Carolyn Hennesy On Dream Roles, Comedy Versus Drama And “Gilmore Girls”

With roles on General Hospital, Revenge and True Blood, it’s safe to say that actress Carolyn Hennesy is a seasoned TV veteran. At age 54, Hennesy has enjoyed a diverse career in television, and is also an author of children’s books. Most recently, Hennesy plays Toni on the popular Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which has been generating buzz since hitting Netflix in late November. Real Style caught up with the talented star about comedy versus drama, bringing her characters to life on the screen and her side career as a writer. Here’s what she had to share with us about Gilmore Girls, acting and far more. 

Real Style: What originally inspired you to pursue acting?

Carolyn: When I was four years old, I walked onto my first sound stage to visit my father who was the production designer for Fantastic Voyage. Ever since then, I have always wanted to be an actress. Sound and theatre stages have become a second home to me. There’s a certain magic there that I am unable to feel anywhere else!

Real Style: You’ve acted in so many popular shows, like General Hospital, True Blood and Cougar Town. Do you have a favourite character that you’ve played?

Carolyn: So many of my characters are high up on my fav-o-meter. My role as Penelope Ellis in Revenge was so deliciously evil. Barb on Cougar Town was so much fun, especially with those jaw-dropping one-liners! My role as Rhoda Chesterfield on Jessie had these crazy outfits and an entertaining master plan of revenge on the Ross children (for simply existing.) If I have to pick just one favourite character, it would have to be Diane Miller on General Hospital. Her arc over the past eleven years is hard to beat. She is witty, smart and stylish and can be warm-hearted at times and brutal before the bench. She’s a smashing combo of all that’s just good.

Real Style: You’re known for your comedic timing and were hilarious as Barb on Cougar Town. But you’ve also held down a number of dramatic roles. Do you have a preference between acting in a comedy or a drama?

Carolyn: While I love drama (because it’s always fun to make people cry for money), it’s oh-so-much better to make them laugh. Laughter is like oxygen to me, especially when it’s not my own.

Real Style: You’re also an accomplished children’s author. What drew you to begin writing your Pandora series?

Carolyn: Pandora started as series of short stories about misunderstood women in fiction. The tale of my 13-year-old Pandora (Pandy) just grew and grew and the story began to take on a life of its own. It really took off when I realized that writing an entire series of novels would not only be very cathartic for me personally, but would also help enable me to reach a massive number of tweens with a message of taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions. The story is told in a fast-paced, action packed and hilarious way!

Real Style: Tell us about your character in the Gilmore Girls revival.

Carolyn: Toni is the president of the local chapter of the D.A.R. She has impeccable style, razor-sharp timing, and delights in being rather catty. She’s Emily’s “frenemy” and throughout the series, Emily decides to “think a little differently” much to Toni’s very vocal dismay.

Real Style: What was it like to work with co-star Kelly Bishop?

Carolyn: [She] could not have been more welcoming and generous. She’s just one of those actresses: thoroughly professional, no-nonsense, sharp as a tack, yet funny, and a joy to watch…completely in her element. She could not have been nicer.

Real Style: What do you do to unwind after a long day on set?

Carolyn: I either hang upside down on my trapeze or I knit. Seriously. I catch up on my current television binge, whatever that might happen to be, and I knit. I’m currently working on several blankets for Helen’s Room at Good Samaritan Hospital and the stitches just work themselves out much faster if my mind is concentrating on something else.

Real Style: Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

Carolyn: I am working on a new project called Business Doing Pleasure which will air on TBS. I am still on General Hospital…as I say, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Also, I am shooting a series with the beautiful and very funny Jill Whelan and Leah Stanko Mangum, which will be directed by Ted Lange. It’s a Love Boat reunion!

Real Style: Do you have a dream role that you would love to play?

Carolyn: I would love to do something incredibly vulnerable, like Elizabeth Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street. Frail, yet with an iron will. Seemingly weak, but with great reserves of strength when needed.

Real Style: With the holidays coming up, what are some of your dream travel destinations?

Carolyn: I’m desperate to go back to Thailand and Lek Chailert’s Elephant Nature Park. I’d also love to see the caves of Hang Son Doong in Vietnam, and the lightning strikes on the Catatumbo River in Venezuela.

Photo: Suzette Troche-Stapp 

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