PASADENA, CALIF. — Actress Debbie Reynolds is on the road performing, 50 weeks out of the year - a daunting schedule for even the spryest of performers. But, says the veteran of film, stage, and television, she wouldn't have it any other way. This is the cornerstone of advice she offers to newcomers.
"I've always said to the children I work with, keep many paths," says the actress, who can be seen Oct. 26th (9:35-11 p.m.), 28th (2-3:25 p.m), and 31st (8:35-10 p.m.) in the Disney Channel's "Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge." "Study many paths of your profession, so that you're never out of work. You can always go to where you'll feel fulfilled, whether it be at writing or dancing or studying singing or whatever. Just keep studying."
The star of such Hollywood classics as "Singin' in the Rain," "Tammy," and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" has seen a lot of changes in the industry since her early days. "It's a different era, and today it's produced the executives who are youth-oriented and action [oriented]," she says.
In her current Disney project, she stars as a grandmother who helps a magical town recover its spirit.
"What Disney is doing ... is filling that gap of movies for children," she says. "We need that kind of entertainment. That's why I'm a part of it."
Reynolds enjoys handing down her wisdom, because, she says, the stars she worked with in her youth took time to impart their own lessons to her. Dance legend Fred Astaire was known for keeping a tightly closed set when he rehearsed, to the point of posting a security guard.
Once Reynolds - who was only 18 when she worked on "Singin' in the Rain" with Gene Kelly - was exhausted and demoralized after a particularly bad day on the set. "My feet were bleeding, I was a wreck and under the piano crying, and Fred [Astaire] walks by, and he says, 'Who is that under the piano?'
"This is Debbie," Reynolds says, imitating her younger self. "He said, 'Get out of there and come on, I'll let you watch me. I never let anyone watch me.' "
Reynolds saw him sweat for more than an hour, "figuring out his steps and throwing his cane," she says. "After a while, he was just so red in the face and just cussin' away," she says with a laugh.
"Finally, he looked at me and said, 'That's it. You've learned, OK? Out!'
"So then, I went back and sweated all over myself, and felt really good about it. I said, 'this is how you do it - you can't learn unless you sweat and work like a dog.
"And," adds the actress whose career has spanned nearly 50 years of show business, "you have to learn to like that."