SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Susan McPhail: I am a retired teacher originally from Memphis, Tennessee. I’m married to Johnny McPhail and have lived in Oxford, Mississippi for almost 40 years. I retired from teaching about three years ago after catching the acting bug from Johnny.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become an actress?
Susan McPhail: Being married to Johnny, it was easy to become fascinated with the acting business. He was instrumental in getting me involved more and more as time passed. I had helped with several local productions and was a board member for Theatre Oxford for a number of years, so my interest grew from a variety of areas. I really became hooked when Johnny and I did a short film in Shreveport, Louisiana as part of the Louisiana Film Prize. Something seemed to really gel for me and I just knew that I wanted to do this acting thing more. Soon after, I was lucky enough to get a good agent (People Store in Atlanta) and things really took off from there. I’ve since been cast in films opposite Ben Mendelsohn, Nick Nolte, Joe Anderson, Harry Lloyd, Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, Carrie Preston, Justin Chon, Allison Janney, Bill Skarsgård, and Regina Hall. As of now, I have 34 film credits. Believe me, I’m as shocked as everyone else!
SKSM: How did you become involved in All That You Love Will be Carried Away Dollar Baby film?
Susan McPhail: Thad had been working with Johnny and had told me in the beginning of the process, that he’d find me a part. I thought, “Okay, cool!”. Then he did it and I felt that he really considered my personality when he cast me as the shop owner.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Susan McPhail: Firstly, it’s a Stephen King’s short story, so how can you go wrong? Secondly, it’s not a typical SK fright ride, but a complex narrative about life. It’s got ups, downs, comedy, tragedy, and the viewer never knows what will happen next.
SKSM: Did you have to audition for the part or was it written directly for you?
Susan McPhail: We had a couple of read through sessions at our house with Thad, Johnny and me. Thad asked if I’d play the shop owner, and I, of course, I agreed. So, there was no formal audition.
SKSM: You worked with Thad Lee on this film, how was that?
Susan McPhail: Thad has a way about him that makes you feel like you’re doing great. He is very positive and professional and the way he directs is different than any other director in my experience. He is very precise and, as a result, the film becomes something special.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when they made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Susan McPhail: There are many great moments because I was there for all of the scenes in which Johnny appears. So, I was sort of a semi-crew member at times. The most fun I had was the day we filmed at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and the (infamous) line about Jim Morrison was heard coming out of the men’s room. Over and over, etc. The young lady who did the make-up, Parker, and I mischievously “decorated” some bar stools with that line from the film.
SKSM: Do you still have any contact with the crew/cast from that time? If so with who?
Susan McPhail: Oxford, being such a small town, gives plenty of opportunities to see people you know. Lately (because of COVID) there haven’t been too many physical meet and greets, but I am friends on social media with most of them.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Susan McPhail: I just wrapped recording scenes from Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke for a zoom presentation for the Delta Tennessee Williams Festival (usually held in Clarksdale). On October 20, I will be traveling to Nashville to do a short for a filmmaker who saw me in The Peanut Butter Falcon and decided that I’d fit a character for him. This awful pandemic has really slowed things down for the film industry. Hopefully, things will start picking up soon.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Susan McPhail: Huge fan! This is going to sound weird, but his films scare me too bad to watch, but I will read anything that he writes. The books scare me too, but seeing them come to “life” scares the (bleep) out of me.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Susan McPhail: A large majority of people who act (I’d venture to say), started out or have a background in theatre. The only theatre that I’ve done or that I do, is the Delta Tennessee Williams Festival and that’s usually reading selected scenes. It terrifies me to think about being on stage and having to rely on my memory. I like it when we can cut and start over –ha ha. I am in awe of people who act on stage.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Susan McPhail: I’d like to tell anyone reading this to get involved! Go to film festivals, volunteer, meet filmmakers. And for Pete’s sake, if Thad Lee ever wants to put you in a film, jump on it!
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Susan McPhail: Thanks for the opportunity to share my story!