You don't know her name. (And if you did, you wouldn't know how to pronounce it.) But you do know her face. For more than 20 years Siobhan Fallon Hogan has been making you laugh, playing opposite those people with the famous names. She's had stints on Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld, and memorable roles in movies like Men in Black, Baby Mama, Forrest Gump, Holes, and Charlotte's Web.
Her latest movie, which opens this week, is New in Town, a romantic comedy starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. But it was an unexpected name that piqued her interest in joining this particular cast—Jesus.
"I'm always praying for a part that would be something that I could be really proud of, in which I could use the gifts God gave me in a positive way," says Hogan, whose first name is pronounced "Sha-vaun." "So when I read the script and saw that my character mentioned Jesus and it wasn't in a mocking way, I was excited. But I thought surely on the next page or the next page she's going to be the brunt of the joke—like every other Hollywood movie that portrays Christian women it seems like. We're either Tammy Faye Baker or jerks."
But as Hogan read on, she was impressed by the earnest faith of Blanche Gunderson and her community. "I felt like the role was a gift from God," she says. "I said to God, 'You've got to be kidding me. I have got to get this part.'"
As Blanche, Hogan heads up the welcome wagon when Lucy Hill (Zellweger) moves to the small town of New Ulm, Minnesota, on a short-term assignment from the corporate offices in Miami. Lucy's job is to automate and downsize a factory in New Ulm, and she has to go through the local union representative, Ted Mitchell (Connick), to make it happen. Needless to say, things do not go as Lucy plans.
'I could be so wealthy!'
Hogan laughs when she thinks about her own plans for her career and trying to make it in Hollywood as a Christian.
"My faith has had a terrible effect on my career! I could be so wealthy!" she says. Her unwillingness to be sexually lewd short-circuited her time on Saturday Night Live, and she remembers other roles that slipped through her fingers for similar reasons. "I had a recurring role on a TV show and they wanted my character to start having an affair that would start at Mass. And so I said, 'I'm out.'
"And of course, people can't believe it. They say, 'You're making X amount of dollars. What do you mean you're out? This could really get your career started.' And I said, 'I don't really care. I've got three kids and I've got to show them that what I'm teaching them is what I believe. And if I don't walk the walk and talk the talk, what the heck good is it? What's it all about anyway?"
Family is important to Hogan. She was raised in a large Catholic brood in upstate New York and is now an active mom at the Catholic school in New Jersey where she and her husband send their three kids. The energetic redhead is often at the fore of activities that build into the spiritual lives of her children and their peers at the school—taking children on retreats where prayer is a focus and starting a traveling nativity program at Christmastime called the Stations of the Crèche.
And while she's long tried to make career decisions in light of her faith, Hogan finds that as she's gotten older, she's more comfortable being open about her Christianity.
"I worked with Lauren Bacall one time and she told me she used to hide the fact that she was Jewish because she knew no one would hire her in those days," says Hogan. "In the old days, I never hid the fact that I was Catholic, but I wasn't free to talk about it for fear that it would hurt my career. But now that I'm in my 40s, I really don't care what people think. I don't have to prove anything."
That freedom was on display on the New in Town set when, at a dinner with the cast and crew, a producer started asking Hogan some questions. When he found out she sends her kids to a Catholic school, he said, "You're not really Catholic, though? It's a cultural thing, right?"
Hogan answered: "I'm the real deal!" She says the rest of the evening involved spirited conversation about religion, and she dished out gentle teasing throughout the filming, singing hymns to the producer when he was on set.
Proud of New movie
In the film, Hogan wears a cross around her neck that her father gave her before he passed away in July. Wearing that cross is just one reason she's proud of New in Town.
"I really think anyone can go see it," she says. "I was so not shocked to find out that the screenwriter, Ken Rance, is a Christian. Not only does he talk about Jesus in the script, but he also wrote in a really respectful relationship between Ted and his teenage daughter. It seems like most shows are full of kids disrespecting their parents."
But not New in Town, which recently received a PG rating from the MPAA after an initial PG-13 rating. (Kudos to Lionsgate and Gold Circle films, which jointly decided to delete strong language from the film, making it more family accessible.)
Hogan says it's been one of her best career moves.
"I've had so many career opportunities that could have been turning points, and made my name more famous, and I turned them down because something didn't fit with my faith," she says. "I figure that when it's all over, God's not going to care how much money I made. I want to be like my father when he died. I want to be in my hospital bed and be really proud of my life."
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