SC: For viewers who have not had the chance to watch Save the Wedding yet, how would you describe your character, Debbie?
MT: I think she is enthusiastic, loving, and kind of a go big or go home kind of girl. She puts on all the sparkly things but she's not competitive, or there might be a little bit of competitiveness with the other mother, but not in any type of mean way. She's just so effervescent, is happy about this wedding, loves her husband, loves her daughter and future son-in-law. Everything is just big, big love and enthusiasm.
SC: Debbie is quite the contrast to Melanie Charles, the fashion events manager villain in A Christmas in Royal Fashion on Super Channel Heart & Home On Demand. Do you still prefer to play the villains?
MT: I don't know that I prefer them, but I love it when I have the opportunity to portray them because so often, I'm the mom protecting my child. It's a nice change and I may have even shared this when we talked about A Christmas in Royal Fashion is that I was always Sandy, but I wanted to be Rizzo. So, I don't want to play the villain all the time, but to take the energy of a character in that other direction is a nice change and a challenge. I discovered that with Melanie Charles. I got to really change through the course of the movie and had a significant arc which was really fun to play too.
SC: Debbie helps to save the day by making chocolate cake. Do you have a favourite item to bake, or something that is your specialty in the kitchen?
MT: I definitely prefer baking over cooking for myself, but I’m a stress baker, so anytime I’m stressed I’m going to make something. I'm actually the president down here of a local Elks Lodge and so I'm the resident baker. For big crowds I pretty much make dump cakes because they're super easy and inexpensive to make. I mean I'm giving away my secrets, but when people from other lodges come to visit our lodge, their request is a chocolate cherry dump cake. You serve it right out of the oven with a little bit of ice cream on top. That's kind of my cuppa, cuppa, cuppa cake. It’s three ingredients, dump it in a pan, super sweet and naughty, and you cut the sweetness with ice cream on top.
SC: In addition to sticking with chocolate, what else would you say are other similarities to Debbie?
MT: Yeah, that's funny. I feel like what Debbie and I have in common is that it’s all about making it and then giving it away. I don't even need to eat it; it's just giving it to other people and letting them enjoy it. I've usually tasted enough during the cooking that I can get rid of all of it.
SC: That set was incredible on screen. Can you share more about where it was filmed and what it was like to experience that set in person?
MT: It was filmed in California and we shot just a little bit northwest of LA, in Ventura County which is beautiful. It's just up the coast and a lot of my movies have repeat locations, but this was fun because I had never been to this house before. It was gorgeous. It was my first movie back after the industry had shut down for a while, and it was spacious enough that we could keep our distance. It was lovely and I would go outside and just sit at that pool and eat my lunch because I had to be away from everybody. So, we got to sit outside in the beautiful sunlight after being quarantined at home. We were being super safe, and it was just so nice to be on set and be outside of a dream home.
SC: The costuming certainly fit with each character and your wardrobe was really lovely with a lot of vibrant colours. Do you have any favourite pieces from that set?
MT: Yes, so this is great. For this movie because of just coming out of quarantine in LA, with restrictions being lifted a bit, I did my first Zoom wardrobe fitting with Jake, the director, who is amazing and has such a great eye. I had read the script and I talked to the wardrobe/costume designer and had a sense of who Debbie was. I like to say that my bedroom is really more of a walk-in closet and I am a huge vintage clothes shopper. So as it turns out, the only piece that wasn't from my own collection was that great pink dress that I wore to the rehearsal dinner. They had ordered that specifically for me and I loved it. My favorite has to be the blue piece with the poofy sleeves. I presented that via Zoom to the director and said I just want you to see this and had pulled it out, having never worn it. I found it with the original vintage tag still on it at a thrift store down here and just said to myself, “I don't know, it's just so fabulous, I have to have it.” Honestly, this is my not so little secret, thrifting is my thing, so I think I paid $5 for it because it was considered more of a designer piece, whereas everything else was $2 at the store. I put it on for Jake and he was just like “yes”, and it was just so Debbie and I couldn't be more pleased that I got to break that dress in on screen. It reminded me of when I started my career, and I was performing at children's birthday parties as Cinderella, Barbie, or Little Mermaid. Many of those costumes I still own, but that dress is like my grown up version of Cinderella; the poofy sleeves and that beautiful light blue. It was just so Debbie so that was one of my favourite pieces for sure.
I also love that bright fuchsia pattern dress. And again, I had to take the tags off that. I just find these pieces and I'm like “yeah” or sometimes I just shop with auditions in mind and what I play. I feel like everything I wear in life should have a story. It’s always fun when I wear something that also has a story as my character. For example, I have an aunt in New Hampshire who has given up on heels, so she just ships them to me or gives all of these amazing heels when I go home to visit. I’m pretty sure that every television movie I have done has a pair of her heels in it that she has passed on to me. We always joke that she should get a wardrobe credit.
I love giving things a new life and it is kind of an homage to my grandmother. It makes me so happy when I give something new life and then it’s like this piece of wardrobe kind of lives forever.
SC: Do you have a favourite wedding tradition, or something that you look forward to when you attend them?
MT: I think for me, it's a treat to be a part of the wedding and experiencing it as part of the wedding party. That being said, I don't have 23 bridesmaids’ dresses in my closet. I think I have more wedding dresses in my closet because of being an actress than I have dresses from being a bridesmaid.
SC: Can you share more about all of the volunteer work you do and with different organizations, perhaps starting with the Elks?
MT: With the Elks, I just kind of fell into it. I didn’t know anything about any type of fraternal organizations and wasn’t even in a sorority in college. But I shot 3 back-to-back movies there and after the third one, which was Christmas in Vermontwith Chevy Chase, I was like “okay, what is this? I gotta join as the universe keeps sending me here” and it’s also near my house. When I found out that the Elks was actually started by actors and a 100% charitable organization, I was like “I am in.” And because we are a smaller lodge, suddenly I’m the Vice-President and then I’m the President. I threw myself in after the first year and we started producing these "For Your Consideration" events there. There’s this amazing venue, which is so hard to come by in Los Angeles, and I asked, “who wants to put their Emmy® consideration clips up with me?” and that grew. It was never this big design, it was just having the place and supporting the underdogs. With the help of that platform, additional disabled talent were on the ballot, the first African-American married couple were nominated in the same year, and for daytime the first trans actor. I couldn’t have planned it any better and it was just me saying “I don’t know what I’m doing” and it grew into something that had a momentum and a movement beyond what I had expected. This year we are hoping to do a drive in event, because we’re still taking extreme safety measures. It was always for charity and our number one charity right now is working with disabled children, getting them the physical therapy that they need, like bringing the therapists to their homes. Then of course, our veterans, and also helping wherever we can within our community.
It almost felt like we were able to give more this year. We took that idea of helping people in this kind of really horrible year and we expanded it even further. We were able to get a grant to buy 100 tents, 50 sleeping bags, and 50 cots for homeless veterans in Los Angeles. I went to the extreme discount store and they had their Christmas stuff up to 90% off, including hand soaps, which is important in this Covid year. So, we ended up buying 200 Santa Claus hand soaps for the veterans too.
SC: Continuing with the volunteer work, you shared about Young Storytellers in your last interview. Are you still involved with them?
MT: Yes, I've moved up since the last interview with Super Channel. I was a long term mentor with Young Storytellers and in the last year and a half became a head mentor with a dear friend of mine. We wanted to ensure that if something were to happen and we had to be away because of both being actors, that somebody would be there for the kids. I moved up to head mentor, which was great except for the fact that we got one semester in and then the pandemic hit. I had never been on Zoom in my life and suddenly I’m teaching fifth graders scriptwriting on Zoom. We've started a new semester in April which is amazing, and we have figured out how to do Zoom performances. I invite my actor friends and they come in and blow the kids’ minds by performing their scripts on Zoom.
SC: The volunteer section would not be complete without discussing the dogs you have fostered. How have you been involved with animal rescue?
MT: I've always been somewhat active in animal rescue because I have lots of dear friends that do that, so my kitty is a rescue and so was my former dog who passed away, as she had been a foster fail. So when the pandemic hit, I started again and long story short here I am ten dogs later. It started with Pluto and now we are at Valentina. It's hard every time I let them go, but they go to the perfect homes and I stalk their stories on social media to make sure they're okay. Every time I see my foster dogs living the perfect life, it just makes me so happy. There was never any type of plan to any of my volunteer work, my heart just went “oh let me try this or let me help here.” My parents always wanted me to be a teacher and here I am as a mentor. I love working with kids and I have always loved animals. Being able to live in LA and still have that experience is the best.
SC: You were still working during 2020, what did you notice were the greatest changes being an actor during the time of COVID?
MT: Save the Wedding was one of the first films I went back to after Los Angeles shut down. I had been on another Lifetime film that was absolute drama and terror. It was so refreshing to be in a romantic comedy and just relax and have some fun, especially since I have a background in comedy, which you probably saw a little bit of that in A Christmas in Royal Fashion. I had been playing all these women in peril and it was just so fun to be light and happy. And my character was pretty much unaware of most of the drama within the movie, so I was just so pleased that my only daughter was getting married.
The hardest thing for me with Covid is the shift to doing auditions at home. I am such an extrovert and I really had a hard time after all of the years of knowing the process of auditioning, getting to see people in the room and getting my personality in front of people. Even when the camera is there, there's a person running that camera, or walking into the lobby and you see your acquaintances from over the years, or even seeing dear friends and you get to hug them and say hi. I had a really hard time with that and finally I just had to say, “you know Meredith, this is what it is. If you are going to continue in this business, then you have to find a way to enjoy it. You have to go back and remember that you love acting.” It had become too much of a chore for me and I finally said that every person on this planet is having these kinds of shifts and you better change the way you feel about it. That combined with not being able to hug people on set, or not being able to say goodbye to the people you worked with, was really hard. The creatives tend to be so much more that way and I don’t know when that’s going to come back. I feel sad to a certain degree that there are so many actors that will start out in this business and never know it as the business as I knew it for 20 years. I believe it's forever changed because of this virus. We're having to really shift and change, and a lot of young people are so much better about it, because they have been living with these screens and know how to shoot themselves however they need for social media and been doing it throughout their whole life. Whereas all of this is such a huge shift for me.
SC: Can you name positive impacts or lessons that COVID has had on you or taught you?
MT: Absolutely. I am such a go, go, go, girl and it has been a huge blessing too. Sometimes you're not listening to the messages you’re getting from the universe, or God, or whatever you call it, and they smack you against the wall and say to just slow down. I've had many instances in my life where that's happened, but I haven't had it where it coincides with the whole world. Having to slow down and really focus on how you want your life to look, who you want around you, who is important and making sure you tell them, so that has been a huge gift and that I will carry with me. I love this alone time. I always say to people that I have never been bored a day in my life and I can’t think of a moment in this past year that I was ever bored. As an actor there's always something new to explore and learn about yourself and about the world. In taking it slow, I've had more baths then when it was summer in my hot tub. I appreciate the fact that I used to be able to get massages frequently and then how amazing that is for your body and now missing that. Cooking and making myself more meals at home. Just really coming back to resetting of what is important. Surviving is another big takeaway and realizing that I have everything I need. When you are forced not to go outside of yourself to look for what you need, but to go within and stop searching elsewhere. Stop, slow down, and appreciate how far you've come and what you've done. Stop running and chasing, you have it and it’s here.
I have gotten so much closer to my next door neighbor. And then just thinking “what are my parents going through? What about the loneliness” or “what about the people that are shut ins?” Just stopping and going, “what must this be like for other people, like my disabled friends that can’t get out in the world?” It's given us the time I feel to just slow down and look at what's around us and how other people are surviving this. Even with the saddest moments, it's brought me closer to my friends, and I guess what’s got me through is that I knew even in the darkest moments in my life, you come out of this enlightened and stronger.
SC: Meredith Thomas puts her heart into the stories around her, as a character on screen, as a mentor amplifying the voices of students and their scripts, and while serving others in her community. To learn more about Meredith’s volunteer endeavors or for plenty of pictures of her foster fur babies, ensure you are following her across social media, as you won’t want to miss what stories Meredith will carry forward next.