She’s won Emmy, Tony and Drama Desk awards for her outstanding work, starred in countless films and television shows, provided voices for some of our favorite cartoon characters growing up and more. It’s hard to believe that the multifaceted actress, singer, author and comedian Andrea Martin only pursued acting as a hobby when she was a child.
“I did children’s theater in Portland, Maine, where I grew up,” Martin said. “As a young child, I was involved in Portland, Maine, children’s theater and summer stock, but I honestly just thought of acting as a hobby. I mean, in those days, I wasn’t thinking about it as a career and just one thing led to another. I went to college and majored in drama and I got a job and then another job. It wasn’t like I plotted out anything.”
Martin’s first major break was Second City Television or what is better known as SCTV, the popular Canadian television sketch comedy show that made its way to American airwaves from 1976-84. Fans of SCTV will most likely recall Martin’s portrayal of leopard-print-wearing television station manager Edith Prickley, the incomprehensible European immigrant Pirini Scleroso, organ saleswoman Edna Boil, feminist television show host Libby Wolfson and children’s entertainer Mrs. Falbo.
“I’ve done musical comedies, such as South Pacific and Oklahoma!, in summer stock and I’ve done dinner theater in Toronto and they were all little comedic musical presentations, but until I got involved with Second City, which then turned into SCTV, I never did sketch comedy before or stand up or anything in that variety,” Martin explained.
SCTV also featured the likes of comedians and actors John Candy, Dave Thomas, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis and Joe Flaherty, who at the time, were all still unknown.
“I remember my glorious friends and the extraordinary laughter,” Martin said about her fellow cast members. “You know I’m sure there were challenges over the years because we had to produce an hour-and-a-half worth of material a week, but we were just like-minded people that laughed at one another. I really remember the joy of it more than anything.”
If you’re a cartoon or animation fanatic, you’ve probably heard one of Martin’s many characters that she has voiced over the years in shows, such as The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Kim Possible, Rugrats, Sesame Street, The Simpsons, Hercules and more.
“It’s the easiest thing in the world,” Martin laughed when asked about how hard it is to do voice-over work. “You don’t have to wear makeup or get your hair done. You just show up, do a little voice in three takes and you’re done. It’s fabulous. I haven’t done much voice-over work lately. When I was living in Los Angeles, I was doing a lot of them. I’m quite partial to Miss Fowl from Jimmy Neutron. That was fun. What I really love were all the voices that I did for Sesame Street for Elmo’s World. I did that for years.”
For the Great White Way, Martin won Tony Awards for Best Featured Actress In A Musical in 2013 for her work in Pippin and for My Favorite Year in 1993. Her Emmy Award wins came from her work in SCTV. Those awards were something that weren’t on Martin’s radar at all.
“I know it’s hard to understand, but when I was growing up, maybe some thought about where they’d end up because there wasn’t social media and there wasn’t YouTube. There weren’t any outlets so I didn’t really have goals,” Martin explained. “One thing just led to another. I was successful in one play and then I auditioned for another and so on, but I never mapped out a career. I still don’t map it out.”
Currently, Martin is the Ghost of Christmas Past in playwright Jack Thorne’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol on Broadway, which also stars Campbell Scott, who plays miserable miser Ebenezer Scrooge. The two previously worked together in Broadway’s Noises Off.
“I was asked to do it and I just love the British version of it and Matthew Warchus as a director,” Martin said about how she got involved with the Christmas classic. “I also wanted to do something that was joyful, decent and kind around the holidays. For me the favorite part of the theater is the collaboration with the other actors. I’ve done one-woman shows and I’ve found them kind of lonely. I don’t like them as much and I’ve done many years of them, by the way. So I love the community aspect of it. This play, by the way, is all about community. It’s perfect.”
On the big screen, most might also remember Martin playing Aunt Voula in the sleeper hit romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016). In the films, Martin starred alongside Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine.
“My fondest memory from filming I guess would have to be the fact that we shot it in Toronto where I have a home,” Martin said. “I lived in Toronto for many years and I go back and forth a lot. I loved the fact that I knew where Greek Town was in Toronto. It was very familiar and I’d ride my bike to work. I guess it didn’t feel like a big project. We were all doing this for not very much money. We didn’t know where it was going to end up. It kind of felt like a little community; there’s that word again. We knew each other well.”
In 2014, Martin published her autobiography Lady Parts, which Martin said was a very challenging project for her to tackle.
“I didn’t have any reservations when I signed the contract,” she said. “I had a lot of reservations when I started to write, oh my God. I don’t know how to not be truthful. It was very challenging to look back at my life and to really write something that came from my heart. Oftentimes, I thought maybe I’m revealing too much, but I kept going because it was the nature of the book, but it was a very difficult challenge. I was so happy when I finished it and I was so proud of myself for finishing it. It was much more difficult than anything I’ve ever done actually.”
For the past 15 years, Martin has also been a prominent spokesperson for the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), which helps all of the children in Armenia achieve their full potential. COAF’s annual gala is on Dec. 14 at Cipriani in Manhattan.
“It’s the first year that I haven’t been able to host it, but I got involved with COAF because I’m all Armenian,” Martin explained. “My mother and father were Armenian, my grandparents came here to escape the genocide in the early 1920s. I was asked to do this 15 years ago and I didn’t really know much about the Children of Armenia Fund, but the minute I met the chairman or the creator of COAF Dr. Garo Armen, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It was a totally transparent charity that’s revitalized villages in Armenia that were left deserted by the Soviet regime. We built schools and hospitals, it is extraordinary what we’ve been able to do in a country that has had a lot of political struggles, let me put it that way. The fact that we’ve been able to implement all these changes for villages and school children is extraordinary. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
So what’s next for Martin in the new year that is quickly approaching?
“I don’t have any plans,” Martin said. “I normally know what I’m doing. I’m finishing A Christmas Carol in January. Something will happen because it always does and I don’t have the angst that I used to when I was younger. I just trust that something will be out there. Right now, I’m in the moment, I’m enjoying this play and I’m just taking in all the gratitude of doing it and I’m so happy that we can connect with audiences every night and bring the spirit of Christmas alive in such a gentle way.”
A Christmas Carol plays through Jan. 5 at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St., NYC. For tickets and more information, visit www.achristmascarolbroadway.com.