I first saw Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Showtime in the early 90s, but I wouldn’t really appreciate the movie until my high school years. One of the most memorable characters in the Bill And Ted movies has been Missy, the stepmother of both members of the duo throughout the films. Missy was played by my newest interview subject, Amy Stoch. There’s so much more to Amy Stoch than Missy, though, and I knew she would make for a great interview subject.
I had initially reached out to Amy about an interview last year, but it couldn’t be done because of filming on what would come to be known as Bill And Ted Face The Music. With that movie now playing at selected theaters and available for digital rental and download, I reached out to Amy again about the possibility of an interview. With the assistance of her press representative Charles Sherman, we talked on Monday, August 24th about her long and varied career.
Say hello to Amy Stoch!
Johnny: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Amy: Oh, I love it. Thank you.
Johnny: Alright. I have my questions ready to go…
Johnny: …And I’ll be jumping around with these questions, so I’ll start out with this: When you were filming Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the late 80s, did you have any idea that it would become the legendary franchise it has?
Amy: (Laughing) No, not at all. When we first shot Bill And Ted’s, it was a lot of fun. A lot of us were relatively unknown at that point, just starting out, having a great time, and then, as most actors do, you finish a job and you hope for the best. In terms of Excellent Adventure, it eventually turned out that the production company went bankrupt, and we didn’t even think it was going to come out, and we moved on.
We moved on to other projects and all this other stuff, and then two years later, the litigation was finished and the little film we had done two years before got picked up by someone, and it was edited together. It wasn’t even edited. It was just thrown into cans and thrown into the vault, so Nelson Entertainment picked it up and then Orion Pictures came on board. They put it together and just put it out there in ’89, hoping it would make some money, and then bingo! This thing just took off. No, none of us expected that at all, especially when we were shooting. We kind of never expected it to come out, so (laughing) I’m glad it did.
Johnny: Alright. What went into the creative process for playing Missy in the first Bill And Ted movie?
Amy: I don’t know. That’s an interesting question as an actor. I think I found the character of Missy through the audition process because I went back about six times for that little part. The audition scene was the one where the phone booth drops behind her as she’s watering, and she meets all the historical figures for the first time. There’s not a lot for me to say in that scene, but there’s a lot of listening and reacting to what’s going on. At first it was a cute little scene, and I guess from the very beginning, when I first read the scene, I took it as key that she’s very serious about what she does.
She is a homemaker. She has a teenage son, and his friends just dropped by, so in that respect, I started Missy at a point of reality, rather than some fantasy blonde bimbo. I don’t like that at all, so I just started her from a very real place, and then during the audition process is when I kind of discovered the Missy/Mom look, the look I give Bill when he has to correct himself and call me Mom, and I think, with each time I went back, I tried to find something just a little different to play around with. I think that’s what they liked, and I think that’s why I got the part.
Johnny: Very cool. I know that, on the original VHS release of Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, you shot a contest promo in character as Missy for this contest where those who entered, by answering three questions, could end up winning a trip to France. Did you ever meet the person who won that contest?
Amy: (Laughing) No. No, I didn’t. I would like to actually know who they were. I remember that promo. I kind of completely forgot I did it until somebody posted it on social media several months ago, and I went, “Oh, my lord. Look at me!”. Yeah, I was selling VCRs and VHS tapes (laughing) and all kinds of fun stuff, and then the trip to France. No, I never met them. I would like to know who won that. That would be cool.
Johnny: Well, with all that’s going on with Bill And Ted right now, perhaps they might reveal themselves, but to stay with you: You returned for Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey. Some have stated a preference for Bogus Journey to Excellent Adventure, so what made Bogus Journey stand out for you?
Amy: Where Excellent Adventure was more innocent fun, Bogus Journey was a little darker. For me personally, my favorite scene that we’ve shot in all three of them has been the seance scene. That’s in Bogus Journey, and I think that’s where Missy gets to take the lead in a scene, and gets to play around with everybody. Chris wrote in that scene, which was so much fun, and in that scene, we get to play with some different words. I actually get to say “Ed and Chris will rule the world” backwards. That was the chant. That was pretty cool. Just shooting it was fun because they had this eight-foot fan that they would crank up, and it would start blowing stuff all over the set. We had a riot shooting that scene, and then I get to send them to Hell, which starts the whole movie, actually. It was pretty cool.
Johnny: Very. Although you can’t reveal any details about Bill And Ted Face The Music, what was it like to reunite with Keanu and Alex?
Amy: Oh, it was great. My first day on set was originally scheduled for the first week of filming, which is always so exciting and great, but unfortunately, last year they got hit with a hurricane. They pushed back the schedule, and the schedule kind of got messed up, so my first week got pushed from June to the end of July, and by that point, everybody had been working on the film together for several weeks, and were kind of in the groove. For me, coming on set the first day of filming, I was really grateful that the camera, for the first part, was on the two guys. I could sit back and I could observe, off-camera, the two of them working together again, and then react and kind of practice some things off camera. After one or two takes, I’m looking at Keanu and Alex (laughing) and going “Oh my god! Thirty years has never happened! These two are just as fun and as wonderful as they were 32 years ago”. It was so much fun to watch them work together again, and to reconnect. They are both wonderful men, and I am very proud to be part of this entire franchise.
Johnny: Fantastic. I’m actually going to be seeing it at a drive-in with my friend this Thursday. I’m looking forward to it.
Amy: Oh, cool. So you haven’t seen it yet, then?
Johnny: No, I haven’t, but I am looking forward to it.
Amy: Well, that’s good to know because I don’t want to spoiler alert you then. Okay, cool. Go ahead.
Johnny: To return to the 80s, you first broke through by competing in the spokesmodel category on Star Search. What are your favorite memories of being on that show?
Amy: I loved being on Star Search. It was a really wonderful, cool experience. For one thing, we would all meet at the theater in the morning. We would have dry-walk rehearsal. We would run through the schedule. You’d meet your competition (laughing), which is always kind of fun. We’d have dinner together on set, and then we would do the hair and makeup, and then they’d bring in the studio audience. This theater was huge. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was on Sunset Boulevard here in Hollywood, and it was big, so the audience was large, and then they had the three judges sitting right there in front of you.
I’d never been in any kinds of competitions, other than auditions all through high school and college for plays and things, but that level of competition was new for me, and it was a little nerve-wracking at first, but then I started to win, and I won about five times. I lost on my sixth regular season show, and then made it to the semi-finals, but it was neat. Everybody that I encountered while we were doing that was just so excited to be there, and there was none of this “Oh, I’m going to beat you” cutthroat kind of thing. No, it was just a friendly, congenial, “let’s just have good fun” competition, at least for me. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I just enoyed every taping of that show because it felt, eventually, like we were all having a great time.
I got my big break from Star Search because Sue Cameron was a judge on my last show, the one I lost on. She’s the one who came backstage, handed me her card, and said, “I am an agent with Leading Artists, and I’d like to represent you”, so, off of that show, I got my first really good agent, and that’s what kickstarted my career.
Johnny: Very cool. Before I return to the acting, I have to ask: Did competing in the spokesmodel category lead to any modeling gigs, and if so, which were your favorite companies to work for as a model?
Amy: This is interesting. I started modeling in Ohio as a young child for the Higbee Company. My mom worked for them, and she got my sister and I both into modeling, so modeling has always been in my life, although to be a model was never my ambition. My ambition was always to be an actor, and particularly a film actor. For Star Search, my agency in Chicago, Shirley Hamilton’s, I had two auditions set up. One was for the spokesmodel category, and one was for the acting competition. The acting competition was the one I wanted the most, and for some reason, my audition got canceled for the acting competition. I don’t know why. I went in and I asked, and no one knew why, so I ended up in the spokesmodel category.
For me, I never considered myself a model. I always considered myself an actor, which is, I think, why I won a lot. These other women that I competed against on Star Search were gorgeous…I mean, just beautiful, tall, New York, statuesque models, and I’m this little thing from the midwest. I mean, I did K-Mart catalogs and things like that, and I had a lot of fun, but when they put the microphone in my hand for the Star Search commercial teasers, that’s when I shined. That’s when I came to life because that was acting. That was me. I was being the spokesperson for the show, and that’s why I think I won in my competitions. It’s because of that, so to say that my aspirations were to be a model after that? No, they weren’t. They were to be an actor, and that’s why Sue coming backstage and offering to represent me theatrically just lit up my world because that’s exactly why I had moved to Los Angeles.
I will finish this by saying modeling? I still love to do it. I think it’s fun to play with the camera. It’s fun because you don’t have any lines to memorize (laughing), and you can just play. That’s why I really love modeling, and I always have.
Johnny: Alright. To go back to acting, one of your earliest acting gigs was playing Britta Englund on Days Of Our Lives. As I’ve asked other soap opera veterans like Audrey Landers and Ami Dolenz, what lessons did you learn in soap opera acting that would help you later in your carrer?
Amy: There was a lot I learned doing Days Of Our Lives. Boy, where to begin? I will try to keep this short. I had just come out of training at the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts in New York, and there, they’re just into this deep exploration, and the Sanford Meisner method, which is all really good to study, but when I got on Days Of Our Lives, it was “Act now, act fast, do it in one take so we can move on”. For me, that was very difficult to learn. I had to kind of let go of all that “I need to go in a corner and prepare” stuff, and learn how to embody a character and how to prepare on the fly.
For me, that was very important in terms of learning how to act for film and television. You do all the work at home, but when you’re on set, you are already there. You’re already in the character. You’re good to go. There is no trying to work through the process to get there. You do that at home, and then you come to set the set and you’re ready to go and jump into that character.
Someone else who taught me that in being on these shows, and was amazing to work with among character actors, was when I did the Gunsmoke TV movies. I played Jim Arness’ daughter, Beth Dillon, and Jim Arness is an icon. He played Matt Dillon, and when I watched Jim on set, he’d be off-set waiting for his shot. He’d be greeting people and be a very friendly man, and then they’d call him to set. All of a sudden, he’d put his boots on and get up from his chair, and in the time it took to get from his chair to in front of the camera, he became Matt Dillon in front of everybody’s eyes. It was just like that, and there was no real, true thinking about it. He just embodied it right away, and that, for me, from Days Of Our Lives and further on into my work, that’s where I learned the most about film acting. It was a golden lesson for me to learn.
Johnny: That’s great. It’s definitely worked out well for you. To go to my next question, you played Kim in Summer School, a small part, but an important character. You’re the second talent from that movie that I’ve interviewed, the first being the film’s ADR coordinator, Leigh French. What made that movie such a standout for you?
Amy: Summer School was another one of those “How did I ever get this part?” because not only did I audition for Carl Reiner, but I got chosen by Carl Reiner to do the part, and then I got directed by him. For me, being a Dick Van Dyke fan from way back when, I was, and still am, a huge Carl Reiner fan, so to be able to work with him, and be directed by him, on such a fun little scene opposite Mark Harmon, who is just a wonderful person to work with, was a dream come true. It was a fun little scene to shoot. It had some good comedy in it. Kim is like, “Well, that’s okay, honey. You just stay here, and I’ll go by myself, and I’ll make friends and I’ll have a great time”. It was just like that, so it was a fun little scene to set up the rest of the film. I had a blast shooting it, and I will never forget working with Carl Reiner.
Johnny: Yeah, definitely one of the most tragic losses in a year so full of them…
Amy: Yeah, I know.
Johnny: …But on a lighter note, you spent some time on Dallas, playing the character of Lisa Alden. What are your favorite memories of working on that show?
Amy: Dallas was a huge experience for me. I was on year 10, which was kind of cool. Lots of anniversary parties. There were so many memories to pull from Dallas. Working with Patrick Duffy, and then being able to play the snake with Larry Hagman’s character, and be directed in one episode by Linda Gray was really wonderful. My most special moment for me, among a ton of them on Dallas, was when I got to do a scene with Barbara Bel Geddes, Miss Ellie. It was a short scene, but a significant scene. After we were done shooting, she just shook my hand and she said, “You’re a good actress”. I went, “Thank you”, and I was thrilled. That was, to me, to this day, the greatest compliment I could’ve gotten from this wonderful actress. Barbara Bel Geddes was saying, “You’re a good actress” to ME. She was complimenting me, and I truly appreciated that. It made my world when she said that because I felt so out of my league coming into Dallas with all of those famous stars, people who had been on the show for ten years, and so her saying that to me was almost like an acceptance, like “You should be here. You’re good to be here”, so that was cool.
Johnny: Very cool, and it’s always good when you get that sort of feedback from a veteran talent. It’s like a confirmation that you’ve made it.
Amy: Yeah, that was great.
Johnny: Oh, absolutely. Speaking of Dallas, it’s said Dallas helped bring about the end of communism in Romania as the Ceausescu regime intended to use Dallas as an example of the perils of capitalism, but Romanian citizens saw that even the poorer people on Dallas were living better lives than they were. Have you ever been recognized for your part in Dallas while traveling in post-Cold War Europe?
Amy: Uh, no. I don’t know much about that. I think that’s a fascinating idea. I’ve never heard that before, so I’ll have to do some research on that, but no, I don’t get recognized for Lisa Alden. I don’t get recognized for anybody anymore (laughing), let’s put it that way. 30 years can definitely change a face. I don’t even get recognized as Missy anymore. The character I got most recognized for was Britta from Days Of Our Lives.
Johnny: Alright. To go to my next question, you’re the latest in a long line of former Murder, She Wrote guest stars I’ve interviewed as you played another Amy, Amy Ortega, in the episode Death Goes Double Platinum. What do you recall the most about working on that show?
Amy: That was a fun show. Tony Plana played my husband. He was great to work with. There were really good actors on that show. I played being pregnant, which was interesting. I’d never played pregnant before, and that was a portent of what was to come, which was my son a couple of years later. Working with Angela Lansbury…She is an icon, again, but she’s just a wonderful woman to work with, very giving, enjoying the whole process of the show.
I love to tell this story. We were setting up for another take of another scene I was in. I sat off-set in my chair. I loved to cross-stitch because I loved to do something that would keep me occupied, but not too involved where I would lose my train of thought in the character. I would cross-stitch, and I remember sitting there in my chair, cross-stitching away, waiting for my call to come back to set. All of a sudden, I hear this voice, and she just said, (assuming a light British accent) “Oh, my that’s lovely”. (Back to her own voice) I look, and it was Angela Lansbury, and she made a point to come over and look at my cross-stitching and comment on it. We sat down for a moment or two and talked a little bit about stitching, so that was really cool.
I love being on set. I love watching the process of film and TV making. For me, that’s exciting when I can sit back, stand out of the way and observe and watch and, when it’s appropriate, go ask questions of the tech guys or the camera crew. I love asking questions of the camera crew. Just to be in that atmosphere, and to have the star of the show just walk and over and casually go, “Oh, that’s lovely work”…It just adds to that whole excitement and that whole experience for me, and that’s why I love what I do. I love what I do so much. I learn so much, and the people I have been blessed to work with, for the majority of my work, have been wonderful, giving, very friendly, and very good people to work with.
Johnny: That’s amazing. You mention learning, and that does lead me into my next question. You have a BA in Theater from Ashland College, an MA in Theater from CSUN, and a Ph.D in Theater History from The University Of Illinois. Which of those three are you most proud of having achieved?
Amy: Oh, boy. Okay. Which of those three am I most proud of? Probably my Bachelor of Arts degree. I don’t know why. In my day and age, I was lucky enough to have both of my parents work very hard at their jobs to send all three of us kids to college. That was their big thing. I’m sorry. I’m going to get emotional. Hold on. (Choking up) I guess that’s why achieving the Bachelor of Arts means so much to me, because I knew what my parents went through to give me that opportunity. I worked hard at that degree, and some of my best memories are from Ashland. Some of my dearest friends are from Ashland. I studied hard. I worked hard. I graduated Magna Cum Laude, which I’m proud of and my parents are very proud of. I graduated with a degree in theater that my parents supported every step of the way, and when you have that kind of love and support, and those kinds of friends that you meet at college, and those kinds of experiences we had onstage with an amazing director, Murray Hudson, and wonderful tech guys like Steve Seritor, we had such a tight group of actors and friends who did theater for Ashland. I think that’s the degree I’m most proud of, because it was a gift from my parents to me.
Johnny: That’s lovely, and how lucky you were to have such supportive parents.
Amy: Yes, yes, I was. I was very lucky. I know a lot of people don’t. I know some of my high school friends that I did theater with did not have that support through college. I mean, their parents supported them in college, but they wouldn’t support a theater major, so my parents rocked. They just rocked. They supported all three of us kids in whatever we decided to do with our lives, and that kind of support is priceless. That’s why I have the career I have, because of my parents.
Johnny: That’s lovely, and that leads me to ask: As a teacher of film and television, what’s been the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
Amy: Oh, I love my students. I do. I miss them so much now that we’re all on Zoom, online, and have been for two semesters now. I miss teaching them in person because what I get from them is just an energy, and an enthusiasm, and a love for the craft that, sometimes, can get very lost the older you get and the more jaded you get in this business. Believe me, I’ve been through a lot in my life, in my personal life, in my career, and as an older person, your hopes and dreams can get waylaid, and they can get buried under all the muck that’s happening.
This year has been muck-filled, believe me, but when I get with my students, even online, they still want this, and they still have dreams and desires and hopes, and they want to change the world through their art, and that infuses me with an energy to keep going. I learn so much more from them than they could ever learn from me. I can teach them what I know, and I’m glad to still be working and to be able to bring the freshness of the business to them, but man, there’s nothing like teaching a group of enthusiastic, young, smart and talented people who want to make a difference, and that just helps me tremendously, especially now.
Johnny: Well, I certainly look forward to the return of better times for you, for me, for everybody.
Amy: Yes. I totally agree.
Johnny: Staying with teaching, I asked a similar question of my good friend Kim Hopkins when I interviewed her, and now I’d like to ask it of you as well. I’m on the autism spectrum as I deal with Asperger’s Syndrome. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of help with my social skills, I know there are many on the spectrum who have difficulty with them, so do you think the study of film and television can help people on the autism spectrum as a way to learn social skills?
Amy: That’s an excellent question, Johnny. That is a very good question. I would say, unequivocally, yes. Here’s the thing, though, and I just thought of this. Yes, you can learn social skills through film and through theater, but don’t imitate them. You are good as you. That’s what you need to believe. Yeah, you can learn certain ways to be and certain communication skills, obviously…How to shake someone’s hand, how to look them in the eye, that kind of thing. I have a relative who is also on the Asperger’s scale, so I know what I speak of, and he’s just a wonderful young man.
Yes, you can learn lessons from film and TV and things like that, but don’t rely on that. Rely on you. You’re good as you are. Respect that. I think that’s what you should be focusing more on, who you are. You should accept that, and I think it’s pretty cool that you’re owning that, and telling me and telling everybody on your podcast. You have a podcast, for heaven’s sake! I don’t even have a podcast. I think you’re learning some very good skills right now just interviewing people, and the questions you’re coming up with are really good. You can learn skills. I do. You can learn ways to be, but don’t imitate them. Be you.
Johnny: Well, thank you very much for the compliment. Technically, it’s not a podcast. What I do is transcribe the interviews for publication on the website Pop Geeks…
Amy: Oh, cool. Okay.
Johnny: …But i understand where you’re coming from. I do record them beforehand, and I certainly do thank you for the compliments on my lines of questioning. It means a lot.
Johnny: To stay with you, though, before things went haywire as a result of coronavirus, did you ever make any convention appearances to sign autographs and take pictures, and if not, will you consider doing them once things get better?
Amy: I did one…Well, okay, many years ago I did several. I’m talking 35 years ago when I had a PR man. He got me some conventions, not too many. When I finally came back to the business six years ago, I left Illinois and came back to Los Angeles. About three years ago, I did one WonderCon down in Anaheim. BOOM! Studios had just come out with their whole line of Bill and Ted comics, and they wanted me to come down and sign autographs and be in the booth, and that was so much fun.
I was in the booth with Brian Lynch, the writer of The Secret Life Of Pets 1 and 2, Minions, all these great films, and he was a fan of Bill and Ted. He’s a major fan of Bill and Ted, which is so much fun, and also Scott Kroopf was there, the producer of Bill and Ted. Scott and I hadn’t seen each other in thirty years, and we reconnected. It was wonderful. It was cool to attend a comic con. I had never really done that before, so it was really neat for me to walk around and see everybody, all the cosplayers and all that. It was a great experience, and I would definitely do it again once we’re opened up and allowed to do it. That would be cool.
Johnny: I would love to see you attend the Chiller Theatre convention in Parsippany, NJ. Perhaps that might be a possibility but, of course, we need to wait for things to get better.
Johnny: Speaking of which: Which talents, actors or directors would you most like to work with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Amy: Hmm, so many. As a director, I would love to work with Ron Howard. I was in a show his studio produced, Mr. Student Body President, but as an actor, I’d love to work with him.
Johnny: We’ll go to our final question. What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the entertainment industry?
Amy: Don’t let anybody talk you out of it. If this is your passion, if this is what you feel you want to do with your life, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. So many people can be naysayers and say, “Oh, you’ll never make it. You’ll never do anything in this business”. Well, okay. Why believe them? Give it a shot if you feel strongly enough, like me. Since 2nd grade, I’d never wanted to do anything else but be a movie star, and be in theater, and be in acting, and I’ve spent my whole life doing that, so do it. Go for it. Try it.
Here’s the thing. After a while, if it’s not working out, then you need to segue into something else, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up the business entirely. There are so many different avenues you can try in this business. I’m trying my hand at screenwriting and playwriting right now, and I have some things that I want to start investigating out there with publishers and agents. You do have to make money. You do have to earn a living, especially in these very hard economic times that will be coming very soon because of the lockdown, because of everything that’s been going on, so take care of yourself. Take care of you and your family, and whoever else you have in your life, but don’t cut yourself short. Give it a shot. Give it a good one, and at some point, if it works for you, great. Keep going. If it doesn’t, branch out and find something else. That’s my advice.
Johnny: …And that’s great advice. That does it for my questions. I thank you again for taking the time to speak to me. I go back a long way with the Bill and Ted movies, and it was an honor to interview you about your wide and varied career. Again, I thank you for your time. You’re quite a great talent, and I’m looking forward to Bill And Ted Face The Music.
Amy: Oh, good, Johnny. I hope you like it. Let me know how you like it. Tweet me, alright?
Johnny: I will.
Johnny: Thank you for your time, and I hope you have a wonderful afternoon.
Amy: Thank you very much. You, too. Talk to you later.
Johnny: Talk to you later. Bye.
I would again like to thank Amy Stoch for taking the time to speak to me, and I would like to thank Charles Sherman for putting this interview together. For more about Amy Stoch’s work, you can visit her on Twitter. On an editorial note, I did see Bill And Ted Face The Music a few days after this interview, and I must say that it’s a worthy follow-up to the first two. Everybody does great work in the movie, including Amy Stoch as Missy, who is now…Well, check out the movie to see for yourself.
Who will I flashback with next? Stay tuned.