Holidays to Hollywood: The Career of Kathy Najimy
While it seems inevitable actors opt to take the tabloid and sensational publicity route at one point or another within their career, Kathy Najimy has always been about the craft. Actor, writer, producer, director and activist, Najimy has performed in nearly 30 films (Sister Act, Hocus Pocus) and over 100 television projects (King of the Hill, Veronica’s Closet). Najimy has also transcended her career to Broadway (Dirty Blonde) and utilized her celebrity as a social justice advocate for numerous organizations benefiting LGBT rights and AIDs awareness including the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG. From Hollywood to the White House, Kathy Najimy tells all to Out In Jersey.
You have starred in many iconic films from Hocus Pocus, to Sister Act 1 and 2, to Rat Race, as well as voiced the infamous character of Peggy Hill on Fox’s King of the Hill. Of all the work that you have done thus far in your career, which experience has been your best and why?
Kathy Najimy: That would be subjective to me, however, there are two projects I would say I enjoyed the most. The first project took place in the beginning of my career when I created a two-woman feminist comedy play entitled The Kathy & Mo Show, which I wrote with Mo Gaffney. We performed the show on and off for 20 years which included two stints on Broadway and two HBO specials. We wrote it and starred in it, so it dealt with topics we were truly passionate about. More recently, I would have to say working on King of the Hill. I care about writing more than anything else and the writers for that sitcom were so great. We did a total of 13 seasons and the show still airs today. The writers were very collaborative and open to ideas, changes, etc. They permitted us to come up with the design of our characters. It felt amazing to have such a great script at your door every week. Moreover, I had my daughter during that time, so I stopped traveling for film work. However, this voiceover process permitted me to juggle my career and home life perfectly.
Peggy Hill was your longest running role. Having previously worked primarily on screen, what was the experience like voice tracking such a hit role for so long?
KN: I had done voice overs throughout my career including prior to King of the Hill. Quite frankly, I love it. Honestly, there is no hair, no makeup, no line memorizing, and no 6 a.m. calls. I am on two shows right now and I really prefer it as it allows me to do all of the other things I am interested in doing. I love voice overs and hopefully I will continue to do it forever.
Hocus Pocus has become such a classic film. Every year during October leading up to Halloween, it is heavily promoted and shown on various networks. Did you ever think during filming, all these years later, you would be touring doing events like the ones you recently hosted at Englewood’s BergenPAC or Morristown’s MayoPAC?
KN: Life is interesting. I have done approximately 30 films or so. I do the project, I walk away, and I typically don’t consider whether it will be a hit or not, because by the time of its release I am usually on to my next project. It is always amusing to see which projects people will relate to or gravitate to. Originally, Hocus Pocus did not do well at the box office during opening weekend. However, after years of being shown on television, it has become a cultural phenomenon, passed down from generation to generation. The resurgence alone year after year is astounding.
How did you feel about the loss of your co-star, Cameron Boyce, from Disney’s Descendants?
KN: Isn’t that the saddest situation. What a sweet boy. Cameron was so thoughtful, professional, and focused. He was truly beyond his years. In the time I was lucky enough to work with Cameron, I became very fond of him and feel so bad for his family. I recently gave Kenny Ortega, the director, his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cameron’s entire family was present, and it was tough.
You are an experienced speaker and very vocal politically. Although it is still the early stages, who are you rooting for to receive the Democratic nomination?
KN: I have been working with the Clinton family for many, many years. First, I worked with Bill Clinton. Then for Hillary Clinton, I did a lot of surrogate speaking on the road, I worked with her camp a lot, and I was vocal about her as the nominee. This election, I am holding off endorsing a candidate because of what took place last time with the split between Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton followed by Jill Stein vs. Hillary Clinton. If we had all rallied around Hillary, we would not have had the loss of democracy and compassion in our country that we have now. The reason I am not endorsing a candidate is because whomever the Democratic candidate is, that is who I will rally around 100% because once we split, as we have witnessed, it can go south entirely. I am happy to have anybody but Trump (laughs). We have to exhibit a stronger sense of support for whoever the Democratic candidate is, or else we will lose like last time. We have to unite around humanity, democracy, equality, and compassion.
What issues are you most passionate about, and moreover, what do you view as the most integral issues taking place right now within America?
KN: Those are some good heavy questions. The issue right now for me is to help get elected a President who has a far greater reach and a bigger scope of humanity, democracy, and freedom. Historically, I have been an advocate for LGBTQ rights. I have worked for various AIDS organizations since the 1980’s. I have also been involved with causes to benefiting women’s rights, domestic violence, reproductive rights and animal rights. I received an award from Paul McCartney through PETA due to my involvement. I try to parlay my activism within my career as well. For example, I helped produce a Broadway play about my friend Gloria Steinem and her life, which is now touring the country.
Currently, I am producing a television show about a particular magazine in correlation with the women’s movement based in the 1970s. Moreover, last month I began work on my upcoming documentary having conversations and discussions with the 53% of white married women who voted for Donald Trump. This is going to be especially mind-blowing.