Weehawkenites may know Nancy Giles from her daily walks through Weehawken streets with her beagle George, or her appearances emceeing or supporting neighborhood theatrical and creative efforts like Hudson Theatre Works or the Hudson River Performing Arts Center. Non-locals may know her from her appearances as G.I. Frankie Bunsen on “China Beach,” Connie on “Delta,” or her guest roles on “L.A. Law,” “Spin City,” “Law and Order;” the list goes on.
For the past 10 years, fans of CBS Sunday Morning have been regaled by her cheeky and smart-as-heck opinion pieces about everything from pop culture to politics to race to gender to what she deems “crap reality shows.”
Giles also does voiceovers to be sure ends that are increasingly hard to meet, meet.
Sitting in the sun outside of a local coffee shop, she said, “You have to know how to do more than one thing or figure out other ways to survive when you’re a creative person. You have to change with the times or you’re left behind, and it takes a lot of energy. When the energy runs out, it really starts to become a challenge.”
“Reality shows have made being a train wreck very profitable.” – Nancy Giles
“I’ve become this accidental political/social commentator because I wasn’t getting acting jobs anymore, and I’ve always loved writing,” Giles said. “What I do now is more a product of that than ever having any sort of aim towards becoming a writer.”
This philosophy has been both the premise of her life, and is – in true multitasking form – the premise behind her self-authored one-woman show “Accidental Pundette” that ran at East 59th Street Theatre in the “Summer Shorts” festival in August.
On writing for CBS
“It started out as a one-shot thing,” Giles explained of her now regular gig as a writer and contributor to CBS Sunday Morning. “I was doing a little freelance essay about high-heeled shoes and the conspiracy against women.”
Around that time 10 years ago, the HBO show “Sex and the City” was in its prime. As Giles watched the women running around in heels without ever complaining of foot pain, bunions, corns, or bleeding, she said, it brought back one not-so-particularly-nice acting memory.
“I’ve been tall since I was 14 and my mom used to say, ‘You don’t need high heels; just wear flats,’ ” the statuesque Giles recalled. “Then I landed a part on ‘Working Girl’ and had to wear heels, dressed to the nines in garish makeup and stumbled around trying to walk.”
Without getting into detail, she got quite a reaction to her valiant attempt to walk in what she believes to be devices of torture. She recycled the experience years later into the piece that earned her a very reputable writing job.
“It was the first essay I did for them, and it got a lot of positive response,” Giles smiled. “They kept asking me back, put me on contract after a while, and a horrible thing ended up with a really lovely outcome.”
On the (questionable) consequences of social media
In this day and age, it’s hard to come by an actor, writer, or anyone without a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or an obsession with the latest reality television show. This, according to Giles, is a tad problematic.
“I’m older and didn’t get my first computer until I was 37, so I’m still behind the curve,” she said. “This whole Twitter and Facebook and how many followers or friends you have thing; well, I didn’t realize until last year that those numbers are a kind of currency now for those of us in the acting or writing industry.”
The proliferation of blogs and opinion columns and viral videos has allowed writers and actors to become hyper-popular the way they might not have been years ago.
It is arguable that social media has made it popular to be un-talented, as evidenced, for instance, by the record contract and cult following for decidedly tone deaf William Hung during the third season of the reality music television program “American Idol.”
“Reality shows have made being a train wreck very profitable,” Giles laughed. “Because of all this new media, everybody has a blog, everybody’s opinions are out there unchecked, and it makes it that much harder if you’re really talented to rise above the noise.”
But that doesn’t keep Giles down. She is determined to continue fighting the good artistic fight, and is thrilled with the way her career has taken a turn toward writing.
“Eventually the energy runs out, the hormones kick in, the weight gain happens, and that’s when you think, ‘I’ve really got to find a wealthy husband,’ ” she laughed. “No, seriously, I’m kidding. Don’t print that.”
You can follow Giles on Twitter by searching NancyGilesNYC.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org