Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Carla Gugino on the future of The Mighty Macs. The film, inspired by the true story of how legendary women’s basketball coach Cathy Rush led a ragtag Catholic college to an unexpected national victory in the early seventies,  opened to a relatively modest weekend at the box but, like the team the film is based on, don’t count it out. It produced cheers amongst the audience I watched it with and positive word of mouth can do wondrous things.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Carla Gugino, the star of the film who plays Cathy Rush. Here, in excerpts, she tells me what attracted her to The Mighty Macs story and how she would feel about continuing the role in a TV series.

JWK: I saw the movie. You were very good in it.

CARLA GUGINO: Thank you.

JWK: You say that (director/writer) Tim Chambers personally recruited you for the role. What did he say that convinced you to do it?

CARLA GUGINO: He came to see me in a play that I was doing in New York at the time and I think that one of the key thing that were important to him was that she really did have a sense of leadership and compassion but not with kid gloves. Cathy Rush was a woman who was very, very strong and is very strong but also had a really great sense of empathy for these girls and great eye for good talent. She really saw the abilities that this team had. He just started talking to me about the story and I was taken by his passion for it and the fact that he wanted to make a movie that not only is just a great entertaining sports movie but also is a movie that young girls can look at and really be inspired by.

JWK: The movie was actually done over a year ago. Did you ever give up on it ever seeing the light of day — at least in a movie theater?

CARLA GUGINO: We actually shot it three years ago. You know, it’s always hard. You never know with independent movies. It’s so difficult to get distributors and so the fact that we have a thousand screen across the country is really a testament to (how people who have seen it in previews) love this movie. Which is just so wonderful. I didn’t give up on it but you never know when you’re an actor. You give your performance and then you never know what the life of the movie is. Tim really stood by it and now it’s, hopefully, going to be seen by many, many people.

JWK: What are you working on now?

CARLA GUGINO: I am actually doing an episode of a show called Justified. It’s from Elmore Leonard. I also did a show called Karen Sisco from the same creative team. Then I head to New York to do a Broadway play which I will be doing all winter called The Road to Mecca.

JWK: What’s that about? Sounds like it may also have a religious theme.

CARLA GUGINO: Not really. It deals with faith and belief and all that goes along with that but it’s not (really about religion). It takes place in 1974 in South Africa and it’s a really interesting story that really does tackle a lot of elements of belief. It’s from (Master Harold…and the Boys writer) Athol Fugard. (I play) a teacher in Cape Town. It’s with Rosemary Harris and Jim Dale, both exceptional actors.

JWK: Sounds like you’re the go-to person for playing teachers.

CARLA GUGINO: (laughs) Never before — but maybe I’m in a phase.

JWK: You move between movies, television and theater. Do you enjoy mixing it up?

CARLA GUGINO: I really do. They really demand different things and I’m always in search of great characters so wherever they come, I’m excited to go do them. The stage is amazing because you…have a live audience in front of you…and every night is different. And then film has been my love since I started…Now, in television there’s just really phenomenal roles to be able to play. I do love to jump in and out of all of those.

JWK: I actually wrote in my overall positive review of The Mighty Macs that I would have liked to have seen a little bit more about the individual girls on the team and suggested that maybe a TV series would be in order. Something like a female version of the old White Shadow series. Would you ever consider doing a Mighty Macs TV series, if that came about?

CARLA GUGINO: That’s really interesting. Never say never. I agree there’s potential for a great show. It’s so tricky when you’re making a movie, which is exactly to your point, which is that there’s such a limited amount of time. There was more story with the girls and for time reasons it had to go but they all are such wonderful actresses and I would have loved to have seen, and I know Tim would as well, to have seen more of (their stories).  But sometimes you end up having to focus on what the engine of the movie is. So, yeah, who knows? The Macs could continue on!

JWK: I understand that your aunt is Carol Merrill, who people my age would know as the model on the old Monty Hall game show Let’s Make a Deal, and that she actually convinced you to take up acting lessons.

CARLA GUGINO: It is. My mother also sort began pursuing acting and so there was a lot of it around me but one summer I came and stayed with her (Merrill) when I was in Los Angeles. She really encouraged me to act and she (encouraged me to take) an acting class and I absolutely fell in love with it and she was just hugely instrumental in that process and I’m grateful to her for that.

JWK: Where would you like your career to take you? Do you have any interest in directing or producing?

CARLA GUGINO: That’s an interesting question. I don’t necessarily gravitate toward directing. I’m in awe of directors. I find them spectacular in terms of just sort of…being those fearless leaders that they are.  Maybe they’ll be a story that I feel that only I can tell and, in that case, I may direct. I have done some producing…but acting really is my love and I have so much more that I yet want to do as an actor so I hope to be able to incorporate all of it. As a creative person, you need to sort of spread your wings and try different things out because each one really does inform the other. So, maybe next time I talk to you I’ll have another hat on.

Flashback: Carla Gugino in the 2003 TV series Karen Sisco:

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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