Louise Caire Clark
|In addition to her role as Maggie Scott on Five Mile
Creek, Louise Caire Clark has starred in many movies and television
shows as well as over 300 commercials, including the 1993 series of
"Harry and Louise" commercials. More recently, she added the title
Producer to her resume with the movie
This interview was conducted by CJ on July 30, 2002.
Interviewer: How did you get into acting?
Clark: My mother was an actress and model. We moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans when I was six. She was a contract player at 20th Century Fox and we always had actors around - movie stars and television stars. George Cukor was a friend and sort of my mentor. I met him when I was twelve. He thought I should be an actress, and started me on speech and voice lessons. But, because of the Hollywood actors I'd met, I had this attitude towards acting as a profession. It was not something I wanted to do because. . . as a child, I had rarely met an actor who was happy (with the exception of Carol Burnett and Lee Remick - who were wonderful.) Most actors seemed to be unhappy when they were working, and unhappy when they weren't working. Remember, this was the fifties, and serious actors who worked in the Hollywood studio system had a lot of difficulties. I met them in our home, and I heard them at cocktail parties, talking about how difficult everything was and I thought, "That is the last thing I ever want to do."
I also started painting in oils when I was about twelve and loved it. Really loved it. I was sculpting in marble and doing ceramics in high school and wanted to make it my career. But we moved to New York when I was fifteen and everything changed. I began to go to plays and the theatre, and some of the theatre I saw changed my life. I began to see that theatre and films could be more than entertainment. I did the summer program with Sandy Meisner (a close, personal friend of my mother’s who taught The Method at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.) I ended up going to college and then back to the Neighborhood Playhouse for two years with Sandy. Then went to the Actor’s Studio and studied with Lee Strasberg. I started working as a model and actress, and never looked back. I earned a living at it and I thought if I could keep a business attitude towards the whole thing, I would be fine.
Interviewer: So you kept the artwork as a hobby?
Clark: I almost went to Rhode Island School of Design, but I decided that art and design were my passion. I didn't want to have to turn it into a business in order to earn a living so yes - it remained a hobby. I love ceramics and tile and do all the tile work in my home – I even have my own tile saw!
Interviewer: Did you remain in New York?
Clark: I got married and moved back to California. I found that I really disliked the business there compared to New York. There wasn’t really a studio system but it was all essentially the same ...so I quit and had babies and created a production company with my husband. When my boys were old enough, I decided I really wanted to go back to work as an actress. I was 34, and I was told by the first manager I met that I was too old -- that it didn't matter what my credits were. I was obviously not serious about being an actress, because I had chosen to have children. Serious actresses didn’t quit and have children. I went back to the agent I'd had before, and he said, "Look, I’m not sure I want to take you on again." I just said, "Nope. I'm not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Send me on an audition. I'm sitting out there in the waiting room until you send me on an audition." I was a lot tougher and determined after I had kids. The first audition he sent me on was for Five Mile Creek.
Interviewer: Did you have to go through a lot to get the role of Maggie?
Clark: I never read a script. It never really felt like I read for the part, because I didn’t until after they had decided that I was the one. I had thought, ‘Okay, I'm approaching this like a business.’ I dressed Hollywood-style, which was very against my nature -- cleavage, high heels, and all that. And I was fully prepared to lie about being married or having children. But it was unlike any other audition I'd ever been to. I went to a hotel in Hollywood and met with Loretta Crawford who was casting. I walked in, and there was this very down-to-earth Australian woman who said, "Sit down. Want a beer?" She was so wonderful. All we did was sit and talk. I met with her about five or six times, and I never saw another actor waiting to audition. At one point, I didn't even think this was a real job until she told me it was a Disney thing. What the producers were interested in was finding someone who was not only right for the role - but also more importantly – someone who would go to Australia and not be a prima donna. It seemed like a real long shot, but then again I thought, "Well, maybe they can't get any other actress to go to Australia." (Later I found out that some really big names had been up for the role) I also found out that Loretta had been taping our conversations and sending them back to Australia. They wanted to know the person - not just the actor.
At that point in my life, I was building my own theater in Hollywood with a friend of mine- an actor I met while studying with Peggy Feury at The Loft. We were going to produce and act in plays from the '40s at this small theater. I was literally building the platforms and putting in the seats myself so we could put on All About Eve, and so I was busy enough not to really care whether I got the job or not. I was so comfortable with Loretta that I started going on callbacks with her in my work clothes. I think they liked that I was willing to get my hands dirty and do all sorts of things. Another surprise was when I told Loretta that I had children - she said "No worries! Having kids makes you a better person – hence a better actress!" That was my first hint at how different Australia would be from Hollywood. They asked me to come in and read with the little girl who played my daughter and tape it. Then I met Henry Crawford. I read with him, but later I was told that I had had the job before I even read with Henry…. but Disney hadn't want me.
Interviewer: They didn't?
Clark: No, Disney didn't want me because, as I was told later, one of my lower front teeth was slightly crooked and a little darker than the other teeth, and they didn't like it. Apparently, Henry, being Australian, said, "So? Get over it - she's Maggie." Then I had to convince the Actor's Equity in Australia that even though I wasn't a big star or a big name, I had all the qualifications for the role. My grandfather was General Mark Clark, and I spent summers at The Citadel in South Carolina, so I knew how to handle a gun. I had also been riding horses since I was a child. I had the skills that were necessary.
Interviewer: So you didn't have to learn anything special?
Clark: I had to learn how to wear a corset all day without fainting … I had to learn about the Australian sense of humor and … I had to learn how to drive a stagecoach and a buggy.
Interviewer: How difficult was that for you?
Clark: Not at all. It is the same as riding - sort of – only you aren’t sitting on the horse’s back. You work the reins.
What was more difficult at first was dealing with the Australian sense of humor. Most Americans are essentially very earnest and serious and Australians have this tongue ‘n cheek attitude about life. The more serious you are – the more they will try to unnerve you –
For example, the first time they took the actors out riding so that the stuntmen and wranglers could see us on horseback, I made the great mistake of telling them that I was a good rider. If I had said, "Oh, you know, I know what a horse looks like," and really underplayed - they would have said, "Great," [said with Australian accent] and they would have been gentler with me. Instead, what they did was put me on one of their stunt horses - a falling horse. You ran it as hard as you could, and then when you yanked on the reins in a certain way, the horse would fall over. We had arrived in July, which was winter there, and it had been raining. We were in this muddy, muddy, muddy, muddy field. They didn't care that I was the star of the series, and we were supposed to start shooting in two weeks. They were going to show me that I wasn't such a good rider. But anyway, the horse never fell. They had me run him across the field at a full gallop and pull him up, and he'd go to fall, and I wouldn't let him. So they decided, "Okay, she can ride." That’s the Australian humor. . But I really loved it. I don't know whether it was because of my Southern upbringing with all my teasing cousins, but I got it. I got it, and Jay Kerr got it. We both really did understand that Australian humor. Well……I have to admit Jay was actually better than I was - I used to get annoyed sometimes because occasionally I used to think it was important to be a very serious person.
Interviewer: Were there other interesting differences about living in Australia?
Clark: I'm a big girl. I'm 5' 10" and big boned. That's not so tall now, but I was 5’10 when I was eleven years old. When girls were supposed to look like Donna Reed. All the boys were smaller than me. I lost a lot of jobs because of my height. I also have a very strong manner. I have been told by a lot of American men that I am very intimidating. When I got the job, my business manager said, "You don't want to go to Australia. The men there are sexist. They denigrate women, and you're one of the strongest women I've ever met. You’re not going to like it. You're really going to hate it." Then I got down there, and, at 35 -- I turned 35 the month we arrived - I found I'd come into my own. I felt comfortable in my own skin – I wasn’t too old or too tall or too smart – I was valued for exactly who I was - I was proud of being an actress for the first time and my opinion was valued.
- And - I felt like a girl for the first time in my life. I had never met men like this . . . Australian men are very coarse, in a way, but they really like women, and they like strong women. They like smart women. My experience was that they see women as equals – but aren’t afraid to flirt or open the door for you. It’s hard to explain.
It was an extraordinary time for me. I loved it.
Interviewer: What was your favorite aspect of working on the show?
I loved the story. I was proud to work on something my children could learn from. I loved playing a strong, smart woman in the 1890’s discovering all about Australia, and especially loved how active Maggie became in the community in the last episodes.
I loved the costumes – didn’t love the corset – loved the horses – loved going to work every day. I loved Maggie’s courage - I learned a lot from being Maggie.
I also loved how much I learned as an actress. Working on Five Mile was how I dreamed the working experience should be – Collaboration between the producers and writers and actors – and the actors are so professional and well trained over there. I don’t believe the American "Method" is all that it is cracked up to be. I had to forget all that touchy feely stuff and learn how to act. If I had it to do all over again – I would not have gone to Method schools to learn my craft in the beginning. But that really speaks of how I feel about art – you have to learn the craft first – then you can be an artist. Same with painting – learn to draw – then you can throw paint on a canvas and call it art. I think it is all backwards with Method. Some "method" teachers are turning out these neurotic "students" who can’t walk and talk. I have this theory – the reason some actors can be so difficult is because they are afraid because they insecure – most don’t have a craft to rely on and when you start out - you aren’t treated very well. The finest actors I have met are also often the most humble and down to earth. They have a craft and a sense of security in their work.
Interviewer: What was your favorite storyline or episode?
Clark: No favorite episode – but I loved where the storyline took Maggie. When I first got there I was told, "You're the star of the show. Your character is pivotal," even though there were two female stars, two male stars, two male co-stars, and originally two children and then two teenagers. I was told the relationship with Rod Mullinar was going to be a Tracy/Hepburn kind of relationship and we would end up together. I thought, "How great! I love Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn." The sparring in the first few episodes between us was going to lead up to an eventual relationship. But the sparring off the set was just as real as on the set, so they decided that it would be better for Liz Burch's character to get together with Jay. They thought it was much better for Rod and me to keep sparring. I was really, really happy about that decision for a number of reasons. My character could grow and meet new people, because I was never stuck in a relationship.
Interviewer: And you had the whole situation with Charlie Withers . . .
Clark: I really did adore him. I learned so much from Peter. He was such a gentleman and an amazing actor. I really did enjoy having my character being attracted to him.
Interviewer: Did you get a lot of fan mail?
Clark: I got a lot of fan mail - I loved getting letters from little girls that said, "I didn't know you could be a strong woman and a lady at the same time." That was one of the things that I really tried to create in my character: That a woman could be a lady and be strong and smart. The Disney Channel was run by women at that time, and we got a memo at one point which said that men could no longer say, "Good night, ladies," or call us "ladies" anymore at all, because this was the 1980’s and that was sexist. They were only allowed to call us women. I said, "This is the 1890's. They’re not going to say, ‘Hello, women.’ It's ‘Hello, ladies’ and ‘Good night, ladies.’ Why go to all the trouble to authenticate the era – the costumes – then throw in modern politically correct colloquialisms – I don’t think so." And anyway – Maggie was a lady. I was really adamant about that. Of course, Henry always backed us up. It was the ideal of working as an actress. We were allowed to have story conferences with the writers. I was allowed to go to dailies every day. I could watch editing. I could be as involved as I wanted to be. In the episode where my parents died, I had several conversations with the writer about how my character would feel about the death of her parents. He wanted to know. What a concept!!
Interviewer: So you were able to give a lot of input?
Clark: Oh ..Yes. Actors were considered to be part of the team – not precious entities that were kept happy and out of the way. The great thing was . . . the actors were part of the crew - we were all equal. But the downside was … that we were all equal -- we didn't have motor homes or Hollywood actor treatment. In the first few weeks, I went to the equivalent of a K-Mart and bought one of those plastic beach chairs -- you know, the folding ones -- and I had a little sign made for the back of it that said, "Louise's Motor Home". It was the closest thing to an actor’s motor home that I ever saw in the two years I was there. We all dressed in the same room, even the extras. Sometimes, it was on the back of a rented truck. There was no such thing as modesty. There was no such thing as privacy. All the money was going into the production – the costumes and the sets – not into perks for actors. Generally, we all arrived in the morning, and we went through an assembly line. Each star did not have their own makeup person. There was one makeup person, although when we had big crowds, we'd have extra help. You didn't have each star have their own room or motor home. We all sat in the same trailer. AND there were no stand-ins – you were on set all day – You got to rehearse so many times - It was more like theatre and I think the performances showed that -- I loved it! We were all like brothers and sisters.
In some places, I think it is often -- "Give her a big motor home and tell her not to talk to us." That is very denigrating. I much preferred getting less perks and having more input, but it ruined me when I came back to America. It really did ruin me. The first job I got was on a Matlock, I think. I was told, "Watch what your stand-in does, and then repeat it. We don't have time to have you read the scene with anyone. Just watch your stand-in, and do what she does." Working in the US after my Five Mile Creek experience was very upsetting because by then I knew there was a better way.
Interviewer: Which episode stands out as particularly challenging, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally? Henry Crawford had mentioned that "One Fine Day," the episode where Charlie dies, was particularly difficult for you.
Clark: Oh, particularly for me, because my character was really in love with him by then. We'd been playing the roles for two years, and we had created personalities. It was so special for me, because I wasn't acting anymore. Generally, I never had to prepare to cry because, if my character felt it, I felt it. If it happened to my character, it happened to me. The hard part about the episode "One Fine Day" was that the director and I were at odds - he didn't want Maggie to cry. He wanted her to remain completely stoic throughout the whole thing until the end, and I couldn't stop crying. The director was yelling at me, stopping the takes and saying, "You can't cry," and I was saying, "I can't help it. It's awful." So that was hard.
Interviewer: Any other moments stand out in your memory?
Clark: I remember the time I found out that my parents had died, and then I had a scene with Charlie about it. I was really worried, because the scene didn’t build – but started with me crying and I didn't want to have stuff blown in my eyes to make it look like I was crying. Being method trained, I kind of started preparing the day before. When I got on the set in the morning and was in the room getting ready, I told everyone, "Please, can you just keep it quiet while we're doing makeup, because I'm still preparing. The first scene is a crying scene today, and I just want to keep my preparations, okay?" Then I got on the set, and everyone was really wonderful. They were being so gentle with me, and I should have thought, "What's up here? You're all being so nice." The cameraman said, "Just sit there, and when you're fully prepared and ready for the shot, you just raise your hand and I'll call, ‘Roll it’." So we went ahead and did that. The tears were on the brim, everything was ready, I put my hand up, they said, "Roll it - Action" - I looked up, and all the male members of the cast and crew were mooning me. One of them said, "If you can't cry now, I guess you weren't prepared." It taught me a very valuable lesson. Working in Australia knocked out the entire precious attitude that method training had taught me. It taught to me just get on with it and do the work. I learned so much working on the series. I learned my craft there.
Interviewer: Was there anything you would have liked to have changed about the character, or were you completely happy?
Clark: I wish we'd gone on longer – done more episodes. I would have liked to have been Maggie for longer. I'd like to do a movie . . . a Return to Five Mile Creek kind of thing.
Interviewer: Any ideas on how you'd like that to come about?
Clark: Well, my favorite director was Kevin Dobson. He came in on episode seven, which was the episode where my husband comes back and I tell him to go away until he has a life worthy of his wife and daughter. He is one of the best directors I have ever worked with. I would want Kevin to direct and be a producer on the project. Now I say this even though Kevin was a real "lad," and he, Rod Mullinar, and Jay created something called the "Committee" to annoy Liz and me. Michael Caton and I were quite close during the filming, and Michael wasn't allowed in the "Committee" because he was with the "girlies." After episode eleven, Kevin Dobson directed just about every other episode. I adored him – still do – his wife and I are best friends. It didn't matter how much he teased us, I just loved him to death. The committee used to get on the set in the early morning, and Liz and I would ask Kevin a question about a scene, and the three boys would say, "Oops, Committee meeting!" Then they’d get in the stagecoach, pull the blinds down, giggle, and ostracize the girls. They thought this was hysterically funny. And, of course, Liz and I would get appropriately angry and everything. I guess I would want Kevin on the condition that he disbands the Committee.
We would need all the characters - Liz and Jay – bring them back from America. It would be nice to figure out a way to resurrect Peter’s Mr. Withers – maybe he had a brother….. Martin may be all grown up - but he’s still the same. We’d need Michael and Gus, and I guess we would have to have Rod – I suspect Jack and Maggie would still be sparring……
But I think Nicole would probably decline. I don’t know if we could actually do it – but it’s fun to imagine.
Interviewer: What was it like working with Nicole Kidman?
Clark: Before we moved to Melbourne, Disney decided they needed teenagers in the story. I remember going to Henry and recommending Nicole Kidman because I'd seen a movie she'd done. - BMX Bandits. I thought she was extraordinary. I was blown away by her presence on film. I guess she was one of many who auditioned for the role, but she ended up getting the job. When we moved to Melbourne, it was going to be on location for her. She was 17 at the time, and I didn’t think she should live in a hotel. I ended up finding a house with a guesthouse, and she lived with me for a year. I had my children and my nanny and I thought it would be much healthier for her to have her independence and her own place, but be right there with a family if she needed it when she got sick or when she needed some support. We were very close – I really loved her and admired her talent - my boys thought of her like a sister. We remained close – until she met Tom Cruise. That’s all I want to say about that.
Interviewer: Were you surprised to find out that nearly twenty years later, there's still a considerable following for the show?
Clark: Yes – very surprised. I always wondered why the Disney Channel just let it go, because it was their first made for cable series. And I never understood why they have never followed up with it – or publicized it more – especially with Nicole in it.
Interviewer: What are you doing now?
Clark: When I came back from Australia, I did a couple of movies back to back and it looked like my career was going to take off, but I was single and my kids needed me. I was on location in Rome in 1986 when terrorists shot up the airport, and my kids wouldn't believe that I hadn't been hurt, because they knew I was there. They were young enough that they were really upset by it. So I decided that I didn't want to travel, and I hated doing television in Hollywood, so I turned to commercials. I have done over three hundred commercials. It allowed me to be a full-time mom and the breadwinner. I went back to school and got my degree in Psychology in the early nineties. And I met my husband, Ben Goddard on a commercial he was directing in 1993. He has his own political consulting company, and he also directs. We did the "Harry and Louise" ads about healthcare together. We ended up falling in love and getting married. We have combined our families and we have two grandchildren.
I am producing now. Our first film was Taliesin Jones. Someone sent Ben the galley of this little Welsh book before it was ever even published, and he loved the story. We both loved it. He purchased the rights and several years and headaches later – we made the movie. I was on location in Wales during the filming. We lost our director, and we ended up editing it and scoring it without a director. It had limited release in the U.S. It won all sorts of awards. I think the most thrilling; most surprising was the first one, of course, at Heartland Film Festival. Then there was Austin Film Festival. We never expected that. We sent Maureen Tilyou, the writer, because it is a writers’ festival. There is a real Hollywood contingency at the Austin festival, and Taliesin Jones is a soft film – so we never expected to win. There's no nudity, no sex, no swearing, no shooting, no blood, and no killing. I never expected a Hollywood writers’ festival held in Texas to be interested in our film, but it won! It also won in Berlin and Fort Lauderdale and several other European festivals. But the award that I'm most proud of is the Chicago International Film Festival. They have an award called the United Nations Rights of the Child Award, and we won that last year. I was just thrilled, because to me, that's what the film is about. It's about a little boy whose family is getting divorced, and it has many, many levels. There are no bad guys in this movie, not even the parents who are getting divorced, or any of the teachers at school, or even the bully at school. It is very human - about mistakes and how we heal. It is about how this little boy learns to cope and heal himself and others. It was a real experience. The next film I'm going to do is a thriller in Germany based on a book by Piers Paul Read.
Interviewer: Do you like producing?
Clark: Producing isn’t as much fun as acting on Five Mile Creek, but it allows me to do what I wanted to do with acting – touch people - open their hearts and minds. When you get a whole room of people sitting in the dark, you have a chance to move their consciousness not just entertain – (It’s best when you have both) It’s a way of reaching people that was never more important than it is now, especially when people don't read as much. I think that the industry has a huge responsibility to educate -- in a sense -- to touch people – to open their hearts. Not with any particular political or religious idea, but with a universal morality. And I think you can educate and entertain. Anyway – those are the movies I like. You see, I can still be a serious Yank.
Interviewer: I’m sure all the Five Mile Creek fans wish you the best of luck.
Clark: Thank you so much.
Fans can contact Ms. Clark via e-mail at . (Please note: Ms. Clark has asked for assistance maintaining and managing this account. Correspondence will not be completely private between the sender and Ms. Clark.)