“Tammy Blanchard’s performance in Amish Grace gets to your heart and evokes emotions that leave you feeling numb from sorrow for the character she portrays. This multi -talented actress is one more role closer to winning an Academy Award . She is well on her way to becoming a certified movie star like Meryl Streep, Helen Mirrin, Charlize Theron, Betty Davis, Greta Garbo and “Hollywood Lady Royalty” we have come to love – She is the one to watch” –The River View Observer
Amish Grace Sunday Night March 28th-8pm on the Lifetime Channel
By Sally Deering
Emmy-award winning actress Tammy Blanchard recalls growing up in the 1980s a shy girl who cherished Judy Garland’s performance in “The Wizard of Oz,” and dreamed of her own stardom in her tiny bedroom. In the past ten years, Blanchard’s break-out performances as Judy Garland and other complex women have received critical acclaim and respect from her peers. And like Garland, whom Blanchard calls her “angel,” when it comes to playing a role or singing a song, her shyness disappears and she becomes a chameleon blending herself into the part and in the process turning in dynamic, edge-of-your-seat performances that are anything but shy.
This week, TV viewers can tune in to see Blanchard in two sensational roles in a TV movie on the Lifetime Movie Network and in NBC’s Monday night line-up. On Sunday, (March 28th) Blanchard takes on the role of a young wife dealing with anger and guilt after her husband kills five young Amish girls in the TV-movie “Amish Grace” on LMN (Lifetime Movie Network, 8 pm;) and, on Monday, (March 29th) Blanchard plays another young mother in the “Law & Order,” episode “Brazil,” (NBC, 10 pm.)
A new mom herself, Blanchard, 33, brings a sense of truth to the mother roles she plays. She says this comes from her deep relationships with her own mom, Patty Rettig, and her 2 year-old daughter, an adorable toddler and Blanchard’s bundle of sheer joy.
“Now that I’m a mom, it’s not about me anymore, it’s not about the goal to be a movie star,” Blanchard says. “I wanted to be a movie star, now its condensed to I want to give and receive love and this talent that God has given me is like this child he has given me, something I need to nurture and respect and use with good intentions.”
Although she’s never taken an acting class, Blanchard’s natural talent is as evident as her natural beauty. Off-camera, she wears no make-up and comes across as quiet and somewhat serious. On-camera, she can explode with emotions that are so raw, they make viewers feel like their hearts are being ripped out of their chests – she’s that good! And the TV and film credits Blanchard keeps racking up on her resume are strong indicators of the high-quality of her work and the increasing demand for her talents.
In 2001, Blanchard earned an Emmy Award for her spot-on portrayal of the sweet, yearning and deeply-troubled Judy Garland in “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” that also starred Judy Davis. This role garnered Blanchard raves from critics and started opening doors, like the movie “The Good Shepherd,” directed by Robert DeNiro and the Broadway production of “Gypsy, The Musical Fable” where Blanchard transformed from a gawky 13 year-old girl to the elegant striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee and earned a Tony award nomination in the process. She recently completed filming “Rabbit Hole” playing the younger sister to Nicole Kidman’s character. Kidman is also producing the project.
Immersing herself in the characters she plays seems to be Blanchard’s trademark. A self-described “sponge,” Blanchard knows she has acted with some of the best in the business and has chosen to observe the masters in action, soaking in their knowledge, listening to their perspectives, applying what they’ve taught her and then letting it rip. Blanchard channels the emotional pain of the characters she plays with an uncanny depth that seems to be rare in most actresses her age.
Blanchard attributes her acting ability to a somewhat lonely childhood growing up in Bayonne, a “Pleasantville” type of New Jersey community in the shadow of New York City. Like her favorite movie character, Dorothy in her favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” Blanchard has traveled to faraway places, but there’s still no place like home.
“For me, Bayonne is my family, my hometown, my safe place, and I love this place more than anything,” Blanchard says from the porch of her cozy house on the first sunny day of spring. She is joined by her Calico cat, “Deva,” who plops down next to her to sunbathe while through the window, Blanchard keeps an eye on her daughter playing in the living room under the watchful eye of her dad and Blanchard’s partner of 11 years, Damon Chasmer. “Most of us are from all the same background in this town. We grew up together. We’ve all been through the middle-class trial and error and we understand it. This town should feel pride in every success I’ve had. This town gave me everything I have inside me. If I grew up in another place and time, it would all be different.”
It was in public school when Blanchard, a sixth-grader, first felt the inspiration to become an actress from friend and family members’ reactions to her solo rendition of “Over the Rainbow” in an assembly program. When she finished, there was complete silence at first and then a roar of applause.
“It was like a way for me to express what I was feeling, all the joy and hope that I really had in my heart as a child and it was a way to bring joy to my family,” Blanchard remembers. “That’s when I realized, wow, maybe I can do this.”
The Wonder Years
Blanchard doesn’t hail from a theatrical family and she didn’t really have connections to show biz’s movers and shakers, so if you ask her how she managed to carve out a serious acting career, she says without hesitation that it was her mother Patty, who inspired her. Patty Rettig saw that her daughter Tammy had talent and when Tammy was 13 and in high school, she wanted to compete in the Miss Teen New Jersey pageant. She didn’t win the crown, but a manager was impressed enough to get her an audition with a talent agency that signed her and sent her on commercial auditions. Patty Rettig accompanied Tammy to her auditions while raising two other children with Tammy’s father, a Vietnam Veteran. These were tough times for the family, Tammy says.
“My mom would scrape 20 bucks together and we would drive into New York for an audition,” Blanchard remembers. “It was a broken down car and she would sit in the car for hours, waiting for me to come down from my audition. She would do anything for me.”
Blanchard spent the next several years doing commercials for Domino’s Pizza and other products, while going on TV and film auditions. Her first big break came in 1997 when she landed the role of spoiled brat Drew Jacobs in the soap opera “Guiding Light.” She worked on the show for 3 years and credits actress Patty D’Arbanville – who played her biological mother on the show- for teaching her about acting for the camera.
“Because she was such a natural actress, I learned a lot from Patty,” Blanchard says. “She allowed me to open up and find my own instrument; it was great to work with her. I’m always working with great women – Patty, Jessica Lange, Bernadette Peters, Blythe Danner …”
But it was her breakout role in “Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” that earned Blanchard an Emmy for her uncannily spot-on performance as a young Garland. She signed with one of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies, ICM, and began attracting the attention of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Robert DeNiro Directs
In 2006, DeNiro cast Blanchard alongside Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie in “The Good Shepherd,” a spy film about the birth of counter-intelligence in the CIA. Blanchard played a girl who was hearing-impaired and during filming, she remembers DeNiro being extremely particular about his direction, sometimes doing 20 takes until he was pleased.
Once satisfied with the take, DeNiro would nod his head, Blanchard says, illustrating her point by scrunching her eyes, lowering her voice and saying, “That was good. That was good.” It’s a dead-on DeNiro impression.
“He was fatherly to me,” Blanchard says. “He gave me the advice that enhanced my performances for (the film) ‘Bella,’ and probably saved me from a lot of bad performances in my life. He told me (when playing a role) to never play the victim. The point is to not know you’re being victimized and always try to keep your dignity. He definitely changed my career.”
Playing 16 Characters in One
In 2008, Blanchard gave a heartbreaking performance as the title character in the TV redux of “Sybil,” based on the real-life experiences of a young woman who splintered into multiple personalities to deal with the abuse she suffered as a child. In a review of the work, “New York Times” critic Neil Genzingler wrote, “The film has fine performances by Tammy Blanchard in the title role and Jessica Lange (as) the psychiatrist. It is crisply told and full of powerful scenes…”
It’s been a little more than a year since “Sybil,” and in that time, Blanchard has landed plum roles in TV shows like “Law & Order,” and films including “Rabbit Hole,” starring Nicole Kidman and directed by John Cameron-Mitchell – director of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Blanchard has acted with the some of the biggest stars in show business and she hopes one day to work with her favorite actress, Meryl Streep.
There’s No Place like Home
And now that she’s proven herself in the industry and enjoying a fulfilling acting career, Blanchard talks about fulfilling one more childhood dream.
“I want to build homeless shelters, stock the shelves with food and employ the mothers and fathers,” Blanchard says. “This is a big dream I had when I was a little girl. I remember my mom struggling to get by cleaning other people’s homes. I always felt compassion for single mothers with children. I’ve always wanted to help.”
LMN (Lifetime Movie Network)
Sun, Mar. 28th, 8 pm
“The Amish Community of Nickel Mines is forever changed when a gunman senselessly takes the lives of five girls in a schoolhouse shooting before taking his own life. What transpires afterward takes the community by storm, as the media descend on the town and criticize its Amish leaders for their notion of unconditional forgiveness of the shooter and their outreach of support to his widow, Amy Roberts (Tammy Blanchard.) Devastated by her daughter’s death, Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) finds herself struggling with her community’s belief in the transcending power of forgiveness. Deeply conflicted and unable to forgive the gunman and his family, Ida is tempted to leave the only life she’s ever known before re-embracing her faith,” – www.lmn.tv