Andrea Powell - SMB Archive Interview: 09/16/2010 by Steven Applebaum
Andrea Powell was one of the first actors for the film that I contacted and actually responded just after Mark Jeffrey Miller. I sent a message to her manager Cyrena Esposito at Red Letter Entertainment, who then passed along my request to Andrea herself. Andrea replied and was very happy to oblige to my request, so I'm very appreciative of Cyrena for setting this up!
The reason this interview had not been put up sooner is because Andrea is still very much an active actress, with her most recent work on ABC's The Gates. Despite this busy schedule, Andrea was very sweet and wrote back to me whenever I messaged her and was finally able to put together some answers for my list of questions.
While brief, her answers indicate fond memories for what was actually her first film role. It was a difficult experience, but in the end she made good memories and even better friends. And that's the perspective you should take when reading this wonderful interview. A very special thanks to Andrea Powell for taking the time out for us!
Steven Applebaum: To start, why don't you tell us a little about yourself, Andrea? How did you get into acting?
Andrea Powell: I did my first play when I was 12 (I was Oliver in a production of Oliver! at Lake City Community College), and the acting bug bit. I kept doing plays and musicals pretty much constantly thereafter. I moved to North Carolina just as the film and television industry started to develop, got an agent, and started doing on-camera work. Commercials and training films came first, and then I landed my first role in a feature film…Brooklyn Girl in Super Mario Brothers.
SA: What was it like being in a movie for the first time? Did your experiences with Super Mario Bros. effect how you perceived acting in a film would be and how you approached future roles?
AP: It was really exciting and a little scary. SMB was a huge production, and the making of the film itself was pretty dramatic from time to time. I was there for 13 weeks, which I knew was not at all a typical shooting schedule. However, I made great friends, hung out at the beach and rode horses on my off days, and overall had a blast. I always likened it to winning a contest where you spend three months at a really cool summer camp, and as a bonus you get to appear in a big-budget movie.
SA: Were you familiar with the video game series before the film, or did you take the time to research them before auditioning?
AP: I was! My husband had been to pretty much all the levels multiple times. I was pretty terrible at it, but it was fun jumping the barrels.
SA: How did you find out about Super Mario Bros. and what about it attracted you to auditioning for a role in it?
AP: My agent submitted me, and the casting company called me in. I actually auditioned for a role as a dancer in the club. I’m not at all a dancer, but I gave it my best shot and tried to at least be interesting in the audition. Then later I got the call that I’d been cast as one of the Brooklyn girls (or, as they were known on-set, the Brooklyn Babes). Honestly, I could not have been more surprised.
Andrea could've been in the Boom Boom Bar!
SA: What was the audition like? Did they ask you to do anything in particular or was it just reading sides? Did you do anything special to stand out?
AP: Since I was auditioning as a dancer, I think I had to make up some kind of movement to a song they played. I probably stood out because I looked so ridiculous. But I do remember feeling pretty fearless. Fearlessly ridiculous. I think that’s what I’ll call my autobiography.
SA: Do you remember at what point the production was in when you entered the movie and how long you worked on-set?
AP: I don’t remember, but I think I was there from the beginning. Then after about 13 weeks or so they decided they had to wrap everything up really quickly and get us out of there. Apparently it was time to go.
"Apparently it was time to go."
SA: Who directed you in your scenes?
AP: At first I was directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, then later Dean Semler.
SA: What did you think of Rocky and Annabel? A lot of the lead actors and those we've spoken to have said they weren't great to work with. They were supposedly very arrogant and demanding.
AP: I had a couple of nice conversations with them at parties, but otherwise they pretty much left me alone and focused on the more prominent actors.
SA: We've heard a lot of rumors that Rocky pouring hot coffee over an extra's head because he didn't like his costume. This has since been confirmed by a few people but there's still some mystery about the whole thing. Did you happen to see that or hear about it on the set?
AP: There are always rumors and stories when you’re on a show for that long, that’s for sure. I try not to get into all that stuff.
SA: Did you know the extra or what role they played?
SA: Were you and the actors treated better by anyone else? We've heard there were a few professional and respectful people that really stood out and tried to make the production a good time for everyone involved despite the directorial turmoil.
AP: Overall it was a really nice group of professionals. The production staff was full of gracious, fun, and kind people. We hung out a lot with the special effects guys—they were very cool. And of course you always get to be tight with hair, makeup, and wardrobe.
SA: What was Dean Semler like? How was the set handled differently before and after the directorial change?
AP: Dean was very sweet...he called us all “cherubs” and knew that we’d been working very hard under some difficult conditions. From what I could see, there was a bit less drama once Dean took over.
SA: So did you have an interaction with any of the leads? What were they like?
AP: Fiona Shaw and I got along really well—my husband and I took her bowling for her first time ever—and we stayed in touch with Dennis Hopper for years after. My husband even worked with John Leguizamo on a Broadway show many years later. I didn’t get to know Bob Hoskins as well, although I did participate in a reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with him over at Fiona’s.
SA: What was it like working with the other Brooklyn Girls? Did you get to know each other and become friends with any one of them?
AP: It was nice being part of this little tight-knit group. We were all pretty different, but we did get along.
"It was nice being part of this little tight-knit group."
SA: Do you remember either Mark Jeffrey Miller or Michael Harding? We just had an interview with them and they spoke highly of you.
AP: Aw, of course! Mark and Mike are both great friends—we’ve all been kicking around this crazy industry together for about the same amount of time, and those connections always stay strong. Not only are they incredibly talented actors, they’re great people with amazing hearts who, despite their successes, always stay “real.” I respect that and wish them the best always.
SA: What was your favorite scene to work in?
AP: I’d say pretty much any scene where I didn’t have to wear my half-a-size-too-small 5” heels. Those things were killers.
SA: Do you remember what it was like going down the ice tunnel? We know that the tunnel wasn't really ice and that scene had to be repeatedly shot and cut together because the Goombas kept falling off, so was it a smooth ride for you?
AP: We would’ve killed for actual ice anywhere. It was over a hundred degrees in the old cement factory where we shot. The ride itself was pretty fun for the few moments each take that we could get it all to work. And yeah, I do remember the Goombas falling off...even with those teeny little heads they were still top-heavy.
SA: In our interview with Mark and Mike they told us about the mattress scene and what happened when someone loosened the cable to make it go faster and how Heather almost fell off. What was it like when that mattress first shot off and flew down the line?
AP: Exciting for the first two seconds and then terrifying. We had no business up there, but the stunt doubles were on another set, so they somehow convinced us that it would be no-big-deal fun. I’m all for thrill rides, but that thing was an accident waiting to happen. And, of course, an accident happened.
SA: What happened after that scene was shot? Did you and the other girls approach the director? Was that person fired?
AP: We were so green and scared. I don’t think I ever talked to the director about it, I’m not sure how the other people handled it, or what happened to the person who was responsible. They were starting to really rush production at that point, so everyone was being pushed to handle things in ways they might not have otherwise.
SA: Were there any other scenes where you or someone else was hurt?
AP: I think a few egos were bruised, but they tend to bounce back pretty quickly.
SA: So you were there near the climax of the film. Can you describe to us what the meteorite chamber was like and the final scene where Mario battles Koopa in the construction yard?
AP: Awesome! The effects on the movie were really cool, the construction crew and designers were amazing, and it was so much fun walking around the sets.
SA: You and the other Brooklyn Girls were featured in The Making of Super Mario Bros. featurette where all of you discussed the various characters in the film. What was it like shooting that featurette on-set?
AP: Oh wow, I haven’t seen that! I kinda remember it—they shot it in the dance club, right (ironically)? I remember not having any idea what to say, and trying really hard to look and act like I did. I’m sure I came across as a total dork.
SA: Speaking of that featurette, we recently discovered that the German DVD release of the movie contains a different version with alternate footage. This version contains previously unknown deleted footage of your character offering a Goomba a cigarette. Any idea why it was removed?
AP: You never know why they make the editing decisions they do. Maybe they didn’t want to encourage Goombas smoking? I’d love to see that, though. As I remember it was a pretty funny moment.
[Interviewer's note: I sent links to Andrea for the featurette on the Behind-the-Scenes page and her cut footage on the Deleted Scenes page. She responded thusly:
Thanks for sharing those videos! I’m not as big a dork as I’d thought in the featurette, and the Goomba cigarette scene was pretty funny. I totally remember that now – they had wanted a funny little moment where the Goomba could flick his tongue, and that’s what we came up with. The “boss” line was totally improvised...Rocky really liked it, so it became part of the scene.]
"Oh Angelica, he's no worse than my boss."
SA: Do you recall any further footage involving yourself or the Brooklyn Girls that was later removed for the theatrical cut of the movie?
AP: Aging brain, so, no.
SA: What about significant alternate takes? Did the directors ever try to film a scene involving the Brooklyn Girls or Daisy (Samantha Mathis) that just didn't work out so they tried something different?
AP: See above.
SA: Overall, what was your experience in the movie? Did you enjoy it like we've heard a lot of people did, or was it just an early job?
AP: I really enjoyed it. It was a wild, crazy ride with a lot of great people that I’m still friends with.
SA: What did you think of the movie when you first saw it?
AP: I really liked it, although I remember being bummed that we came out about the same time as another dinosaur movie called Jurassic Park. Yoshi didn’t look near as cool by comparison.
SA: Do you sometimes watch the movie, and, if so, has your opinion of it changed after all this time?
AP: I haven’t seen it in years, but I really should check it out again. Blast from the past.
SA: Does anyone ever recognize you for your role in the movie or bring it up in either your personal life or in the acting business?
AP: I have the set chair with my name on it in my house, and from time to time people say “oh my gosh, you were in that?”. I think it’s more of a curiosity than anything, since there really is a cult following for the film.
SA: Do you have any other interesting stories to tell or a message to us fans of the movie?
AP: Thanks for liking the movie, and thanks for your continued interest in it!
SA: Finally, do you have any photos or other memorabilia from your time in the movie you can share with us for the site?
AP: That was pre-digital cameras, although I’m sure I’ll run across some actual printed photos (remember those?) next time I clean out my closet. My favorite piece of memorabilia from the show is a 3-D glow-in-the-dark poster of us on the mattress, complete with 3-D glasses and a “35-minute story cassette”...yes, cassette tape. My sister found it in a toy store somewhere years ago and sent it to me. I’m sure it’s worth millions.
SA: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Andrea. I'm sure everyone on the site will love to read your answers and see how great an experience you had.