At four foot ten inches tall, actress Peggy Miley stands tall among many of Hollywood’s heavyweights. Having starred in dozens of commercials, supporting roles in television and film, Peggy has shared the stage with legends. Celebrity Parents was thrilled to catch up with Peggy in Eddie’s Sweet Shoppe in Queens, NY, where we spoke with the pint-sized actress about acting, staying true to your roots, (literally), and, ahem, being an older working actress.
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Peggy, were you always into acting?
The first time I acted was in high school. I was only 14, and it was a play called “Mobsy Saves The Day”. I got such a wonderful feeling acting in that play. I just loved it.
Before you became an actress, you worked for many years as a teacher in NYC.
Yes, I began teaching, and that was playing five times daily to a demanding audience! I taught junior high and high school, and some of the kids had come out of the Riker’s Island drug rehab program. I loved teaching; it was my bread and butter job, but I always continued to act. I did lots of theater, and Off-Off- Broadway plays.
When did you decide to take the plunge into acting full-time?
I went on sabbatical, and I was in Australia. I thought to myself, “You get one ride on the merry go round. You’ve had a wonderful career as a teacher. It’s time for you to do what you want to do now.”
I love it.
A friend suggested that I send my photos into the soaps. I thought, “What are they going to do with me? I’m not tall, thin, or beautiful.” It turned out that they were looking to cast a part for an Irish governess on Guiding Light. I got that part, and I also worked on Ryan’s Hope.
Then, I moved out to L.A. I was 47 at the time, and I knew no one out there. Everyone said, “Don’t do it. Women over 40 don’t work out there.” I’m not dismissing anyone else’s experience, but mine has been: If you are willing to look your age, you work. Use what you have, not what you wish you have. I decided to let my hair go grey; I come from a family where everyone is grey by their mid-40’s! The good thing is that being older, being greyer, being more…zaftig-
Voluptuous. That’s my favorite word! By being myself, it has allowed me to work more.
You’ve appeared on NYPD Blue, Monk, Becker, and countless other television shows and movies. I have to say, by far, my favorite is the Cheerios commercial you starred in.
That commercial was one of my absolute favorites. After they cast me, they invited me to stay for the baby casting. It was the most delightful afternoon I have ever spent. Imagine being surrounded by adorable nine month-old babies! That commercial is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve done. It’s beautifully written, and it gave me something to say that was natural, true and honest.
Do you worry about being typecast?
The way the business is out there, you are typecast. I am everybody’s mother, everybody’s grandmother. On Big Love, which I’m currently guest-starring, I play the mother to a woman who is of a fanatical Mormon sect. I don’t mind. I love working, and the camaraderie of everyone on set.
What has been your absolute favorite job?
I like them all. Usually the one you are currently working on is your favorite. I loved NYPD Blue; it was very authentic. I worked with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the Old Couple 2. They were wonderful, and Walter was very giving to the smaller actors. I also did a movie with Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton called Bandits. That was delightful. Tony Shalhoub on Monk is just a doll.
What projects do you have coming up now?
I finished a movie with Jennifer Lopez and Linda Lavin called The Back-Up Plan. It’s a small part, but as we know, there are no small parts, only small actors! I just finished up work on the kids show “Zeke and Luther”. I play a really mean old lady.
Did you like it?
Playing a mean person on a children’s show is so exaggerated. It’s a lot of fun. It’s like playing the Wicked Witch of the West! And I’m also working with some friends on a web series called Assistant Living. In the webisode I’m in, it’s implied that I am involved in a ménage a trios! I told them, “I don’t do that cheesecake unless you’re paying a lot.” [laughs]
And why not? It could happen.
It’s a lot of fun making my life look much more exciting than it is. But it’s another area of my life that I didn’t expect to happen. I’m also writing a short film about my teaching experiences.
You’ve had a very successful career.
Honestly, the business has been bad over the last couple of years, but I’ve been blessed. I’ve always had something in the hopper. My father always taught me, in his good Irish Catholic way, to never be beholden to anyone. You always pay your own way and you don’t lean on anyone. And I’ve been fortunate to be that.
As a fellow Irish Catholic, I totally get it. I think it’s so inspirational.
I tell young people every day, “Do something you love, and do a little of it each day. All those years I was teaching, I kept acting. If you’re a good actor, you never stop learning. The ability to want to learn, to change, to find that something else, that’s the thrill of acting.
That’s the thrill of anything.
That’s right. That is the thrill of everything.