Siobhan Fallon Hogan has forfeited acting projects rather than compromise her faith.
The Hollywood actress and mother of three has appeared in television’s “Seinfeld” and “Saturday Night Live” and has starred in major motion pictures such as Men in Black, Charlotte’s Web, Forrest Gump and Holes. She’s costarring with Harry Connick Jr. and Renée Zellweger in the romantic comedy New in Town, opening in theaters Jan. 30.
She recently spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake about the film and her faith.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory of growing up Catholic? Were you in a Hollywood family?
I grew up in Cazenovia, N.Y. I’m the second of five children, with three sisters and a brother.
My father was one of 11. He was an attorney. My mother worked for the Syracuse newspaper as a columnist before she became a stay-at-home mother.
I have a deep, scratchy voice. Boys would call me Froggy, and my father would often tell me to shut my “big bazoo.” I remember standing in line for confession. After I walked out, the other kids were like, “You punched your sister in the face?” Because of my voice, my confession was like speaking into a loudspeaker.
I also remember my first Communion, because my cousin Frankie was in the same grade, and my family decided that there would just be one party for the two of us. The party was at his house, and no one seemed to know it was also my party. Frankie got all of the presents.
No one, except for my uncle, took a picture of me in my beautiful veil and dress, with one tooth missing and my huge head of red hair. That picture is the only picture that anyone has from my first Communion.
Did you always want to be an actor?
Yes, I always thought of it, but fought it. I was always a performer. I’d say, “I want this to go away. Can’t I just be a nurse or something?”
My aunt Sheila worked at a local theater. As kids. we saw a lot of plays and movies.
I wanted to be an actress, but when I went to college, I wasn’t focused. There wasn’t a drama major at college and my family was practical, so I studied to be a teacher.
During my senior year, I was supposed to spend a semester student teaching, but decided I couldn’t be a teacher. My aunt Beth’s friend was Jackie Gleason’s daughter, Linda Miller. She encouraged me to talk to her. After doing that, she recommended Catholic University’s MFA acting program. So that’s what I did.
How about your own family’s faith?
My family often talked about the faith. We attended Mass and every holy day and said the Rosary whenever we got in the car for a trip, with my dad’s arm ready to swing at anyone who laughed or didn’t say it loud enough.
When my father died last summer, I thought, “I’d love to be on my deathbed the way that he was.” He was just so proud of his faith and every move he made.
You can’t help but be completely affected by faith in every way. When you’re an actress and love every walk of life the way you should, you’re really listening to the other characters because you truly love that other person.
My children attend Catholic school, and I know that I am a “role model.” My acting gives me a platform with the kids to talk about what they watch on television or the Internet.
Recently, we had a retreat and time of Eucharistic adoration at my children’s school. It was so incredible and moving. My daughter is in the eighth grade. She and the other eighth-grade girls said, “We need to start adoration here.”
So, I’ve talked with the principal and the priest, and we’re working toward getting it started.
Is it hard to be a Catholic and an actor?
My faith has been a huge motivation and safe haven for me. Now that I’m older, I can tell people why I make the choices that I make.
I once was playing a television character — and in television you never know which direction a character might go.
This was a blue-collar Brooklyn character. The writers/producers decided to make her start having an affair, just after she drops her missalette at Mass.
I said, “I guess that’s the end of this job.” I had to go to the producer, which is like going to the principal’s desk, and say, “I’m trying to teach my three children one thing. I can’t do the opposite in my work.”
Their response was, “Don’t you tell your children you’re playing a role?”
I said, “Not if it’s totally against my moral beliefs.”
I’ve had to say No to so many projects, because they’ve been disrespectful to women, families or Christianity — and at times in my career when I had no business saying No.
It’s at times like that where I have faith that God will take care of me.
Do you have opportunities on the set to share about your faith?
Yes, you’re on the set for, like, 16 hours per day, so just about everything comes up. On sets, people feel free to assume that you think what they think. I speak my mind and find that others find it refreshing.
During shooting for New in Town, on the second night, we went out to dinner. The producer began asking us questions. He turned to me and said, “So tell me about yourself. You have children. Where do they go to school?”
After telling him, he responded, “But you’re not a practicing Catholic. You’re a cultural Catholic, right?”
I replied, “I’m a holy roller, baby.”
He asked, “Well, how do you explain how the tsunami could have happened?”
The entire table was focused on me and my faith.
I understand that the character Blanche Gunderson, whom you play in New in Town, is a Christian. Were you happy with how she ended up being portrayed in the film?
I’m so thrilled with it. The character is a Christian who isn’t a fanatic. I insisted on wearing my crucifix for the role. She’s very hospitable — a normal Christian lady who lives her life and isn’t afraid to talk about Jesus. She ends up doing so in the film three different times. She walks the walk and talks the talk.
As someone who comes from the same place as the character, it can’t help but shine through.
Tim Drake writes from
St. Joseph, Minnesota.