Interview with actress Alana Crow
Alana Crow intended to pursue her love of ballet but her dreams of going professional were crushed when she was told she wasn’t tall enough for the bigger productions. Instead, the San Francisco-born and raised thesp discovered a new passion — acting, and decided to pursue it as career, enrolling in the University of South California’s theater school. With major credits to her name including well-regarded turns on “General Hospital” and “The Young and the Restless”, it’s safe to say the decision to pursue acting was a wise one.
Crow is now involved in a new #metoo documentary, “Rocking the Couch”, which has various actors — including Crow — telling their shocking stories about Hollywood’s infamous casting couch.
Tell us about your beginnings. Where was home? And was acting always your goal?
I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. When I was 12, I started taking ballet classes at San Francisco Ballet and dance became a true passion. As a student, I had the privilege of performing in the company’s production of Nutcracker yearly including two years in role of Clara. But, when it came to joining the company when I was 17 I just wasn’t tall enough to be accepted at that time.
In high school, I also was auditioning for school drama productions. But, it wasn’t until my senior year that a wonderful acting instructor, John Pfaff, came into my life. Where my passion for acting started to blossom. During that time I switched from my plans of being a dance major to drama instead. I got into the University of Southern California’s theatre school.
Have supportive parents?
My parents weren’t that thrilled with my choice. They wanted me to go into their travel agency business and opted not to help me with my tuition. I can only guess that it was to force me to change my mind on which path to take. I applied for scholarships at USC, which I was lucky to obtain two, half from USC and half from the sate of California. Then during my 2nd year the state of California pulled their scholarship, after a new proposition on the ballot had passed. Sadly, USC could not cover the difference, so I transferred to Cal State Northridge to continue my education.
Do you remember the first time you got paid for acting?
Back when I was studying ballet a ballet school friend got me into doing film and TV extra work to pay for ballet shoes and outfits.
So, during a summer break I decided to do some background work to make some extra money. It gave me an opportunity to to be on the set and observe set operations. Then one day I was chosen to be an additional passenger in a “party car” for the TV show “Emergency”. It was a huge stunt sequence, in which they had to extract me from the car after we teens crashed with an EMT vehicle. I was bumped up to an acting role and was able to obtain my SAG card.
What was your big break, in your opinion?
Actually, I feel I had two “breaks” that helped progress my career way back then.
The first in 1979, was after the “Emergency” San Francisco episode wrapped. They were having a wrap party, of which I was invited. However, earlier on the last day of shooting Randy Mantooth’s driver JJ came up to me and told me one of the producers was looking for a babysitter for his daughter during the wrap party. He highly suggested I take the job over going to the party, so I said yes. And what a brilliant decision that was.
I spent the evening babysitting a 7 year old in her parent’s hotel suite. I entertained her with my standard services, that included bedtime stories using many voices and piggyback rides around the suite and off to bed. I became Angela’s “best babysitter in the world”. She would not stop talking about me and wanted her dad to move me to LA to be her only babysitter. That did not happen, however he did give me his card when they were shooting the next episode in SF and said to call when I moved back to LA. So, I did and ended up being called in for several shows he worked on directly through casting, including Knight Rider.
The second break came that same year and was when a high school friend of my mom’s, Susan Brown who played Dr. Gail Adams Baldwin on General Hospital, invited me to lunch over at Sunset Gower. After lunch while she was walking me out, we ran into one of the producers of the show of whom Susan introduced me too. He in turn asked if I could hang around longer as he wanted me to meet their head of casting, who at the time was Lucy Grimes. I said sure, of course! Lucy had me read for a role of a candy striper and they hired me on the spot to start on the show 2 weeks later! Lucy eventually moved over to casting Young and the Restless, where she called me in several times for a couple of small roles. And that helped me secure the agents I needed to move forward.
What did you learn working on soaps? How does working on a soap differ from working on a film?
I started learning more on the set of the soaps than I did at University. So, I left Northridge as there were a lot of scheduling conflicts with school and acting and my night time job at the Valley Hilton where I ended up moving from cashier to DJ in their “disco”.
Soaps are way different from working on film where you might shoot a page or two of a script in a day if you are lucky. And soaps also differ from other TV shows as well as you can spend a about 8–10 days shooting one script for episodic TV. Where on a soap you have the day to shoot one full script. Though I have heard the schedules have become even more intense with the few remains soaps still on air.
Back when I worked, I usually came in around 6 AM for script changes, rehearsal and blocking. Then after the break I would head to hair and makeup and wait to be called to set for my scene(s). On soaps rarely do they do a second take unless there is a serious technical issue. They just keep going.
On TV episodic shows they will do retakes a few times to get it right, but that has changed a bit they too try to keep that to a minimum for production cost sake. Film’s well they have the luxury to take there time to make things perfect, so multiple takes are more the norm.
Soaps have the most rigorous of schedules especially for the lead characters who work back to back days. For after the fulls day shooting (taping when I was there) they get their script for the next day of which they have to work on after a 12+ hour day! But, soap work is the most steady work as they tape year round, since they air 5 times a week. So if your character reoccurs it is steady work with a steady paycheck, which is not the norm. There are still quite a few actors that still grace the screen on several of the soaps that I worked with back in the late 70’s and early 80’s!
How did you get involved in Rocking the Couch?
I got involved in Rocking the Couch, after Andrea Evan’s husband discovered the trial against Wallace Kaye that I had testified in and they started searched for people involved in the case. Andrea contacted my Portland OR agent, Dennis Troutman of Option Talent, to ask if I would be willing to talk to her about being a part of her documentary. I thought about it for a couple of days, not sure I wanted to dredge up the past of which I had brushed under the rug.
In the end being empowered by others step up due to the #MeToo movement, I decided to talk with Andrea. After our conversation I agreed to go in and be interviewed about the Wallace Kaye case.
Was it a couple of days of being interviewed about your story?
As of a matter of fact the director and producers of “Rocking the Coach” were very organized, efficient and empathetic so I felt comfortable right away about proceeding with the interview. It was in the initial talk with the director, Mihn Collins, that I opened up that Wallace Kaye was not the first assault that had happened to me. I told them about what had happened with the stage manager on the set of General Hospital years before. And they asked if they could include that in my interview. I remember swallowing hard and deciding that I might as well get it all out in the open, in hopes that would help bring about change in the business. As people in power need to be held accountable for despicable behavior, of when it comes to sexual assaults are actual crimes against another human being and need justice.
How was it working with Minh Collins?
It was wonderful working with Minh Collins. He is a kind and compassionate person, who brings that to his directing. If it were not for his ability to put me at ease, it is highly unlikely that I would have opened up in the interview as I did. He explained everything that they were planning to do and went about it so effortlessly, that my interview was over in a flash.
It is just too bad that it took this subject matter to allow me the pleasure of working with such an empathetic and thoughtful director. An actor’s dream director.
What (why?) do you think the #metoo movement has only started to emerge in the past couple of years?
It is hard to believe that the Wallace Kaye case did not get the unions and others moving back in the early 90’s and it is only now that the #MeToo movement has come to fruition that change is slowly starting to happen. I really think the big shots of Hollywood like many people in power, especially men, think they can do what ever they want and if someone rocks the boat they can just pay them off and they will disappear. Also, the seedy behavior has always been passed off as “boys will be boys” and that’s how Hollywood rolls. Sadly, as Pritesh Shah confirms in the documentary there are still women out there that are still willing to demean themselves by doing sexual favors for those in power in hopes of getting a role in a film.
I know this has happened and will continue to happen in the entertainment business as in other businesses as well. There are those out there that are simply seduced by power. But, this behavior does not help those of us that were true victims and weakens the cause. We have to fight for respect and common decency.
Do you see change in the industry because of it?
Yes, slowly there are some signs that change is on the horizon. Each day as men in power on the production side are leaving they are being replaced by equally qualified, if not better qualified, women. And the fact that there is a change in the numbers of woman who are required to be on Board of Directors surely is a step in the right direction.
There seem to even be changes in our country’s government as a part of the movement. More women are stepping up and running for office and winning then ever before. The old status quo is hopefully breaking down for good across the board.
Women still have to remain vigilant and keep a nose to the grindstone, to be sure that the abusive men like Harvey Weinstein are held accountable for their actions.
Having now seen the entire documentary, are you shocked and surprised by some of the other stories told?
Nothing surprises me anymore.
Alana, what can we see you in next?
After completing my interview for the documentary, I started doing some soul searching for what I wanted to do with the remainder of my life. So, I have moved away from LA to rethink things.
There is still a stigma in the industry regarding the of casting women between 35 and 90, even many stars fall into this void. and therefore there just don’t seem to be that many roles around. So, there was no real reason for me to put up with LA and it’s traffic.
I am however, in the process of brainstorming the idea of coming up with my own work, since that seems to be the way many younger actors are getting there start these days. So, that might have to be my path too. But, if an offer comes along through one of my contacts, I will not turn a role away if seems like a good fit. Only the future holds an answer to your question.
I do have a small role in an indie film “American Brothers” that was actual shot several years ago, but only just been released. I haven’t even seen it yet, so not sure if I made the cut or ended up on the editing room floor as they say.