Interview – Alexandra Paul

Interview – Alexandra Paul

Life is peculiar, just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens that changes everything. Born in New York City, Alexandra Paul went from a young model to acting in what seemed like the blink of an eye. All set to attend Stanford University, she soon declined her acceptance into the pristine institute of higher learner to pursue a career in acting. A risking move for the young woman, it ended up paying off and Paul would soon go on to take a leading role in John Carpenter’s 1983 Horror hit Christine prior to expanding her resume to star in well over 100 films/television programs.

From her memorable role as The Virgin Connie Swail in 1987’s Comedy Dragnet to her powerful role as Lt. Stephanie Holden in the Action Drama Baywatch for 5 seasons, Paul has made her mark. Not at all letting her academic side take a backseat to her acting career, Paul has been thoroughly involved as an advocate for health, animal rights, and standing up for what she believes in. Recently we caught up with the busy Paul to talk her career as an actress, what she looks for in her roles, the importances of a healthy lifestyle, and much more. – You have been involved in acting professionally for over three decades now. Your credits include a long list of memorable film as well as television roles. First, tell us, what was your inspiration to pursue a career in acting?  

Alexandra Paul – I actually fell into it, because I was modeling in NYC as a teenager. During that time I was asked to audition for a TV movie where they were looking for an unknown actress to play an unknown model that makes it into the big time (laughs). They were looking at models and it was the lead role alongside Daryl Hannah, and I was the lucky young woman who got it! That TV movie was called Paper Dolls and it was in the Top 5 TV movies of 1982. TV movies were big back then, so that helped me.

I moved to California from New York City and never left, became an actress, and then decided not to go to college. At the time, I had taken a year off before going to Stanford, and three weeks before, I had told them I wasn’t going to be there, I had decided I was going to stay in LA and pursue acting. – It is interesting how life takes you in different directions when you least expect it.

Alexandra Paul – That is for sure (laughs). That was very much part of it. I was part of a family that was not very creative. We went to movies. We didn’t make art, we watched it (laughs). That was different from what I thought I was going to be doing.


Pan-Canadian Film Distributors – Early in your career, you starred in popular films such as the 1983’s Horror film Christine. What was this early experience like for you?

Alexandra Paul – I loved shooting the movie. I was incredibly insecure because I was a new actress. I was only a professional actress for a little over a year and here I was the lead in a movie. I was terrified, but I loved shooting it, it was great! Working with John Carpenter was wonderful. – Beyond initially working in Horror, you delved into Comedy, and perhaps one of your most memorable roles came in the 1987 film Dragnet. A comedic reimagining of the more serious television series, Dragnet the film was really a lot of fun. Do you have fond memories of that film?

Alexandra Paul – I loved working on Dragnet. I didn’t grow up with a television, I didn’t have a lot of Pop culture knowledge. and I was not familiar with the original TV series. When I read the script, I actually said to my agent, “I don’t think this is very funny,” and she said, “Go in, it’s an A-movie so you better go audition.” So, serendipitously, the character for which I was auditioning was The Virgin Connie Swail and she kind of doesn’t understand things either.

My lack of understanding of my humor actually worked really well when I read that scene because I didn’t get the humor either. I think that’s why they cast me. But it was a wonderful experience. Tom Hanks is just as lovely and friendly and funny on film as he is in real life. Dan Aykroyd was just a really nice man and very professional. He was also a producer on the film and of course he had a ton of dialogue to run. So it was a really great experience.

Paramount Pictures

TriStar Pictures – It sounds great. That film is actually celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It is certainly one of the more overlooked Comedies of the late ’80s. You said that you did not really get the humor at the time, but it really is a great film.

Alexandra Paul  – A lot of people remember me as my character and they’ll call me The Virgin Connie Swail. It was the number one film for a week or two across America when it first came out. – It did have its success. Seeing you have a very diverse mix of projects you have been involved in, would you say that you enjoy working within the Horror genre, and how does it compare to working in Comedy or Drama?

Alexandra Paul – It’s the same because in all genres, the characters have to believe that everything is just as real and as important. When it comes to Horror, you also have to work with imagination, because there can be special effects put in later. That, plus there is a lot more running around in Horror, which I actually enjoy (laughs). 

DRAGNET, from left: Alexandra Paul, Dan Aykroyd, 1987. ©Universal – It is certainly a testament to your abilities as an actress that you have played so many different roles. That said, television can be a bit different than feature films. The time you have to develop a character, the time you have to create a scene. Having longstanding roles on series such as Baywatch and Melrose Place, how would you say the experience differed for you opposed to on the set of a feature?

Alexandra Paul – Even though feature films have a much more coveted sashay, I actually prefer working on a television series as a regular because you get to develop the character. You get to experience her in many different situations. Also, two other reasons I like working in television are that I like the pace, it’s fast. I find that more creative than waiting around for the sets to be changed and things like that. The more money you have, the more slowly the wheels turn for the production. Also, the roles are better for women in television. If you look at most feature films, they will have maybe one good role for a woman. Maybe two if there’s a best friend or there might be a waitress or a mother that have a few scenes.

Otherwise, most feature films are just chock full of men and the women basically play appendages. Now, on television, that’s different, and on Baywatch it was very different. On Baywatch, the women all had the same job, they all had the same amount of storylines; it was all very, very equal. That is another reason that I really like being on television is that the women really stand on their own, they aren’t defined by their relationship to a man for the most part. – That is a very interesting take and very valid point that you bring up there. To add to that, it seems like nowadays the best productions are in television as opposed to feature films, in many ways.

Alexandra Paul – Oh yeah, you’re totally right. I almost prefer watching television. I haven’t gone to a movie in months! Part of it is because now you can watch it on the television, but I prefer watching television series. – Oh yes, that is something that’s become very addictive in our culture. It seems like there is so many television series that it is difficult to keep up with them all.

Alexandra Paul – You can’t. I remember when I first started in 1982, and for the best of ten years, actors didn’t move freely between television and films. In fact, one of my hesitations to saying yes about becoming a regular on Baywatch wasn’t so much about the storylines or running on the beach in a bathing suit, but I was worried about being typecast into television and never getting out. Now television will actually help your career, or movie stars want to do television. Really, television is wonderful and there isn’t that stigma anymore.

Universal Pictures

NBC – You are right. It used to very much be us and them as far as television versus film. That has definitely changed dramatically in the past two decades or so.

Alexandra Paul – My theory, and you can tell me what you think about it, is that Michael J. Fox was cast in Back to the Future and was still doing Family Ties, that was the beginning of an actor being interchangeable between being a TV star and a movie star. George Clooney didn’t do it simultaneously, but he went from TV directly to being a movie star because of his success in TV.

Then, Alec Baldwin has moved between television and features really easily. Big parts, small parts, it doesn’t matter, there isn’t even a stigma in how big your part is. He does a lot of Comedy TV, but then he also will do features that aren’t Comedies. There’s still a stigma to Soap Operas, I would say, but that is an area where there is still definitely a divide. – That is a very good point that you made about Michael J Fox. To add to that, after he did obtain success on the big screen with Back to the Future, he remained a regular cast member on Family Ties after that; he didn’t leave, he stayed.

Alexandra Paul – He didn’t leave, that’s right. He didn’t say, “I’m on to better things.” That is a good point. – Yes. To this day, you continue to work in film with various films in recent years. Do you have any upcoming projects and what can viewers expect?       

Alexandra Paul – I have a movie called Perfect Baby that’s coming out soon, I believe on Lifetime. I’ve starred in 14 Lifetime movies, so this one is going to be on Lifetime later this year. Then I’m in an Independent film called Say Yes that I’m shooting soon. 

Origin Releasing

Lifetime – Excellent. How is it working on Lifetime films? They have a lot of different types of films, but a lot of them are Drama films. What is that like?

Alexandra Paul – I love it. I get chased and beaten up and all that stuff. As the lead woman in a Lifetime movie, you win. Like I said, in feature films, men get to do all the action and the women are really just there to say, “Oh, I’m sorry honey.” That’s not the case in Lifetime films, which is why I really like to act in them. Women have great roles in them! – That is really great, and it will be exciting to see your future projects. You have been very health conscious through the years. What is the key for remaining physically and mentally healthy for you?

Alexandra Paul – You have to prioritize it. I know people are really busy, so it’s hard sometimes to fit in exercise, but it’s really important to prioritize yourself. I always schedule my workouts. It’s a priority. In terms of eating better, it’s really tough in our society. We’re so surrounded by additive foods – all the fat, sugar, salt – and it’s hard to eat in moderate amounts because these are basically drugs. When you eat processed food, it’s like eating a drug and all you want is to eat more. It doesn’t take any more time once you get into the habit, but to starting to eat whole, plant-based foods, that is really a key. In the beginning, it’s really hard because it does take time and people are very busy. It just takes discipline, awareness, learning, and eventually it will just become second nature to be healthy. – Agreed, completely. There are plenty of treats within what nature has to offer, like fruits. It is interesting what you say about people being busy. If you just take a drive down any main area in America, there is loads of fast food. It is daunting sometimes that you cannot find healthy options very often.

Alexandra Paul – Yes, when I travel, I plan ahead. For example, when I visited New Jersey for Chiller Theater, I had already called the hotel to see if there was a gym that fit my needs and there wasn’t. So I had to find another gym to go to every morning that was 6 miles away and I went there every morning before we had to start signing autographs. In terms of food, I have to plan ahead too because, as a vegan, it’s hard for me to travel. I can’t rely on finding food just anywhere. I have to bring a lot of my own food, and that includes fresh fruit and things like that.

It takes more planning. We can’t rely on our environment to feed us in a healthy manner. We can’t expect eating healthy to be the easiest option, because it isn’t, but I choose health. In the long-run, that makes my life happier and better. I think we have a lot of opportunities to exercise. For example, when I have a conference call, I will often be stretching or walking while on the conference call, as long as I don’t have to take notes on my computer. When I talk to my mom, I often do it while I’m hiking, because I know she likes to talk for a while. I have a treadmill desk so that I can check my emails while I’m walking. People can watch TV while being on a stationary bike or doing exercises, so there are ways that we can integrate health and fitness into our lives, it’s just a habit that’s hard to start. Once it becomes a habit, it is so much easier.

Photo credit : Mikel Healey photography – It definitely takes a level of dedication, like you are saying, and a vegan lifestyle takes a very high level of dedication. It seems veganism is becoming a very common thing. More people are choosing vegan lifestyles. That said, it seems that some people are making the wrong food choices. Do you need to supplement correctly?

Alexandra Paul – It’s very easy for someone who’s trying to cut out gluten or sugar to go for processed options like gluten-free cookies or sugar-free soda, but those are not the best options. Even on a vegan diet, Oreos are vegan, but that doesn’t make them healthy. I’m a vegan for ethical reasons, but I also have the benefits of becoming healthier because of my veganism.

If you eat a whole food, which is a food in its most natural state not processed, a diet of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, you don’t need to supplement in anyway. You don’t need to combine protein or anything. However, I do add a protein powder to my day sometimes because I like the taste of it, frankly. I don’t need it. It’s processed, so that and popcorn are probably the most processed things that I eat. – We all have our own weaknesses when it comes to food, so that is alright. These are some great tips and quite informative. 

Alexandra Paul – It is good to be open to different options. I’m an athlete, so a couple years ago I swam 14 miles in a race and I’m a vegan. I don’t need any kind of extra meat, iron, or protein. I just eat a really healthy diet and maybe up my protein a little bit, but I don’t really need to. Here’s my prescription as a health coach, the most important thing is that you eat whole foods that are not processed. If you eat a variety of those then you get everything you need; and drink a lot of water. That’s the truth.

A lot of people, as a vegan, ask me, “How do you get your protein?” I get my protein from the exact same place that rhinoceroses, giraffes, and elephants get theirs – from plants – and those creatures do just fine and they’ve got larger muscles than I do (laughs). It’s such an interesting question because in America, I’ve never met anyone who lacks protein in their diet, but I’ve met plenty of people who lack fiber, who eat unhealthy fat, and we don’t question it. That to me is a real problem in the United States, it is not protein. So for someone to not chose a whole food plant based diet because they’re worried about protein, it’s kind of just an argument. There’s not really protein deficiency problems in the United States. – You are absolutely right. If you are not a vegan, you especially don’t have any problems with protein because there are so many meat options in the USA. It is astounding how many people you will meet who do not eat vegetables, who do not eat fruits. 

Alexandra Paul – It’s because they don’t like the taste of them. The other foods are full of sugar, salt, fat and those are highly palatable. They’re called hyper palatable because they trigger dopamine release and there’s a high and we want to get more. So why would anyone want to grab a piece of broccoli? Why eat broccoli when they could have something covered in cheese, which is not only high in fat and salt, but also has an opioid in it that acts like morphine and makes you feel a little good. That’s why a lot of people are addicted to cheese.

We’re actually the only species on the planet that ingests milk after weaning. and we’re the only species on the planet that drinks another species’s milk (laughs). Constipation is a huge problem in the US because we aren’t getting enough fiber. We’re eating things like cheese, meat, and refined grain, which doesn’t offer the fiber. We’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables like you said. – Absolutely. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, what are some of your favorite films? 

Alexandra Paul – I’m afraid that I’m a scaredy cat and I cannot watch Horror, so I’m useless for that question. Even when I was cast in Christine, I hadn’t read any Stephen King books. I hadn’t watched any John Carpenter films until I was cast. Of course, I then read Christine and thought he’s (Stephen King) is an amazing writer and I’ve read quite a few of his books since. I stay away from his Horror books, interestingly. I gravitate more towards his short stories, which are more Psychological Thrillers. – Interesting. Well, the Horror genre is not for everyone. Do you have a particular type of film that you do enjoy?

Alexandra Paul – I like Dramas. This is a question that I ask my husband when he wants to go see a movie. I’ll ask him, “How many men are in it?” If there are too many men in it, I’m just not interested in seeing it because it doesn’t have love and has a lot of violence. I guess I like movies that have love in them somewhere. He always laughs at me when I ask him how many women are in the film. That’s how I judge (laughs). 

For more on Alexandra Paul: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

For more on Alexandra Paul’s wellness | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Feature photo credit: Mikel Healey photography 

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