Given that American born actress, Andréa Thompson braved the shark infested waters off the south-east coast of Victoria as a child, it seems only fitting that she would one day make the journey to the shark infested avenues of NYC. The lure of the Great White Way, the prestigious acting schools and those dazzling lights of Broadway enticed a sweet-faced sixteen-year-old Andréa to the city which never sleeps.
However, Andréa needed to eat, a place to crash, and to pay for those acting lessons, so she braved the runways and did catalogue work. Being a statuesque 5’ 8” 110 pound beauty, with the requisite long legs and svelte figure, made Andréa just perfect for the catwalks of 70s New York. The cameras love Andréa; they still do. Yet, modelling was merely the first step for this vivacious young woman and by 1982, at the tender age of 22, new directions already beckoned.
Andréa made three early films including playing a rather hapless hooker in Wall Street working attentively with Charlie Sheen and a very sleek limousine. Andréa lands a regular spot on Falcon Crest in 1989 and for the next ten years this husky-voiced actress is a regular on three TV series, JAG, Babylon 5 and NYPD Blue. Three great shows ensuring Andréa is a regular face on TV throughout the 90s.
However, in keeping with a woman who likes to have a little dust on her heels, acting gave way to a new challenge. The tough, but vulnerable character Jill Kirkendall, who people saw Andréa play in NYPD Blue reflects a little of the person who takes on journalism for a change of pace. At an age when many reporters are moving away from the business, Andréa begins work in Albuquerque on a road that leads her to a successful stint on CNN.
While I can’t really paint for you a picture of how the hard work has been that gas gone into making Andréa Thompson the person she is today, perhaps her own description does it most aptly. “I didn't embark on my journalism career until the age of 40, although I studied privately for 4 years with Jack Hubbard of Stanford University, in between camera set ups on "Blue" and from 3:45 am to 5 am each morning before reporting on set at 5:45 am. Hubbard likes to joke that I burnt out 3 fax machines before I switched to email permanently. Ironically, for a Luddite, I'm now conversant in multiple systems including CBS Newspath and CNN internal systems. I shoot, write, edit and produce all my own material and am a good, solid Fleer operator, the camera system on the underside of a news copter. I love to fly and most of my colleagues at KRQE didn't want to fly. The pilot for our station loved to fly with me because I wasn't afraid of taking-off from the roof of a six-storey building or flying without doors, with the desert breeze rushing over me. I miss it so.”
And yes, there have been bumps in the road that have made life tough for Andréa. Yet, these have only served to make her so much stronger and more resilient. What you get when you talk to her is a no-nonsense lady with a ready smile and a very keen sense of the absurd. Though she doesn’t take herself too seriously, she does take life seriously and you just know that Andréa Thompson will always be a work in progress.
David: Could you tell us a little about your modelling career? And did you sign your first autograph while modelling or when you became an actress? How did you find this moment?
Andréa: Modelling- Believe me, is the least interesting thing I've ever done. I did mostly catalogue and runway work. I always liked to eat too much! When I was modelling, I weighed 110 pounds. Now I weigh in at 126 and some family and friends tell me I'm too thin. But I've found that I'm on the outside edge of what most producers find an acceptable weight. I'm a size 4 in a size 0 town. David Milch described me to a wardrobe coordinator as 'wide'. So modelling was always just a means to an end. Get to New York City, make enough money to support myself, and get into the Actor's Studio. I left home just before 16.
Most models at that time, almost 30 years ago, didn't sign autographs. Maybe the supermodels did, but I wasn't in that league. I'm always flattered when people ask for an autograph. However it truly annoys my son when people ask during dinner.
David: Can you tell us about how your first acting role came about and how you felt at the time?
Andréa: My first role was in Oliver Stone's "Wall Street". I was very excited to meet Oliver and Charlie. And thrilled to be in such a big ticket feature....even if my character was billed as 'Hooker"
David: To date you’ve appeared in 4 series including Falcon Crest, JAG, Babylon 5 and NYPD Blue. Which series was your favourite and why?
Andréa: Favourite series- Sorry, I don't have one. Each job is different in its own way and brings its own pluses and minuses. The biz is too random to say that anything like real career choices are ever made. A lot of jobs are taken for the most mundane of reasons....like a new baby or the need for a new roof on ones home. At the end of the day, it's a job, albeit a good one.
David: What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you working on a film or TV set? And what was your toughest or most dangerous moment?
Andréa: Funny/dangerous moments- Loads of funny ones, that's for sure. There’s a fair amount of cutting up on any film/television set. That's why we have outtake reels. So we can laugh at ourselves afterward. I had to do one scene with Jerry on B5. Garibaldi and Talia were standing quite close and Jerry had to deliver this terribly earnest monolog. I simply couldn't look at him and keep a straight face. Jerry is anything but earnest and serious.
I once refused to do a scene on a film in New Zealand that required the actors to stand on a cliff while a helicopter came from the bottom of a canyon and rose straight up a la those fab James Bond movies. It was quite windy and the films budget didn't include the services of a safety or stunt coordinator. Hollywood has killed a fair number of actors with helicopters. I once hung out of one several hundred feet off the ground for 'Quantum Leap'. And I just loved running 6 flights of stairs to the roof of CBS News in Albuquerque to jump in the news copter and cover breaking events. Very exhilarating to take off from a roof!
David: Over the years you have signed hundreds of photos for fans. What has been the most unusual or funniest request and what did you do about it?
Andréa: Usually when I'm signing autographs, I get to have a quick interesting conversation with one of the fans. Everyone is generally pretty respectful and polite. Not too many weird or funny things have been asked of me.
David: What actor/s have you most enjoyed working with and what actor would you most like to work with in the future? And did one of them ever play a really funny prank on you? Or visa-versa!!!
Andréa: Actors-Well, I loved working with the entire cast of NYPD Blue. They are all so gifted and truly some of the nicest, most humble people I've ever met. One of the producers on Blue made terrific sport out of teasing Nick Turturro with a rubber rat. Nicky has an enormous fear of rats. So Tinker would tie this rubber rat to a boom pole to make Nicky scream.
David: Do you (or your son) collect autographs and if so what are your treasures? And if anyone in history could sign a photo for you, who would you ask and what would you have them say in their dedication?
Andréa: My son has one autograph. It's from the entire "Kiss" band. I've never asked anyone for an autograph although I was tempted to do so several times when I met astronauts from the shuttle at NASA one year. I would love to have met Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, Napoleon, Churchill and John F Kennedy.
I would also love to sit and have tea with Madeline Albright, our former Secretary of State.
David: Who are your favourite actors and your all time three favourite films?
Andréa: Lifeboat, Gone with the Wind and Dr Zhivago. As too actors, there are so many good ones. I saw, Something's Got to Give this last weekend. I'm completely enamoured, all over again, as I have been throughout their careers by Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
David: Have you ever seen forged copies of your photos on the web or elsewhere? And what did you do if you encountered this problem?
Andréa: Forged signatures- Very bad karma. Whenever a fan is ripped off in this manner, I invite them to send me the offending item. I will replace it with a new photo and autograph at no cost and ship it back to them.
David: Do you go to any of the autograph or memorabilia shows? If so, which ones are your favourites and what is your fondest memory from appearing at a show?
Andréa: I enjoy the autograph shows very much. However, I'm doing my last show this next weekend in Cleveland, Ohio for Vulkon. I truly cherish the chance to interact with the fans. However, I feel strongly that I need to continue to move on in life, always looking forward and never dwelling on the past. I've done very few shows over the years. But 2 years ago, Julie Caitlin Brown asked if I would book some events as there are a lot of fans that have extensive signed pieces missing my autograph. So I've done about a half dozen events this year. I was to have been in London in July but apparently there was some sort of theft by an employee of the event and artists were asked to waive part of their salaries and airfare. I opted not to go. It sounded as though the event was disorganized and I don't like to be involved with any event that might prove to be a disappointment to the fans. I really would like to have seen the London fans. But there have been too many times over my career where I have travelled great distance only to find I have no return airfare and no hotel room either!
David: Where were you the day the earth stood still?
Andréa: On the morning of 9/11, I was at home at my computer reading email when my mom called to say that I should turn on the news. I stepped into the next room to check, started channel surfing to see which network was breaking the news first. Headline, my division, was doing an admirable job. Still, although an important story, at this point in time only the first tower had been hit and there was much speculation about whether or not this was a small private plane. The damage to the building suggested something much larger. But until I watched the second plane hit, like anyone else watching at the time, I wasn't particularly convinced that we were in the midst of a terrorist attack.
Our news bureau in NY had their cameras turned toward the Towers and we were receiving the bureau chief's live report via telephone. Like people the world over, I was stunned to see a plane streaking toward the second tower. Speechless, all I could do was watch in mute horror. The pilot of the plane clearly canted at the last moment, intentionally causing maximum damage. Amazingly some news anchors were still convinced that this was some sort of radar glitch. I knew we were under attack.
I threw on a suit, grabbed my briefcase and started the drive to CNN, breaking speed limits along the way. I cranked up the radio, heartsick over the live reports of the 2nd tower coming down. I screeched into the company parking lot, slammed it into park. CNN was already surrounded by police searching personnel as we entered. There were still planes in the air, no one had any idea what other cities or buildings were targeted. The CDC seemed a natural. Some even thought CNN might be a likely target. I wasn't worried. The terrorists had no intention of taking us out. They wanted the world to see.
I took the escalator two steps at a time. My co-anchor, Miles O'Brien was already there as CNN's aviation correspondent. I was the second member of the prime time team to arrive. We all stared at the array of video monitors, everyone bearing the same grim, shocked looks. Horrible to watch, we couldn't look away. After all, we had a newscast to get on air. Senior writers and producers sat at their desks banging out the broadcasts, tears streaming down their faces; doing their jobs even as we all worried for missing colleagues in the field in NY.
In times of national disaster, the mothership as the main CNN network is called takes over the broadcasts for all CNN outlets, so that we may pool resources and present the best talent and experts in the field. Headline would not be needed for the day, but all hands stood ready to help including myself. It was a dark day for this nation but a day that we as a country had surely created.
David: What does the future hold for Andréa Thompson? And do you have any thoughts or ideas about the film industry that you would care to share with us?
Andréa: The future- who knows? I like to remain open to all possibilities. To quote Yogi Berra, "When you come to the fork in the road, take it" I would take on another television series, but it just has to be the right one. How many of those do you get in a career? I haven't had the difficulties that other actresses have with working over the age of 40. I made certain to shake off the ingénue/bombshell boat anchor. I didn't want my career to be about youth only. That sort of choice has a very short shelf life.
But there is so little of interest. We're still mired in the reality TV bullsh*t at present so there is a real shortage of projects for actors and actresses of all ages. Good scripted drama is a precious commodity.
A return to broadcast news isn't out of the question either. But at the present time, there is very little in the way of broadcast that remotely resembles journalism. But my experience as a prime-time anchor for CNN during 9/11 is hard to shake. Whenever news breaks, I envy my colleagues on the scene.
At the moment, I'm going back to school to finish an MBA in finance. I want to finally learn to speak Spanish fluently. I've just acquired my real estate license and have a strong interest in commercial real estate and finance as an investment vehicle. I would love to one day live in Mexico or Costa Rica. Or any place remote, unspoiled and simple yet rich in life experiences. After I have back surgery, I look forward to sailing and scuba diving again.
David: Do you have other stories or messages that you would care to share with your many fans across the globe?
Actors with a message....not so certain why anyone would be more interested in an actors opinion over anyone else's. However, as an American, I vow never to stand by while my government subverts the will of the people. As a nation we've made enormous mistakes in Iraq at a cost of a disgraceful number of human lives; Iraqi, American and coalition forces. Certainly all nations need to be concerned with the issue of global terrorism. But we cannot trample other nations in pursuit of the few who are spoiling life for the many.
David: Thank you, Miss Andréa….
Interview article copyright David Priol 2004
Photos copyrighted to their various owners