Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

December 20, 2013

Kay ‘Baby’ rides wave of stardom

Rusk native films movie with Pacino

April Barbe and Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

RUSK — Sometimes an actor has natural abilities and characteristics that make directors fall in love with them.

That was the case for Rusk native Kay "Baby" Epperson.

When she showed up on the set of "Bernie" starring Jack Black and Shirley MacClaine in 2011, Director Richard Linklater had to have her.

And thus, a star was born.

Kay enjoyed working with her co-stars – Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey – calling them “the nicest” people she’s met, although making movies, themselves, came as a surprise.

“I never knew it was so much work, making a movie,” said Kay, who was cast as a townsperson in “Bernie,” garnering rave reviews for her role as a busybody.

“I thought (the process) was done a lot faster – I had no concept of the time and money involved. Like with ‘Bernie,’ when we filmed the courtroom scene. In the movie it was only about five minutes, but we filmed from Sunday through Monday night,” she recalled. “And the crew was there every day, two hours before filming and two or three hours after, building and disassembling the set.”

Her husband Gary “was the one who insisted ‘why don’t you go out and try it?’” when open casting calls were held in Tyler.

“He said I didn’t have anybody to play with that day,” she laughed, recalling how she made it through the first round of elimination and was invited to Carthage, where she packed a headshot for the audition.

“When I got to the lake (near Carthage), there wasn’t any sign out there except a stop sign, so I called 9-1-1” and pleaded with the communications officers for directions, she said. “And she stayed on the line until I got there. And honey, there was 400 people there!”

But the former beauty salon owner made an impression with her distinct East Texas accent and attitude.

“They called me the next morning and said, ‘We love your voice.’ And I said it was for sale,” she said, chuckling.

However, she admitted, “when ‘Bernie’ was over, I thought ‘Nobody is going to come knocking at my door’ with more work, and I realized I should get an agent. So I asked Larry (Jack) Dotson, who was the minister in ‘Bernie’ if he knew of a good agent.”

And Dotson – who said “although I didn't get to work directly with her, I loved her from the moment I met her” – gave Kay the name of his agent in Dallas.

More importantly, he was so impressed with the East Texas actress that he cast her in his short film "Amazin' Grace."

In the short film, Kay plays "Darlene" who is a hairdresser.

"She was our first choice for Darlene in Amazin' Grace! I just never saw anyone else in that role," Dotson said.

Dotson added that he believes the scene with Kay is the funniest scene in the film.

When it comes to directing Kay "Baby," Dotson had to admit it's not easy.

"Kay is Kay. In other words you give her an idea of what you want and just turn her loose," he said. "It is sometimes hard for other actors working with her because she does her on thing but if you let her go, what you get is movie magic!"

The short film was recently selected for the 2014 USA Film Festival, which makes it an OSCAR-qualifying short film.

She also appeared in the Nicolas Cage movie, “Joe,” cast as Stacy, whom Kay described as “a drunk woman cleaning deer” carcasses.

And she recently completed filming in Austin on the Al Pacino project, “Manglehorn.”

The movie, in which she has scenes as an irate “garbage lady” and as  a garbage retrieval and casino scenes, is scheduled for release in 2014, according to the website imdb.com.

She enjoyed working with Pacino, who stars as Manglehorn, whom Hollywood entertainment website www.deadline.com describes as a locksmith who “gave up the love of his life for a life of crime and … regrets it as the world crumbles around him.”

Pacino, probably best known for his roles in “The Godfather” trilogy and “Scarface,” was a very nice guy to work with, Kay said.

“He has the best eye contact of anybody I’ve known – when he’s talking with you, he’s completely focused on you,” she said.

Kay’s focus now is on “A Boy in the Sun,” for which she auditioned for one part, but believes might be cast for another.

“They start shooting in February,” so she’ll just spend the interim keeping busy projects through Good Samaritans, the local organization that helps those in need, for which she is vice president.

The past several years have flown by in “such a whirlwind,” but she’s enjoyed every bit of it, Kay admitted.

“I have had the most interesting and wonderful life – God has blessed me,” she said. “I cast my bread upon the water and it came back as tuna fish sandwiches. All I have to say is, thank you, Jesus.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Dotson.

“Kay is a sweetheart and the kind of lady you wish was your grandmother. Love her!" he enthused.