If Robyn Peterman Zahn had to choose between being the world’s most successful actress and the world’s most successful author… she wouldn’t. “None of the above,” is her answer. “I loved being an actress and LOVE being an author, but the best job I have is being a mom! However, if I have to answer the question…it would be author.” She elaborates, “I like having a job where I can work in my underpants.”
Are there commonalities in the two fields? “Yes and no,” she says. “Character study and figuring out motive is somewhat similar, but I don’t have to dry my hair and put on make-up to write.”
(Asked to fill in the blank, “I’m always shocked to see…” she finishes, “my makeup-free face in the morning.”)
Advantage: literary career.
Peterman is a multitude of hyphenates. She’s a Broadway actress (and daughter of world-famous retail magnate John Peterman) who moved back to the bluegrass to raise a family (and a menagerie of rescue pets), with “hot hubby,” actor Steve Zahn. She says, “We call Kentucky, Paradise. It’s beautiful and a fantastic place to raise kids.”
What Lexington stereotype is definitely NOT true? “Not everyone rides horses, the grass isn’t really blue and most of us have shoes.” What Lexington stereotype IS true? “People in Lexington are genuinely nice and the Wildcats kick ass.”
Peterman-Zahn has been active in local theatre, and she and Zahn collaborated in 2012 on The Rep’s production of Bye Bye Birdie at the Lexington Opera House. She’s also known for her wildly popular books, like her Hot Damned series. Book three, Hell on Heels, is due out in September.
Although her husband’s next big role will be as a recurring guest star on Modern Family this fall, he is the actor she would choose to play her in the movie of her life. “I would choose my hubby,” she says, “in drag…using lots of soft focus and long shots. He knows me better than anyone in the world and does some hilarious (and unflattering) imitations.” (She posts photos of him sleeping peacefully on facebook — his hair festooned with bows and barrettes— captioned, “This is what happens at my house if you fall asleep during movie night. You have all been warned….”) He isn’t the only actor in the family given to impressions. She says the hardest she’s laughed this year is when “my son did my ‘mad’ face and nailed it. Now I laugh when I am letting them have it.”
She’s known for sharing entertaining photos of the carnage wrought by the family’s ever-growing troupe of rescue dogs. So, what was the fate of Karen the Chair Eater and Donna the Destroyer after they killed the family sofa? “Um…nothing,” she admits. “They are sitting here staring at me as I write. They took a dip in our pond tonight and rolled in mulch to seal in the aroma. They are evil and if they weren’t so damn cute I would yell at them.” She describes her greatest extravagance as “collecting stray animals and sparkly Ugg boots.”
Asked what is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to her about her writing, she says, “That they were having a really rough time in life and reading one of my books made them laugh and took them away. I made them happy.” The meanest thing? “Um…I did get a letter asking me if I was worried about my soul. I framed that one.”
After writing ‘The End’ on her Hell on Heels manuscript, did a debauched night on the town follow, worthy of one of her characters? She says, “I passed out. I write at night and usually stay up way too late. (Ask my family…) So when I wrote the end, I crawled to my bed fully clothed and curled up next to my Hot Hubby.”
Lightning Round with the Author
Quick: Is Lexington the South, or the Midwest?
SOUTH SOUTH SOUTH
Name five things in your refrigerator right now:
Milk, Greek yogurt, pickles, strawberries, leftovers from last night
Name five things in your car right now:
Empty cups, wrappers, four pairs of reading glasses, fuzz buster, and a pound of change
Favorite restaurant meal in Lexington?
Brussel sprout salad at Dudleys
What book is on your nightstand right now?
I am reading A Wrinkle in Time (again).
Authors that make you squee:
Thea Harrison, Darynda Jones and Molly Harper.
Dakota Cassidy, Jeaniene Frost, Donna McDonald, David Sedaris and Eve Langlais
Favorite character you’ve ever played:
My favorite character was playing Maggie in the national tour of Chorus Line.
Robyn Peterman Zahn is an actress/author. She and actor Steve Zahn were married in 2004 in Lexington, and they have two children. Her acting credits include the movie, Sour Grapes, written and directed by Seinfeld co-creator Larry David. Seinfeld immortalized her father, famous retail impresario John Peterman, when John O’Hurley played the recurring character of J. Peterman, Elaine’s boss. His character was written and directed to speak in the voice of the J. Peterman catalog.
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