5 Questions: Estelle Parsons

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5 Questions is a feature by Steve Duffy –




Estelle Parson’s acting career began in Lynn.




SD: I read that you were born in Lynn?

EP: Yes, I was born at the Lynn hospital (originally located in the former Hathorne estate on Boston Street). My family lived in Marblehead, near Beach Bluff. At the time of my birth, Marblehead did not have any facilities for birthing.

SD: How did you become an actress?

EP: I began working in community theatre at the age of 6. The Tavern Players would put on productions in the Women’s Exchange building in Lynn. There I performed in “Peter Pan,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “The Land of Oz” where Princess Ozma spends ten years as a boy and then became a girl. While in college, I performed in Summer Stock. I would work in the box office, designing sets, or as an extra. My most memorable experiences were working with Helen Hayes and Joan Bennett. After visiting a friend in New York, I was offered a job on the “Today Show.” I really didn’t like working on TV, it was too demanding. I really wanted to be on the stage. I gave up TV and started auditioning for theatre roles. My Broadway debut was in “Happy Hunting” with Ethel Merman.

SD: Bonnie and Clyde is considered one of the first films of the “New Hollywood,” era. Did you have any hesitation being part of it?

EP: It was not expected to be much of a movie. I was only paid $5000 for my part. We were all young and pretty much new to acting. Warren Beatty just starred in a movie that was a flop. For some reason, “Bonnie & Clyde” hit a nerve with the audiences. I believe in a very civilized society, so when the ranger spits in Bonnie’s face all I could think was “what did I get myself into.” I had previously worked with the director, Arthur Penn, so I would have done anything for him.

SD: Where do you keep your Oscar?

EP:   On the floor in my bedroom. It was displayed on a shelf where I keep other awards. I got tired of taking it off every time someone wanted to see it.

SD: How much of yourself was you as Beverly, Roseanne’s mother?

EP:   All of me. You don’t have time to think much about your character. You have to learn your lines and just deliver them. I would just focus on trying to get a laugh especially on my funny lines. It was such a wonderful show. I want to do good roles. Acting for me was never about the fame or the money; it is just about entertaining the audience.

(Bonus question) SD: Any plans to retire soon?

EP: I have been retired my entire life. As an actor your retirement happens off and on. You have a job then you don’t have one. I would never retire from the stage, because I love it. I love brining characters to life. Television is a different story. It is like working in the factory so I could retire from that.

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