Celebrity Chat: An Interview with Linda Purl

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Actress and singer Linda Purl looks fresh as ever. Growing up in Tokyo, Linda started acting at an early age and we best remember her as Charlene Matlock, daughter and assistant of Benjamin Matlock (played by Andy Griffith) in the first season of the famous TV show Matlock (1986). Over the decades, she has claimed prominence in both acting and singing. Today, she is lovingly going about both art forms and adding to her Facebook fans. Following is my brief e-conversation with Linda.

Ernest: Hello Linda and thanks for taking time for this chat! Remembering you as Charlene from the 80s’ TV show Matlock, and knowing that you were born into a family of actors, what was the prime inspiration for your acting career?

Linda Purl

Linda: Fun. My parents both love the theatre. My Dad grew up in it as his Mom was a touring actress during the early part of the 20th century. My folks did play readings and summer stock in our house as my sister and I were growing up. We had artists coming for dinner on a regular basis, sometimes staying with us. We had visits from Helen Hayes, Henry Mancini, Harold Clurman…Tennessee Williams lived with us for a short while. This was all Tokyo of the 60’s. We had so much fun doing all this; it was the family glue. To end, any part of that would have been completely inorganic.

Ernest: With your kind of beauty of figure and delicacy as we saw in you as an actress, I could imagine Linda Purl moving into modeling. But instead we found a singing Linda. Were there any modeling offers?

Linda: I’m knock kneed, big rib cage, big head…5’5″…flattered you’d ask, but I just don’t have the physical attributes! That said, as a teenager I did do some modeling by a then little-known designer Issey Miyake.

Ernest: So when and how did you develop an interest in singing?

Linda: We always had music in the house. Jazz, musicals…we had a music room in the house and play piano, ukulele, bang conga drums. Everybody sang in the family…we’d sing endless rounds of Scotland’s Burning in harmony, if we were on a road trip. So again, it was part of our fun, my fun growing up. I did musicals in Tokyo and had a recording contract and once I came to the States, and particularly LA, I didn’t have the opportunity to sing much. Cabaret was an easy way to reclaim that loss. I was blessed with getting launched into the cabaret world through director David Galligan and Musical Director Ron Abel.

Ernest: And you opted for becoming a jazz star after Matlock? What’s special about jazz?

Linda: I was lucky to hear great jazz growing up. Stan Kenton, Mel Torme, Stan Getz, Nancy Wilson, Sergio Mendez were all regulars on the living room turn table. They got into the DNA.

Ernest: Did it feel challenging to step into the world of singing jazz, particularly when giving a live performance?

Linda: Terrifying! I consider myself an actress before a singer…so the thought of it being all you…was scary!

Ernest: Do you prefer singing solo, or have you been performing in duos too?

Linda: They are different…hard to compare. You’re never really alone though because it’s you and your musicians…that’s such a fun dance. Listening, pulling them, they pulling you…being inspired in the moment. It’s a journey that keeps revealing itself.

Ernest: Ok Linda, tell me one or two musical performances of yours that make you the fondest memories.

Linda: I got to do a beautiful lullaby in the Broadway musical Tom Sawyer called This Time Tomorrow. When my son was about 7, I did it in concert once and he was sitting right in the front row. At the end of the song, I saw him wipe a tear away. Takes my breath away to think of it!

Ernest: You apparently happen to be most successful on stage, with several awards to your credit, both as actress and producer. Ever thought of delving into production again?

Linda: Hmmmm. Never say never, but nope.

Ernest: What are your some of your current projects in music?

Linda: Well…I head to Dallas and Galveston in November for a tribute to Ira Gershwin with Tom Wopat and several other yummy singers. Head to Feinstein’s in January with the fabulous Musical Director jazz pianist Tedd Firth. Heading to Florida at the Naples Phil with Gregory Harrison for a concert we’re building together.

Ernest: You are returning to TV as well after guest appearances on Desperate Housewives and The Office. What’s your upcoming TV performance?

Linda: The Office is up next…then Lie to Me!

Ernest: And how do you find the TV world today for actors in comparison to the 80s?

Linda: The new technology is amazing. Light, fast, and cool. What I notice too though is the vast number of women working in every department. It’s amazing. I remember and really in the scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago, the first day there was a woman working on the set as an Assistant Director. It was a very, very big deal.

Ernest: Finally Linda, what owns your soul – music, acting, or stage?

Linda: They are so interconnected…but if I had to choose…acting on stage. Please don’t tell me I have to choose though!

Ernest: Thank you Linda! Leaving you with best wishes for your continued success!

Linda: Thank you, thank you!!

Updates on Linda’s coming events in music and acting can be followed through her website website down.

Ernest Dempsey is a writer, editor, blogger, and journalist based in Orlando, FL. He runs a popular blog Word Matters! at http://www.ernestdempsey.com/ and edits the journal and its blog Recovering the Self. Dempsey is a skeptic, vegetarian, and advocate for animal and human rights.