Interview – Cathy Podewell

It is impossible to predict what will happen in life. You could be on one path and find yourself heading in a different direction moments later. For Cathy Podewell, acting would be a passion she discovered at a young age, before making the brave decision to pursue it professionally. A path few have found success with, by the age of 24, Podewell would already have starred in 1988’s Horror feature Night of the Demons before finding herself as a regular character a part of the hit CBS prime time Soap Opera Dallas. Two vastly different mediums, between the years of 1988 and 1992, Podewell would cover many corners in Hollywood, playing various roles in film and television.

A great deal of accomplishments in a compact period of time, the talented actress bowed away from the spotlight shortly thereafter to concentrate on her family. So, where is she now? Well, she is inspired to dip her toes in the pool of acting again! Excited for the possibility of returning to the screen, Podewell took the time to talk about her career as an actress, her decision to step away from it all, the legacy of Night of the Demons as it celebrates 30 years, plus much more. – Launching your professional acting career over three decades ago, you would star in a list of films as well as television series. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actress?

Cathy Podewell – My maternal grandparents were veteran actors in Chicago. Basically stage actors, but my grandmother did a lot of radio. She also did one of the very first television shows, called Studs’ Place, with Studs Terkel – the I Love Lucy writers took a lot of their inspiration from Stud’s Place. My grandfather continued to act into his late eighties, he did a lot more film. When Chicago was a sort of booming town for the film industry, he actually got a lot of small roles. He plays the homeless old man who begs for money every morning in Groundhound Day (1993).

My grandparents were my inspiration. They were very humble about it. There would be times I would be watching TV, and I would say, “Mom, grandpa is on TV!” They didn’t talk about it a lot. Quite honestly, when I said to them, at some point in high school, I was thinking about making acting my career, they pretty much tried to talk me out of it. I think they felt if they could talk me out of it, then I wasn’t meant to pursue this line of work. They couldn’t talk me out of it, which is why I carried on. They just knew it was a difficult path and so few people venturing into this business make it as a success and a full-time living out of it. They didn’t want that for me.

I went to college and majored in theater and dance. After college I went to LA, got a waitress job, got into an acting class, chipped away, and I was very fortunate. It really didn’t take that long, I think I got my first job after I had been there a year. I am very grateful for around 5 years of work, I worked pretty straight and solid. Then I had a baby. I got married in 1989, and my son was born in 1992. I think the last few things I did were in 1991, I was actually two months pregnant with my son. I keep saying I’ve been on hiatus ever since. My youngest son is 16, so I am really trying to wrap my head around the notion of getting back into it. I’m not scared of it, but it’s starting over for sure. I figure, I did it once, maybe I can do it again – I will be playing grandma roles now. (Laughs)

Taurus Entertainment Company
ABC – It is very interesting how it all worked out for you. Why not get back into it, if you have a passion for it. You should do it!

Cathy Podewell – Exactly. I should do it just for the reasons that I don’t want another 20-30 years to go by, and think, I should have tried. It’s a good way to not have regrets, to give it a shot. It still floats my boat.

This whole Night of the Demons craze, which I call it, because it’s so amazing that this movie 30 years later has this fan base. It’s spawned 2 sequels, a remake, countless websites, and this new documentary scheduled for release in 2019, entitled The Party’s Just Begun: The Legacy of Night of the Demons. It’s crazy.

With all of that, it kind of got me back into the mindset. I’ve been a mom for so long, and it’s a completely different world – that acting world feels like a lifetime ago. I’ve been a mom for so long and be doing the mom thing. With the Blu-ray release of the 25th anniversary of Night of the Demons, we started doing conventions, it was just overwhelming to see all of this. It’s working back there and it’s been a lot of fun. It is definitely going to be my inspiration if I did go back. – It would be great to see you return. A lot of your work was in television during your active period, ranging from a regular role on the hit series Dallas, to various guest roles, as well as TV movies. Did you enjoy your time working in television? 

Cathy Podewell – I did very much. Really, there is not that much different with television. A Horror film is a completely different thing though. I was very fortunate to get a couple of sitcoms because I like being funny. Then Dallas came along, and it was this dramatic nighttime Soap Opera.

I got to play an amazing character and I got to work with Larry Hagman. He was so wonderful, he was the most wonderful, caring sweet person ever. That was a lucky thing, because when I auditioned, it was supposed to only be a recurring role for 7 episodes, and the chemistry between us was so good, the producers felt the storyline could go further, so it turned from 7 episodes into 3 years! I feel very blessed about that. 

I did a few films, but with television, you get to play more characters more often. I really feel blessed that I kind of spanned all genres. It was definitely a full 5 years. If I was a little girl dreaming of it, I couldn’t have scripted my life during that time any better. I have no regrets, I loved being a stay at home mom, I have 3 amazing kids and a very supportive husband. I tried doing both at the beginning, I did an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. The casting director cast me on Growing Pains, so she called me. I went in, I hadn’t been auditioned, my son was only a year old, and I got the job. It was fine, but I was still nursing, so that kind of went by the wayside. It was only supposed to be a week shoot, but turned out to be a 2 week job because of re-shoots. By the time I got back to my son, he was definitely not interested in nursing. Being a mom has sort of been my passion and I haven’t regretted all these years of mommydom. – That is very respectable and understandable. You want to be there with your children, the time goes by very fast.

Cathy Podewell – Yes, it’s such a magical time that you can never get back. 

Larry Hagman and Cathy Podewell in Dallas. – Absolutely. Just prior to becoming a regular on Dallas, you had made your feature debut in Night of the Demons. Considered a Horror fan-favorite all these later, how did you become involved with the film, and do you have fond memories of working on it?

Cathy Podewell – The best memories! That it has survived and it has become a fan-favorite is, so wonderful in of itself because of the rest of cast I get to see now. I kept in touch with Kevin S. Tenney, but I hadn’t seen everybody else since we made the movie, so that was a great reunion.

I loved everybody then and I love everyone now. We were all so young. Even Kevin, he was a young director. We just had the best time. At the time, we thought it would play in the theater, maybe go to VHS, and that’s it. We were just in the moment having a great time. 

How I got the part? I think my agent just sent me in. Kevin tells the story that they loved my reading, they had seen a bunch of actresses, and the casting director was pulling for me. Funny enough, Kevin was looking at my headshot, and I always played a little bit younger than I was, but my head shot was kind of mature looking. Kevin said, “I think she is too old looking,” but the casting director said, “No Kevin, she’s really young looking.” Thank goodness for the casting director, Tedra Gabriel. I was so excited, I remember getting the call and it was very exciting! – You did a great job with the role of Judy. Each character in the film had a very unique equalities, yours being more sweet and innocence. What was the chemistry like between you and the rest of the cast?

Cathy Podewell – You know, it’s funny, I was pretty much that girl in high school. (Laughs) I was definitely a good girl, I was the girl at the party who would walk in, and my friends would say, “Cathy, there is a 6 pack of TAB in the fridge for you.” I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, but I wasn’t a square. I think Judy is a little more prudish than I was. The difficulty of just really being a novice at the time, was the suspending of your belief, and your imagination had to kick in right away. To get to that place of terror, that was the most challenging part. Otherwise it was pretty easy. – Everyone’s characters are quite memorable. One of the memorable aspects of Night of the Demons was the house used in 90% of the film. Since having been torn down years later, did you actually film inside that house?

Cathy Podewell – Everything was inside. The whole movie was shot inside, outside, and climbing over the wall there. That’s the amazing thing about this movie. There was no sound stage, it was all on location. There was no CGI. That’s mind-boggling to think. I think that’s the impressive thing about this movie, how beautifully shot it was, the quality of the lighting, the smoke. I think we spoke about it on the Blu-ray, but the smoke effect was created by what was called blue cookies. They were these discs, they would light them on fire, they would smoke, fill the air, and last in a  way that real smoke or dry ice wouldn’t. The reflective quality of the light coming in from the door, all was achieved and it was brilliant. We have since found out the blue cookies were banned, they are super carcinogenic. We would come home at the end of every day and I would blow my nose, and it was blue! It was amazing to be in that house for the whole shoot. It was really pretty magical. 

Cathy Podewell as Judy in Night of the Demons. – That is really cool to hear. Hopefully nothing comes from the exposure to those blue cookies though. Beyond Night of the Demons, as mentioned, you had various other roles, but stepped away from working in film and TV thereafter. When an actor or actress acts in a Horror film, a lot of the times they star in other Horror films. Out of curiosity, at the time, were you cast for any other Horror films? 

Cathy Podewell – No, isn’t that funny? I wasn’t going out for anything. Maybe it would have happened. I landed Dallas pretty much in the fall of ’88 and Night of the Demons had just come out.

I was sort of out of commission for 3 years for audition. I guess the closest thing was the first Batman (1989). I auditioned for some part that I didn’t get. No one reached out for me, and I didn’t audition for a Horror film. That’s interesting, I never thought of it. – That is interesting. When you took on the role in Dallas, perhaps others thought you were no longer interested in Horror. It is a positive thing you did not get typecast. 

Cathy Podewell – Right, I was really lucky. That is what I was saying about the 5 years I worked, I did a little Comedy, a little TV movie, a Horror film, and a nighttime Soap Opera. I feel like I hit everything. The only thing I really didn’t do, outside college, was any theater. Again, I don’t think anyone asked me, and I don’t think I auditioned for anything Horror related after Night of the Demons – Now that you are interested in getting back into it all, have you been asked to be a part of anything?

Cathy Podewell – Just a couple of shorts. I did 2 shorts just as favors to 2 different friends. Otherwise, no, no one has asked. I have had a lot of people ask, are you going to get back into it? I am not really back into it for anyone to ask me seriously. I would have to get an agent, get a head shot, and jump back in.

International Film Marketing – That makes sense. Hopefully something will come of you jumping back into it all. 

Cathy Podewell – I am taking it slow. Also, I feel a bit silly about having a Cathy Podewell instagram. Every picture I put up is a throwback Thursday picture, there is nothing current. I have already heard from a couple of fans, who would have come up to me at Horror conventions, asking me to do something. – You shouldn’t feel silly about getting yourself out there. The Horror fan base is one of the most passionate and dedicated around. You have a fan in Horror, you have a fan for life. 

Cathy Podewell – I 100% agree with you. The people who come to these conventions are clearly passionate fans and love the genre. Everything has just been so much fun. I tell a story, two things happened. One, around 8 years ago, I had no idea about what happened with Night of the Demons. I had no idea the first film was still getting played or there were 2 sequels and a remake.

I found out because I would go to a particular grocery store and one of the clerks I noticed was looking at me. I wasn’t even thinking for acting, but one day he comes up to me and says, “Your Cathy Podewell.” I said, “How do you know that?” He said, “From ‘Night of the Demons’.” I just said, “What! Night of the Demons? You are too young, you weren’t even born!” He told me “No, it’s a cult classic.”  

Then I was asked to a Dallas reunion at a convention, I had never done one before. There were 15 Dallas actors there, and I couldn’t believe half the people that came up to give me something to sign were Night of the Demons fans. Then I really thought, “Ok, the guy was right.” I called Kevin and he kind of filled me in on what I had missed all these years. Then we started getting together for conventions and Horror fans are amazing fans!  

TNT – Wow, that had to be a pleasant surprise to find out of the film’s success. 

Cathy Podewell – Oh my gosh, it was crazy! I hadn’t seen the movie since the screening in ’88. (Laughs) We got together for a midnight screening here in Hollywood 5-6 years ago, it was just crazy to watch this movie 25 years later. The oddest thing was my with 24 year old daughter, I never really thought we looked alike. People can tell you are mother and daughter, but as I watch the movie, I was freaking out because I kept seeing certain expressions I had that looked like her. I never made that connection until the screening. It’s so funny. – That is wild. Last question for you. If you are a fan of Horror genre, do you have any favorites?

Cathy Podewell – Yes, of course, when Halloween (1978) came out I was probably in my early teens, probably a sophomore in high school. My best friend’s sister came home from movies with her boyfriend and she gave us a blow by blow of the movie. I don’t think I was ever so scared in my life. I was a Horror film lover, but just kind of got out of it. I haven’t seen all the new stuff. I rarely got to the movies, but when I did, it wasn’t the Horror genre. I am a fan though! 

Compass International Pictures
Universal Pictures

For more on Cathy Podewell: Instagram
Purchase Night of the Demons:

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