My first exposure to Kimmy Robertson’s work came as a young Disney fan. In 1989, I saw Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, where Kimmy played Gloria Forrester, and that was followed by seeing The Little Mermaid and Beauty And The Beast in theaters. In the former, Kimmy voiced one of Ariel’s sisters, and in the latter, she voiced Fifi (often incorrectly called Babette in current merchandise), one of the many enchanted objects in The Beast’s castle. As I grew older, I saw her as Rose in The Last American Virgin, another movie I came to admire very much after having some initial worries about the picture. I first introduced myself to Kimmy on Facebook in 2013, and I had the great pleasure of interviewing her on March 1st, 2016. I hope you all enjoy getting to know her as well as I did.
Say hello to Kimmy Robertson!
Kimmy: I hung up on you when you picked up the phone.
Johnny: That’s okay, Kimmy. It’s no problem.
Kimmy: I’m sorry. (Laughing) I picked it up right at the top with the button that hangs up on people, and I’m just now calling you back. How are you?
Johnny: I’m doing good. Let me pull up my questions.
Kimmy: Okay. Can you hear me okay?
Johnny: Yes. Can you hear me?
Kimmy: Yes I can.
Johnny: Alright, here we go. I always start my interviews off with these two questions. First, what were your pop-cultural likes growing up, like favorite movies and music?
Kimmy: Well, Mary Poppins and The Sound Of Music. Is that pop? Because it has the name pop in it, I guess.
Johnny: Oh, well, I meant pop culture, as in what you enjoyed watching and listening to.
Kimmy: I wasn’t allowed to watch TV or go to movies, really. I think the only thing I really did super-love was The Flintstones. That was probably because I was allowed to watch it, and The Jetsons. Those two things, and every now and then I would watch cartoons only if I would be drawing them, like Gigantor and Secret Squirrel…Stuff like that, and Dick Van Dyke.
Johnny: The next question is: What were your high school days like?
Kimmy: Well, I was in the marching band, plus I was a ballet dancer. The nights were busy with rehearsals or taking classes or band practice, and the weekends would be dancing on Saturday and the church choir on Sunday. My sister was an Episcopal pipe organist and a choir director. I also went to a lot of air shows with my dad. He was a pilot, an aerobatic pilot, so we’d go to the airport and fly airplanes and stuff, and turn upside down.
Johnny: Sounds like fun.
Kimmy: It was fun for me, but it was not fun for any of my boyfriends. (Giggling)
Johnny: Before you were an actress, you were a ballet dancer. What are your favorite memories of your dancing days?
Kimmy: I think my very favorite memories, of being in a group anyway, were being in…There’s two companies I was in that had very little to do with ballet, actually. One was a modern ballet company called The Pilot Ballet, and the other was sort of a folk-dancing company called American Folk Ballet. I used to see them on Ed Sullivan all the time, and it was sort of like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, that sort of dancing was a lot like that. My favorite memories in the Pilot were laughing and making fun of the stuff we had to do, because it was modern and really, really ridiculous. The L.A Philharmonic came and we were all really excited because they were going to put the music to our movements. One guy bought a garden hose, another bought a trash can lid, (laughing) and it was about a thousand degrees in the theater. There were private moments where I was able to do things that when you hit certain levels, you start doing different techniques, and when you find a technique that suits your body, all of a sudden you can dance the way you want to. That was really cool. I’m glad I finally got to do that so I didn’t have to leave ballet as a frustrated dancer.
Johnny: According to the IMDB, you were part of Andy Kaufman’s Carnegie Hall show. What do you recall the most about working on that?
Kimmy: Well, he was really tall, and when he looked down at me and talked to me, it was like you were being covered with yellow butterscotch love. It’s almost like he was pouring a bucket of love onto you, and that was not just once, but every time he spoke to me. It was direct eye contact, always warm, always some humor, a little sarcasm, a little regular humor, a little love…That’s what I remember the most, the part I liked the most. Things like milk and cookies, and watching the audience try to comprehend what’s happening. (Laughing) It was great. He was not just ahead of his time…He was ahead of all time.
Johnny: Cool. You made your film debut as Rose in The Last American Virgin. Were you nervous about making the jump from dancing to acting?
Kimmy: Well, I didn’t realize I was making that jump until literally, Johnny, when I did my very first on-camera sentence. That’s when I knew I was making the jump. Up to that moment, all I was doing was following some bread crumbs. My dance company was on a tour to Israel, and I didn’t want to go, so I stayed and worked in their offices. It was a big building with agents and offices and all kinds of creative things happening, and this one lady was hearing me on the phone. I was answering the phones for everybody, and I basically mostly hung up on everyone, sort of like I did with you. It’s a running theme with me. She thought I was funny (laughing) because of how I was trying to be normal. She made me go to this audition, and one thing led to another, and I ended up on a set. When I did it, I realized that was the feeling I was looking for all my life in ballet. I was looking for that spark you get when you are creating. I don’t really get that spark when I’m reading other people’s lines, but when a director lets me…How can I explain it? “Put my own spin on it” is a sentence people like to use a lot. I think it’s way overused and means nothing, but collaborating a little. When you work with a director who can rely on you to do what he likes you for, what he hired you for, and he gives you little indicators and then you follow that like a puzzle, and you add a word or two or a sentence or two, that’s what I like to do. That was Boaz Davidson. It just happened. It was obviously magic. I got to work with him. It was the first thing I ever did, and I never had that kind of training before. Basically, I was doing what I had done all my life in my family’s kitchen after dinner…Entertain.
Johnny: I noticed when watching the movie that Rose seems to disappear around the time that the movie takes the turn from comedy to drama. Had you filmed scenes for the more dramatic second half, but they were deleted, or were you just not part of the movie from that point onward?
Kimmy: You know, I was there all the time. He always wanted me there, watching all of those scenes, but I wasn’t in any of them. I didn’t know for sure if I was going to be in them or not, so I would be there, and sometimes I would get made up and sit there, and other times I would just sit there. The script and the movie weren’t exactly the same, and it was not really appropriate for Rose to be there, I guess, in his mind. In the script, I had, like, two lines, and by the time the script was done, I was in it a lot more than I ever thought I was going to be in it. I liked that. I was grateful.
Johnny: One more question about The Last American Virgin before moving on to other aspects of your career: The movie ends on a rather realistic note, a note that makes people wonder what happens after it’s all over. What do you suppose Rose would be doing in 2016 if they did a follow-up to the movie?
Kimmy: Oh, Rose would probably…Let’s see. She probably would’ve become a performance artist and moved to Los Angeles, and then got married to a plastic surgeon. I think she’d be doing a lot of philanthropic work. She’d be a philanthropist with her husband’s money. She’d save all the animals that needed help. That’s what she would do.
Johnny: Moving on from The Last American Virgin, in 1984, you played Sarah Fitzpatrick in Growing Pains, or as it’s called in foreign markets, Bad Manners. I’ve always wanted to see the movie, but it never had a domestic DVD or Blu-Ray release, although since Kino Lorber Studio Classics has the rights to some titles from the New World Pictures library, we might see a digital release for it. What was your favorite memory of working on that movie?
Kimmy: Being with Martin Mull, and listening to him do anything stream-of-consciousness-wise. Definitely that was my favorite part of the movie. I also liked the crew a lot. They were really cool.
Johnny: I hope it gets a DVD or Blu-Ray release.
Kimmy: Well, you can always come over to my living room, and I can show it to you on VHS. (Laughing)
Johnny: Now moving on: According to the IMDB, you had spent some time as a Disneyland cast member. When you auditioned for Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, the first project in an association with Disney lasting more than a decade, did you mention that to the creative staff of the movie?
Kimmy: You know, I’m not quite sure. It was really odd. I told them everything because I went to about a thousand meetings with Joe Johnston and all those people. They really liked me and they were forward thinking. They kept saying they wanted to find a spot for me, and I had to show them my driver’s license because they didn’t believe I was more than 17. I kept coming in more and more normal clothes, and at the final audition, I had my hair in a low bun over my ears, no make-up and really ugly clothes, very matronly clothes, and all they did was laugh. (Laughing) It was almost like a job going to their auditions, their meetings, because they were looking for something for me to do, and in the end, I did tell them about that. I’m sure I imitated a lot of the Disney dancing and I told them stories about working at Disneyland in America On Parade, and how I hit a man in the balls accidentally with my fishing pole. (Laughing) I came to work the next day, and my fishing pole was fixed from then on. I couldn’t use it anymore. It was a weapon. The movie? We did it in Mexico City. The director was in the make-up room with everybody, and I was holding the dog while getting make-up on. Her name was Sushi, the doggy. I was waving at him with her paw and doing all kinds of stuff with her, and he said “Okay, this is it. This is what I want you to do. You are Gloria Forrester, and we’ll have you drive up in the Winnebago”. We just started talking, and I started talking about the lake and my Dad Charlie and the raccoons, the fish are jumping, and it all sort of got put in as an improv scene. It was a lot of fun. He also worked that way where he would have a conversation or spend time, and that would end up in the movie. That’s where I do good work. Everything else I do is shitty, but when I do something that’s just natural, something that I’ve already done in the living room, then it’s okay.
Johnny: Well, I definitely wouldn’t call any of your work shitty. I think you’ve always done an amazing job.
Kimmy: Oh, thank you!
Johnny: Speaking of Disney, you’ve also done voice-over work in several Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty And The Beast. What do you think has made those movies continue to stand out?
Kimmy: Well, they were the first ones of the new generation of Disney. They have so much energy and love behind them. They were made by people who grew up watching the classics, who went to art school, who…All they could think about was Walt and the way he did things and how he wanted things. They were purists and they were friends of mine. We would go to Disneyland and they would show me who painted what and why and when, and how often it got repainted. All of that stuff, all of that energy went into those movies. They wanted to bring animation back because it had become nothing and it was no longer considered an art form. It was in a bunch of buildings not even on the lot, and they wanted to bring it back to the lot. When we finally did Beauty And The Beast, and when they invited us all to the screening at the El Capitan, they refurbished it. They completely restored it, and the first thing they showed was Beauty And The Beast. Jeffrey Katzenberg came running up to me and grabbed me by the shoulders, and said “Kimmy, this is bringing animation back to the lot. This movie is bringing it back to the lot”. Everyone was very happy and they did bring it back to the lot.
Johnny: Beauty And The Beast is probably one of my favorite 90s movies, and considering that I didn’t exactly have a good time in the 90s. that’s saying something.
Kimmy: (Laughing) Oh, why? What happened in the 90s?
Johnny: Basically it started in 1991 when I was in the third grade. I started having a lot of emotional issues and mental issues and having to deal with school bullies. It just got worse, and in 1996, I ended up snapping and landing in a mental hospital and getting diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, not to mention I had to deal with things like my dad’s death of a heart attack in 1995 and multiple school transfers from 1997 to 1999. It was actually in that decade that I turned to the pop culture of the 80s as a form of escape, which is how I came to be more familiar with your work in stuff like The Last American Virgin and The Little Mermaid and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and things like that that I turned to as a form of escape from what I was dealing with.
Kimmy: Well, that’s probably why I like you, because I come from a family of Asperger’s and I’ve often been called that. If I was your mother, I would’ve taken you out of school, and let you learn on your own, with books and movies and tutors, the kind you liked. I would never have made you go to school with all those Muggles.
Johnny: Well, that’s enough about me. Let’s go back to you: Many 90s television viewers know you best for playing Lucy Moran on Twin Peaks. What do you think has made that show stick in people’s minds despite having such a short initial run?
Kimmy: Well, the day that I went to the screening of Twin Peaks at the Director’s Guild Of America, I sat there in the theater and waited for the lights to go down, and assumed I would leave before they came up because I would be embarrassed. I didn’t. I stayed until the credits were done and the lights came up. I still sat there and everyone clapped for, like, 10 minutes, everyone in that theater. I think the difference was we had been seeing the same kind of television for decades, the same kind of daytime soaps and nighttime soaps and nighttime television. We had been seeing the same formula forever. It was just the right time. We needed something that had…art in it. I don’t know how else to say that, but something that was not just television, but like moving art. It was a very artistic, very different, very moving deal, and it moves you. Some people it scared. It definitely created an emotional response in everybody, whatever it was. Hatred, love, fear, or just curiosity…Familiarity. A lot of people saw themselves in that pilot. They just saw that what we had been seeing on TV up until 1990 was television’s version of normal, and you and I both know that’s not normal. We’re normal. Normal is bizarre. That’s what humanity is. It’s bizarre, and it’s the first time we got to see it in a way, because it was the exact right time. All signs pointed to yes, so that’s my opinion on why it worked.
Johnny: Very interesting, and I would definitely agree with you. Another Twin Peaks question: Lucy wore very colorful sweaters. They were so colorful that I’m thinking of calling my own colorful sweater a Lucy sweater, mainly because I no longer feel comfortable calling it a Cosby sweater. Was the wardrobe your idea or the costume designer’s?
Kimmy: (Laughing) That was Patricia Norris, and then Sara Markowitz who did the TV show all the time. You’re exactly right. Those are Lucy sweaters, and I wore those things in real life, so the characters that you get cast as are, more often than not, three quarters of you. I wore that kind of stuff. I wore rabbit earrings, Christmas ball earrings, bows in my hair, and so did Lucy…So does Lucy still to this day.
Johnny: Aah, a hint at the upcoming new Twin Peaks series?
Kimmy: I really can’t say.
Johnny: Sounds very intriguing. Moving back to film, in 1997, you played Liza in Speed 2: Cruise Control. The only critics who liked it were Siskel and Ebert.
Kimmy: I know. (Laughing) They gave it, like, twenty thumbs up or ten thumbs up.
Johnny: Yeah, they gave it two thumbs up, and Sandra Bullock came to view it as an old shame. Do you view the movie as an old shame as well, or were you okay with how it turned out?
Kimmy: I was mortified when I first saw it. When I saw it again last year on television, I went “Oh, it’s not so bad. It’s in some sort of class by itself”, and I don’t know what that class is. I haven’t come up with the word, but it’s definitely not harmful. (Laughing) I don’t know why it turned out that way. I don’t know what happened. I honestly don’t, but it sure was fun making it, riding around on a boat like that in the Caribbean.
Johnny: I see. Going back to television and voice-work, you did voice work in two different animated incarnations of Batman, voicing Alice Pleasance in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Mad As A Hatter” in 1992, and voicing Margo seven years in the Batman Beyond episode “Disappearing Inque”. As you were a kid when the rather campy Adam West version of Batman was on the air, what was it like to be working on these more serious shows?
Kimmy: Oh, I just figured I had died and went to Heaven, and none of this was really happening, that I had just imagined it, especially the people I was acting with in the room. We were all in a room together back then. Nowadays you mostly just go by yourself. That was a huge honor. I was bowled over at being asked. I was really the only female there, and those guys were so talented…Both groups, the first one and the second one. I met Roddy McDowell and became friendly with him and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. There was something magical about that show.
Johnny: I definitely agree. On a different tack, a lot of your recent acting has been in independent shorts. Are short films easier to work on than features?
Kimmy: Well, that’s just acting. I rarely turn down work. Now I’ve made it a policy to no longer work for free. I did that for a long time. It’s sort of like money in the karmic bank doing that. No, they’re not easier. They’re more difficult, in my opinion, to work on. Big things with giant budgets? There’s a lot of people doing a lot of jobs, and it rolls pretty smoothly. I haven’t done all that much, so I don’t really feel comfortable answering that. I do know that working in a situation like one where I may be working now, we aren’t supposed to be talking about it, but we’re left alone on the corporate side, and you get to just do what the director and writer want you to do. That’s the fun of the role. That’s the neatest. Sometimes it is an independent film.
Johnny: Okay. One of those shorts was the title role in a PlayShorts film called Valerie’s World. I thought it was funny, especially hearing you curse. Were there more plans for that character?
Kimmy: The guy who did that was doing a web series that I thought was really, really good about the mob and their everyday life. She was going to be in the mob, like a mom. We thought we’d do that and just get her on film and see what happened next as far as funding or anything. I really wasn’t paying attention to that. I was just doing what he asked me to do. I wasn’t very well then. I was sort of not all the way present. I was, but I mean it was more of a struggle than it should’ve been.
Johnny: Okay. On another different tack, what would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between 1982 and 2016?
Kimmy: Corporations own it. They own everything, and it’s almost like if you’re doing a movie, it’s because part of that movie’s going to end up as a ride at Disneyland. That’s basically my opinion, period.
Johnny: Okay. You turn 62 years old this year, but you look and sound decades younger. What’s your secret to remaining so youthful?
Kimmy: I don’t have a husband and I don’t have children, and I’m pretty darn immature. Those are my three beauty secrets (laughing) as far as I can tell. Children make you old and tired (Laughing).
Johnny: What five directors would you most like to work with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Kimmy: Oh, gosh. Wow, I’ve never thought of that. I don’t think in those terms. I worked with David Lynch, of course, already. I would like to do a small part in one of Alejandro Inarritu’s movies. I would really just like to be in the room, be in the scene, be there for a week. He interests me, the way he works. He just becomes part of the story. I really like that. I’d like to work with him. As far as anybody else, Joss Whedon, the Coen Brothers and probably anyone who’s going to be doing anything in animation, because that’s my favorite thing.
Johnny: I still recall writing an article for Pop Geeks where I came up with my recommendations for people who I feel should be named Disney Legends, and I mentioned you as one of them.
Kimmy: Oh, thank you. Wow! How wonderful of you to do that. Thank you. I’m just a fan, a huge fan. I love doing that.
Johnny: If I can recall, besides you, I mentioned, as possible Disney Legends: On the female side of things, Mandy Moore, Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, and Bette Midler, who I thought should be named a Disney Legend for all the stuff she did for Touchstone Pictures in the 80s. On the male side of things, I mentioned Keith David, Jim Varney, George Lucas, who ended up being named a Disney Legend last year, and Siskel and Ebert, whose show was produced by Disney from 1986 onward.
Kimmy: I did not know that. That answers a lot of questions. Interesting. You know, Johnny, there’s one thing that keeps flashing in my head. They don’t always call her Fifi. Sometimes they call her Babette. That’s because, in the Broadway show, they changed Fifi’s name to Babette and I don’t know why.
Johnny: Okay. Now we come to this question. It’s the one I’ve ended every interview with practically since I started doing them years ago, and it’s this: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?
Kimmy: I don’t think so. Not one thing, not a thing. I’ve mostly been driven by good intentions. I feel that if I went back I would still be driven by good intentions. If it didn’t come out the way it did, again it would come out a different way, but very much on the same spectrum. My answer to you question is no. There is nothing I would do differently.
Johnny: Okay. Well, on that note, I would like to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Kimmy: I’m on vacation, so I don’t really have a schedule today, Johnny.
Johnny: Well, either way, it was an honor to speak to you. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a long time.
Kimmy: You’re welcome. Thank you. I’m the one who’s honored, truly. Have a great rest of your week, Johnny. It was really nice to meet you.
Johnny: It was nice to meet you, too. Have a good afternoon.
Kimmy: Okay, bye.
I would like to thank Kimmy Robertson for taking the time to speak to me. I hope you all enjoyed getting to know more about her life and career. Who will I flashback with next? The possibilities are endless.