(This interview was originally published October 12, 2013 on the now-retired Kickin' it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the '80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like '80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)
When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the '80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.
This time that awesomeness is Molly Hagan. If you’re like me, you may remember her best from Some Kind of Wonderful as “Shayne”, the best friend of Lea Thompson’s “Amanda Jones”. She went on to have many roles in television and film (including a special holiday episode of ALF), but she will always be “Shayne” first to me. Find out a little about her experiences making Some Kind of Wonderful, some of her other '80s work and much more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Molly Hagan…
Q: When and how did you get your start in acting?
Molly: I was in High School and I auditioned for the Ft. Wayne Community Theatre production of Equus. Luckily I was cast as “Jill Mason”. After that, I desperately wanted to become an actor. I went to Northwestern University and then began working in Chicago Theatre during my last year at University. First professional gig? I was a beggar at King Richard’s Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I think it is now called the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I quoted Shakespeare and ate mud for a living.
Q: How did the role of “Diana Luna” in 1985’s Code of Silence come your way? What do you remember about making your first feature film? What can you tell us about Chuck Norris and your experience working with him?
Molly: I had just moved to Los Angeles. My Chicago agent (Joan Ellis) had set up an office in L.A. She sent me on the audition. All I remember is I had a horrific ear infection from body surfing off Santa Monica. It was so infected that I was deaf in one ear. I am SURE I got the role because I was listening so hard. Chuck was awesome. I had never seen anyone with quicker reflexes in my life. I jokingly went to hit him one day and he gently blocked the hit so fast I never saw his arm move. He is the real deal.
Code of Silence was released in theaters in May of 1985 starring Chuck Norris and directed by Andrew Davis. It opened to mixed reviews, but has gone on to become sort of a cult favorite among action movies. Through a series of events, Hagan’s character is almost killed but has her life ultimately saved by “Sgt. Eddie Cusack” played by Chuck Norris. Here is a scene from Code of Silence…
Q: You were cast as “Shayne” in 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful which was written by John Hughes and (eventually) directed by Howard Deutch. First, how did this role come your way? What do you remember about the audition process? I read that in the original script that “Shayne” was envisioned as “the tall, elegant black girl.” So, what made them change their mind and give you that role?
Molly: I believe Some Kind of Wonderful went through a few directors and rewrites. I think in the initial script, Shayne was white. The first go around I auditioned for the drummer girl… Alas not my casting. Roaring bitch – yes. Loveable tomboy with heart of gold – I wish. So then I went back to audition for Shayne. I was first choice for the role. Then Martha Coolidge was going to direct and the character became black. And I was out. Then Howie Deutch was slated to direct and I read again with Lea [Thompson]. Frankly, I suspect I owe it to Lea that I was cast. I think she liked what I did and Howie respected her opinion. She was super-kind to me.
Some Kind of Wonderful was released in theaters in February of 1987. It was the twelfth film written (or co-written) by the great John Hughes. As mentioned, there was director change from Martha Coolidge to Howard Deutch (who had previously directed Pretty in Pink for Hughes) and you can find out about how that went down from Coolidge herself in my interview with her. Molly Hagan plays “Shayne” who is the best friend of “Amanda Jones” (played by Lea Thompson). Shayne abandons and freezes out her best friend after Amanda breaks up with the cool rich guy and jeopardizes their social standing. “Keith” (played by Eric Stoltz) is infatuated with Amanda, but is oblivious that his best friend “Watts” (the drummer girl played by Mary Stuart Masterson) is actually in love with him. Even though it doesn’t show “Shayne” in it at all, here is an original trailer for Some Kind of Wonderful…
Q: I am huge fan of all of the John Hughes films from the '80s. How involved was Hughes with making the film? What exposure, if any, did you have to him? What can you tell us about John Hughes and your experience working for him?
Molly: I believe I met him once. Unfortunately, my memory is shot. I really admired his movies as I too was from the Midwest and was an outcast in High School.
Q: How about director Howard Deutch? What can you tell us about your experience being directed by him?
Molly: I just remember having a lot of fun. He trusted his actors. Howie directed us without us knowing he was directing us. He is very smart and good with actors.
Q: I believe you were about 25 years old when it was filmed. Was it strange to be playing a high school student at that age? What did you like best and like least about your character “Shayne”?
Molly: I remember laughing at how old we were then. Now at 52 years old, 25 doesn’t seem THAT much older than 17. So now I laugh at that. I felt so adult at 25. I wasn’t. I loved “Shayne” because she was such an unmitigated bitch. But usually bitches are born from hurt and some kind of rejection, so Shayne did feel bad about freezing out her best friend. She just cared more about not being personally frozen out herself. Shayne was a survivor.
Q: You played the best friend of Lea Thompson’s character. What else can you tell us about Thompson and working with her? How about Eric Stoltz?
Molly: Lea was awesome. She was gregarious, talented and again was super-kind to me. Eric is a terrific guy, very funny and talented. He works all the time more as a director now.
Q: Any interesting tidbits about making Some Kind of Wonderful that you can share with us and let us in on?
Molly: If you notice my startled reaction to Maddie Corman’s (Eric’s little sister in the movie) approach to the Suzuki jeep, it is because she had a traffic cone on her head.
Here is that scene with Shayne, Amanda and Keith driving home from school. You can see some character interaction and then you can also see Hagan’s startled expression that she described above in this scene (minus the traffic cone) from Some Kind of Wonderful…
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Q: Was making Some Kind of Wonderful a fun experience for you? Was the cast close during filming? Did you keep in touch with any of the cast members after?
Molly: I had my head up my a** during the shoot. I would have had a lot more fun if I had been a bit more seasoned. Haven’t kept in touch with anyone, although I have run in to Lea. I did a reading for Eric and had the good fortune to work with Craig Sheffer [“Hardy Jenns”] again.
Q: What were your feelings about it when the film was released in 1987? Many describe it as a gender-reversed version of Pretty in Pink but I think it is more than that. What are your feelings about Some Kind of Wonderful now over 26 years later?
Molly: I think it is the character of the drummer girl and what Mary Stuart Masterson did with that role that makes the movie so special for me. I could relate to her. I remember (vividly) being laughed at in the locker room because of the underwear I was wearing. High School was a hideous time for me. I think the film is terrific and will always speak to those that follow the beat of a different drummer. Pun intended.
Q: You appeared in the 1987 Christmas episode of ALF. What role did you play in that two-part episode? What do you remember about working on that show which starred a puppet?
Molly: I remember I played a pregnant woman trapped in an elevator and ALF (I think) delivered my baby. Paul Fusco (who created ALF, voiced ALF and was the chief puppeteer) never took a break. So when scenes were being set up, etc. Paul was still operating ALF. So ALF would respond to everything that was going on. Between takes, I remember talking at length with ALF. I was outraged at ALF’s racy humor and horrible attitude. I never laughed so hard in my life. I don’t think I ever even noticed Paul operating him.
Here is the scene from that ALF Christmas episode where that furry little alien helps deliver a baby in an elevator…
Q: You starred in the television series The Nutt House that lasted only five episodes back in 1989. It was created by none other than Mel Brooks and also starred Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman. What do you remember about your experiences making that show and working with those legends? I cannot believe with that pedigree that it did not last longer. Were you surprised and/or disappointed when it was cancelled?
Molly: Surprised doesn’t begin to express what we all felt when we were cancelled. I loved doing that show. Alan Spencer (Sledgehammer) created the show and ran the show. He had so much passion and enthusiasm; it made us all work harder. We were like kids in a candy store. I never wanted to leave the set and we were there for 16 hours sometimes. Watching Cloris and Harvey work was the greatest thrill. I remember Cloris loved reading ridiculous grocery store rags, like the now defunct tabloid Weekly World News. The more ridiculous the story, the more interested Cloris was in it. For a while I committed myself to reading these terrible tabloids as well. I thought it might be the source of her genius and I wanted her gift.
As mentioned above, The Nutt House was a short-lived television sitcom airing in the Fall of 1989 that was the creation of Mel Brooks and Alan Spencer. In addition to Hagan, the show also starred comedy legends Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman. I don’t remember it well personally, but looking back now I am shocked that a show with all of those contributors was cancelled just six weeks after it premiered. Here you can see the show’s opening theme and beginning scenes from the final episode of The Nutt House to air in the U.S…
Q: Though not an '80s film, you played the wife of Matthew Broderick’s character in the 1999 film Election. What can you tell us about that experience and working with Broderick?
Molly: Sheer delight. I remember our first scene together was the bedroom scene. He instantly made me feel comfortable. I thought Matthew deserved to be acknowledged by the Academy for that performance. He gave such a subtly nuanced portrayal of an incredibly complex, flawed, sad sack character.
Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since the '80s. How have your priorities or goals changed over the years? What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?
Molly: Some highlights: In the '90s, I did a series for Fox called Herman’s Head [from 1991-1994], another one for ABC called Life’s Work [1996-1997]. In the 2000s, I did a show for Nickelodeon called Unfabulous with Emma Roberts [from 2004-2007].
However, aging in this industry can be tough. I began to focus on just how tough it was and decided to begin to leave acting behind and pursue another passion of mine, The Thinking Body-The Feeling Mind. TBFM is a therapeutic movement technique that I have been practicing for 25 years. About 13 years ago, I began to teach it (along with continuing to act). About four years ago, I opened up my own studio. The technique really helped a lot of people get out of pain. But financially, it was putting me under. One thing you learn through Yoga is the importance of “singularity of focus.” Both my acting and teaching suffered because of my split focus. And since acting had always paid my bills, I gave up the studio. I am once again acting full-time and loving it. I am no longer focusing on the impossibility of it but the possibilities.
One of the roles I am proudest of appears in a movie called Ringmaster  with Jerry Springer. I occasionally catch a piece of that and wonder where the hell I came up with that character. She [a “trailer trash” mother] was written really well, but that I had “that” inside me still tickles me.
In addition to all of the roles mentioned already, another small role that I always remember her for is in a Season 5 episode of Seinfeld . In this very funny episode, she is “Sister Roberta” who Kramer almost lures from the church with “the kavorka”. She has also made guest appearances on The Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Becker, NYPD Blue, Desperate Housewives and many more shows. Thanks to my young daughter, I also saw her in the 2009 Disney Channel original movie Princess Protection Program.
Q: What else has Molly Hagan been up to more recently? Both acting and otherwise? What can we expect in the future?
Molly: For some reason, this past year I have done a number of scary films. They are all filled with suspense and tension. I am not sure when they will come out. Not Safe For Work, The Last Light, and Beneath (apparently there is another movie by that name but this one is directed by Ben Katai). I also did an incredible movie called Undiscovered Gyrl with the amazingly talented Britt Roberston. Undiscovered Gyrl is written and directed by Allison Burnett. I continue to work on TV in various shows and always hope to land another series regular role. I do well with routine employment!
I am so pleased that Molly was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. To find out more about her and keep up with Molly, please visit her official website at www.mollyhagan.com/I want to take this occasion to again thank Molly Hagan for her contributions to '80s pop culture especially in Some Kind of Wonderful and, even more, for going back to the '80s with us here for a little while as well.