As a lover of 80s cult cinema, I greatly enjoyed the work of Marcia Karr, my newest interview subject, in movies like Chained Heat, Savage Streets and Killer Workout. I befriended Marcia on Facebook a while back, and was amazed to see her work in charitable endeavors, working with nonprofits like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and ChildFund. With the many directions Marcia’s work has taken, I knew she would make for a fascinating interview subject. We talked earlier this month, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know this beautiful and big-hearted talent.
Say hello to Marcia Karr!
Johnny: First of all, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Marcia: My pleasure. Thanks for asking.
Johnny: I have my questions all ready to go, starting with this: Had you always wanted to be an actress, or did you initially have a different career goal in mind?
Marcia: Oh, always. No, actually, from the time I was able to talk, I was performing. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to.
Johnny: Alright. Your film debut came with 1982’s The Concrete Jungle, where you played Marcy. You’re the third cast member from that movie that I’ve interviewed, the first two being Sondra Currie and Greta Blackburn. As your debut film was a women-in-prison picture, would you say that it was a trial by fire, or was it easy to work on?
Marcia: (Laughing) That’s a good question. It was the first one where I was cast in a substantial role, but my VERY first was actually doing stunts and doubling for Barbara Hershey on The Entity. That’s actually where I got my SAG card. Going back to The Concrete Jungle, that was an interesting experience, but it was a great cast and we had a lot of fun on set with that.
Johnny: Alright. That leads to my next question: You would do another women-in-prison picture in 1983, playing Twinks in Chained Heat, also alongside Greta Blackburn. What was the difference in filming between The Concrete Jungle and Chained Heat?
Marcia: The difference? It actually felt kind of like a flashback (laughing) as we were shooting on the same location. It was a very similar experience. Oh, god. It’s so long ago, Johnny (laughing). It’s crazy, going back to those memories and trying to differentiate between those two experiences. I was so green and so new on Concrete Jungle, and I had a little more under my belt by the time we did Chained Heat. The cast was great, and they were so welcoming to somebody as green as I was on Concrete Jungle, I can tell you that. There was a lot of great camaraderie on the set for both films.
Johnny: It’s always good to develop camaraderie like that. As I’ve asked several veterans of women-in-prison movies, what do you think the appeal of the genre was?
Marcia: (Laughing) Oh, man. You know, it was a different time back in the 80s. I think there was a lot of sexploitation and looking under the hood and things like that that were the general appeal, you know? It became very popular back then.
Johnny: To jump to a different genre, you were one of the many Hardbodies in the film of the same name. What do you recall the most about working on that movie?
Marcia: (Laughing) Oh, my god. What was funny was I was actually on one of my side jobs in between acting jobs, working as a casting director. I worked with Geno Havens, who was an amazing guy. We were actually the casting directors of the film, and while we were on the set working with the actors, they needed somebody. It was literally a last minute thing for me to participate in one of the scenes. That was a crazy movie, but a lot of fun.
Johnny: It definitely was. To go to my next question, my first exposure to your work came when I saw you as Stevie in Savage Streets. That movie is still talked about to this day, so what do you think has given Savage Streets its’ staying power?
Marcia: You know what? That one actually took me by surprise as it seems to have somewhat of a cult following. I have people reaching out to me left and right about that one, and I can tell you that the cast is still connected to this day. We do communicate and connect. I don’t know why that one has staying power, and why it still has such a tremendous following. I worked with Linda Blair on a couple of films, but this one in particular…
Just when Covid hit, I was supposed to do a con in Canada, and I actually saw Linnea Quigley for the first time since we ended filming back in the day. We met at the airport, and it was just so great to see her. We were both like, “Can you believe how long ago it was?”. It was just shocking. Unfortunately, the con got canceled while we were in the air (laughing). We literally spent one night in Canada, and then turned around and went back to our destinations. It was a bit of a bummer, but we remain connected on Facebook. They keep trying to get everybody together to do anothe reunion for that, and I’ve thrown my hat in. I’m like, “Yep. If you guys put together another virtual reunion, count me in”, but to answer why that particular film has staying power? I have no idea.
Johnny: Well, to stay with Savage Streets, earlier this year I interviewed Oscar-winning makeup artist Valli O’Reilly, for whom Savage Streets was an early credit. She told me she wasn’t comfortable with the film’s plot. Did you have any similar hesitancies about working on the film?
Marcia: Well, there were scenes that were very difficult, you know? I mean, speaking of Linnea, it was rough, and it was particularly rough to watch. Even at the time it was controversial, I think. I, too, had a rape scene in The Concrete Jungle, and filming those types of things is never easy. To answer your question, I did, but I didn’t. It was, again, a great cast that bonded, and it worked well together. Not enough to not accept the role. How’s that? (Laughing)
Johnny: Alright. To go to a different credit, you were directed by Chuck Vincent in 1986’s Sex Appeal, where you played the character of Christina. With his weaving in between the worlds of mainstream and adult film, Chuck always struck me as a very interesting person. What was it like to work for him?
Marcia: You hit the nail on the head. Interesting (laughing). That was a colorful film. I mean, there were definitely points where I was like, “Holy cow, what have I got myself into?”, but the way it came off in the end product, I thought, was better than I had envisioned in my head. Working with him definitely had a lot of pushing boundaries, if you will. There was some funny stuff that happened on that. Have you seen it, Johnny?
Johnny: It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I do recall it being entertaining.
Marcia: Yeah. The reason I brought it up was because there was a scene in there where I wound up getting poison ivy, but that was actually written in afterwards because, during the filming of one of the scenes, I actually got poison ivy (laughing), and was covered from head to toe with calamine lotion and all off that, so they ended up writing that in. Just a little tidbit of info…
Johnny: That’s definitely interesting. I guess that would be a case of how Real Life Writes The Plot, as the popular trope goes.
Marcia: Yep, and that’s actually not the first time something like that’s happened. It happened on the set of The Entity, where one of the characters actually broke his arm on set and they, of course, had to write it in. Yeah, stuff like that happens all the time (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. One of your most noted roles came with your lead role as Rhonda Johnson in 1987’s Killer Workout. What made that movie such a standout for you?
Marcia: (Laughing) Oh, my gosh. That one was done on a shoestring budget with David Prior directing. That was a very difficult shoot. I was actually very, very sick during the filming. I think I wrapped up my last day on the shoot, and wound up the next day in emergency surgery. It was crazy. It was so low-budget that, for every meal they delivered on set, we ate Popeye’s Chicken every single day because they had some special deal with them. I think we were so burned out. It was insane.
Johnny: Mmm, I wouldn’t mind that. I’ve always preferred Popeye’s to KFC (laughing).
Marcia: (Laughing) I love it, too, but, like, every single meal? We would have it for breakfast. We would have it for lunch. There were very, very long hours. We really had no time to waste and no extra budget.
Johnny: We’ll go to my next question. In 1988, you played Nancy in Maniac Cop, a film with a screenplay by the much-missed Larry Cohen. What are your favorite memories of working on that movie?
Marcia: Gosh, that was another one I worked on part of the casting with Geno. I had such a small role in that. It was really the one scene, the car scene, which was very nice when the promos came out and that was one of the clips they used. Again, I’ve been very fortunate in the career that I’ve had that I worked with some amazing people, and just had a lot of fun doing it.
Johnny: Alright. You’ve mentioned your work as a casting associate and director. Did working in those positions serve as a way to gauge a potential different direction for your entertainment career?
Marcia: Well, it was definitely eye-opening to me. I definitely think it helped me. Working alongside and auditioning others made me a lot more comfortable during my own auditions, to be honest (laughing). Sitting on the other side of the fence, I worked alongside some great people on credits like Girls Just Want To Have Fun. When you look at the cast of that, Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt and so many others, and having Johnny Depp audition across the desk from you, and working on the movie Thrashin’…It just gave you another perspective, and made me a lot more comfortable with the audition process, realizing what it took and how decisions are made.
Johnny: Alright. Well, I definitely think your casting work on movies like Girls Just Want To Have Fun definitely helped make them the memorable films they are.
Marcia: Thank you.
Johnny: Oh, no problem. To go to my next question: If someone were to write a script next year with a role for you in mind, would you consider reading it, or are you retired from acting?
Marcia: Oh, I would, certainly. God, it would be a fantasy to get back into the industry. I would definitely consider it, without a doubt. I mean, I have been out of it a long time, but I do love what I do. I’m currently working in the non-profit world, which I adore and love. I work for emergency response organizations who have been very active on the COVID response that’s prevalent around the globe, unfortunately, right now. I love what I do, but I would also entertain film roles as well.
Johnny: Alright. That does lead me to ask: You’ve been very active in charity work over the past three decades. What led you to pivot to charitable endeavors?
Marcia: You know, I felt like the first part of my life was very me-centric, self-centered. I mean, acting is all about you and the craft and the industry and all that. I moved from California to Arizona. I followed my husband, and I knew I wanted to give back. If I had to take a normal job or do something, I wanted to know that what I did mattered, and that I could make a difference.
I literally just put it out there in the universe that that’s what I wanted to do. I had no qualifications. I had nothing, and when I first moved to Arizona, I signed up for a temp agency because I was also pregnant at the time. I wasn’t even in Arizona a week when I got a call saying, “Hey, Make-A-Wish Foundation Of America is looking for somebody. Would you consider the job?”, and I was like, “Uh, hello? Yes!”, so it kind of all aligned, and I learned as much as I could. It’s given my life purpose and meaning, and I know that what I do every day matters.
Johnny: Alright. What were you most proud of having done during your time with The Make-A-Wish Foundation?
Marcia: Oh, my god. What am I most proud of? Well, I became a fundraiser with corporations, so that’s the area I focus on. I’m a corporate fundraiser, which means I get companies to support the organization and to further the missions. Somebody took a chance on me and said, “Hey, I think you could do this. Do you want to give it a shot?”. Literally the first thing I sold, as you could kind of consider it a sales job, the first connection I made was to Midas. I secured a sponsorship deal for half-a-million dollars my first time out.
Johnny: Well, I definitely admire the work on the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I just wish them all the best with what they do.
Marcia: Oh, same here. I still adore Make-A-Wish. I was there for about eight years, a great, great organization that gave me my start in the non-profit industry, granting wishes. Anybody can do it through volunteers, so highly recommended. Anybody who’s interested, contact your local chapter. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the look on a child’s face that’s having their wish granted.
Johnny: Alright, You also spent some time working for ChildFund. An active international charity, where was the furtthest destination your travels took you during your time working for them?
Marcia: Furthest? That’s a good question because I traveled nonstop. I loved that part of my job there. I traveled all throughout Africa, so that means Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others. I went to India, Bangkok, Brazil…I’ve swam in the Amazon. I loved, loved, loved going to the field with ChildFund, and getting to see the world.
They work in some of the most remote communities around the world helping children. It definitely puts life in perspective, I have to be honest. We’re so spoiled here, compared to just being in a community with the villagers, and staying in mud huts. One trip, I traveled with one of my coporate partners, Thom Shoes. They came out to see a shoe distribution, and I have a favorite photo of mine that’s sitting on my desk right now. It’s me with a little child for whom it was their first pair of shoes ever. Shoes were a barrier to being able to go to school, and just something as simple as that makes a big difference.
Johnny: It definitely can, and again, it’s admirable, the work you do. You’re currently working as a senior resource development officer for International Medical Corps. What exactly does that job entail?
Marcia: Again, I’m a fundraiser, so my job is to raise resources to support the programs, and that’s everything from cash to in-kind donations. I manage the Gift-In-Kind program here. To put it in perspective, if you want to think about a similar organization, it would be like Doctors Without Borders, right? We’re first responders to disasters worldwide, so any time there’s a hurricane or a disease outbreak, like the Ebola crisis, we’re there on the ground. We have long-term programs in more than 30 countries.
When the hurricane hit The Bahamas, we were there. I’d say 99 percent of the pharmaceutical and medical supplies were provided by our first responders or the ones I had secured through our partnerships. Again, we’re working with our corporate partners, who become our first responders as well, to donate their products and services, but also, we tap into that for employee engagement, volunteer opportunities and things like that.
Johnny: Well, again, it’s great stuff you do, and you definitely have managed to help so many people, and I admire you for having done that…
Marcia: Thank you.
Johnny: …And continuing to do it.
Marcia: Oh, yeah. It’s been a heck of a year, I can tell you that (laughing), you know, with COVID-19. We’re all used to responding to emergencies, and being on that high because you do. It’s, like, nonstop. The hours are crazy, yet we’re all in it together, but to have something as sustained as long as COVID has, and continues to be, is crazy. We work ridiculous hours, but we’re all in it together, and try to make the biggest impact we can.
None of our stuff is cookie-cutter. For instance, what we did in the US for COVID-19 when it first hit back in February was supporting hospitals in the biggest hotspots. Whether it was setting up medical shelter tents outside of the facilities to expand capacity to treat or triage patients, each facility used the assets that we delivered differently. One may have needed it to do patient intake, and another may have used it as ICU overflow to treat the patients.
It’s been an interesting year to say the least, and now we’re working on our vaccination campaign strategy because the truth is, while everything’s been approved and we’re starting to see the movement of vaccines this week, no one state, government, ministry of health, or anything can do it alone. They’re all coming to us, from international NGOs to nonprofits, to help with that supply chain and the delivery of it around the globe.
Johnny: Well, I know you’ll definitely do an amazing job in doing so.
Marcia: Thank you.
Johnny: You mentioned that the convention you were going to do was canceled when you were in the air, so once things get better, and the vaccines get out, do you hope to be able to make any convention appearances?
Marcia: I would love to. That would’ve been my first one, so absolutely I would.
Johnny: Well, the convention that I go to is the Chiller Theatre convention in Parsippany, NJ. I think you’d make a great guest for that convention.
Marcia: Thank you.
Johnny: Our mutual friend Rich worked to get you to that convention that was canceled. Could I have permission to pass the Chiller Theatre guest application form to him?
Marcia: Absolutely. Please do. You know, I’m actually from New Jersey originally, so please do (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. I’ll do so when I have the chance within the next week or so, but to stay with matters like that, what’s been the most wonderful piece of memorabilia someone has mailed for you to sign?
Marcia: I don’t know. Usually it’s just a photo print-out of something from a film, but I’m happy to sign it and send it back. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Johnny: Alright. Now I end my questions with a question I’ve found myself asking of quite a few of my recent interview subjects: Once the chaos of coronavirus passes, what’s the first thing you hope to do?
Marcia: Travel! Travel, travel, travel. See family, see friends, do it all. I’m personally very vulnerable due to some health conditions, and I have remained isolated, for the most part, during all of this. I just miss that human interaction, being able to get on a plane and see family and friends, and give hugs (laughing). I am not going to lie. I miss that tremendously. I just had a dear friend of mine from L.A visit, yesterday, in fact, whom I’ve known forever, and I couldn’t even hug her. We had to stay six feet apart with our masks and all of that, and I just miss being around friends and family.
Johnny: Me, too. I was going to be spending Christmas with some relatives this year, like I did last year, but they live in Port Chester, New York, and that’s about to enter a red zone COVID-wise. My Aunt Gail said it would be for the best if I didn’t spend Christmas with them this year, so I’m not going to.
Marcia: I’m sorry.
Johnny: I am going to miss being with them, but I understand it’s all for the best.
Marcia: You know, I feel the same way. It’s not worth the risk. It just isn’t, and it gets to me that some people don’t take it seriously enough. If enough people took it seriously, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now. There’s so much misinformation out there that it’s just killing everybody. The numbers are off the charts. Sacrifice the year so we can all get back to some sense of normalcy.
Johnny: Yeah. I mean, I’ll even wear a mask outside just to get the mail.
Marcia: Same. It’s just not worth the risk, Johnny.
Johnny: I mean, my next door neighbor was exposed to COVID and had to deal with that for a while, but she doesn’t really wear a mask when she’s out and about, nor does her boyfriend, nor do really most of the people on my block, for that matter. Whenever I’m out and about, I see them without masks, and I’m probably the only person on my block who wears one.
Marcia: That’s sad. That’s really, really sad because we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re just not there. You know, I work with epidemiologists and experts every day working on this crisis, and the reason we’re in this position now is the misinformation, and the lack of leadership in showing the country that this will save lives.
Simple things, mask-wearing and hand-washing and staying six feet apart, are very simple to do, but we’ve got too many people in the country right now who are naysayers, and just not taking it seriously enough. That’s why we’re in the situation we’re in, and if too many people don’t get the vaccine, it’s going to be that much longer before we can get back to any normal life.
Johnny: Well, I know that I’m definitely going to get the vaccine when it’s available to me.
Johnny: I hope that everybody I know will, too, and that way we can all finally be able to make our way back to where we were before.
Marcia: I agree. I’m looking forward to that day.
Johnny: Yep. Well, that does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Marcia: I’m glad we got a chance to talk, Johnny.
Johnny: No problem, and it was an honor to talk to you. I have admired your acting work, and I admire your charity work, and I look forward to what’s next for you.
Marcia: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Johnny: No problem. I hope you have a great afternoon.
Marcia: You as well. Thank you.
Johnny: No problem. Bye.
I would again like to thank Marcia Karr for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me.
I would also like to thank all of you who have read my interviews and articles this year. The first year of The New 20s didn’t turn out like any of us thought it would, but in spite of the chaos, many wonderful things still happened, and I hope we all have a wonderful and happier 2021 ahead of us. Happy holidays, happy new year, and I’ll see you all next year with some exciting new Flashback Interviews!