Madolyn Smith Osborne, Actress-Episode #300

Jun 18, 2024 | 4 comments

“Buddy, who, you all know as Patrick Swayze, he’s the one who trained me in the dances…. I spent days and days dancing with him….I was in heaven. So I just felt so plugged into the film that I sort of went past doing any character work, and I just clicked into my dancing prowess. And so the comfort of all of that is what I wrote on.”
~Madolyn Smith Osborne

Madolyn Smith Osborne had the kind of fairy tale show business beginning that most can only fantasize about. While still in school at The University of Southern California, she won her first paycheck with a serendipitous audition before famed choreographer, Gower Champion, when a lead dancer and understudy had to be replaced in the Broadway-bound production of Pal Joey starring Lena Horne.  Madolyn’s passion for musical theater as well as her training with beloved choreographers Bill and Jacqui Landrum, prepared her well for the opportunity.

A year later, on the eve of graduating from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts., her mentor, the late, iconic theatre and film producer and Academy Award-winning actor, John Houseman, launched a swan song of sorts for her with a production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, in which Madolyn starred in the role of Helena.

Mr. Houseman had invited various industry professionals to see the show in the 99-seat Stop Gap Theater on campus, including his former protege, film director, Jim Bridges, who, upon seeing Madolyn’s performance, invited her to play the role of John Travolta’s mistress, Pam, in the cult classic, Urban Cowboy.

Madolyn went on to give multiple award-winning performances in the L.A. theater scene. Among her triumphs, she created the title role of Emily in Stephen Metcalfe’s play of the same name, which was directed by the renowned producer-director, Jack O’Brien, during its premiere at San Diego’s revered Old Globe Theatre.

When Madolyn was studying with legendary actress, Kim Stanley, and opera singer, Gloria Lane, she became a founding member of L.A. Theatre Works.

Madolyn also enjoyed a terrific TV and film career in which she found herself starring in features opposite the likes of no less than Steve Martin in All of Me, Roy Scheider in 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, Joe Pesci in The Super, and in TV shows like Due South, Cheers, If Tomorrow Comes, and Sadat. But at the height of her powers, all of that was abruptly interrupted by a chronic illness which she fights to this day.

Madolyn resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband, former NHL hockey great, Mark Osborne, and 2 adult daughters who live nearby.

For the record, Madolyn and I have known one another for more years than either of us will admit, having met and worked together on a few productions while we were both in drama school at the USC.




Read the Podcast Transcript

Steve Cuden: On today’s StoryBeat…

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Buddy, who, you all know as Patrick Swayze, he’s the one who trained me in the dances. So before he was anything, his mom was a choreographer. We called him Buddy and his ballerina wife, Lisa. I spent days and days dancing with them. It was just, I was in heaven. So I just felt so plugged into the film that I sort of went past doing any character work, and I just clicked into my dancing prowess. And so the comfort of all of that is what I wrote on.

Announcer: This is StoryBeat with Steve Cuden, a podcast for the creative mind. StoryBeat explores how masters of creativity develop and produce brilliant works that people everywhere love and admire. So join us as we discover how talented creators find success in the worlds of imagination and entertainment. Here now is your host, Steve Cuden.

Steve Cuden: Thanks for joining us on StoryBeat. We’re coming to you from the Steel City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My guest today, Madolyn Smith Osborne, had the kind of fairy tale show business beginning that most can only fantasize about while still in school. At the University of Southern California, she won her first paycheck with a serendipitous audition before famed choreographer Gower champion, when a lead dancer and understudy had to be replaced in the Broadway bound production of pal Joey starring Lena Horne. Madolyn’s passion for musical theater, as well as her training with beloved choreographers Bill and Jackie Landrum prepared her well for the opportunity. A year later, on the eve of graduating from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts, her mentor, the late iconic theater and film producer and Academy Award winning actor John Houseman, launched a swan song of sorts for her with a production of Shakespeare’s all’s well that ends well, in which Madeleine starred in the role of Helena. Mister Halsman had invited various industry professionals to see the show in the 99 seat stopgap theater on campus, including his former protege, the film director Jim Bridges, who, upon seeing Madeleine’s performance, invited her to play the role of John Travolta’s mistress Pam in the cult classic urban Cowboy. Madolyn went on to give multiple award winning performances in the LA theater scene. Among her triumphs, she created the title role of Emily in Stephen Metcalf’s play of the same name, which was directed by the renowned producer director Jack O’Brien during its premiere at San Diego’s revered old globe theater. During the time when Madolyn was studying with legendary actress Kim Stanley and opera singer Gloria Lane, she became a founding member of LA Theater works. Madeleine also enjoyed a terrific tv and film career in which she found herself starring in features opposite the likes of no less than Steve Martin in All of me, Roy Scheider in 2010, the year we make contact, Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, Joe Pesci in the super, and in tv shows like Due South, Cheers if Tomorrow comes, and Sadat. But at the height of her powers, all of that was abruptly interrupted by a chronic illness, which she fights to this day. Madeleine resides in Toronto, Canada, with her husband, former NHL hockey great Mark Osborne, and two adult daughters who live nearby. For the record, Madolyn and I have known one another for more years than either of us will admit, having met and worked together on a few productions while we were both in drama school at USC. So for all those reasons and many more, it’s a truly great joy for me to welcome my longtime friend, the extraordinary Madolyn Smith Osborne, to StoryBeat today. Madolyn welcome to the show.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Thank you, Steve.

Steve Cuden: Let’s go back in time a little bit. At what age did you first get the theater bug? When did you think to yourself, wow, this is something I want to do, get up on stage and perform?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, from the time I was about six, I started doing it. And so it’s just something that I’ve always done. You know, in the first grade, I play, you know, there was Jack and Jill with the Jubilee, and I would play Jill, and if there was something about little Bo Peep, I was a little Bo peep, you know, I would just. I would just gravitate to all that stuff. When I was in, early in high school, I was, in Bangkok, Thailand, and did a lot of singing and dancing and performing there with a kind, of an up with people group called the Young Internationals that, you know, right at the height of the war, you know, my dad was, in the army, and we went to Laos and, Hong Kong and performed around the area. And that was in. That was in 1972.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. So that was pretty wild. And, my dear friend Nina Hennessy, who’s Broadway baby herself, she and I were just little 14 year olds, you know, performing in this group with, with much older people. And, so a lot of that was going on. And then I went to high school, and I must say I was much more concerned being a jock.

Steve Cuden: A jock.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I just loved sports, and I had already realized that everywhere that I moved when I was in the army. As long as you join a team, right, when you get to that school, you’ll camaraderie? plus, I was just nuts about sports. Just absolutely nuts.

Steve Cuden: Were you a tomboy?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I tried to play I tried to play everything. I was a tomboy and kind of a budding ballerina, although I went through two pairs of toe shoes in just a couple of months. And then I was, you know, mom, it kind of hurts a little bit. And I think I would like to be a cheerleader once in my life. So I kind of let that go and then didn’t revisit dance training until I was about 17.

Steve Cuden: So the athleticism and dancing sort of go hand in hand, don’t they?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, with me, they sure did. With me they did.

Steve Cuden: You’re working with your legs and you’re working with strength and fluidity, and athleticism is very much in the dancers game, isn’t it?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes. And then at the same time, I was trying to sing like Barbra Streisand and Marnie Nixon and all that. Oh, yeah. My fantasy world was, was fabulous. But to answer your question, when I thought that I would really like to pursue this, like maybe, maybe, you know, my very academic parents who would have wanted me to go and do something much more lofty, even though my father is the one who gave me the love of musicals. He was a fabulous singer, but he never, because he had stage fright at his auditions, and so he didn’t become a famous pruner, but he was a great, great singer. I was doing. Oh, my gosh, now the play is escaping me. Oh, my gosh. I was doing a play in high school. Look homeward, angel. That’s what it is. And I was playing the sister, and I remember when the young man is dying in the play, and I’m either lamenting over him or fighting with the mother over him or something like that. Whatever it is I was doing, I heard a few sniffles in the audience. I was, you know, mourning the brother. He was either dead or whatever. And I’ll just never forget I heard those sniffles, and that was when I thought, you know what? I think I’m going to try and. And go for this. I just felt the power, and I wasn’t expecting it.

Steve Cuden: You had the audience eating out of the palm of your hand and you didn’t know it.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, I just. I was just shocked, and I just felt the power. Yeah, I felt the power.

Steve Cuden: Did you know then that you were likely to do stage work? That was going to be something you were going to do?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, that would. That would be what I would go after. Absolutely. Yeah.

Steve Cuden: And how much longer was it before you went to school at USC?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Probably just a year or two later.

Steve Cuden: Year or two later, yeah.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: As I told you before, that’s where sort of my logic came in. I thought, okay, if I really am taking this seriously, I either have to go to New York or I knew I had to go to LA, right? But I was still kind of a rah rah kid. So I was a little bit shy to go to New York and pound the pavement. I wanted to do. I thought, I’ll go do the rah rah rah thing and I’ll go to USC where they have football games and all that other stuff. And it’s right in LA, chances are of their alumni hanging around and I’ll get seen or something. Ah, if my high school stardom, holds up, because all the other high school stars are going to be there too. So I’ll find out really fast if I’m going to get weeded out or not.

Steve Cuden: So you get to USC. And what do you think the impact of having gone to school there had on your work and your career?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, you know, my guess was correct. Even though USC is in watts, it’s still in LA. And there were alumni and people just every now and then would come and kind of swirl around the environment and come see a play or, and sure enough, I ended up meeting a few people. You know, when Jack Bender directed us in Moon Children, he was best friends with John Ritter at the time. And John showed up at the, I think this was my sophomore year, maybe with, he came with Dorothy McGuire. For some reason. I was very excited to see her. I don’t even know if John was doing three’s company yet or not. But I thought, yeah, this can happen. I knew that people would show up in the audience because of where we were.

Steve Cuden: And, USC being in LA, of course, attracted to school people who eventually went off and became successful in one way, shape or form. Sometimes famous, sometimes not, but frequently successful.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Right, right. Now, I originally went there because in the brochure, you know, I’d gotten an academic scholarship, so that was good. But in the brochure I’m fairly certain I saw this musical theater department. And so, and then I get there for orientation, Steve and I walk all over the campus by myself and I cannot find it. And I thought, what have I done? This doesn’t exist. And finally I end up at the drama department not knowing that’s what it was. And I go up the stairs and I think I met Bill White. And I said, I just, I’m, I came here thinking I was coming to the theater department. I’m already enrolled, I’m oriented the whole thing. And, there’s no musical theater department. He said, well, it’s all here. It’s in this building. I said, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s all, you know, I saw a few posters on the wall, and then I relaxed, but I was having an anxiety attack. I’d find somewhere else to go.

Steve Cuden: Well, they definitely did bunches of musical theater there. There’s no doubt.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, yes. And I was lucky enough to get into Oklahoma, when I was a freshman. Because you’re not supposed to be in musicals there when you’re a freshman. That was when I knew. I think I’m onto something.

Steve Cuden: Who directed that? Was it blankenship? John, Blankenship.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Ernie. Ernie Seren C something. Something like that. An old, you know, vaudeville guy just working forever for 100 years did that. Yeah. And that’s, you know, I was in that with Andy and Levar, Burton and Levar was, you know, auditioning for roots at the time when we were doing that. And. Oh, yeah.

Steve Cuden: So you just said, andy, and the listeners don’t know who you mean. That’s Andy Tennant. Ah, that’s Andy Tennant, who has also been a guest on this show. And we were all in school at the same time.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes, yes. Yeah. So, yeah, so being in Oklahoma really jump started my dream, which was to be, you know, I’m just a musical comedian at heart. That’s what I am.

Steve Cuden: So what was your favorite show to do when you were at Sc?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, yeah, well, follies for sure. Follies, yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, Bill and Jackie choreographed this awesome sort of chorus line dance number for me. And it was just, I love Sondheim so much. And, yeah, it was dreamy. And that’s where John. Because he designed my costume. This is John Blanketship.

Steve Cuden: John Blanketship.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: He was always fluffing up my feathers and saying, you can be this, you can do this, you could do that. You remind me of my showgirl. This. Just pumping me up all the time.

Steve Cuden: Well, John at SC was and still is to a certain extent, a legend there. The listeners will not know who we’re talking about unless you went to school there. But this was a guy that taught students at USC for, I don’t know, 35, 40, maybe even 50 years. And was, Very high energy.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes, very high energy. Very blunt. Very, very blunt.

Steve Cuden: Extremely blunt in many ways.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: When he loved you, he would almost slobber. And when he wanted to criticize you, he would crush you. And you still loved him, and you still loved him.

Steve Cuden: and in some cases, you could get both within two minutes.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Absolutely.

Steve Cuden: So after you get out of school. Well, immediately after you get out of school, you get cast in this huge movie. And that was because John Houseman had cast you in all’s well and ends well, right?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. Yeah.

Steve Cuden: And so tell the listeners who may not know who John Houseman was. Who was John Houseman? What was he all about?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, John was, you know, just a theater icon going all the way back to his partnership with Orson Welles. And then, gee, in the seventies, he even went and got himself an Academy Award for acting in the paper chase. And he came to Sc, as our interim theater director until they found a permanent one. So we all were there with him for. Well, I was there with him for two years. And what happened, Steve, is so interesting. I had never, believe it or not, done a monologue before.

Steve Cuden: Really?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: No. I had read a monologue when a woman from NYU came to my high school to offer scholarships to people. And, she had said to me, you know, if you were in Stella Adler’s class right now, she would say, well, yeah, you’re pretty, but what else? Thank God she gave me an improv to do the improv. It was like she became a different person when she saw me do the improv. So I got a, I got a scholarship to NYU. But as I told you, I was too afraid to go. So when John came to, the theater department at USC, everybody had to do a monologue for him. And I told Bill White, I’ve never done. I’ve just never done a monologue. You know, anything that I auditioned for, you would audition from a side, or, you know, I would just get the part, or I would dance and sing for the part. I’ve never done a monologue. So I think it was Bill who told me to do, to do Desdemona. And, so I memorized this monologue. I took a hairbrush on stage. I did the monologue while I was brushing my hair or whatever. And for some reason, and I’ll never know why, John was quite stunned with that. He told, people that I worked with much later. Other directors I worked with much later, a couple of people would. Would talk about my desdemona thing that I did for John. I’m like, that was just a monologue. I did something that all of us had to do. I don’t even remember what I did, but whatever it was, he took a massive shine to me, you know, lucky me. And then m. Yeah, I got a lot out of John for a couple of years there. And, as I said, kind of as a swan song.

Steve Cuden: What do you think that he taught you that you really took away? Do you have anything that distinctively is a memory of something that you learned from him?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I don’t, actually. It was just his. It was just his, presence in my life was so huge. I mean, I can remember going up into his office, and he would just call me up there and say, well, let’s run lines. And it would be John and I running lines for the show, and, and he would take me out to lunch, and, you know, he took me to see Patti Lupone in Evita and insisted I, you know, that we take her out for dessert. And he would do things like that. And, of course, I was horrified because she didn’t look at me the whole night. I want to slide under the table, and I’m thinking to myself, John, why did you do this to me? I mean, she didn’t want to sit down and have dessert with some college kid, you know? But I just think, you know, his, his, affirmation just, it rubs off on you. And I think it just gave me incredible courage. He just built me up more than I deserved.

Steve Cuden: Did you get a sense of professionalism from him?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: He just made me feel like I was born to do it.

Steve Cuden: You were the queen at that point?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, he just. I mean, who knows how many other people he said this to, because I know that this happens. I’ve had it happen to me where I’ll find out. Somebody that I adored said the same thing to another actress that he said to me, and I’m like, oh, they say that to all the girls. But, you know, he said, oh, you know, she’s like, he told somebody I was like a young Katherine Hepburn or something. You know, I don’t want to recount that now because it just seems silly, but, you know, when you hear stuff like that, it just gives you tremendous courage and vision, and you just. Some of your fear goes away, and you just keep moving forward, and they. And make you believe that you were destined for it.

Steve Cuden: We’ll get to the actual transition from school into the movies in a moment, but I’m just curious. You eventually then studied with Kim Stanley, who many will call the female Marlon Brando. That’s her moniker. What did you learn from her? What was she teaching you?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know, the only thing I remember about Kim again, Kim was somebody that just really lasered her focus on me. And, she would sometimes take you into. She had the, class in her house in the Hollywood hills, where a bunch of us that were in the class actually lived. And she would take you into her back room, after you had done a scene or something like that, when class was over, and she would do a one on one with you. And she revealed to me something that took me many years to understand, but she was right on. And what she said was, she said a lot of fabulous things, and she let me know that she was really happy with me. But she said, you have a lot of anger, and you default to anger. And I remember thinking, what the heck? I don’t have anything to be angry about. What. What is she talking about? And I didn’t understand it for years. and that’s the main thing I took away from her, because when I did understand it, then I really got it. I would default to the intimidation, the intensity of my parents contentious marriage. They were so strict with us and all of that. And I thought, well, I’m not angry at my parents. You don’t know that you’re angry at your parents, right?

Steve Cuden: Oh, no, I knew. I knew.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I did not know. I just, My brothers and sisters knew, and they were all going through it. I, as my mother said, lofted over the garden wall and flew out and didn’t really think much of it, you know? but there was a lot of contention in my household, and I. And I internalized a lot of it.

Steve Cuden: That’s very interesting, because I have no memory of you being an angry person.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Me neither. But that’s what she. That was that laser thing that she looked at my choices and saw that I made some choices that were dominating or maybe not vulnerable or. And she distilled it right down to, I think there’s anger in this girl, and so she’s defaulting to, always strong choices and powerful choices and stuff like that.

Steve Cuden: How fascinating.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: And I wish I knew what she meant right away. I would have been a much better actress from then on, but it took me years to understand what she meant.

Steve Cuden: Well, maybe it was supposed to be that way. That’s how I would look at it. You’ve done a lot of theater, obviously, in your day. I’m just wondering what for. You made theatre special versus. And we’ll talk about the difference between theater and then being on camera. Those are two sort of different skill sets. What made theatre great for you?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, the relationship with the audience and the camaraderie with your cast, which was always magical. I don’t think I was ever in a cast that it wasn’t magical and you know, you collaborate together, you work on it together. Your character and the arc of the story and all of that. You go through it together and you have time and you can experiment. And then when you’re up, the relationship with the audience that I felt when I was in high school, I did not know what it was, but that was the beginning of my discovering that you have a relationship with the audience, for sure. Yeah. And you can feel it, and you can. Sometimes you could feel when they’re with you, feel they’re not with you. I think I had an uncanny ability to, Of timing that I could sense.

Steve Cuden: Well, there’s no doubt you had great timing.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. And I think that kept me from being more studious in other areas because I would rely on things that I was really good at, whereas a bunch of my other friends were so studious, and I thought, they’re such artists. I’m just a performer.

Steve Cuden: You fell back on what can only best be described as natural talent, I suppose.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I suppose. And kind of that little athlete in me that just wants to, let’s get this game going. Let’s win this thing.

Steve Cuden: Well, I just remember you having a very bubbly, perky, upbeat attitude toward all of it. Yeah, that’s what I remember most about you. You were not down or gloomy or dour or critical of other people at all. You were just upbeat and let’s go. That was always, let’s go.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I was having a lot of fun. I was having a lot of fun, and I loved everybody there. It was just. It was a dream come true. It was everything I hoped it would be.

Steve Cuden: So you do all’s well that ends well. Jim Bridges comes and sees you, and he casts you in a massive movie opposite a huge star, John Travolta.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, he wanted me, but he didn’t really cast me. I’ll tell you a little something.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Debra has probably shared this in a bunch of her interviews too. In the past, Deborah winger. But Bob Evans didn’t want either of us. You know, he was running Paramount studio at the time. I think he wanted more, more of your bombshell beauty type girls to play those parts which neither of us were, really. And in fact, there was one point, and again, this is another thing that makes me feel utterly silly. But I might as well tell you this little tiny secret, because there’s no way Deborah was so fabulous in that part. But I have to tell you, before Deborah came on the theme, Jim called me one day and he said, do you think you could play sissy? I just cannot. I just. I’ve written this for sissy space. If they don’t want her, and I can’t find my sissy, do you think. You know, of course I lied and said, oh, oh, well, sure. Sure, I could. Which is, of course, it just feels so silly now. But, he was. It was taking him so long to get anybody enamored with either of us. So, I actually think I may have been auditioning even before Deborah, because when I went down to dance with John, for the final audition, I think they were keeping her from getting her on the plane because they had not said yes to her yet. So she turned. I think she turned the industry upside down with that performance of hers, and yet they barely let her get on the plane. The powers that be Jim wanted her, of course, but, And, you know, to this day, that audition, Steve, is the best audition I think I ever gave, which is kind of sad to say, and it’s kind of a great story, because when I went in to read, I went into Paramount Studios. there was a friend of mine literally waiting at the, bovard theater where we were getting our diplomas for me to get my diploma. And my last name was s. So I’m like, this is never going to happen. I’m going to have to run out and go to this audition before I get my diploma. Well, somehow they got to my diploma quickly enough. I grabbed the thing, and it wasn’t really in there because I’d failed my french exam right at the end. Right at the end of school. I was so burnt out. I thought, you know, my audition for urban cowboy was coming up, and I thought, I’m so exhausted. I’m so exhausted. I don’t think I’m going to need this. Anyway, I didn’t show up for my french exams, so I ran out the door with an empty, you know, the placard thing that they give you and got driven, got raced to this audition that was happening in the old Lucy dressing room. I am, one of the biggest Lucille ball fans in the universe. Everything about it was serendipitous. I mean, they had Shakespeare on the wall of the bathroom, and the very first title I saw was, all’s well that ends well. So as scared and nervous as I was, I just. It’s like you feel you’re in the right place, you’re getting all these signals. And the person I auditioned with was the person I think Jim originally wrote the script for. And I was Dennis Quaid.

Steve Cuden: Dennis Quaid?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes. I have my first professional audition in my life, and I read with Dennis Quaid.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: So naturally, it was pretty good.

Steve Cuden: uh-huh

Madolyn Smith Osborne: And then the second time that I went there, then I read with John, but, oh, my gosh, that audition with Dennis Quaid, it was like, I’ve been there all my life.

Steve Cuden: So what for you then enabled you to go from a theater world where you’d never really been a camera actress? What enabled you to then do what you did in front of the camera? Was it that Jim Bridges helped you or you? How did you train for it? How did you know what to do?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I did not know what to do. I did not know what to do except that I’ve been a movie fan all my life. But, you know, I really think it was Jim. Jim was the sweetest, most nurturing, nurturing, loving, and he would just, he would just woo you into things. And, because I honestly don’t think I didn’t want to do Steve. You know, I am a theater gal through and through, so I’m not sure how well I made the transition, but it was a transition for sure.

Steve Cuden: Did you figure by the end of doing that movie, you had that down a little bit?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, maybe a little bit. Maybe a little bit. I think any. Well, you know, even the terror that I would have gone through doing that, that set was so magical. John is the biggest movie star in the world at that time. And, you know, the. The star of a movie will often create the tone on the set. He created the most wonderful family tone. Jim was so generous that even though I was only in bits and pieces of the movie, he paid for me to stay down there the whole summer and become part of the family.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: All of those kinds of things. You’re just. Whatever fear you have, just. It just starts to drip away. It doesn’t mean that you do a great job with your performance, but the fear and everything, you’re just being loved into it.

Steve Cuden: Well, there’s nothing in your performance in that movie that looks like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, well, thank you very much. I look at, I just cringe when I look at it. I’m like, you’re so dang stiff. I’m one of those people that cannot watch myself. I cannot watch myself.

Steve Cuden: You’re hard on yourself, is what you are.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know what they think of you because they’re right there. And, you know, if it worked or didn’t work, you’ll hear about it, and then you can work on it the next night in film you have.

Steve Cuden: So, all right, you catch this role, you play Pam, when you got the script, what was the first thing that you thought about when you went through it? And I’m asking that as well as in a general way, when you would book any gig and you would get the script, what was your process? What did you do first? Aside from reading it, obviously, how did you start to work the character?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You, know, I gotta be really honest with you. Like, I really am a winger, and I like to rely on my imagination. I’m not sure I’m a really good script reader, to tell you the truth. I named her. I used my imagination, and I just tapped into my dancing prowess, and that was my chemistry with John. I’m not even sure I really did real character work on it. I gotta be honest with you.

Steve Cuden: You just read the script the way that it just felt right to you.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, I guess so. But I also. Yeah, I just used my imagination and, you know, the Texas accent. I love doing accents. So I just played. But, yes, I felt that I was very stiff, you know, in a lot of it. I look at it now and just go, I just would have done so many things differently. But, yeah, you know, when I was being trained for that movie, again, the dancing was the big thing for me because I thought there was going to be much more buddy, who you all know as Patrick Swayze. He’s the one who trained me in the. In the dances. So before he was anything, his mom was a choreographer. We called him Buddy, and his ballerina wife, Lisa. I spent days and days dancing with them. It was just, I was in heaven. So I just felt so plugged into the film that I sort of went past doing any character work. And I just, like I said, I clicked into my dancing prowess. And I had already known John a little bit from before, which is a whole nother story. But so I felt kind of like a little sister in a way. And so the comfort of all of that that I just told you about is what I wrote on.

Steve Cuden: Well, you know, you’re talking about your luck earlier. I mean, how lucky can you get that your first big break like that is John Travolta and Patrick Swayze.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. And Dennis Quaid.

Steve Cuden: And Dennis Quaid.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Or a few years after we, we made that, actually, it was probably many years later, I went to John Houseman’s house for a party, and Stella Adler was there. She said to me, this is when I. This is when it was really clear to me how, what a ship I had gotten onto with urban cowboy. She said, oh, John Travolta, I want to do pear Gynt with him. What is happening? Where am I? I’m this young woman, all these older theater people, and John Houseman and Stella Adler wants to know what John Travolta is like, and she asks me, so, you know what? The world was not real for a very, very long time for me.

Steve Cuden: How long do you think it was in the business? And you were doing a fair amount of work for a while. How long do you think it was before you started to feel like you did know what you were doing?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know, I was in a. I was in a, miniseries called deadly intentions with Michael Bean, and Clarissa Leachman plays my mother in law. And it was a true story. In fact, I think, the character that Michael Bean plays, I think it was the first time anyone was ever imprisoned for attempted murder, and there was no body. So I played the young woman that’s married to this psychopath doctor. And I got to listen to her, her forensic tapes. They gave them to me, and I got to listen. She was being hypnotized, and they were trying to get more out of her or whatever. And, that was an extremely dramatic part where I was actually supposed to play an extremely vulnerable girl. It was the first time, I think, that I ever had to go outside my strengths as a person and become really vulnerable and really naive and really sort of clueless that I was married to a psychopath. And I know that it really. That I really did absorb it, because when I went to audition for a guy that I had worked with many years earlier on, a show called Trapper John, he was doing a show, tv, movie, that I really, really wanted to do another true story tv movie. And at the end of the audition, he said, what’s going on with you? And I said, what do you mean? He goes, you just seem very dark to me. From what I remember, you and I had just come off filming that mini series, and I lost the part, and I was very sad about that. But I thought, I think I’ve entered the world of immersing myself in my character, because he went, I just. There’s darkness around you. And I played this woman who is being psycho terrorized to death.

Steve Cuden: You were carrying that role around with.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You for a while, I guess so. I had no idea. I had no idea. And, I’m sure it was very subtle, but he was a very gifted man, and he had known me from the beginning of my career. That was the first one of the first times I was ever on film was for him. And so, yeah, yeah.

Steve Cuden: You also have done your fair share of comedy. And so, I mean, you did cheers and you did all of me with Steve Martin. Do you prefer comedy over drama? Do you have a preference?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know, I think my nature is more comedic. There’s no question about it. Like I said, fun. Lucille Ball, musical comedy. I am just forties musical comedies, and that’s just me. That is me to the. To the hilt. I love, dramatic acting. I absolutely do. But I like myself better when I’m doing the other for some reason.

Steve Cuden: It’s certainly lighter on your soul, isn’t it?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah, well, I just. I just think I’m. I think I’m, I don’t know, I like myself a little bit better.

Steve Cuden: When you were doing comedy versus drama, would you approach each role in the same way, or would you approach them very differently?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, yeah, it’s interesting you should say that, because another person that I really learned something wonderful from was John Reich when we were doing the imaginary invalid at USC. I learned from him many, many things, but the only one I can remember is that comedy is contrast.

Steve Cuden: Explain that.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You laugh when you are surprised, when you’re expecting one thing, but you get another thing instantaneously. The contrast is what makes you laugh. And as I thought about that, I thought, he really is true. So he was trying to guide me through my performance. You don’t be funny. You don’t find the funny. Find the contrasts in the show, and you will get surprising laughs where you did not build them in. And, then, of course, along with that, I learned about, you know, m the truer you do your comedy, the more real you are. when you are doing comedy, the funnier it will be.

Steve Cuden: Absolutely.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: And the funnier your co star will be when you are being straight opposite them.

Steve Cuden: I’m so glad to hear you say that, because I think the best comedies are when they’re played as if they’re absolutely real. There’s nothing funny about them.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. And that’s why we find out that some of our greatest actors are comedians. You know, you look at Robin Williams and Lucille Ball. I mean, my goodness.

Steve Cuden: Well, look at Leslie Nielsen. At the end of his career, he went from nothing but years and years and years. Decades of doing nothing but straight heavies or straight rolls, and then suddenly he becomes this hilarious performer.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So it’s. Yeah, it was a wonderful thing to learn. I never forgot that. I thought, here’s a real academic, scientific kind of thing I can hold on to when I’m either looking for a laugh or I finally, you know, suddenly go, I should not be looking for a laugh there. over here, if this. If I look for the contrast there, the audience will be upended a little bit and they’ll just find themselves laughing. I mean, where really, you know, when I did Emily in San Diego, oh, my gosh, that. That’s my favorite thing that I ever, ever did. I got to create that role. And that was directed by Jack O’Brien, who’s just the most creative, fun loving. I mean, he is just creative on steroids. And, oh, my gosh, there’s another man who just loved me into my role. And, so I was able to take a lot of that into that show because that show, I had the liberty to not so much to break the fourth wall, but the fourth wall was kind of fluid in that show. And so whenever a big mistake happened or somebody didn’t put my prop where it was supposed to be or whatever, I just could break that fourth wall and make a thing out of it. And it was like part of the show. So I think some of the comedy stuff that I learned, you know, back at SC and then especially with Jack O’Brien, was just. It’s just phenomenal.

Steve Cuden: So most of the movie roles you had, you were creating those roles. They didn’t exist prior to, but when you were doing all’s well that ends well, you were doing a role that many people had done. Helena had been around for hundreds of years. Did you find it to be, helpful to have the freedom of a role that didn’t have an existing past?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, yeah. That’s fun. because then again, your imagination just takes free rein. I have to admit, I tend to be more, like I said, of a winger and someone who loves to play with my imagination more than a real studious actor. And I’m not proud to admit that because it seems studious, you know, makes you more serious and more of an artist. But I’ve just always enjoyed surprising myself. So I like to improvise and I like to just use my imagination.

Steve Cuden: When you were doing, for instance, all of me, was that improvisational or was that you had to stick to the script?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, you know, I didn’t have a very big part in that movie, and I did have to stick to the script. That was Carl Weiner, but a very important role. Yes. Now, the one time where I, I gotta tell you this funny story about Lily Tomlin, because, sure, you know, I am, the most uninhibited person in my family. However, in Hollywood, I would be considered a square. I would be considered a bit prudish. I was, you know, a pretty, you know, I was brought up with a lot of propriety, if that’s the right word, and, you know, be a good girl and all that stuff. And as bad as I was at it, compared to other people in Hollywood, I would be a crude. So, anyway, I’m doing this scene with Steve, and at one point, Lily goes, you know, to Carl Reiner. I think it would be really funny if she faked an orgasm here. And, I’m like, this is 1983. I was pretty new in the business, and I just had a heart attack that was just not somewhere that I could go easily. I wasn’t one of those people that went, oh, I just love doing things that scare me. No, I don’t like doing things that scare me. But I went, it’s Lily Tomlin. I don’t have a choice, and I have to do this in 5 seconds. so I did it. I don’t know if I did a very good job, but it’s most people’s favorite part of me being in that movie. But that was frightening, I gotta tell you. I just. Wow.

Steve Cuden: And that’s before Harry and Sally, right?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: yes. Absolutely. Yes. That would have been. That would have been.

Steve Cuden: And curiously enough, it’s Carl Reiner. And when Harry met Sally was Rob Reiner.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes. Yes. Carl. Oh, my God. He was a love, too. But, oh, that moment, I just looked at the both of them and went, you do not have any idea who I am, but I gotta. I gotta transform right on the spot here because I don’t have a choice.

Steve Cuden: How did Carl Reiner then help you get there? Did he help you get there?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: No, nobody helped me get there. I just had to get there by myself. It worked out just fine. I had these fake nails on, and I had this wooden necklace. And a lot of people told me much later they loved the part where after I faked the orgasm, I click my nails on the wooden necklace. Those are the kinds of things that make their way into performances that you don’t plan, that you just do on instinct. You give yourself your own tag because you’re just in it. And, yeah, it was just, It was just an instinctual thing. And sometimes that ends up being the only thing people remember.

Steve Cuden: You were doing what everybody in the acting business considers the best thing to do, which is to just be in the moment.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah, I was in the moment. I was trying to take the. I was trying to take the focus off myself as fast as I possibly, possibly could. I just made the noise on my necklace and then went out the door.

Steve Cuden: But it’s now part of history, and it’s a great part of history.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s a great story for me because it’s Lily Tomlin. It was wonderful to be directed by her and to, do something that was really out of my comfort zone. And she was satisfied. So that made me really happy.

Steve Cuden: I imagine it did make her happy. So you’ve talked about Carl Reiner, talking about Jack O’Brien, John Houseman, etcetera. You have worked with some spectacular directors, Jim Bridges and so on. What would you say you’ve taken away from these great directors? Have you learned any lessons from any of them that stuck with you?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know, they were just all so very, very different. Very different.

Steve Cuden: Well, give us an example of how different they were.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Well, one of them is not a director, but I think you’ll find this interesting. That happened on when we were at the odyssey with, the summit.

Steve Cuden: Summit conference.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Summit conference, yes. that I did with Allie Mills and that, you know, lovingly photographed for us.

Steve Cuden: No, I designed the lighting.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, you designed the lighting. Okay. And you took pictures.

Steve Cuden: And I took pictures, but I designed the lighting for that. And Hess, which was in repertory with that show. With Orson Bean.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: With Orson Bean. And then he and Allie meet up much, much, much later and fall in love and get married. Yeah. Serendipity all over the place.

Steve Cuden: But let’s just make sure everybody know we’re on summer conference for 2 seconds, and we’ll get back to it in a moment. But summit conference also starred Kelly Ward, who’s went to USC with us at the same time and has also been on this show. And so that was a great experience for me, to design the lighting of that little repertory of two shows.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: that was my other probably most favorite thing that I did in the theater was working with Allie and both of us turning into Adolf Hitler and Mussolini.

Steve Cuden: We’re talking about Ally Mills, who eventually married Orson Bean.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes. So I learned something amazing during that show, but it wasn’t from the director. I don’t even remember who directed it.

Steve Cuden: It was Danny Goldman who directed.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, of course it was Danny. Oh, yes.

Steve Cuden: I love Danny’s also been on this show. So it’s like old home week.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: But some check old man came up to me after the show. He was a director in Czechoslovakia or something. A real artist. And he said, your performance was brilliant, but it was ugly. Yeah. Something took me years to understand, but it was a brilliant comment he made, and I asked him to explain it to me. I said, well, what do you mean? You like my performance, but then you say it was an ugly performance. He said, even when you’re portraying Benito Mussolini, it should be beautiful. So I pondered that for many years until I got, hey, I think I know what he was saying. I was karaoke ing Benito Mussolini in a way that I thought was funny, but he wanted me to be real with Mussolini, as I characterized him. To my friend.

Steve Cuden: I think you were just right in the part. It’s what it required.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: But isn’t that interesting?

Steve Cuden: That is interesting.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: The, other thing that I took away from, I guess it was from Jim. And again, it was something that I later learned. He said also to Deborah, it was a beautiful acting piece of direction that was very poetic. And he didn’t have to say anything else to you after he said it to you, which is, I’ve never seen a wild thing sorry for itself.

Steve Cuden: Ooh.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Which is great. Correction. In a scene, you don’t know that you’re acting like the victim. You don’t, you know, until somebody comes up and tells you, I’ve never seen a wild thing sorry for itself. So don’t be sorry for yourself in this scene. And, wow, that’s a revelation. and that I learned when I was very, very young. again, did I implement it later on? I have no idea.

Steve Cuden: That has a parallel to the well known notion that villains, antagonists in movies, tv shows, plays, et cetera. The villains of most of those works have no idea that they’re villains. They’re doing what they think is the right thing to do.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Exactly. Yes. It’s like playing comedy straight. The same thing.

Steve Cuden: Yeah, same thing. Because you can’t play the villain. You just play what the villain’s goal.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Is, what the truth is. You play what the truth is. That’s right. Exactly what it is that you want. What’s your problem? Who’s standing in the way? Yeah. All those, All those wonderful questions that you have to ask yourself, you know, as my character. Is my character a good listener? is my character getting what they need? you know, you work on your character’s inner life, but you just ask yourself. I was always just comfortable just asking myself lots of questions. Not writing things down, but just asking myself questions.

Steve Cuden: Did you find in the movies, and probably more so in tv, that you frequently had to solve your own problems that you weren’t getting a lot of direction from directors, I would imagine more so in tv.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. you know, I’m someone who, I think when you came to film, really needed to be directed, but either the directors themselves did not have loftier, ideas of my character or even of the script or whatever. Yeah, I was really begging to be directed, and at the same time, I also wanted to be given more permission to improvise. And for whatever reason, I was frustrated for many years because I didn’t get either of those, and I didn’t know how to get it, and I didn’t know if it was my responsibility or I was just supposed to sit on my hands and do what I was told. It was many years of me trying to figure that out.

Steve Cuden: Well, you know that most people in movies and tv are cast because you bring something already. You don’t have to be trained to do something different on a set. They cast you because you are what they want.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yes. And see, that is where I feel that I fell tremendously short on film because I was cast to be the dark haired leading lady. Right. I’m Veronica, so, and so is Betty, so I was always Veronica. Right, right. And I knew that wasn’t me. I was, you know, Lucille ball inside, in my own mind, just in my own mind. So I was a little uncomfortable being the sultry leading lady, and I didn’t believe that. And I felt a bit of like an imposter. And sometimes what you end up doing, you end up doing what you think you’re supposed to do, and then you don’t really flush out a good performance. So I feel like I did that a bunch of times, and I look back on my career, and I think, it’s too bad my career ended so soon, because as an older person, I would have shed that. Right? Oh, they want me to be sultry. They want me to be. Well, I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t believe that that’s what I’m like, but that’s what they want. So I have to pretend that I am that. Right. And that can really. Boy, that can really deaden a performance. So I feel like I fell into that.

Steve Cuden: You certainly don’t want to be as a performer. You don’t want to be doing what you think they want you to do.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You want to know that I did that many times. It was that good girl thing. I got to be a good girl, and I don’t want to be a problem. And if they tell me to do this, I’ll do it. So I think I ended up doing a lot of things I didn’t believe.

Steve Cuden: In, or so you don’t need to mention any names, but did you ever run into an experience where you were dealing with an actor who was absolutely going very much against the grain? And how did you deal with that.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Going, against the grain?

Steve Cuden: Well, in other words, not being cooperative, asking too many crazy questions, being a little too harsh on the production or the director. Did you ever run into that, or did you luckily not ever have that happen?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know what? I’m not sure I’m going to answer your question properly, but the first thing that comes to my mind is I worked with Jeff Goldblum twice. And Jeff Goldblum, as you know, is one of the quirkier performers out there.

Steve Cuden: Right.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: The first time I worked with him, it was 1982, and we were. We did with Lynn Redgrave and Robert Preston and Patrick McNee, this fabulous cast, William Daniels. We did this, tv movie called Rehearsal for Murder. And Jeff was doing all of these weird gestures and strange things with the way the inflection and the frail of his lines and stuff. And I remember thinking, why aren’t they stopping him? Why isn’t anybody doing anything about this? You know, he was kind of my partner in the movie because we were supposedly going out, and. And I just didn’t have the vision. Right. I just thought, this is the weirdest. I don’t know what to do with this guy. Somebody’s got to stop him from doing all these weird things. Well, then he becomes Jeff Goldblum. It shows you. I didn’t have the vision, you know? So here’s somebody who was improvising, who was just exploring their own quirkiness, had, ah, no, just had all the freedom in the world to do it, and it made me uncomfortable because I couldn’t see it. And then the second time I worked with him, it was awesome. And I actually ended up playing a kind of a villainous. The next time I worked with him. But, oh, did I ever. Did I ever understand him then? And then he became big superstar. You know, I tell on myself because I did not get it. I just didn’t get him at all.

Steve Cuden: What was the second movie?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, we did, after the laughter, I think it was called, about, Ernie Kovacs. Jeff played Ernie Kovacs, and I play, his first wife, who had a big custody battle with. Who kidnapped his kids, actually, after he married Edie Adams, they went looking for the kids, and they eventually tracked her down. You know, she was just one of these deadbeat moms that took the kids just to piss him off. Wasn’t a good mother at all. And Cloris Leachman played my mother in law on that show, too.

Steve Cuden: So I’m curious, you know, when you’re on set, in the very beginning, you were nervous and all those things that one would expect to be in the beginning of a career. I assume over time, you got less nerves on a set, though I imagine you still had some kind of nervous energy all the time. What would you do to get through that? How would you tamp that down and get through working on a scene?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: You know, I would say once I did if tomorrow comes, which was that mini series, that Sidney Sheldon miniseries, where I got to play all of these different characters with all of these wigs and accents and glamour clothes and this jewel thief and everything I get that was just a playground for me. I think once I did that show, I just felt very comfortable. I got to do some drama in that show. I got to do some comedy. I got to have a glamorous romance with a really handsome movie star. And, yeah, I think from then on, I became extremely comfortable. And then I did Emily, which is just the bravest thing I ever did, because, like I said, there would be things that would go wrong on the show, and I would just break the fourth wall and go for it and bring the audience in. So, And then, right. And then not long after that, I did funny farm with Chevy Chase. So I was really, really getting comfortable by that time.

Steve Cuden: You know, sets are notoriously distracting places. They’re full of different people running around doing lots of different things. What would you do to find your center? How would you push out all this distraction on a set? What would you do?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I honestly don’t know, Steve. It never stopped bothering me. The powder puff and the thing and the getting the hair out of the eyes, and I’m like, stop. Would you please stop fussing with my hair? No, it’s a shadow. Oh, my gosh. I went to Kim, Stanley once, and I said, kim, ah, how did you handle this when you were making movies? They’re just. They’re just all over you. And I’m not the kind of person that can hold on to certain things when people are patting my face and pulling my hair. You know, she said to me, she said, beg. She said, begging is good. So that was the best advice I ever got. So I would just beg people, can you please just. Just come to me later? Come to me later and fix my lipstick or come to me later or whatever. I would just beg people, please just leave me alone. Please, please, please just leave me alone for a few minutes.

Steve Cuden: So it sounds like sometimes you were just toughing your way through those experiences.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I actually found it. I don’t know, compared to other people you’ve talked to, I found it extremely difficult.

Steve Cuden: No, most people find it difficult. They find their way. They come to some sort of self understanding. Most people. Some people really thrive on it, but most people don’t. Difficult to find that being in the moment when you’re amid that hubbub and there’s a lot of hubbub on a set.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. Or you do a scene and then they cut and they have to go do something else for the day, and you got to revisit that thing another time, and you’re in that scene and you instantly have to change clothes and go do something completely different. I didn’t always do that very well either. I could get thrown. Yeah. And I’m not proud of that. I could get. I could get thrown pretty easily and get a little resentful and stuff. And so then you have to start working on your attitude, and then that’s how you know you’re growing up and you’re getting to know yourself because you’re bringing your own baggage into your play area where you’re supposed to be ready to go. Right. So, yeah, there’d be times I would have to talk to myself, shake my finger at myself a little bit.

Steve Cuden: I think that that’s what most people wind up doing, is you got to work your own way through it, for sure, because nobody’s going to come over and give you a big hug and say, it’s all okay. You got to figure it out.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. And that’s why I would love to think that if I had been able to stay in the business until I was much more mature, that I would have worked through a lot of that stuff and, oh, would have been a much different actor. I’ll never know, but I like to think that that would have happened. Yeah.

Steve Cuden: Well, I have been having just one of the most delightful, wonderful conversations I’ve had in some time with Madolyn Smith Osborne, who’s. We’ve known each other a long time, and we’re going to wind the show down a little bit. And I’m wondering if you are able to share with us a story that’s either weird, quirky, offbeat, strange, or just plain funny, and perhaps maybe you’ll share with us the great story of you having to memorize an entire Shakespeare play in an afternoon.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Okay, so here’s the unbelievable part. Yeah. Believe it or not, believe it if you must. But it really did happen. This was actually right after. Not long after urban cowboy, I went down to the globe for the very first time, and we were doing the country wife. And then I was told that I was going to be the understudy for Isabella in measure. For measure. Cova Feldshow was playing it at the time. And, we had one little rehearsal at the beginning of the summer, and I memorized half of one speech, and then we never had another rehearsal. I am not an idiot, but, boy, did I act like an idiot, because we never had another rehearsal. And I think I just checked out. And then another lovely, girl that was, down there with me said, but they told me I was the understudy. So I thought, oh. So then we were both kind of like, well, which one is it? And then we were just waiting to be called again for rehearsal. Never got called the rest of the summer, and I just let it go. And I was, oddly enough, I was sharing, a, dressing room with Tova for the country wife because she was also starring in that. And we were. We were good friends. And she was doing a one woman show because she’s a fabulous singer. And she said to me one day, I hope you’re brushing up. Brushing up on your shakespeare. I hope you’re brushing up on this role, because I’m starting to get hoarse. And I just, oh, my God. I was terrified. I went to another one of my actor friends, and I said, oh, my God. I thought Wendy was the understudy. And, I’m terrified. I haven’t really prepared. There’ve never been any rehearsals. How does this work? And the guy said to me, she is a horse. She will never let anybody play that part. Don’t you worry about it. So I kind of took solace in. I looked back over what I had memorized, at the beginning of the summer, and that’s where I left it. Two mornings later, maybe a morning later, I get a call at 09:00 a.m. Tova has lost her voice. You have to go on. I did not know the part. I lived every actor’s worst nightmare, and I don’t even know how I made the decision to jump off the cliff. Except that the horror of doing the other, I guess maybe even more scared. I thought, if I don’t find a way to do this, somehow 500 people who bought tickets are going to be disappointed. I’ll never work here again. I don’t deserve to call myself an actress. And I think I threw myself on the mercy of God, and I just started furiously memorizing. Now, that was decades and decades ago. I was always a good memorizer. I’ve never had trouble memorizing lines. You just always associate everything with everything, and then it all just comes together. But Shakespeare, I am at pentameter. I don’t know how I did it, Steve, but a few hours later, I had to start coming in. I had to come in to the rehearsal space, and every actor had to come in every half hour to do their scene with me. And I just memorizing, memorizing, memorizing. Tolla’s, about 5ft tall. I was five’eight. Her tunic didn’t fit me. She was playing a nun. I had no shoes, and I had never been on this stage before, and I just had to do it. And I said to one of the costume designers, I said, I didn’t have time to memorize the epilogue. Could you just print it out and put it in a little prayer book? And I’ll literally just read it. I don’t think anybody will be the wiser. I’ll read the epilogue at the end from the prayer book. And right before I went on stage, Chris Tabori said to me, you know, my mother, his mother was Vivica Lindfer’s. And he said, my mother would always say to me, thine, not mine. And I was just coming into my faith at the time too. So that that was God telling me this whole performance is going to be a prayer, a prayer of survival. And suddenly something inside me went, I’m just going out there offering up my whole performance, because I just don’t know what I’m going to do. And, you know, I must have been in the zone. I must have been. And, you know, when people pick up cars off people, but, you know, when they have an accident, they say you could do superhuman things. That’s what happened. Because there’s no way that I ever could have thought I could do it. I don’t even know why I started memorizing. I should have just run away because it was impossible. But I I just ran into traffic, Steve. And I was so in the zone that I remember the other girl that thought that she was supposed to be the understudy. we actually became good friends on that show. She was supposed to run down a ramp in, you know, the outdoor theater, the old globe. She was supposed to run down a ramp and meet me in a little garden, and I was supposed to be able to see her coming. And then I would know how to modulate myself for when she entered. Well, she was late for her scene, and I was so in the zone. I remember thinking to myself, I’m going to have to improvise an iambic pentameter. And I actually thought I could do it. And I was just about to launch into it, and I saw her running down the ramp.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: And she in the scene. But that’s the only thing I remember about the play, is the moment when I thought I was going to have to improvise an iambic contaminant. Her. It’s the only thing I remember about the whole play. So that superhuman zone that I was in, out of pure terror, it almost created other superhuman moments that I am not capable of.

Steve Cuden: Did you go up on any lines at all?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I have no memory of whether I did or not.

Steve Cuden: and nobody was there backing you up on stage, helping prompt you on anything?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Nothing. Nothing. Somehow I memorized the whole thing except the epilogue.

Steve Cuden: That’s amazing.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Then the next night, or maybe it was two nights later, I had to go on again, and I had time to memorize the epilogue. And why I did not lose the whole. All the verbiage that I had memorized in a panic two days before. How I retained it, I have no idea. But. But I went on a second time, and I even got a couple of fan letters, which is so great because you know how. How heartsick people are when their star doesn’t go on and they get the understudy. You can hear people go, oh, for God’s sake. You know, and you have to go out there anyway. so, yeah, so when I got those band letters, I thought, I think I made it.

Steve Cuden: You were totally in some kind of a zone, not only just in the memorization, but then performing it as well.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Unbelievable. And I don’t know how he did it. And the only thing I remember, except for the moment that I just told you about, the only word I remember from the whole play is the word perdition. John Glover says the word to me, I think, in a scene that we did together, and I’d never heard the word before. And it’s the only reason I remember one word from the play. I have no memory of any, any of the script.

Steve Cuden: You can’t remember any of the dialogue at all?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Nothing. Not a single thing. And then one day, Lisa says to me. You know, Matt, I think that’s one of the longest female leads in Shakespeare. And I was. Don’t say that to people. I remember it. I get the willies.

Steve Cuden: You just mentioned Lisa. That would be Lisa Barnes, who is our, close mutual friend. And Lisa also has been on this show. We’ve had lots of names of folks on the show tonight. I think that that’s. That really says something about you as a performer, even though I can’t imagine doing it at all. That says something about you that you just jammed all those words into your head in a very short time.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. And Jack took us all out for a drink. When I. After I had done that.

Steve Cuden: Jack O’Brien.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: O’Brien. And because I was safe, because I had accomplished it the second time, I said to Jack, jack, I have to tell you a secret. I did not know the part. And he just laughed. I don’t think he believed me. So from then on, I never, ever told anybody for years and years and years and years, because I thought, no one’s going to believe me. It’ll just happen. No one would ever believe such a thing.

Steve Cuden: That’s a great story. I mean, how often do you think that that has happened in the history of theater? Not very often.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: I don’t know. But we all know that that’s a, that’s a recurring nightmare we’ve all had.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Going on. And you have no clothes, and nobody has a costume for you or you’re going on, and you have no lines.

Steve Cuden: Well, and you can’t remember any of the staging. You can’t remember any of the lines. That’s the nightmare, for sure. So that’s a fabulous story. Last question for you today. Madolyn You’ve said lots of things throughout the show that are just wonderful tips of advice for people and the way that you should think, and think about how to perform. I’m just wondering, do you have a solid piece of advice or a tip that you like to tell those who are coming up in the business or maybe they’re in a little bit trying to get to the next level?

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Boy, you know, I only know how to tell people how. There, was only one way that I did it, and that was theater. Theater, theater. If you have any interest at all in singing, dancing, fencing, anything that you can do, any skills that you can really ramp up on, because you just never know when someone’s going to want you to play the harmonica or you, know, I got to have somebody who can really whistle or. You know what I mean? And I was, you know, such a lover of singing and dancing. Luckily, I had all that triple threat stuff, so that was really great. But just be in everything you can be and play with everything you can play with to round yourself out so that you can offer more than one, you know, facet of yourself. I remember somebody saying to me once, the way you approach an audition is you are going in there to solve their problem. Most of the time, they don’t know what they want. So you’re going in there to solve a problem, come in with as many bags of tricks as you can. That’s the only thing I can think of. Just be seen and go where you can be seen. The logic that I approached, where I was going to go to school, just be in the right place at the right time.

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s helpful.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Not something that people can make happen, but you can make a little of it happen because you can look around and go, okay, where are things happening? I got to get there. I got to get where I can be seen.

Steve Cuden: Well, you have to be able to recognize you’re in the right place at the right time, too.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah.

Steve Cuden: You know, and so I think that advice of having bags of tricks or a bag of lots of tricks is a really helpful thought for people that are going, well, what do I do? Well, just go learn everything you can learn.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah. You just got to be as well rounded as you can. You know, if you can dance, dance. If you’re a great athlete, just bring all of that in. if you play a musical instrument, just they want to know that they can count on you to do this or that or the other thing. Or you can offer that in a meeting and fascinate people, and then maybe they’ll remember you. You don’t want to be forgotten when you walk out of the room. That’s all I can say that for sure.

Steve Cuden: If they remember you, that’s a good thing, whether they cast you or not, because they may remember you for something else.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: That’s right. That’s right. Because I’ve bombed plenty of auditions. Bombed them right out.

Steve Cuden: Yeah, but they might have remembered you for something down the road.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Yeah, yeah. Or I turned into a good story for them.

Steve Cuden: Madolyn Smith Osborne. This has been so much fun for me. I can’t tell you how absolutely thrilled I am that you’ve spent an hour plus on StoryBeat today, and I truly cannot thank you enough for your time, your energy, your wisdom, and for some of these wonderful stories.

Madolyn Smith Osborne: Oh, thank you, Steve. Thank you so much. It’s been fun. Reliving it. I just. Oh, I miss it a great deal. I miss all of you a great deal. But I had the best. I just had the best could possibly get.

Steve Cuden: And so we’ve come to the end of today’s StoryBeat If you liked this episode, won’t you please take a moment to give us a comment, rating, or review on whatever app or platform you’re listening to? Your support helps us bring more great StoryBeat episodes to you. story Beat is available on all major podcast apps and platforms, including Apple podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, heart radio, Tunein, and many others. Until next time, I’m Steve Cuden, and may all your stories, be unforgettable.

Executive Producer: Steve Cuden, Producer: Casey Georgi, Announcer: Javier Grajeda
Social Media: Mina Hoffman, Design & Marketing: Holly Reed, Reed Creative Group


  1. olena webster

    I grew up watching Madolyn Smith Osborne …we had a VHS with If Tomorrow Comes and I probably watched it over 100 times before I turned 10. I’m now 29 and still love her in the movies, she’s just so timeless. I was sad to not being able to find any information as to what happened why she just stopped being in the spot light completely. Thank you for this great podcast. Her energy and enthusiasm are amazing. I wish she continued filming but just knowing she has a family, happily married living a peaceful life is great

    • Steve Cuden

      Thanks very much, Olena, for listening. I agree with all you said about Madolyn! She’s truly great!

  2. Glenn Nathan

    Great interview and Congratulations on your 300th episode

    • Steve Cuden

      Thanks for listening, Glenn! I truly appreciate it. Hope to see you one of these days!


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