Running with The Rainmaker

The busy life of Tanna Frederick.

by Jennie Kermode

Actress, marathon runner, charity organiser and self-confessed workaholic, Tanna Frederick is an extraordinarily accomplished woman who still seems slightly bashful when talking about it. A co-founder of the Iowa Independent Film Festival, she often travels on the festival circuit, where she’s picked up a couple of Best Actress awards, and divides the rest of her working life between independent films and the stage. We catch up just after she’s wrapped on Ovation, a sequel to 2010 indie hit Queen Of The Lot. She’s still buzzing about the shoot, which re-united her with star James Denton and assorted friends.

“Tomorrow I go back on the boards,” she tells me, having barely had a day to recover. “We’ve been running a play called Rainmaker. It opened to great reviews. It’s fantastic doing theatre in Los Angeles again.”

The play has been running since January, but Tanna recently had two weekends off - to do some filming. “It was a nice break,” she says. As for Rainmaker, “It’s one of those plays where it’s like being with family. It’s me and six guys and we adore each other so despite being tired and worked completely under the table I’m excited to go back.” She laughs. “I guess I’m compulsively compulsive. I always need to be doing something. It probably comes from growing up with a mother who was a farm girl. Her family lived on a farm and that was their work ethic, getting up at the crack of dawn and doing chores until they went to bed at night. That got passed down to me. I just cannot sit down. I’m not proud of it.”

She played a farm girl herself in Queen Of The Lot, albeit one transplanted to Hollywood. Her character in Rainmaker, she tells me, is very different from anything she’s played before. “She’s very contained. She doesn’t think that she’s beautiful or attractive and she doesn’t think that she can do the bullshit that other women do to get a man. She can’t because she can’t compromise her own belief systems about being false or fake. Then a man comes into town and starts seducing her. It’s a great transformation for any actress to play because it’s not so much about outward transformation like a lot of Hollywood is – Has she lost her baby weight? Has she had any nips or tucks? – it’s the inner transformation of this woman an all her vulnerability and sweetness just shines out of her. It’s not like Cinderella at the ball, it’s this inner woman transforming, and I think that’s a great message to send.”

Tanna has been praised in the past for her portrayal of damaged women. Is she looking for something different now?”

“That’s true,” she says. “This character is very strong. I think I was very good at playing broken characters but I’m more fascinated now by strong women and how broken women can also parley that into strength that keeps them marching on through life. As they get older I think women naturally look at roles that are strong. They show their strength more and don’t wear their insecurities on their sleeves.”

She acknowledges that she has gone in for needy characters in her past television work, too, but says she thinks it works better in film because that allows more room for characters to develop and change. “In a television series, if you’re not a regular, they’ll often be glib characters.”

When she’s not acting, Tanna is busy with what she refers to as her “surf non-profit”, Save Our Surf. “We focus primarily on sending underprivileged kids to camp. They get to spend a whole day doing yoga, art projects, surfing and eco activities and they really love it. We have a week long camp too on over 120 acres of preserved land in the mountains and this year we’ve been lucky enough to send 1,500 kids there. Our goal is 2,000... Some of these kids have never seen the ocean and they live in Anaheim or somewhere like that so it’s not far away. Then they get up and stand on a wave. Meeting surfing heroes and learning how to ride a wave leaves them on cloud nine. It’s better than any trip to Disneyland! I think teaching through experience and being outdoors helps them see the value of preserving the outdoors much better than teaching through textbooks because having fun is one way to look at conservation.”

Then there’s the marathon running, but Tanna has had to drop out of a race she had been planning to join. “One of my hips is a little wonky right now. I’m taking a little break.”

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