Interviewed by Donald James Parker
A former Miss Florida in the Miss America Pageant, Nancy Stafford is a native of Ft. Lauderdale and is a journalism graduate of the University of Florida. In New York she became a top model with the Ford Model Agency and appeared in over 250 commercials before beginning her acting career.
An actress for twenty-five years, Nancy has starred in numerous movies and TV series, including five years as Andy Griffith's law partner, Michelle, on "Matlock", and three years on the Emmy-award winning "St Elsewhere". She starred in the ABC series "Sidekicks", and began her television acting career as a regular in a dual role on the NBC daytime drama "The Doctors".
She has been a guest star on numerous shows, with recent appearances on “The Mentalist”, “Judging Amy”, and "ER", starred in several TV movies, including "Moment of Truth: A Child Too Many" and "Deadly Invasion", and co-stars with Randy Travis in the feature film “The Wager”.
She is co-host of the syndicated talk show “Love, Marriage, and Stinkin’ Thinkin’“ with Mark Gungor. And for ten years Nancy hosted "Main Floor", the network-syndicated fashion, beauty, and lifestyle magazine series airing in over 40 countries around the world.
Her book, Beauty by the Book: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You (Multnomah Publishers, 2002), now in it's fifth printing, has been called by ASSIST News Service reviewer Ron Brackin "one of the most valuable Christian books to be published in decades". Nancy shares her story of God's healing and transformation in her life from insecurities and unworthiness to wholeness and acceptance. She shares the scriptural truths we need to know to find freedom from our pasts and freedom from the bondage of our culture's standards. "Everyone has beauty and value", says Stafford, "but not everyone sees it. I want you to see it."
TCP: I might as well get this question out of the way immediately. I'm sure that lots of our readers will want to know what it was like working with Andy Griffin.
Nancy: It was incredible! He’s a cultural icon AND he’s a consummate pro. I learned a tremendous amount from him; he set the bar high and brought out the best in everyone — cast and crew alike. Every single day on the set was fun—he’s a hoot, we got along great, and it was a fantastic 5 years, for which I’ll always be grateful. And now we’ve been in syndication for so long we have a whole new generation of “Matlock” fans — I expect all the grandparents to love it, but when college kids say they watch during their lunch hour — THAT makes me smile!
TCP: Did you find prejudice in Hollywood against Christian actors and how did you cope with it?
Nancy: Hard to say definitively there’s ‘prejudice’ against Christians here, but sometimes it sure seems like it:)
I’ve been quite open about my faith, and I do know that’s cost me work. But I like what Paul wrote to the Philippians–
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. “(NLT) Like all of us, my life –including my career — is in God’s hands, and despite the obstacles He continues to provide and seems to use me here in ways I could never have imagined. I’m very grateful and blessed.
TCP: How did you break into the business of television/movies?
Nancy: I started in a small market—Miami– doing TV commercials and modeling; 18 months later moved to NY to study acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory. I signed w/Ford Models and was in acting classes most nights and worked in commercials and modeling during the days. It was pretty intense! My first acting audition was for a soap, “The Doctors”. I was a series regular for a year until the show was cancelled. It had been on the air for 20 years, then I joined the cast…hmm…..always wondered if there was any connection!
TCP: It seems that now you are an author. Tell us how that came about and what your aspirations for the future are in this area of endeavor.
Nancy: I love writing. It was actually my first career —I was a journalism major in college and my first career was in journalism and public relations, so writing feels like a ‘comfy shoe’ –I’m back to my roots.
The writing started again for me through television actually–In the early 1990’s I was the host of a fashion/lifestyle/trends syndicated TV show called “Main Floor”. We were on the air for 10 years and aired in about 40 countries around the world. One day the producer said to me “We’re doing a website. Why don’t you write a column? You’re always traveling and speaking to women about this ‘inner beauty’ thing, whatever that is…..why don’t you write about it!”. So I did. I started a monthly column, ‘Nancy’s Notebook’, and wrote about the fact that, beyond makeup and clothes, our real beauty prescription is a relationship with God….and this secular show let me!
A publisher started reading ‘Nancy’s Notebook’ and said “you have a very distinctive voice, you need to write a book!”. I said, “Nah, there are a zillion books out there. We don’t need one more.” But he was persistent:) It took him 6 months to convince me. What changed my mind was when he said “Nancy you’re already speaking to women around the country about this message. Books multiply ministry!!” Then I got it. I’ve written 2 books, been a contributor to a few others, and done lots of magazine articles. I’m working on my third book now.
TCP: Does this mean the acting chapter of your life is over or are you actively seeking other opportunities to display your thespian skills?
Nancy: I’m not as busy as an actor as I have been in the past, but God doesn’t seem to want to let me leave Hollywood:) I’m here for a number of reasons I think, not just for acting; I’m involved in several of the ministries to the Hollywood Christian community. Pretty exciting what’s happening here! Check out the ministries listed on the Links page on my website: www.nancystafford.com/links
I am still acting which is fun for me. Last year I did my first faith-based film, “The Wager”, co-starring with Randy Travis; it’s now on DVD. After 25 years in the biz, it was rewarding to do that kind of material. I just did a guest spot on CBS’s “The Mentalist”, and am Co-Host of a new TV series “Love Marriage and Stinking Thinking” with Mark Gungor. It’s a weekly talk show that will start airing early 2009 and it’s a blast! I’m also slated to do another film (once the financing comes in– Ah yes, the realities of the ‘biz’! Job security it ain’t:)
TCP: If you could go back and start your career journey all over again, what would you have done differently?
Nancy: Gosh that’s a hard one….I’ve come back to this question three times now:) I really don’t know if I’d do anything differently.
TCP: What words of advice would you share with a young Christian who sets the goal of being a TV star?
Nancy: First I’d tell them if their goal is to be a TV star I don’t have any advice for them; but if they want to be a TV actor, then I have some advice:) I’d tell them it’s not a matter of ‘getting discovered’ but ‘getting prepared’!!
#1 piece of practical advice: STUDY! Take classes. Don’t think your college theatre degree is sufficient training for film and TV. Get into a good acting workshop where you’re on your feet doing scenes every week, a good technique class, cold reading class, camera technique, etc. And continue working on your craft no matter how long you’ve been at it. I still go to class frequently —cold reading classes when I need to hone my audition ‘chops’, improv to keep me on my toes, scene study to keep my skills sharp since I’m not working on a set every day.
#2 Start in a small market — become a big fish in a small pond. Think Atlanta, Miami, Chicago. Don’t even think about moving to LA or NY until you have some good credits, industry experience, and solid training. The only reason I did well in NY so quickly was because I’d done well in the Miami market and had built a strong resume and reputation. Big fish/little pond.
#3 OK, enough practical advice –here’s the real deal: God first—Relationships second–Career way down the list somewhere.
Nurture your relationship with God. Be serious about following Jesus, stay involved in a solid church and get into a small group for prayer and accountability. If you’re in LA, get involved in the many ministries to the Hollywood community. This is not an option, it’s a mandate! Acting is a brutal profession, and I’ve seen too many lovely, truly talented, godly people get seduced by notoriety, affirmation, or money. OR they weren’t healthy and secure enough to withstand the constant pummeling and crushing rejection that comes on a daily basis. Either way, they crash and burn, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. SO……
Stay close to God and close to others who love Him. You’ve gotta know God’s voice for yourself.
Sometimes the only thing that will give you the courage to keep going is His voice.
You need His voice to comfort and encourage you. You need His voice to guide you in this crazy and confusing career.
With every role you play you’re making a statement of who you are and what you believe.
Bottom line: the call on our careers is really the same as the call on our lives—to walk in a way that is right and faithful and true before God. By hearing His voice and making the right decisions you may not get there fast, you may not become a ‘star’, you may never make it at all —but that’s not what God cares about. It’s how you run the race as Paul says —with character, integrity, tenacity, humility, and faith. So go do it!! We need you here!!
To find out more and check out here books, please visit Nancy's website at http://www.nancystafford.com
About the interviewer: Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Madison, South Dakota. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com?tcp.