Joe Cosentino: Actor in Time Travel Film, My Mother Was Never a Kid
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I have been obsessed with this little film since it aired in 1981. As a result of that blog post, an actor from the film contacted me. The irony is we both have books released by the same publisher, Whiskey Creek Press, part of the Start Media family. His name is Joe Cosentino and he graciously offered to let me interview him.
First off, where are you from?
West New York, New Jersey. How hard was that to explain to people growing up? People weren’t sure if I meant New York or New Jersey. On the positive side, after a quick bus ride, I was in NYC.
It confused me too at first. Glad you explained it. Did your career start in NYC?Yes, I was very fortunate to live so close to one of the major entertainment centers in the world.
You reached out to me because of my blog post on a time travel film that you starred in, My Mother Was Never a Kid. How old were you when that was filmed?
I was in my twenties, but I looked young for my age so I was playing teenage roles on television. I wish that were true now!
(Laughs) I hear you. But you’re right, I thought you were a teen in that film. I was in my twenties when I watched it. Funny to think we were about the same age.
And now we have the same publisher.
We were flown to Toronto and put up in a quaint historic hotel. The moment I got there, I was swept off to learn how to drive that antique stick shift car. My hair was curled, and I was given clothes to wear from the 1940’s. We shot on a historic suburban street with lampposts and old homes, looking like a Norman Rockwell painting. The whole film was shot in one week.
Wow, one week to film the entire thing. That wouldn’t be the case today, would it?
Actually, it could still be the case today. The movie ran in a one-hour timeslot with commercials. One-hour episodic television today is shot in seven to twelve days for network television. It takes longer for pay cable television and feature films since they have bigger budgets. Since the scenes took place at night, we shot the scenes in the car on two overnights, staying up all night. In the novel, HANGIN’ OUT WITH CICI, my character, Ted Davis, in the present becomes the high school principal. I laughed when I read that. A few years later I played another seedy character, a Snitch for the police, for three days on the NBC-TV daytime drama, ANOTHER WORLD.
After two afternoons of lessons, I was able to drive the car well enough for the shots in the film. I certainly was no expert, and thankfully I never again had to drive a stick shift antique car.
I, myself would love to own that car. I love things from the past, I guess that’s why I write time travel.
The girl playing Cici and I had the same agent, Nancy Carson, who submitted me for the role. After an audition and callback in NYC, I got the good news. I heard later they had been auditioning for quite some time and weren’t happy with any of the guys they’d seen—until me!
It wouldn't have been the same without you.
I don’t remember if this was before Rachel Longaker (Cici) went onto fame with The Waltons.
This was after Rachel did The Waltons. So she was a bit of a celebrity at the time, though she was as friendly as can be to everyone.
I’m not asking for specifics, but were you happy with what they paid you for your role?
I received the standard Screen Actors Guild payment. I assume everyone did. Even though it was ABC, the budget for TV Afterschool Specials was not very high.
Up until this movie I had played many nerdy and bookish characters in TV commercials (including a Commercial Credit computer commercial with Jason Robards), industrials (including an AT&T industrial with Rosie O’Donnell), and indie movies. I was very much cast against type in this movie. I think that made it interesting, because the character, as I played him, was insecure and vulnerable on the inside yet acted tough and cool on the outside. My main memory is making the two girls laugh at my “tough-guy” character. They thought I was hysterically funny. Unfortunately I am not in touch with them, but I’m happy they are both doing well. If they read this, I’d love to hear from them.
The tough guy vulnerability came through. You are a fine actor.
The movie won a daytime EMMY Award for Best Design and one for Best Makeup. It deserved those wins. The production team did a great job with costumes, makeup, props, and shooting locations for authenticity. The scene at the dance was shot in the basement of a real home that was modified with furniture and props from the 1940’s. The extras were local teenage actors who thought I was a big celebrity.
I really enjoyed hearing these insights to a film I have loved since 1981. Thank you so much Joe, for giving this to me.
It was my pleasure to walk down memory lane with you.
I played a high school nerdy character in an indie film called WEST ORANGE COWBOY, a Martian in Woody Allen’s STARDUST MEMORIES, and I did many commercials.
You acted on stage as well as films. What plays were you in?
Off Broadway I played Rodo the Clown in a musical called CIRCUS, and Michael in a play called WITHOUT RESERVATIONS. In regional theatre I did A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM with Bruce Willis and ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT with Nathan Lane.
Rosie and Nathan were incredibly funny and quick witted. They were also very nice people. Though Bruce and I were quite different, he seemed to enjoy my sense of humor. Of course I haven’t seen any of them for many years now. Once they all read this, they will no doubt contact me immediately. (laughs)
Of course they will. As far as Bruce Willis is concerned. Your and my lifestyles are worlds apart as well, but we have some commonality and get along great.
The only acting I’ve done recently is local. Here’s a really funny short play I wrote and starred in, which is posted on You Tube. LINK. When my novels are made into movies (hopefully!), I want to play Simon Huckby (Jana’s agent) in PAPER DOLL, Mr. Ringwood (the high school principal) in AN INFATUATION, and Martin Anderson (the department head) in DRAMA QUEEN.
That play is funny.
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. Watching it still makes me laugh.
I was going to ask you to send a movie producer to me! (laughs) Okay, how about this? Any movie producers reading this, please contact both of us.
You are also an author. But before we get to your books, tell us about your other accomplishments. I understand you are a professor.
Since 1990 I have been a college professor teaching theatre. I really enjoy giving back and helping young people learn the craft of acting. It also keeps me feeling young. For the last nine years I have been department head as well.
I admire you for this.
Thank you. I am very fortunate to have such a fulfilling job that uses every ounce of my creativity.
The Jana Lane mystery/romance series starts with PAPER DOLL (released March 5) and will continue in six month intervals with PORCELAIN DOLL then SATIN DOLL.
Though not a time-travel book, the first book takes place in 1980 with flashback scenes to 1960. I had great fun bringing in events, music, and fashion from the 1980’s into the series. I’ve always loved old child stars like Hayley Mills, so this series is about an ex-child star. It has mystery, romance, humor, drama, and a shocking ending. I was also able to use my background in show business. I am thrilled at the extremely positive response I’ve gotten from readers who love the novel and can’t wait for books two and three.
I agree, you would have to write the same way for a period piece as I would for time travel. How much research did you do?
I did a great deal of research online, reading about the trends, events, and mindset of the period. I always liked History in school, so I enjoy it. Plus, I was around back then, so I have my memories of the period as well.
Jana Lane was America’s most famous child star until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. Now she’s a thirty-eight-year-old beauty and mother of two living in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Jana’s flashbacks from her past turn into murder attempts in her present. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana visits the California movie studio she once called home. This sends her on a whirlwind of visits with former and current movie studio personnel. It also leads to a romance with the son of her old producer – Rocco Cavoto – the devilishly handsome filmmaker who is planning Jana’s comeback both professionally and personally. Can Jana uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves, including the person who destroyed her past and threatens to snuff out her future?
I was searching the internet for a small press that publishes this kind of novel, and I found WCP and submitted the manuscript to them. Their senior acquisitions editor read PAPER DOLL and loved it. When I read they had merged under Start Publishing, I became really excited.
Yes, since Start is NYC based, you’re back home. Paper Doll looks like a great read. I wish you luck with it.
Thank you so much. I love hearing from readers, so I hope people reading it will contact me via my web site, Goodreads, or Twitter and let me know how they liked it.
AN INFATUATION was released by Dreamspinner Press in February. It is a Bittersweet Dreams MM romance novella loosely based on a one-act play I wrote and did Off Broadway. It is full of humor, romance, and has a very touching ending. Like PAPER DOLL it spans a twenty-year period, but ends in the present. I am very happy to report it is selling really well and receiving rave reviews. Many people have written to tell me the novella changed their lives.
It’s always good when our readers are touched by what we’ve written.
It’s the best thing for me about writing. The thought that something I created moves people and changes their lives is amazing!
With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
Here’s my bio and contact information:
Joe Cosentino is the author of An Infatuation (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll, the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press-releasing this summer), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Porcelain Doll (the second Jana Lane mystery) and Drama Muscle (the second Nicky and Noah mystery).
Web site: http://joecosentino.weebly.com/
Best to you as well, Joe. I know Whiskey Creek Press and Start Publishing will be our keys to success.