Meet the Oldest Working Member of SAG
Connie Sawyer — who appears in The Hollywood Reporter magazine's feature about the history and the future of beloved industry retirement community the MPTF Country House — has appeared in everything from 1979's 'Fast Break' with Gabe Kaplan to Showtime's 'Ray Donovan,' which she "loved": "My son was a hitman, and I really got to cuss."
A version of this story first appeared in the May 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
"With John Oliver's show, they said, 'Get Connie to do this,' " 10-year home resident Connie Sawyer recalls of a bit part she played on a recent episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight. "I had to get to 102 not to have to audition — for once!" The character actress (the oldest working member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy) has specialized in "old ladies — happy, cranky, sad" since the Ford administration. (Her first listed IMDb credit as such was in 1975's William Shatner-starring ABC spy drama Barbary Coast.)
With Gabe Kaplan on the set of the 1979 film 'Fast Break.'
Between regular poker games, occasional visits to Santa Anita Park ("I'm a big bettor – two bucks!") and constant audiences with her grand- and great-grandchildren (there's 10 of them), Sawyer has remained busy on everything from 2 Broke Girls and New Girl to NCIS: Los Angeles and Ray Donovan. "I loved working on Donovan — my son was a hitman, and I really got to cuss," she says. One potential gig that didn't pan out: Performing opposite that other elder stateswoman of the Hollywood acting community, Betty White, on Hot in Cleveland. "They said I looked too much like her and they didn't buy me."
Protests aside, Sawyer still loves auditioning: "I go out because it keeps me young," she says. "I see most of my ladies, the old ladies, and I come in for the audition and they say, 'Oh, Connie's here, well, let's go home.'" MPTF supporter Yvette Nicole Brown, who has been visiting Sawyer for the past few years, can vouch for her fellow comic actress' popularity with casting directors: "My neighbor is 80, she's an actress — she talks about you," says Brown to Sawyer. "She says, 'That Connie beats me all the time!'" So what can Brown learn from Sawyer's eight decades (and counting) of experience? "Connie told me to just always be myself and always be as funny as I can be — because, you know, some people don't think women can be funny!" says Brown, who's currently starring on CBS' The Odd Couple. "She's been doing it for a long time and she said, 'Just take all your comedy and put it out in the world.' That's what I'm trying to do."