large film industry in the city where I lived. I knew that if I wanted an opportunity to show what I could do, I needed to write something for myself.

I wrote my first web series, “The Bridget Linden Show,” and filmed it entirely by myself. It was baptism by fire, learning as I went, but I enjoyed every minute of creating “The Bridget Linden Show”. This led to another scripted web series with multiple casts and then a short film.

2. How would you describe your sense of humor?

My sense of humor is fractured like most people, I would think.

I love awkward comedy—especially where you see characters in predicaments that are embarrassing or uncomfortable. In addition, I also like intelligently written comedy. I enjoy comedies where the characters are not always the nicest people such as “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Seinfeld”.

I love the ridiculousness and intelligence of sketch comedy. I’ve been a fan of Saturday Night Live since my early teens.

3. Describe some of your favourite TV comedy shows/films and comedy influences.

Some of my favorite comedy TV series are “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “Seinfeld”.

Some of my favorite female comedic influences are those who can act and also write and produce their own material.  They include Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Schumer. My favorite comedy films are “Knocked Up,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Superbad” (no, I am not stalking Judd Apatow – unless that could work somehow).

4. With over 1 million views, can we discuss your web series “The Bridget Linden Show”? How did you come up with the concept?

After I realized I needed to write for myself, I was on a trip over Christmas. I used the time to think about what I could do on my own with little training or experience. Over the next six weeks, I created the concept and character; I built a website “The Bridget Linden Show“, created a YouTube channel, and wrote what I wanted to film. In February of 2012, I released the first of an eventual 125 episodes of my one-woman web series “The Bridget Linden Show”.  I wrote, directed, produced, and starred in it. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. I just decided to do it. The series took off, and to date, has over one million views on YouTube.

5. What’s it like doing stand-up or improv?

I love performing stand up and improv. Stand up is exhilarating because you are up there alone, engaging in a conversation with the audience. It’s a chance to share real and personal things (exaggerated, in a comedic way, of course), and to laugh at yourself in a way that encourages others to laugh with you. But, as I said, you’re up there alone.

In improv, you have no plan of what you are going to say or do. You and your improv partner(s) build a scene together, and you never know what magic will happen. In stand up, you mostly write what you want to say beforehand. In improv, the beauty comes from the unknown. I love the genuine play in improv.

Stand up and improv help tremendously with dramatic acting. They increase your ability to really be in the moment and be aware of your behavior, your scene partner’s behavior, and the audience. It gets you out of your head and into paying attention to the world around you.

6. Can you tell us a little about life at Second City Hollywood?

The Second City Hollywood Conservatory Program teaches you how to turn your improv, through re-improvisation, into written sketches. There is a large focus on parody, satire, political commentary, and creating scenes with a human connection. I have also completed the improv program at Upright Citizens Brigade (Amy Poehler’s improv school). There, the focus is on long-form improv. I also am at The Groundlings, where I have completed Advanced Improv and have been invited to Writing Lab in their Performance Track. I love The Groundlings character-based improv and feel this really resonates with me. This style of improvisation has dramatically improved my ability to create sketches, write character-based pieces with strong points of view, and develop characters in my comedic and dramatic acting, creating different behavior, physicality, and voice.

7. Any advice for new comedians?

My advice for new comedians is to learn as much as possible from as many different styles of comedy while you just go for it! Like riding a bicycle, the best way to learn is to do it.

I would recommend starting by working with a stand-up comic or taking an intro class at a reputable stand-up comedy club to learn about joke structure. For instance, it’s important to learn that “funny stories” that make your friends and family laugh at parties, don’t necessarily work well when it comes to stand-up. You can still tell stories in stand-up, but they have to have a rhythm and structure to carry the audience along with you.

8. What is the advantage of taking a class?

An advantage of taking a class is that they usually end with a student showcase performance, which would technically be your first time on stage. It is comforting to know you are all doing stand-up for the first time and are all in the same boat together. Ultimately, the only thing that will help you learn how to do stand-up is to actually do stand-up. Get up as much as you can at open mics to work your existing and new material.

Don’t censor your art or “tone it down” or try to write things that you think will be “what people will like.” You will never please everyone, and in the end, your work will be boring and bland. If it makes you laugh, try it out. If it falls flat, move on. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you in your creative endeavors. And believe in yourself.

There is a tremendous amount of rejection in the entertainment industry. Realize this and accept it. Celebrate each victory and success, no matter how small. Have faith that whatever you are doing is moving you forward, even if there is no objective indication that it is. Don’t give yourself a time limit. This is a lifelong commitment with no finish line in sight.

9. What’s it like doing voice-over?

I love doing voice-over work. It is in some ways more challenging than on-camera acting because you only have your voice and cannot rely on behavior and physicality to add to your performance.

Although voice work doesn’t require memorization, I still work with the script ahead of time to the same extent as for on-camera roles – a lot. It helps me to explore and discover interesting moments in the text to give me the opportunity to make specific choices that other people might not make. Making specific choices can give you an edge in all auditions. You must discover and play the character, as you would if you were performing on stage or camera.

10. How do you normally prepare?

I like to think of a script, in both voice-acting and regular acting, like music. The silences and pauses you create, similar to rests in between musical notes, can draw the listener in if done correctly. It is important to sound like a living breathing human being, and not like a “radio announcer” or a salesperson. Speak as though you are sharing this information with one specific person you know who would benefit the most from this message. I also bring a pencil into the studio to record a director’s notes onto the script.

Speaking of directors, I recall one instance when I had to read through a list of 25, 10-digit phone numbers for a commercial. The director in the booth said, “And that was a perfect run of 25 phone numbers. I’ve never seen it done before.” I admitted that, when I got to the 20th, I was thinking, “Maybe I’ll make it.” He said he started rooting for me in the booth at the 15th. My trick, I used my finger to follow over every digit and staying completely focused on whatever my finger was pointing at.

11. Do you have any tips?

I believe it is important to train as an actor so you can understand how to analyze even a simple scene like a commercial. You need to know how to look for information and important keywords in the text, so you know how to deliver something in an interesting manner. But, training specific to voice acting is also essential. There are technical things and general tips that you will learn that are invaluable. Without them, you might not project the necessary professionalism people are looking for – someone who gets things done and is a problem-solver.

12. Can we discuss the process of creating “Danger Pay,” “Super Speed Dates”?

I wrote “Danger Pay,” a comedy web series about a paralegal who works for a bizarre lawyer, in 2015. Pro writing tips say don’t write with a budget in mind; leave that for the production department to figure out. But, since I was the writer and producer with a budget as close to zero as possible, I took the budget into account from the start. It forced me to get creative. We filmed “Danger Pay” in nearly every room of our house. This saved travel time and money as each setup were only a few feet away.

Before we shot a second cluster of “Danger Pay” episodes, I wrote “Super Speed Dates” about a group of women who attend a speed dating event attended by the mild-mannered alter-egos of superheroes. We decided to shoot both projects one after another in the house as well. But unlike “Danger Pay,” we spent some time and money set decorating the basement to double as a lounge/bar. When we finished filming, we used some of the “Super Speed Dates” setup for a coffee shop scene in Episode 3 of “Danger Pay.”

13. What was it like developing these series?

In the beginning, nobody is going to give you money to go and make something. It’s important to take the initiative to say, “Okay, so what can I make with nothing”. I learned this from listening to independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. It’s a huge undertaking the first time out.

The people who make a box office success, or make a box office failure, all put in a tremendous amount of work from start to finish. By completing nearly any project, you will gain a reputation as a “doer” and not merely a “dreamer.” You will also attract a larger group of people into your orbit, which is essential for your growth.

14. Any fun off-camera stories?

We had the giggles during the filming of both projects, where cast and crew held their breath waiting for “cut” in order to release pent up laughter. In “Danger Pay,” while filming “Woodrow” getting a massage, our DP struggled to hold the camera steady through his laughter. It was something about shooting up at “Woodrow’s” face while it was squished into the face cradle of the massage table that tickled his funny bone. Then, there is the concluding scene of Season 1 with “Woodrow’s” secret dance in front of his mirror. Brent McIntosh, the actor who played “Woodrow,” brilliantly surprised the crew with his ad-libbed performance that almost couldn’t be shot to completion because the crew couldn’t hold in their giggles.

For “Super Speed Dates,” we had a total of twenty-eight people in the basement filming – eleven actors, three background actors, and fourteen crew members. We shot the entire film in one day – everyone laughed the whole way through. But, twenty-eight people crowded into a basement with the AC turned off so the sound recording would be clean as possible, meant things got rather warm for everyone rather quickly. And, speaking of sound recording, a family of sparrows had nested right outside the door. The babies had hatched recently, and they were loudly demanding their parents’ attention. We didn’t have the heart to “relocate” them. No animals were harmed during the filming of “Super Speed Dates” (but, I think our sound guy came close).

15. In early 2020, you played the lead role of “Margaret,” the mother in the famed series “Father Knows Best.” What can we learn about this project?

Periodically through the year, SAG-AFTRA in LA puts on special live Radio Play performances they call “The Golden Age of Radio,” where they re-create the broadcasts of original radio scripts, complete with sound effects and original advertisements. I played the role of “Margaret,” the mother in the Radio Play (and later a television series) “Father Knows Best” in an episode called “Aunt Martha and the Ballgame.”

We did two performances on February 13, 2020 of “Father Knows Best”, in front of a live audience in the 200+ seat Autry Theatre in Griffith Park. It was set up just like you would imagine an original Radio Play was performed – individual mics and stands for the performers, an announcer (who also recreated the scripted advertisements from the day), and a sound effects department – all set up across the stage facing the audience. I had a great time doing “Father Knows Best”. Even though it was meant only as an audio experience, the audience’s live reactions to the performance of “Father Knows Best” become part of the play as well.

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Jovin Tardif
Jovin Tardif is a freelance writer, storyteller, interviewer, reviewer and conversation starter.