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Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of legendary “I Love Lucy” actors Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, has followed her parent’s footsteps into the entertainment industry. She is not only an actress, but a singer and producer as well. She recently sat down with Niteside to give us insight into her exciting life, including her upcoming performance in The Best of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, happening at Town Hall this Thursday night.
I know you have performed at a few Cast Party shows in the past. What made you want to do this show in particular?
I just adore [Jim Caruso]. He’s one of the funniest people on the planet and one of the nicest and the smartest. He called and said, “I’m just hoping, hoping, hoping that you’re not doing something that day because you just need to be here and to be a part of it.” It is like being part of a very exclusive club when Jimmy puts something together that’s special. This is a unique Cast Party experience. It’s not like the normal Cast Party. I was flattered to be asked and really happy that I wasn’t somewhere else. He caught me in between arriving and leaving for something else. It’s going to be great fun and it’s for such a great cause. There’s very rarely a time that I say no to something concerning Broadway Cares.
What do you look forward to the most when you’re performing?
Just the fact of doing it. I love what I do. I love getting out there and picking a great story and singing it. They’re stories and you go out and you do your little piece and hopefully you transport the audience in one way or another and you get off stage. It’s a great feeling. The doing of it is everything – not the response or not where it gets you. It doesn’t get you essentially anywhere but in the now and the now of doing it is spectacular. You get addicted to the doing.
Do you ever get nervous?
I do. David Freedman used to always remind me, don’t confuse excitement with nervousness. That’s a great thing to remember because they feel exactly the same. When you get nervous and you start to make up thoughts about it, like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, they’re not going to like me, or I’m going to screw up,’ you have to say, whoa, whoa, whoa – what if you were standing in line, waiting to walk onto the stage to accept your diploma for graduating from college, having accomplished all of that, you’d be feeling the same way but you’d be really excited. It’s the same thing. It’s just a matter of how you think about it. Now that I know that, when the nerves, the butterflies, the excitement isn’t there, I get really concerned. It’s like, why are you not connected on that level today? It’s an electric charge and you want to plug into it.
You’ve starred in many movies and Broadway shows. Out of all the roles you’ve had, what was your favorite?
I don’t think I have one. They are all the best ones when you’re doing them. I loved being in “The Jazz Singer” just because it was my first real film and I was working with such amazing people. I loved sitting in the dressing room with Neil Diamond and listening to him create songs.
Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
Jeffery Rush, Colin Firth, George Clooney! (laughs) I wish I had a chance to work with people like Katherine Hepburn. I’d love to do a film with some of those really great female performers – there’s so many of them it’s ridiculous – Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon. I have a tremendous admiration for good actors.
Your mother was certainly one of those good actors and you worked with her in “Here’s Lucy” and “The Lucy Show.” What did you learn acting with her?
Oh my god, that’s a book. I could write a book called “What did I learn acting with mom.” Someday I’ll dedicate a large part of anything I ever write to that question, I’m sure.
In a nutshell, she did not suffer fools easily. She was a consummate professional, always prepared. She taught me show up on time, know your stuff, don’t lose heart when things don’t come out exactly the way you think they’re going to – keep on truckin’, don’t let the steam out of the seam. Just be the person that the crew likes to work with because things get done faster and there’s less stress.
I just automatically behaved like that as a teenager because the people on the set did, like my mother and various co-stars. You watched them and you got to see the difference between what happens when people behave properly and come prepared and act professional and then it doesn’t go so swell when the other people come on with their egos and they aren’t prepared, they’re rude, they have serious attitude and the whole week just comes to a painful halt. I learned that’s not the way to work. And that’s something that no matter how many colleges or acting schools you go to, you don’t ever get that because you don’t know until you’re in it and doing it with the real guys. I appreciate having the opportunity having learned from that angle.
You directed and co-wrote a one-woman show with Suzanne LaRusch called “An Evening With Lucille Ball – Thank You For Asking!” about her.
Yes. They always say if you’re going to go into something you haven’t done before, stick with things you know, write about things you know, film things you know, and that’s certainly something I thought I knew. I gave it my best shot and it turned out great. … [LaRusch] is probably the only person on the planet who can perform the Lucille Ball character as well as do the Lucy Ricardo stuff flawlessly.
Do you think your mom would’ve liked it?
She would have been floored. She would have loved it. She always said there was nobody who could do me, meaning the Lucille Ball person as opposed to the character Lucy Ricardo. As a matter of fact, in a sense I’m pretty sure she’s had a lot to do with this having the success that it’s had. It’s too hard to pull these things off with a little extra help from the people upstairs. I think if she didn’t like it we’d be having fires.
Do you ever watch the “I Love Lucy” reruns?
I used to be able to turn the TV on any time of day and trip over it and say, “Oh, there they are.” And of course, I watch it whenever I can, but it’s not on anymore. They’ve hidden it somewhere and I’m still trying to find it.