Meagan Good Interview
Being an actress is a most unusual job. Chris Neumer speaks to up-and-coming actress Meagan Good to get the full story on how she is parsing out her career. Together, the two discuss what it’s like to land your first lead role, what it’s like being black in Hollywood and why the media blows everything out of proportion… including getting a kiss from Jamie Foxx.
MEAGAN GOOD: Nice to talk to you as well.
CHRIS NEUMER: What kind of time have you set aside for this?
MEAGAN GOOD: I’m actually free. I just wrapped up work for today.
CHRIS NEUMER: Good! Three hours then.
MEAGAN GOOD: (laughs)
CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, I’m just kidding, it should be more like four.
MEAGAN GOOD: (laughs) Yes.
CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t know, did Jen tell you what this was about?
MEAGAN GOOD: I know it’s for Stumped Magazine.
CHRIS NEUMER: I’m talking to a number of rising/working actresses in Hollywood who have the potential to jump to A-list stars in the next couple years to get insight into what it’s like being on the rise in LA and what your life is like. So that’s where I’m coming from. Feel free to use examples from whatever time period you want–you’re not constrained by what you’re doing in the present–and if I ask a question you feel to be impertinent, just tell me to go to Hell and we’ll move forward.
MEAGAN GOOD: Okay.
CHRIS NEUMER: Jen had sent me a couple of e-mails over the course of the last couple days and the subject line was always something like “Good Interview” or something like that.
MEAGAN GOOD: Right.
CHRIS NEUMER: And I thought, “Yes, it will be good.” And then it would dawn on me that she was referring to you and your last name. I went to high school with a guy and played basketball with him and his last name was “Allgood”. This is the worst last name you can possibly give to a basketball player because every time he’d hit a shot, he’d yell, “It’s Allgood!” and run down court. It got me wondering, do you ever use your unique last name in ways like these or to separate you from other people?
MEAGAN GOOD: Not necessarily. A lot of the shoots and stuff that I’ve done the headings will read, “It’s All Good” or “Mmm mmm Good”.
CHRIS NEUMER: I saw that one.
MEAGAN GOOD: Something like that. So I guess you could say that. It is a catchy name and it’s actually my real name, not a stage name. I guess it was easier for people to remember me when I was starting out.
CHRIS NEUMER: Trying to find actresses for this piece, I was genuinely surprised at how few actresses there were between the ages of, let’s say, 22-27 who hadn’t been working in Hollywood for ever and a half.
MEAGAN GOOD: I started out doing extra work on Doogie Howser and Amen.
CHRIS NEUMER: You were an infant at that point, right?
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah, four or five.
CHRIS NEUMER: You hear the stereotypical story about the small town beauty who moves out to LA and starts waitressing and who gets discovered and becomes a star and I can’t figure out who that woman is. Is this entirely a myth?
MEAGAN GOOD: With me or another actress?
CHRIS NEUMER: I’m just talking in general.
MEAGAN GOOD: I’ve heard that story a lot, actually. For me personally, I am small town girl–I grew up in canyon country, California before it became Santa Clarita, back when it had tarantulas and scorpions and coyotes. I went on auditions as a hobby. Other kids went to soccer practice or ballet class, I went on auditions and then as I grew up, about 13, I got my first movie role in Friday, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to do this as a career. I kind of have been working since I was 13. That’s my story.
CHRIS NEUMER: True. I guess what I was getting at was this: the image of Hollywood that is put out to the masses in middle America is that anybody who comes out here can break it big without a lot of work. When you actually look at the nuts and bolts of the situation, it seems like everybody whose becoming anybody has been around and been working for years and years.
MEAGAN GOOD: That is true. I think with the people that they talk about who do waitress and who came from a small town and they hit it big, it appears if it may have happened overnight, or that they just got discovered and their career took off, but in actuality, that person was probably waitressing for years and auditioning for years and had several smaller parts here and there before they got on something where they were discovered and things took off. I think, yeah, the appearance that it happens over night is not realistic for anybody, except maybe for Edward Furlong when he got put in Terminator 2.
CHRIS NEUMER: Or, I guess Rosario Dawson.
MEAGAN GOOD: Right.
CHRIS NEUMER: But these examples are definitely the exception to the rule. I think this is the thing that has surprised me the most about doing this article: that the new batch of it girls has been around for decades. You’re what, 24?
MEAGAN GOOD: 24. Yes.
CHRIS NEUMER: And you’ve been working for 20 years! I haven’t been doing anything for 20 years! I’m 30 and I’ve barely been doing anything for eight years. One of the other things that I’ve found interesting is that whenever you think of making it as an actor, there’s so much behind-the-scenes work into succeeding–schmoozing, meeting casting directors, going to parties and events, doing publicity, lunching with directors–that sometimes you don’t need to practice acting, you need to practice ancillary things that will enable you to become an actor.
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah, I think that they go hand in hand. A lot of people get work because of the relationships that they have or the people that they know. Even if you are good at schmoozing people and create that those relationships, I don’t believe that you have longevity if you don’t have the acting chops to back it up. The two do go hand-in-hand. On the other side, you have the actors who have the chops, but they’re not very social. It’s the best combination when it’s hand in hand.
CHRIS NEUMER: But it’s part of the job description that no one ever talks about!
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah. I mean, you have to get out there and be social and kind of extend a hand and meet people.
CHRIS NEUMER: Along the way, have there been any things that your agents or managers have steered you away from doing? Don’t star opposite Seann William Scott, don’t do anything with a talking baby?
MEAGAN GOOD: Not necessarily. There was one particular project that I can remember that they were like, flat out, “Don’t do it,” but it wasn’t for me anyway.
CHRIS NEUMER: So you didn’t do it?
MEAGAN GOOD: No, no, no. What was it? Oh, it was a Steven Seagal movie. (laughs) So yeah, most of the time they try and direct me but I know what I want to do and I know what my goals are. To have someone to back up my feelings or agree with me is good, but at the end of the day, I know what’s in my heart.
CHRIS NEUMER: You don’t need the validation of surrounding yourself with yes-men.
MEAGAN GOOD: No. I just pray about it and whatever’s in my heart is what I’ll do. Even if they say, “Don’t do it,” and I feel right about it, I’ll do it.
CHRIS NEUMER: Is there a specific case where that happened?
MEAGAN GOOD: Probably, I was on a show on the WB with Bob Saget called Raising Dad and I’d just come off a Nickledeon show I’d done for three or four years. Terrance Howard is a good friend of mine and I ran into him not too long before that, he was working on Sparks at the time, and he was kind of sad and depressed and he said to me, “I’m going to give you some of the best advice.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “When you get off this show, don’t do another show until you’re a little older and more settled and are thinking about having kids.” I asked him why and he said, “Because you want to play different characters and travel and do different things while you can. When you’re ready to be settled and play the same character and go to work in the same place everyday and be in that contract for years, that’s when you settle for your family. Aside from that, go, be free and have fun and test yourself as an actor and expand your craft.” It was the best advise, yes, but at the time the SAG strike was going on, so I accepted another show, which was this one with Bob Saget. Then a movie came along and I hadn’t done a movie since Eve’s Bayou, when I was fifteen. At the time I was nineteen going on twenty. The movie was Deliver Us from Eva. I wanted to do this movie so badly, but everyone kept telling me, you’re too young and the girl’s supposed to be married, don’t go in for it, just give it a break, you’re making great money on the show, there will be other movies and this won’t pay you anything. But I knew that I wanted to be in film. Maybe I’d be in a TV show later, but Terrance’s advice was true to my heart. So I quit the show. I was making excellent money–I was the second highest paid actor on the show behind Bob Saget–and I had bills to pay and I had people to take care of, but I wanted to do this movie. I went and talked to the producers and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore, I want to do film.” And I left and booked the movie and they made the character younger so I could play her. They made her marry young, fresh out of high school, and that started my film career.
CHRIS NEUMER: You mentioned that there is some difference between film and television. What is it that appeals to you about film as opposed to TV?
MEAGAN GOOD: Just pressing myself. I want to play a lot of different characters. I want to work a couple months at a time and then have a month off, I want to go to Prague and to Europe and to wherever that particular film takes me. I want to learn tae-kwon-do or horseback riding or whatever, I want to take myself to my limit and push myself at everything. In TV, you play the same character for 3-7 years at a time, you know what time you’re going to work, you know what time you’re leaving–it’s very predictable–and everything is set in front of you. I like the idea of being spontaneous.
CHRIS NEUMER: So there’s nothing inherently different about the television medium vs. that of the silver screen, the acting isn’t any different, it’s just that working in film gives you broader horizons.
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah, that would be the overall difference that matters the most to me.
CHRIS NEUMER: Have there been any boundaries that you’ve set–let’s just look at this from your career at present–things that you won’t do. No nudity, no commercials, you’ve already done the sit-com with Bob Saget, so working with him’s not on there, but anything else like that that you’ve set for yourself?
MEAGAN GOOD: I don’t think I would do nudity, but if it was the type of project where it was necessary to bring the whole point of the movie across and it was for a greater purpose than me just showing my body, then there’s a possibility I’d do it. Really, the only thing I won’t do is say the lord’s name in vain. Other than that, I kind of had to feel my way out and see if it makes sense for me.
CHRIS NEUMER: Well, that answer’s got me interested. Has there ever been some sick train wreck of a conversation between you and somebody, a director or producer maybe, where they want you to take the lord’s name in vain and you don’t want to?
MEAGAN GOOD: I did a scary movie called Venom about a year ago and my character was supposed to be a voodoo priestess’ daughter. That I didn’t mind because of the character, but, I just didn’t want to refer to God a particular way. I’m a Christian, but not a religious Christian. I’m just very spiritual. I have my belief system and anything I feel would be disappointing to God I don’t do. But, it has to be my personal feeling not someone else’s or my pastor’s or my mom’s. If I feel that it’s going to be disappointing to him, I won’t do it.
CHRIS NEUMER: Tying this in with Venom, I’m assuming that’s the closest you came to having that conversation with someone?
MEAGAN GOOD: I’d say so. When I do photo shoots for men’s magazines, I don’t do lingerie, I don’t do skimpy bikinis because I feel like, for young women, setting the standard of ‘you can be sexy as hell, but you don’t have to have your ass hanging out.’ Just me personally, I just don’t feel that it’s necessary to project sexy. I feel like I can project that from the inside out. I can wear something a little sexy, but I don’t need to take it to that next level.
CHRIS NEUMER: And good looking is good looking.
MEAGAN GOOD: Thank you.
CHRIS NEUMER: I’ll say this though, I’ve been involved in these conversations with publicists, agents where there trying to tell me what I can and can’t say, or ask, and it breaks down to the point where I’ll say, “Okay, I won’t talk about his relationship, but I want to ask him about The Last Action Hero.” Then they’ll say, “Okay, but when you refer to it, you can’t call it a bomb or a flop. Call it ‘slightly disappointing’.” Whenever this happens, I just look at the situation and smile, “Really, we have to trade off like this? I can’t believe THIS is my life.”
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah. It’s mostly positive for me though. There are negative things that happen, but they don’t happen on set, I guess. Moreso… just recently paparazzi got a hold of a photo of Jamie Foxx smacking me one on the lips and it totally got blown out of proportion. I’ve known Jamie for years, probably since I was 18 and that got way out of proportion. Stuff like that… the whole rumor mill and the drama, you’re just like, “Fuck, this is my life and I have to deal with it.” Then there’s other times where you look around and you’re like, “I’m so blessed and happy and these things are petty compared to what other people go through.”
CHRIS NEUMER: The paparazzi isn’t necessarily stalking you, they just got that one photo?
MEAGAN GOOD: They pulled up on-point, the second we walked out of the hotel. We were both in the lobby and saying hello and good-bye and it was totally random. I almost felt set up in a weird way.
CHRIS NEUMER: I have two reactions to this, both of which might be construed as impertinent: 1) You could do a lot worse than being set up with Jamie Foxx, it could have been Eric Roberts and that could have been bad. And 2) it seems like this all could be really amusing. Have you gotten to that point yet?
MEAGAN GOOD: I think I’m amused by it right now. I wasn’t upset by the picture, it was just, as a woman, I think you should always protect every aspect of you, especially if something’s not true. Your life is private and you should try to keep it that way. I know that’s sometimes hard, especially being in this industry, but I don’t really want to be seen with someone unless that’s my man, or my boyfriend or my husband. Anything outside of that makes it easy for people to make assumptions. In the grand scheme of things though, it is amusing. I’m like, “Ehhh.” It did become frustrating though because there was a guy I was dating that I was kind of going through the motions with–we were trying to work things out–and that definitely didn’t help it.
CHRIS NEUMER: Going through the motions, do you mean that positively or negatively?
MEAGAN GOOD: We were going through some negative emotions. We’d just broken up the week before and we were trying to work it out and that shot everything.
CHRIS NEUMER: That’s got to suck.
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah….
CHRIS NEUMER: Have you found that the degree of success you’ve had has in any way effected your relationships?
MEAGAN GOOD: In the last case, it did. My boyfriend wasn’t in the industry by any means–everything was very new to him. He kind of felt violated by a lot of people trying to always be in our business. Small things. We’d go out for a regular dinner and then want to go see a movie and I’d be there signing autographs and taking pictures for 15 minutes and, for him, it got a little frustrating at times. He wasn’t as understanding as I thought he’d be. Then there’d be guys who fans and he didn’t know how to handle them and was always feeling disrespected instead of not taking it personally. In that aspect, it kind of made it hard because he didn’t understand a lot of things that were going on. He didn’t understand a lot of the ways that I had to go about handling things. It didn’t work out and that was a lot of the reason why.
CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, you really ought to have a manual–some kind of binder–titled “Welcome to Meagan’s World”. This is what you’re about to experience. Strange people will come up to me and start talking to me and I can’t ignore them or blow them off, much as I’d like to. Sort of an intro to Hollywood. I’m trying to forget everything that I know and put myself in that situation. I’d either be really scared or entertained, I’m not sure which.
MEAGAN GOOD: Yeah…
CHRIS NEUMER: We touched on this earlier when discussed the concept of stepping outside yourself and looking down, but have there been any situations where you’ve stepped outside yourself, looked down and thought, “Wow, I never in a million years could have imagined this?”
MEAGAN GOOD: Maybe on my last movie, Waist Deep, with Tyrese, because it’s my first leading lady part, the first time I have to carry the movie. I was nervous and like, “Damn, I can’t believe I’m doing this!”
CHRIS NEUMER: This was on set or during pre-production?
MEAGAN GOOD: During shooting. Every day was like this realization, “I’m in every single scene!” I’m the leading lady! Even though I’ve always been ready for this–I’ve been doing this for 20 years–it was still like a brand new feeling, like I was doing it for the first time. That was an instance where I couldn’t believe I was doing it.
CHRIS NEUMER: You mentioned previously that you choose roles based upon what you felt right and what helped you reach your goals, I’m assuming that your present goals are slightly different than they were five years ago.
MEAGAN GOOD: Uh huh.
CHRIS NEUMER: I’m just curious to know how they’ve changed.
MEAGAN GOOD: When I was younger, I had simple goals, like “I hope I make it into Teen People’s Hottest 25 before I turn 25″. Goals like that. I just had–I didn’t have a particular goal, I just knew that I wanted to play different characters and to show that I had chops. I wanted to do some dramatic stuff, I wanted to do a scary movie and I think I got a chance to do all that. And I did make Teen People’s Hottest 25 list before I turned 25.
CHRIS NEUMER: Man, I’m telling you if I made that list, not only would I have had my page framed, I’d hang it around my neck like an old school Flavor Flav type necklace. I’d do the same thing if I won an Oscar… although it might make my interview subjects a little bit uncomfortable, I suppose.
MEAGAN GOOD: (laughs) Yeah! I remember being 17 or 18 and thinking, “God I hope I make it before I turn 25. I made it last year. And I wanted to do a scary movie, so I did Venom last year and I wanted to do a drama and I did Eve’s Bayou. I wanted to do physical comedy and I’ve done pretty much everything that I’ve set out to do and by the age I’ve set out to do it by. Now I have a whole different list of goals. I want to do someone’s life story right now. I would love to do Aaliyah’s life story.
CHRIS NEUMER: If I was a jealous man, I’d be angry right now. You set the bar so high, setting goals and then accomplishing them exactly when you want to.
MEAGAN GOOD: It’s all God.
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