With an acting career that spans four decades, and includes films, top-rated television shows, and theater, actress Helene Udy could definitely be considered an actresses’ actress who has earned praise and respect from her peers.
You can’t really precede Helene’s name with “best know as” because she has played so many well-known roles throughout her career. She’s probably best known by 80s horror buffs as Sylvia in the classic slasher, My Bloody Valentine, best-known by Trekkies as the first female Ferengi featured on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and many others may best know Helene as Myra from the top-rated TV series, Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Helene’s more recent roles are no less physically demanding that those early in her career. In fact, they could be considered more so. She’s a veteran of physical theater and is currently a co-producer and regular performer with Was Ist Das? cabaret, where she utilizes her aerial and acrobatic skills.
Despite her busy schedule and having to constantly field interview requests, Helene very graciously and promptly granted this exclusive interview to Idol Features. Above photo by Clarence Alford.
HELENE UDY: Dawna and I first met on a movie for Dustin Ferguson all the way back in 2017!
CHRIS: As this goes to press, you have several films either announced, filming, or in post production. What are you currently working on?
HELENE: I’m very excited about films currently in post production. Fading Flowers, written by my great friend Luc Bernier and directed by indie veteran Jeff Schneider, looks amazing and full of twists and turns. It’s a psycho thriller. Can’t give to much away there though. Also, Jake Zelch’s Krampus Carol. Pretty thrilling to be working with him a second time. Jake is amazing. The script is funny and really scary. A very smart take on the old Christmas Carol. And right now, we are still filming the British comedy-horror The Last Village on the Right with director James Crowe. That is going to be brilliant, I think. I am having a lot of fun with it. And I’m so looking forward to getting back to shooting Savage Vengeance, another picture for Jake Zelch later this year. And honestly, one of my pet projects is the ongoing Vampyr with director Jackson Ward. These are vampires like no others you’ve seen recently. Very atmospheric and beautiful. It feels great to go around and around with these talented Directors. We start to develop shorthand and can really make the projects work. Plus, it’s just amazing fun. I feel pretty lucky. I have done a lot of movies for the prolific, talented, and iconic director David DeCoteau. I feel David has pioneered where Roger Corman has left off.
HELENE: I work out a lot. Weights and running. And I am always in some kind of class keeping my chops up. I actually co-produce a monthly variety show, Was Ist Das? It’s entertainment, cabaret with Jason Poston, Matthew Godfrey, and Tommy Hinkley. A bunch of super talented and funny folks. That keeps me super sharp.
CHRIS: Have you ever had any injuries during a shoot or on stage during a performance?
HELENE: Yeah. I broke my elbow once in a MacDonald’s commercial when I fell on roller skates and had to finish they day out trying not to let production (team) know. That was actually a super fun shoot anyway, but ….it hurt.
CHRIS: I understand you used to be a performer at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater in North Hollywood. Please tell me about that.
HELENE: Oh yeah. Zombie Joe’s! I’ve done a couple of projects with them. What a dark and magical place. Amazing what worlds they create on a tiny little plot of stage. I am super fan of their work. Visionary and compelling. Not boring theater at all. It’s like a very intimate house of horrors. Mind you, they do produce some beautiful Shakespeare as well. Yes, much talent in that house. They should have me back. Hint hint.
HELENE: Oh, on stage? Hmmm ….it would be a crazy teenager I played Off-Broadway in a new play about very disturbed teens. It was a long time ago. I got into it. It was disturbing. Sometimes method acting lingers. Maybe it has not quite worn off!
CHRIS: You’re still appearing in Was Ist Das?
HELENE: Yes. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I step into this world of Berlin 1924 as “Gretel,” a host in this magical cabaret, during the Weimar Republic, when days were dark with the depression and hunger and nights were full of escapism and revelry. It’s a beautiful world, and every month, amazingly interesting, talented, and funny performers show up. It’s my passion. This the world my dreams are made of.
CHRIS: You also perform as a clown for your own company, Create a Kid’s Party. What is the age range of the children you entertain?
HELENE: Haha, yes. By night that, and by day ….a very sweet life I lead. I get to bring lighthearted fun and care to children on the weeks’ ends. My clown name is Sweetpea. I own the company and I have a few lovely performers. We stilt walk and juggle and entertain. I’m too old to be a princess now, but fortunately, I have truly lovely, spirited, and joyful performers to fill in for the stuff ….and they leave the stilt walking to me.
HELENE: People say they are frightened of clowns, but we do cure them of that if they let us. Love goes a long way. We try to step into the party with love, and it’s a very effective and welcome balm. I think what makes the parties great is the amount of fun the performers truly have with the kids. It’s a crazy thing to get paid for. Having fun and spread celebration. I am devoted to that. And I have an incredibly wonderful team of talented young folks who are too. Too much? Can’t help it. I feel pretty lucky, and life is amazing.
CHRIS: When you were growing up, were you inspired by any of the famous clowns?
HELENE: No. I had no interest in clowns when I was a child. I was a very serious person. But as an adult, I discovered John Glkey, Stefan Haves, Iator Basari, and other wonderful teachers like David Bridel of The Clown School, Virginia Scott, Zachary Steele. Oh gosh, I hope I have not forgotten anyone.
CHRIS: You have a long list of film credits. The 1980 comedy Hog Wild was your first film?
CHRIS: If you had to pick your two favorite film roles, which ones would they be?
CHRIS: Who have been some of your favorite people to work with on either side of the camera?
HELENE: Wait a minute, wait a minute ….it’s all I can talk about. The luck I have had in meeting and working with all these brilliant people. I just can’t separate. I have been lucky. Very very very.
CHRIS: You’ve also appeared on some very popular TV shows throughout your career. I’ll mention a few and tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you think of them. Paper Dolls.
HELENE: Great actors. Really mean part. An intense part of my life. The days of working for days on a character to make sure you get the job.
HELENE: “Eet is not memorrrr izzed Madame!” Oh my god, I stumbled on that line. I was so intimidated by these amazingly powerful women.
CHRIS: Silver Spoons.
HELENE: SO much fun! “I was under the bleachers once!” That was the line that got me the job. Ricky Schroeder was a gem of a person.
CHRIS: In the Heat of the Night.
HELENE: Carol O’Connor. Also intimidating. His presence just filled the room. I loved this character (I played on the show). Modeled her after that lead actress in Gone With the Wind. Sometimes you have to cheat and become someone else to get a character right. You’d never know it. That was my secret inspiration on this one.
CHRIS: Is there a particular TV series you would have loved to have been a regular on?
HELENE: Yes. In the Heat of the Night. I blew that chance when I defended the vulnerability of a day player. I was a kid doing what I thought was the right thing. But it killed my chances for getting back on that show. This was wayyyyy before the #metoo movement. I just don’t think men were aware enough or knew they were offending. Those days are gone. I would probably still do the same today, I can;t seem to keep my mouth shut. And it does really hurt me. But I can sleep at night. I guess there has been a bit of inner Myra in me right form the start. Just thought of that now.
HELENE: She is lovely! A consummate professional. She blew a beautiful life into the unforgettable character show runner Beth Sulliva created. I got lucky with that show.
CHRIS: You were the first actress to play a female Ferengi, which was on an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, entitled “Rules of Acquisition.” Have any Trekkies remembered you for that?
HELENE: Oh yes, most definitely!! It’s a big deal. That might have been a recurring character as well, but I blew that one when I discovered I had severe claustrophobia and after 14 hours in the foam head, I truly lost my mind. The staff called my boyfriend to help me get through the last few scenes. After that in all the castings, they posted in very large letters something to the effect of, CLAUSTROPHIBIA etc. etc. etc. don’t apply. Yeah. I really really blew that. Because when I was kid, I was in a car accident and at the age of five, it was too dangerous to put me under sedation. I weighed like 25 lbs or something. I was tiny. So, they wrapped me like a mummy and sewed my eye up while I was screaming my lungs off in real time. Years later, I realized it had a permanent effect. And the weirdest thing can set me off. Wearing a very large foam head with piranha teeth was one of them to be sure.
HELENE: Yup. I think over two hours just for make upon and another two for taking it off. I was delirious by then.
CHRIS: You have many skills as a performer that you list on your resume. Do you have any skills that you don’t list and most people don’t know about?
HELENE: I play a really bad penny whistle. And a truly lousy clarinet. But hey, you have to keep trying.
CHRIS: With that, I’ll thank you again for doing this, Helene. In closing, do you have any shout-outs to anyone?
HELENE: I LOVE YOU! That’s just in general. And to you. Reading these words.For real. Give yourself a hug today. Love is all I got. And if I can reach through and give you some today, it’s as real as I can get. And that makes me very very very happy. Thanks for everything! And thank you so much too Chris.
2014 performance featuring Helene on the areal silk at JJ’s Gym in Los Angeles