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Merrin currently stars as "Susannah" on WB's drama series "Summerland". Dungey's heart has always been into performing. She studied ballet and ice-skating as a child and took up acting at the age of 18. Dungey hosted a local teen talk show and starred in several commercials. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the UCLA School of Theater. As a sophomore, Dungey was the youngest recipient ever to receive the UCLA Acting Award for Best Actor. Oscar-winner Denzel Washington presented the award to her. Following UCLA, Dungey went on to study under acting coach Milton Katselas and was signed on to the first pilot she auditioned for, Party Girl. In between acting gigs, she also explored the stand-up circuit, signing with an agent after her first performance. She later wrote and starred in Black Like Who? a one-woman show for HBO Comedy Workspace. This led to a stand-up engagement at the Montreal Comedy Festival in 1998. Her performance garnered great attention and led to an act on Comedy Central's Premium Blend and a recurring role in The King of Queens. Most recently, Dungey appeared in Alias as Francie, Sydney's (Jennifer Garner) best friend. She has also recurred in Malcolm in the Middle and The WB's Grosse Pointe. Her impressive list of noteworthy guest appearances include Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Friends, ER, The West Wing, Caroline in the City, Murphy Brown, Martin, Living Single and Tracy Takes On... Dungey's film credits include Ed TV, Deep Impact and How to Make an American Quilt. Dungey currently resides in Los Angeles. She was born on August 6, 1971, in Sacramento, California.
Merrin Dungey (pronounced DUN-JEE) has been performing all her life. She started at the age of four with ballet and danced all the way into her teens. She performed in piano recitals throughout her childhood and also competed as an ice skater.
She studied acting at the famed Beverly Hills Playhouse. Merrin is known for her strong commitment to her work. She is also known for being one of the funniest actresses in the business. She has appeared in dozens of quality television shows and movies. Is most known for her role on the smash hit "Alias" (2001). Merrin's character, Francie (Alias), was killed in the shows 2nd season. She continues to star in the show as Allison, a woman whos appearance has been changed to look like Francie. She is evil and seeks to kill Sidney.
She was written out of Malcolm in the Middle because ABC forbade FOX to keep her in the show.
Currently she's starring in the Aaron Spelling family drama,Summerland on the WB.
20 Questions with Merrin Dungey
From playing a psychotically smothering mother on Malcolm in the Middle to an evil twin on Alias, Merrin Dungey's pretty much done it all. Fresh from her work on the new Spelling drama, Summerland, Merrin takes some time out of her busy schedule to talk kissing, clothing and how to hook up with her backstage at a gig.
1. What was the most difficult thing about writing your one-woman show? What would you recommend for other people starting their own?
Being that honest in front of so many people was really hard. That's why I soon took seven minutes of that material and started doing standup with it.
As for other people doing one-person shows, please have a specific and different point of view, not just, "Oh, this is what happened to me on the way to becoming an actor." No shit, we all have stories. Yours better be interesting, or weird or funny if you think you should share it with the world. Mine was called "Black Like Who?" and was about growing up black in a white suburb. And believe me, the journey of a black girl who had to hide her Valley Girl accent and love of Duran Duran, and learn to be "black" to make it in Hollywood, has some good yuks in it, if not for the slide show of my prom pictures alone.
2. You were the youngest person to ever win the UCLA School of Theater's top acting prize, but what prize do you really, really want to win?
America's Next Top Model.
3. You're heading out on a cross-country trip. What songs make it on your essential travelin' mix cd?
Great question as I am ipoding right now. Okay, so here goes: Madonna "Into the Groove" or "Holiday," Duran Duran "Careless Memories," Phantom Planet "Big Brat," Modest Mouse "Float On," U2 "Bad" and "Beautiful Day" or even "Hawkmoon 269," ELO "Last Train to London," blink 182 "Down," Liz Phair "Why Can't I?" or anything from Exile in Guyville, Rolling Stones "She Was Hot," J-Kwon "Tipsy," Bjork "Hyper-ballad," and Dolly Parton "Here You Come Again." Oh, and of course, Olivia Newton John "Xanadu." I could go on forever. I love music.
4. You've nabbed roles on shows on the main four networks. Who has the best catering? The best bathrooms? Have you thought of learning Spanish so you can take over Telemundo next?
Summerland has the best catering for sure. Alias had good bathrooms, studio wise. I am learning French right now, but I don't know how that's going to help me. Le herrison est rapide. The hedgehog is fast.
5. Grosse Pointe was a brilliant sardonic parody of the teen angst show. What show genre would you love to see parodied now, and how would you propose to do it?
I want to make fun of spy shows now. Then I could kick more ass.
6. You get to be rock star for a day. What band would you play with, and what would the groupies have to say to score some backstage time with you?
I have a band, actually, named Bad Francie and we sing 80's hard rock covers. I sing and play a cherry red electric guitar and do a mean version of "Highway to Hell," if I say so myself. As for groupies, I am a Leo so I am pretty easy. Flattery will get you everywhere. Whore.
7. Would you respect a man who ordered a "Sex on the Beach" or a Piña Colada on your first date? Seriously? What makes a good impression on you?
I would be impressed by a guy who sang the lyrics to "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" to me. Or better, acted it out, you know, taking me to a bar called O'Malley's, writing a personal ad directed at me, etc. Hello? Do you get it? Is this thing on?
8. Whose ass on Alias did you like kicking the most? Were you tempted to kick JJ's after two years of bouillabaisse and five-second cameos? And are you putting that year of training in ass-kicking to use?
Jen and I had an absolute blast, I will kick her ass any day. Word. Why would I kick the ass of the man who gave me the most spectacular role of my career thus far? HELLO! I played an evil twin! Is that, or is that not the dream part?
Oh, and as for training, I still see Sensei Benny the Jet and work with him. In fact, I think I worked harder for my part on Summerland than for Alias. Francie/Allison wasn't in no bikinis. EVERY day I'm on the beach here playing volleyball, wearing next to nothing. Great.
9. You got your smooch on with several fine boys on Alias. Who was the most memorable? Got any juicy stories to spill?
Bradley [Cooper, who plays Will] was an awesome kisser. It was weird though, because we had been friends for so long at that point, that we had a glass of wine before we did the scene to mellow out. Crazy.
David [Anders, who plays Sark] is also quite good. (Very gentle, ladies. Soft lips.) But, I had to encourage him to go for it, because he was such good friends with the boyfriend I had at the time. I think he thought he might get his ass kicked.
10. We feel that both of your characters on Alias were shafted where storylines were involved. Tell us what should have happened to your characters. (For example, should Francie have been allowed finally to name her restaurant? Should Allison's history have been explored? Or should she have spent more time attached to Sark's face?)
The set designer and I secretly named the restaurant Deep Inside. Trivia! Anyway, I would have loved to explore who Allison was, and I would have loved to see Sydney and her have to work together at some point because they HAD to, you know. I thought that might be interesting. I did like Allison and Sark being the anti-Syd and Vaughn, but the show is not called Allison's Story. Do I smell a spin-off?
11. We tend to find ourselves planning elaborate escapes for any situation we're in. (For example, eiddy had a really fantastic escape from the dentist's chair that involved flips and wielding their own weapons against them that she's kind of sad she never got to put into action.) Do you do this? And if so, what was your greatest escape?
I don't think up escapes, but I do mentally plan attacks in my head if I think someone might be following me, like in the mall parking garage. Like, I'll think, "Okay I'll do a spin back elbow and then drop and do a dragon sweep and then step on his neck." Thanks, Sensei!
12. Which is a worse breach of etiquette on the dance floor: A strange man using you like his personal stripper pole without even introducing himself or someone bumping into you and spilling your drink? What do you do with people who don't understand the concept of personal space?
God knows I hate a close talker. I hate the drink thing though, but ladies, please, martinis and cosmos only at the table. Learn from your past mistakes. I did once have a guy come on to me when I was a cocktail waitress, but then he got really weird and BIT the arm that was holding my tray. He got his ass kicked by a lot of people that night.
13. We're carb addicts. We're proud of this. Potatoes are our drug. But we need a new kind of fix - would you happen to have a favorite potato recipe to share? Or perhaps a new (safe, yet not necessarily all that healthy) addiction to pursue?
I hate regular white potatoes, myself. Love yams and sweet potatoes and they are a lot healthier. Like, sweet potato chips? Yum! But ice cream is my secret sin. I have a lot of bullshit Wow Cow nonfat yogurt to fill that urge.
14. Buffy had Mr. Pointy, Linus had his blanket, eiddy has her old Cabbage Patch doll (which creeps the hell out of her fiancé, by the way). What's your security blanket?
My cats Casey and Sandy. And Barnaby my old teddy bear (named after Barnaby Jones, my favorite TV show when I was six).
15. Every show seems to have a line of dolls now. If you could have three character dolls, which would they be and what would be their special trick?
Well JJ had Alias dolls made for us this Xmas, and apparently Allison's special trick was having an ass bigger than everyone else. He profusely apologized.
I'd love to have a Susannah (Summerland) doll, with special fun Barbie-like outfits (I have a great wardrobe on this show). She would also talk really fast (she's like the Seth Cohen of Summerland). I would also love a Grosse Pointe doll. She would give you backhanded compliments.
16. You get to pick your own theme song - what would it be?
No question, it would be "Proud to be Black" by Run DMC.
17. Do you consider yourself fairly internet-friendly? What sites do you visit on a regular basis?
I Google lots of things. I go to Daily Candy shopping sites. Sometimes I check out Vince Vaughn's site but just for the articles...!
18. Name one moment when you looked around, breathed happily and knew you were content.
It's funny, it happened twice this week. Once was tonight, with my favorite take out sushi, my fro-yo, my cats and The Sopranos in my very own house. I also felt that way this week at work on Summerland. I thought, wow, I am really happy here and love all these people I work with. I am very lucky.
19. How is Summerland different from the other series you've worked on? Is there something special they pump into the air of Aaron Spelling shows?
It's much harder work than I have ever done because I have much more responsibility here. But, like I said, I am very happy and relaxed because of this cast and crew. Really great people, and I think that might be his secret. He hires wonderful people. Also there are some REALLY hot guys on the show who never wear shirts. Yum. Yum.
20. Summerland takes place in an idyllic community. What would be in your idyllic community?
Sunshine. Roses and jasmine. Ocean. Great music, no crime, ice cream and Vince Vaughn.
Merrin Dungey is making a name for herself on ''Summerland''
She was featured on the cult hit ``Alias,’’ has had memorable roles in ``Malcolm in the Middle’’ and ``King of Queens’’ and now stars in ``Summerland’’ (tomorrow at 9 p.m. on WLVI, Ch. 56), the one new show of the summer considered a hit. But Merrin Dungey doesn’t consider herself lucky.
``My dad gave me advice,’’ Dungey said during a recent telephone interview. ``He said, `Luck exists at the corner of opportunity and persistence.’ There’s no such thing as straight-up luck. I worked my ass off.’’
Dungey joined the WB series after the initial pilot already had been filmed, but producers were looking to recast the part of Ava’s (Lori Loughlin) best friend Susannah.
``Allison got stabbed yet again on `Alias,’ ’’ she said. ``This script came along and I thought, `I’ll go in, it’s Aaron Spelling.’ Executive producers Remi Aubuchon and Stephen Tolkin were making a lot of changes to the script. They wanted to bring a lot of who I am to the character. They really wanted to make it funnier. A balance of humor and sensitivity, this was really what I can bring to the character.’’
Dungey’s Susannah is helping to raise Ava’s three nieces and nephews whose parents died in the first episode. ``There was lots of groundwork they had to lay in the pilot,’’ Dungey said. ``Now the roots are taking hold. The show surprises me every day. It’s much deeper than I thought it would get. There’s actual conflict between Ava and I and what’s going on with the adults in the house. Where their lives are headed is taking shape. Susannah is really questioning what her role is.’’
Loughlin also serves as the producer of the series. ``It’s great because she is on our side about so many different things and has that perspective,’’ Dungey said. ``Something we have a problem with - she’s there and she sees it. It’s really fantastic. It’s her passion and enthusiasm for really making the product amazing. Lots of our improv came out of how well we get along. One day, Lori turned to me and said, `I think you and I have the best chemistry on the show.’ ’’
Dungey has yet to meet her series’ most famous executive producer face-to-face. ``I haven’t had a chance to meet Aaron Spelling,’’ she said. ``I’m a huge fan. When I was little, I used to audiotape `Charlie’s Angels,’ and then we’d play `Charlie’s Angels’ on our bikes.’’
Going from hand-to-hand combat with ``Alias’’ star Jennifer Garner to working with three young actors on ``Summerland’’ has been an adjustment.
``We have to watch our language. We have a dollar swear jar,’’ she said, laughing. She recently took co-star Kay Panabaker (Nikki) shopping for a prom dress.
Dungey’s parents wanted her to get a teaching certificate so she would have something to fall back on. But Dungey, who graduated with a bachelor of arts from the UCLA School of Theater, told her parents, `` `I need to fall forward.’ ’’
``I never got an office job,’’ she said. ``I was a personal assistant to Faye Dunaway and the president of Warner Bros. I could do that and leave and go to auditions.’’
There are still two shows Dungey would love to be on - ``24’’ and ``The O.C.’’
``I went up to the executive producer of `The O.C.’ and said, `A) You need to put black people on the show, and B) one of them needs to be me.’ No one they interact with is of color. The principal is Asian, and she’s been on twice. It’s 2004. You’ve got to mix it up.’’
Although her ``Alias’’ character Francie and her evil doppelganger Allison have died multiple times on ``Alias,’’ Dungey hasn’t ruled out a return appearance on the series.
``You never ever know, nothing is certain with executive producer J.J. Abrams,’’ she said. ``Things are shifting again. Everyone talks about if the show is going to jump the shark, but this shark just keeps swimming. J.J. changes the rules of the game every six months. If they ever make `Alias’ the movie, I better be coming back.’’
Ex-''Alias'' star Merrin Dungey moves into ''Summer''-share
Merrin Dungey, who played Sydney Bristow's roomie on ''Alias,'' is now shacking up with Lori Loughlin's Ava on ''Summerland'' .
On ''Alias,'' she opened her own restaurant and became an ass-kicking evil twin before dying (apparently) early this past season. And now Merrin Dungey -- a.k.a. Sydney Bristow's roommate, Francie -- has gone on to a sunnier place: The WB's sweet beachside soap, ''Summerland.'' She plays Susannah, fashion-business partner and housemate to Lori Loughlin's Ava, a designer who raises her niece and nephews after her sister passes away. ''On 'Alias' you'd get the scripts and be like, `Am I going to die?''' says Dungey. ''This is like, `What am I wearing?''' The 32-year-old actress joined ''Summerland'' after a grueling year of ''Alias''' hand-to-hand combat; she trained hard even though she knew her character's days were numbered. ''If you start out bad on 'Alias,' you can set up some real estate,'' says Dungey.
Merrin Dungey has only one complaint about her role as Jennifer Garner's best friend on ABC's ''Alias.'' Because her character, Francie, doesn't know about Sydney's secret life as a double agent, she can't get in on the butt kicking. ''When you're on an action show, you want to be part of the action,'' she admits. Creator J.J. Abrams is empathetic, up to a point: ''Merrin wants nothing more than to be a spy, but at the moment she's going to remain a non-pro.'' At least Dungey, 30, gets plenty of action outside of ''Alias.'' She currently recurs on Fox's ''Malcolm in the Middle'' and CBS' ''The King of Queens,'' and she's guested on some of TV's biggest shows.
World No Tobacco Day, May 31
Carol Burnett, Merrin Dungey, Other Diverse Ads Promote American Lung Association’s Free Online Quit Smoking Program
Comedian Carol Burnett, actors Merrin Dungey and Robert Zepeda and musician Bird, along with the American Lung Association are launching a campaign to help people across the country and around the world quit smoking for free through the organization’s Freedom From Smoking® Online Program.
"I was a smoker; I know how hard it is to quit," said Burnett in one of the campaign’s public service announcements. "But I’ve been smoke-free for over 20 years. It wasn’t easy but there are a lot of things in life that are much harder."
Burnett knows all too well the pain smoking and lung cancer can cause. In January 2002 she lost her daughter Carrie, a longtime smoker, to lung cancer. Carrie Hamilton was only 38.
To reach out to others addicted to cigarettes, all four performers decided to help the American Lung Association raise awareness about its program, which is available to everyone at no cost. They are helping to promote the program by starring in a series of public service announcements that were filmed in a variety of environments: a living room, a runner in the mountains, over coffee and an urban street scene.
"The American Lung Association has a free program that’s helped many people quit smoking," said Burnett. "It's called Freedom From Smoking and it's free all the time to anyone who visits www.lungusa.org. Find your freedom from smoking. I know you can do it. It’s there for you anytime, all day, every day. So please find your freedom from smoking. Because when you can't breathe, nothing else matters."
The Freedom From Smoking® Online Program is a seven-part course that helps smokers understand why they smoke, the benefits of quitting, and tips for staying smoke-free. Beyond that, it connects people who are quitting smoking with other people across the country who are also quitting. The result is that people do not feel alone during this process.
"The American Lung Association is fortunate that Ms. Burnett and the other performers chose to donate their time to help people quit smoking through our interactive free program," said American Lung Association Council Member and volunteer Gwendolyn W. Young. "We could not have created this campaign without volunteers like Director Hal Long and his company, Angelsmith. The entire production crew along with other companies and individuals donated their time and/or services to create this campaign."
"Freedom From Smoking is such an important program because it does more than
caution against the risks of smoking, it offers a resource to those who want to quit," said Long. "For that, I'm very proud that I could be involved with this campaign, because it will make a difference. These PSA spots cover a wide demographic, and as a whole are meant to be compelling and uplifting. We wanted the PSA spots to recognize the difficulty and pain of quitting smoking and also to end on a positive note, so that smokers would feel empowered to try the program."