Film & TV

Interview: Kathie Lee Gifford

Actress, presenter and musician Kathie Lee Gifford has made her mark on daytime TV working alongside television greats such as the late Regis Fieldman on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee and then with Hoda Kotb hosting the fourth hour on the US edition of TODAY. In a segment that was once hailed as “appointment television” by Entertainment Weekly. 

Having retired from her post on TODAY back in 2019 to pursue other creative endeavours, the four-time Emmy winner who has had a career in Hollywood and on the stages of Broadway spanning over four decades is going back to her roots on the silver screen with her role in the film, Then Came You.

The film centres around Annabelle, a lonely widow who travels the world with her husband’s ashes in tow, visiting all the places the fell in love within the movies. Life is changed forever for Annabelle on the first part of her journey when she crosses paths with Howard, a burly Scotsman who runs the Inn within Loch Lomond.

Starring alongside Scottish actor and comedian Craig Ferguson (The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) as well as British actress Elizabeth Hurley (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), Gifford not only acts in the film but also wrote, produced and even helped compose the music for it.

We spoke to Kathie about what it was like to juggle so much this on this film, working with the hilarious Craig Ferguson and having the opportunity to work in the beautiful Scottish countryside (pre-COVID times).  

Given the current climate,  we feel like we can’t get by without asking Kathie how she is travelling during this crazy time.

“I’ve been very blessed. I have been doing tons of work, even though a lot of people are out of work. It has probably been my most productive year for work, ever. My little movie (Then Came You) came out, which I made over three years ago. I’ve had two books come out and I’m in to process of writing a third. I had a Hallmark Christmas movie come out,  which ended up being a highly-rated movie for then network. And now I’m filming another movie which I wrote, called The Way. So, I’ve never really taken a breath. I’m just grateful that I could and I just feel terrible for those who couldn’t.”

As actor, writer, producer and music composer on this film, we asked Kathie what it was like to be juggling it all and if it ever got overwhelming.   

“You know what…it was a thrill. Especially after doing daytime television for so many years and people think that that’s all I ever wanted to do. But no,  I came out of my mother’s womb wanting to do movies and wanting to be involved in music, that was my childhood dream. And I had gotten away from that. But I am grateful I was able to do that [daytime television] and gratefully so successfully, way beyond my wildest dreams. When I was growing up there were no talk shows, and there was certainly no female talk show hosts. So, when I finally left [The Today Show] it was because I knew I was running out of time to pursue my initial dream. So, I loved being immersed in it all and wearing so many hats. I’m also a type-A person anyway, so to be my boss in that sense was nice. I also had a wonderful director in Adriana Trigiani and we made all our own creative decisions.

Kathie talks about what it was like working with the hilarious Craig Ferguson and how their insatiable chemistry resulted in this film coming to fruition.

“He’s my favourite Homosapien, he is just delightful. He hosted the Today Show with me when Hoda was on maternity leave. Afterwards, we went to lunch to discuss how we could harness this amazing energy we have together. He said to me: ‘you know, Kathie, if we wait for our agents to get us a job on television together we’re going die waiting-so let’s just make a movie together.’

I went to bed that night after a gruelling week and then I woke up at 2 a.m. with this movie in my head. I just knew it. I could see Howard , I could see Annabelle and I could see her with the box that she carries in the film. So, I just started writing. By noon the next day, I called Craig with 16 scenes, all of which ended up in the movie. And he loved it.

I look back at it now and I wonder, how did I do that? But I did that with a Broadway and off-Broadway show that I wrote. So you just gotta do what you gotta do. No one was knocking my door down to do movies with me. I just go with my gut and when I get excited about something, woe to the person that gets in my way! “

Having been released in the United States several months back, Kathie discusses what the reaction to the film has been.

“The reaction to the film has been lovely. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve watched the film 10 or 15 times and that’s just very rewarding. Every album I’ve done since I was recording when I was little, every movie I’ve made or TV show, the goal is to touch people in one way or another. Maybe not transform their lives, but give them something to think about, something to laugh about or something to find hope in.

 It’s a modern film with a homage to movies from the past. This is a romantic comedy for people who have given up on romance and believe it’s never going to happen again for them. I lost a bit of weight for the role as in the film Annabelle isn’t interested in food that much, she’s not interested in anything other than finding a new purpose in life. It’s had an impact on widows. I hear from widows all the time about the film and how they relate to what Annabelle is going through. Because the loneliness is prickling, especially if you have been in a long and loving marriage. The widows club is a club that nobody wants to join.”

A widow herself, Kathie details how she relates to Annabelle in a way that is different to other characters she has played.  

My character has lost her husband after a long marriage and she sets out on finding a new path for herself. The line that so many people respond to in the film is when Annabelle says to her husband’s ashes, “I love you Fred and I always will, but I’ve got to make new memories or the old ones are going to kill me.”

I understood that as I am a widow, my husband [Frank Gifford] has been gone for five and a half years now. But, that’s the only way that Annabelle and I are similar. I just understand the pain of that kind of loss and the struggle to say ok, now what do I do in this big house with so many memories? Now it feels like a morgue to me. I think I set out with an understanding of who she was emotionally at the time and all the things we do to fill up those holes you experience grieving.”

Having shot the film in the picturesque Scottish highlands, we ask Kathie what it was like working on location.

I’ve always loved Scotland, it’s one of my favourite countries in the world. Craig, as a Scottish native was also very excited to be filming in his homeland. I just had a ball doing it. “

Then Came You is currently screening at various cinemas.

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