Actor, writer, producer, director and podcaster Illeana Douglas has always been a lover of film and was destined to be in show business — her grandfather is two-time Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas. The latest project for Illeana, who spent a good chunk of her childhood years and adulthood summers in Connecticut, is playing Rita on the third season of the Amazon series Goliath, which stars Billy Bob Thornton.
Can you share a story from your book, I Blame Dennis Hopper, about your childhood in Connecticut?
One of the highlights was the time I spent at the Middletown Drive-in. I just saw tons of movies there. I first saw Jaws at the drive-in, and I saw Richard Dreyfuss and American Graffiti. They used to have these dusk-till-dawn showings. That’s when I was really getting into movies and there wasn’t really a lot of outlets to see films. I also saw films at the Capitol and at the Palace Theater on Main Street. That was just a major part of my childhood.
You describe your book as a love letter to the movies, written from the perspective of the ultimate show business fan. Why are you the ultimate show business fan?
My perspective of being an actor is, I was first a fan of the movies. My grandfather was an actor and I saw him in the movies and so I just loved the idea of being in show business, of somehow getting to be in show business. Then when I was actually in it and working in films, it was such an interesting inside/outside perspective. I was seeing people in the movies and then I was working alongside or meeting people that I had always admired.
Is film the perfect art form?
For me it is. I think that there is something magic about film; about sitting, it’s very church-like. You still sit with a group of people and there’s still movies that come along — I just recently was at the premiere of the movie Parasite. You’re in this crowd and people are screaming; you can go to a museum, you may be looking at a wonderful work of art but nobody is screaming or having a collective experience. We’re all having an individual experience.
Is there any difference when you’re filming for a streaming service like Amazon as opposed to when you do a network or cable show?
The experience of shooting Goliath is very similar to a film experience. There are some shows that I’ve shot where yes, it’s just a regular television show. But Goliath in particular has a real cinematic feel. The beauty of a lot of these shows that are appearing on Amazon and Netflix and Hulu is that they have the ability — because they’re not worried about ratings as much — to really make an artistic show. The people that are making the show, for good or bad, they’re making the kind of show that they want to make. Amazon and Netflix and people like that are pretty hands off. I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s so popular for filmmakers. I certainly felt complete artistic freedom working on Goliath.
Choose one: You’re part of a bad cast with a great script or a great cast with a bad script.
Oh, great cast, of course! [You] get the better stories.
How many different projects are you juggling right now?
OK, let me count them. One, two, three, four. Well, I have my weekly podcast, which is called The Film Scene, so that’s ongoing. I put on a new show every week. I interview celebrities about films and film inspiration. Then, Goliath is two ...
I saw you had Moby on The Film Scene recently. I interviewed him a bunch of months ago when he was on his book tour. He’s a very interesting guy to talk to.
He’s very funny, as all people from Connecticut are. I’m also working on a book proposal, so I’m in the middle of that, so those are the ongoing things. And then there’s another show that I’m on, which unfortunately I can’t say that I’m on. I don’t think I can announce it yet. So I would say about five projects.
Do you know if you are the only actor to appear in both Goodfellas and Seinfeld?
Oh, that’s a really good question. I don’t know. I hope so, wouldn’t that be awesome? I hope I hold that title. [Ed. note: According to IMDB.com, Illeana is part of an elite group: The only other actors to appear in both Goodfellas and Seinfeld are Tobin Bell (Jigsaw in the Saw franchise) and Gina Mastrogiacomo.]
When are you coming back to Connecticut next?
I’ll probably be there over the holidays. Down around the shoreline hopefully. Maybe you’ll see me [in Essex] at The Griswold.