Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rena Sofer: A Staunch Advocate for Gum Control

Former soap actress Rena Sofer is starring in a new Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Crown Features Syndicate™ has released a story on Sofer and the film.

It’s only after speaking with Rena Sofer for 15 minutes or so that it all begins to make sense. You begin to realize that her fairly stunning body of work to date is only partly due to the fact she’s so beautiful and talented. The rest is about sheer guts and determination, borne of a strong work ethic instilled by her Orthodox rabbi father and one fateful dressing-down from a director while working her first job.

As the outspoken and opinionated Sofer recalls it, she was 19 and working on the now-defunct ABC daytime soap LOVING. The director on the show was a strong-willed lady named Francesca James.

“I was walking through New York City, I was young, I was rich, I was pretty, I was famous,” Sofer remembers thinking. “I just thought I was totally fabulous. So one day I walked onto the set with this attitude and started complaining about the script, how it was ‘so bad and so wrong’ for me.

“So Francesca looks at me and says something I’ll never forget. She gets in my face and says, ‘Who do you think you are?’ She told me she didn’t respect me. It just stopped me in my tracks. It knocked the prima-donna right out of me and let me know I’m not better than anyone else. It was the kind of wake-up call we all need, and I’m so appreciative to Francesca for giving it to me when I was so young. It’s gone a long way toward shaping who I am.”

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Who Rena Sofer is, is not only an actress who never seems to be wanting for a job; she’s also a wife and mother of two daughters (one four, the other turning 13 in September) and a no-nonsense professional who shows up on time, hits her mark, likes to get things done…and has little patience for the holier-than-thou types of the world.

Sofer can also walk, act and chew gum at the same time, as she proved while making her latest project. She stars as one of a pair of high school sweethearts who wind up living happily-never-after until rekindling the sparks at their 20-year high school reunion in the Hallmark Channel Original Movie Always & Forever, premiering Saturday, October 24 (9/8c).

The film – which also stars TV legends Barbara Eden (I DREAM OF JEANNIE) and Max Gail (BARNEY MILLER), finds Sofer portraying Grace, a woman who grapples with the mixed feelings of a romance once gone wrong now suddenly going right with old flame Michael (Dean McDermott of TORI & DEAN: HOME SWEET HOLLYWOOD).

“It was really a fun shoot,” Sofer reflects. “Loved the script. Very easy to follow. There were no massive breakdowns or anyone murdering someone and then running away. It’s just a sweet little love story. And you’ve got to love working for a great company like Hallmark.” And working with Tori Spelling’s husband McDermott?

“I love Dean, total sweetheart, we got along great,” Sofer says. “He’s somebody I can chew gum around. I’m not the quietest gum chewer, and I used that to my advantage during the shoot to really bug him. When we wrapped production, I gave him a big ol’ gift bag of every kind of gum imaginable.”

But McDermott got his revenge on Sofer with tales of his motorcycle racing exploits.

“Dean knew that I do NOT approve of that kind of stuff, especially for a guy who’s a young father,” Sofer stresses. “My own husband is not allowed. Dean tried to explain to me that only people who weave in and out of traffic get into accidents, but I wasn’t buying any of it. When you’re on a bike and you fall, there’s nothing between you and the ground but air and a half a second.”

Interestingly, however, there is one dangerous activity for which Sofer gave approval to her husband of six years, TV producer-director Sanford Bookstaver: Going to Spain to run with the bulls in Pamplona. Seriously.

“Last year, he asked me if it was OK,” Sofer relates. “He pointed out that no one had died from running with the bulls in 15 years. I said OK. This year, of course, a lot more people got hurt and gored, and one died. But my husband did fine. My deal with him had been, ‘You run with the bulls. You don’t try to touch or taunt them.’ And fortunately he listened.”

The experience has proven the only bull Sofer has allowed into her life in a good long while. In general, she’s simply too busy for that, as an actress constantly in demand since landing her first steady job in her teens on LOVING, and soon after on the ever-popular daytimer GENERAL HOSPITAL, a performance that earned her a Daytime Emmy Award.

It has led to a steady stream of recurring roles in network prime time series including MELROSE PLACE (she was there for the show’s final season on Fox), JUST SHOOT ME!, ED, COUPLING, 24 (Sofer played Jack Bauer’s sister-in-law for a full season, in 2007) and HEROES.

While some actresses might curse the fates for not bringing them a single breakthrough role to deliver them enduring fame and fortune, Sofer is proud of having enjoyed a “very interesting career” defined by a little bit of everything.

“I’ve never been famous for one part,” Sofer explains, “but I think I’ve built up a level of respect in the business as being someone who takes their job seriously, gets there on time and doesn’t put on airs.”

In fact, it frustrates Sofer a lot that the squeaky wheels who make the work all about them tend to get “hired and hired and hired” for some reason. “Bad girls and bad boys start fights and show up late and need extra insurance to make sure they get there. I’ve learned that nobody on the set is more important than anybody else.

“Does it upset me that you get rewarded more for griping than having a strong work ethic? Sure it does. Maybe I’m even a little bit bitter over it. Because I mean, while they’re holding everybody up complaining on the phone to their agent about not getting $15,000 more for the episode, I’ve just spent an hour and a half feeding my kids and getting them ready for school.”

Family remains first in Sofer’s life, she says, because “It’s your truth serum. All of the people who claim to be your best friend while you’re working on a project, you finish and you never hear from them again. But your family is always there for you. They’re honest with you. They keep you warm and secure and on the ground.”

Always & Forever premieres Saturday, October 24 (9/8c)

Film encores: Saturday, October 24 (11pm/10c), Sunday, October 25 (1am/12c) and (9pm/8c), Friday, November 6 (9pm/8c) and Saturday, November 7 (3pm/2c).

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