Her Majesty, the Child-Like Empress aka the very awesome and sweet Tami Stronach was able to grant me some time to talk about what has been going on with her. Check out our conversation below.
The Lady Stronach made her acting debut in 1984’s now cult classic film The Neverending Story. Afterwards, she decided to pursue a career in dance and theater. Today, she is seeking to return to acting.
You can check her out soon in the Lauren Holly and Yuji Okumoto film Ultra Low.
RONN!E: Hello, thank you for speaking with me! The first thing I want to say is I was just going through and looking at some pictures of you and you really took “childlike empress” to heart. You have not aged a day!
Tami Stronach: That’s so not true and very, very nice of you to say!
RONN!E: It’s been so many years now since The Neverending Story, did you at all think this was going to be as big as it was, or as much a cult classic as it is today?
Tami Stronach: No! It’s been really cool and also surprising, the wave of 80s nostalgia that seems to be going around. It’s really fun that The Neverending Story has fallen inside of that nostalgia wave.
RONN!E: Definitely. Everyone is taking a look back at the past now, especially the 80s.
Tami Stronach: Myself included! I think our parents did it and we were like “Ugh, get over the 60s, it’s done!” and now we’re like “Ohhhh, the 80s!” *nostalgic sigh*
RONN!E: I was wondering what made you decide not to continue after The Neverending Story, not to do film.
Tami Stronach: I think at that time, in the 80s, Hollywood was a very powerful entity and we–my parents got a sense, and I got a sense that we just weren’t very well equipped to know how to navigate that machine well. I don’t want to make too much of it, but I think that with everything that’s come out with Harvey Weinstein, it’s safe to say that there were some really trappings to that world, and you did have to have a lot of savvy to work your way through it and come out a healthy, balanced person on the other end. And I think that being eleven, we just got some really weird scripts after The Neverending Story that were totally inappropriate.
RONN!E: Wow, really?
Tami Stronach: We just looked at each other and we’re like, we’re just not equipped to be able to navigate this properly, to be able to take this journey and feel in control of the material and feel like the projects are fulfilling and nourishing, as opposed to turning into a commodity and finding oneself amongst people who are really ready to exploit. And I think there are definitely people in Hollywood that are able to do that, and I’m so impressed with them, and kind of amazed. People who seem to have ridden through that and surfed it really well, but we just weren’t sure that we had the experience and the support system–I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t have a manager, I didn’t know anybody! We were very naive.
RONN!E: Were you ever approached, like for The Neverending Story II or anything like that?
Tami Stronach: When I initially did The Neverending Story we were asked to sign on for the sequels, but I think it’s surprising to many people that we decided not to sign on to any sequels, partly because it was never my intention–or my parents’ intention–to become a child actor. I loved acting and I loved dancing and I loved performing and we wanted to do it because it was a beautiful script and a beautiful thing, but there wasn’t really an agenda to move away from a normal childhood and see how much acting work I could get. My mother, in particular, was really concerned about it being as positive an experience as possible, and not to put pressure on me to turn it into this… She let me decide later on what I wanted to be a part of or not be a part of. And when the sequels were made I was like seventeen! I was too old for it anyway!
RONN!E: Did you audition for The Neverending Story?
Tami Stronach: I auditioned. I auditioned three times. They found me in an acting class and I came and auditioned in San Francisco, and then I auditioned again in L.A. And then a couple of months later I auditioned again in Germany. And at that time I knew it was just me and another girl they had brought over. It was between her and I and it was all very stressful and exciting.
RONN!E: Moving on from The Neverending Story, because you’ve done a lot more, I wanted to ask you about the Paper Canoe company, which is a project you started with your husband, correct?
Tami Stronach: Yes! So after being a dancer and a choreographer in New York for twenty years, which I really, really loved, I got married and I had a daughter and–I think a lot of people do this. They have kids and all the sudden you find that you’re watching kids’ movies and you’re listening to kids’ music and you’re reading children’s’ stories, and as a creative person you can’t help but start to ask yourself, “Well, what kind of stories and songs and shows would I want to make for kids?” and eventually that desire to contribute to that conversation kind of grew and grew. My husband and I looked at each other and were like, we have twenty years of art making experience under our belts, why don’t we just make something for families, since that’s where we are in our lives and that’s what our days are consumed with. So we launched Paper Canoe Company and it’s been really fun. We made a play called Light, a Dark Comedy, which ran in New York, both in Manhattan and also Brooklyn, and we’re going to turn that into a podcast in the coming months, which I’m really excited about, so it can be shared digitally, so if you’re living outside of New York. And then we created an album called Beanstalk Jack, which is the project we’re working on now that’s in development. It’s a folk-rock album that we created–it’s a twist on the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. I did a little singing when I was younger, I did a record when I was in Germany, just after The Neverending Story, and then I ended up doing a lot of dancing, but even when I was dancing somehow I kept on getting cast in things where, if they needed a singer, even though I was a dancer they would throw me into the singing. So I was sort of dabbling in singing throughout the years. It’s been interesting how having a kid has really brought me back to doing the things that I did when I was a kid, which was acting and singing. It’s been really fun; it’s been like returning to the kid in me, making entertainment for my kid and the kids in the neighborhood, and hopefully kids everywhere! It’s sort of like a little funny circle.
RONN!E: Now, Beanstalk Jack, am I wrong on this, but aren’t you touring with that right now?
Tami Stronach: We are performing it in New York right now–it’s in development. Right now it’s being shown at a concert–street concert. The band plays it and we sing it. But in the next couple of months, we’re going to be adding visuals to it, meaning we’re going to add video and puppetry. So it’s going to come back and reopen in February in New York with visuals, and then we have a couple of touring dates in the northeast with it. So that’s really fun, and terrifying, and wonderful to be singing. It’s also, in a way, one of the things that’s so cool about being a kid is that you’re not an expert yet. You’re really in that place where you’re still learning and you expect to keep learning, and I think for me, as an adult, and I’m also a university professor now, I’ve been in this place of being a dancer, and being a choreographer, and solidly knowing what I’m doing, and there’s something really fun about being in Paper Canoe and making Paper Canoe products, because all the sudden I’m directing a music video with stop-motion! And I have to learn how to choreograph stop-motion, and I’m onstage singing and I’m learning how to harmonize. So in addition to creating content for kids, it’s bringing me into a place where I can almost be like a kid again, and learn new things and experience new skills. I can return to things that I love and can kind of dust off and practice a little more again.
RONN!E: Nice! So besides Beanstalk Jack and Light, are there any other projects coming out of Paper Canoe?
Tami Stronach: We’re doing music videos for the Beanstalk Jack project, so I did one music video a couple of months ago that just released. You can see it on our website. My daughter is featured in it, which was totally terrifying. *laughs* “What if she hates this and refuses to be cute?” But she wasn’t like that, she was totally cute and it went really well. It was really fun. It was a little bit of an homage to Toy Story. We took one of the songs off the album and all of the toys in her room come to life and she dances with them. The gist of it is that she gets her mom dancing, which is the message of that video. How do we, as adults, play a little bit more? And then we’re working on a second video for that album that I’ll be directing and choreographing this month. And then the podcast for Light. We do have a show called A Sock’s Fables, that we ran for a couple of months in Brooklyn, which we want to turn into a video series. It’s based on Aesop’s Fables, the really old Aesop’s Fables, except it’s all told through socks–sock puppets–and so it’s A Sock’s Fables. It’s really funny and hammy, and completely an homage to the Muppets. When people come in we have stickers and kids can choose a profession, so if you’re a ballerina you can be a sockarina, and we have pictures of socks with tutus on. There are sockretaries and business people, which are sockware engineers, and the puns go on and on. They are endless. So kids have fun with it, adults have fun with it, and that’s been a sweet, silly, kind of fun project. We’ve been doing that one live and now our attention moved to Beanstalk, but I’m really eager to turn that into a video series so that people can access that content digitally.
RONN!E: So my friend, Yuji Okumoto, is doing a movie with Lauren Holly. And you’re doing that movie too! And it’s called Ultra Low. What can you tell me about that?
Tami Stronach: Unfortunately, I had only one day on set, but it was a blast. I loved the script, I thought it was really charming. It’s about how impossible it is to make a movie. As a producer of theater and dance in New York for the last twenty years, I totally relate to that! Because everything that can go wrong, will. Really, it’s just sheer madness that gets you through to the other end. The script is really about that, and so I thought it would be a fun sort of “return to acting” debut, to play myself as a cameo. The whole script is very tongue-in-cheek and kind of witty, and so it was really great! I flew in for a day and I actually play myself in the movie. So that was really fun and it was really nice to be on a movie set again. I’m looking at some scripts and we’re actually trying to develop a short film for my husband and I, just because, as we do more and more Paper Canoe projects we can’t help but gravitate in that direction. After thirty years of dancing, all of my herniated disks are screaming and requesting more acting projects, please.
RONN!E: Right on. So besides Ultra Low you don’t have anything particular coming out right now?
Tami Stronach: No, I’ve been looking at some scripts, I’ve been getting scripts and I’m eager to do more acting. I think it would be really fun. There is one project that my husband wrote that I’m really excited about, and we’re gathering financing and working on that, but that’s going to take a while, so I’m not going to talk about it yet, but I’m definitely interested in getting back into acting.
RONN!E: If there was a particular role or character out there that you could play, what would it be?
Tami Stronach: I love two things: I love sci-fi and I love fantasy, too. I love the transformative quality of that. I like playing these sort of larger-than-life characters, in a way. And then I also love anything kind of period, where I get to have a British accent. I have to say that’s my favorite thing to play. For some reason when I was in New York I was in a theater company called The Flying Machine and their training was all in Europe, and so all the plays we did with them had, I had the great fortune of being this sort of stock, English character. Highbrow, lowbrow, that’s always super fun.
RONN!E: *offside* Get off the table!
Tami Stronach: You have a friend on the table?
RONN!E: My cat. My cat’s name is actually Bastion, just so you know.
Tami Stronach: Oh really? That’s so funny!
RONN!E: When Clint sent me the message and asked if I wanted to interview you, I was like, “My cat’s name is Bastion, what do you think?
Tami Stronach: I love cats! I’m a huge cat person!
RONN!E: Me too! I want to thank you so much for speaking with me, I really appreciate it. We will make sure that we let people know about all the projects coming out with Paper Canoe and about Ultra Low coming out.
Tami Stronach: Thank you so much! People can reach out to me on Twitter @NeverendingTami if they want to say hi, and I will give them a shout out back, or go to our website to find out when things are being released: papercanoecompany.com
Also, make sure to check out Paper Canoe Company and Beanstalk Jack. Check out the song embedded below.