I had the honor of interviewing Kathy Garver by phone this morning. Kathy Garver is best known as Cissy in “Family Affair” – also starring Brian Keith, Sebastian Cabot, Johnny Whitaker, and Anissa Jones. I watched the reruns when I was little, and my mom used to style my hair like Buffy’s (played by the late Anissa Jones). I also had the Mrs. Beasley doll. Kathy’s website is http://www.kathygarver.com/bio.htm
1)Kathy, what other actors were you up against when you auditioned for the role of Cissy in Family Affair?
I didn’t really know who else was auditioning for Cissy. I only knew about Diane Mountford. And then she went on a trip, and didn’t sign the contract. They were starting work on the pilot, and didn’t have a Cissy. So I got the part.
2)What did you think of your role as Cissy? Did you have a say in how she developed as a character?
The producers listened to me, but then rejected my ideas. I wanted mini-skirts and outfits of the 60’s and parties. It turns out that they were right – the show was not dated. The clothes were classic, although I did get them to raise my hems a little. Unfortunately for Anissa and Johnny, they didn’t let them grow up. They wanted to keep them as young as possible for as long as possible.
3)Were you and the rest of the cast a close -knit family – especially when the cameras stopped rolling?
Being with the cast 24/7, it was nice to go back to my own home. And although I would have dinner with Sebastian, or Anissa would spend the night, everyone had their own family lives. We were close on the set, but off the set, we just didn’t have time.
4)What was your relationship with Anissa Jones like during and after the series? Did you stay in touch with her until her death? Where were you when you heard the news about her death? Were there moments on the set when you worried about her – how she was being treated?
Anissa had a very controlling mom who kept her under her thumb. As did the producers. Next week, I’m making a speech at the Motion Picture Mothers Luncheon about the role mothers had/have in guiding their children in the business. Anissa and I had a great relationship. I went to her eighteenth birthday party, and her mom asked me to spend some time with her – Anissa was getting involved in the wrong crowds, and was worried about her. I heard about Anissa’s death when I was doing “My Fair Lady” back east. Sadly, the show wouldn’t let her grow up. They wouldn’t let her rest. They constantly wanted her to do publicity.
5)Were there any roles before, during, and after Family Affair that you really wanted, but didn’t get?
Lots! I wanted to be in “The Sound Of Music,” but didn’t even get an interview! I was in between ages. I also wanted to be in “The Flying Nun.” I also wanted to work with Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote.” But this year, I did a murder mystery movie that made up for it – “Mom, Murder & Me.”
6)What was it like working with the amazing Brian Keith and Sebastian Cabot?
They had very different styles from one another. Sebastian would spend the weekends going over all his lines until they were perfect. Brian would come in, look at the lines once, and say, “OK, let’s get on with it!” This made them perfect together. Sebastian just had a hard time learning lines . Brian was a wonderful actor, but didn’t get the due that he deserved. He loved the work. He really brought his character to life.
7)Kathy, what are you up to now?
I am in the midst of funding a film called Sold. I finished writing my book “Surviving Cissy: My Family Affair Of Life In Hollywood.” It’ll be out in 2014. I record an audio book a month – I have my own studio. I teach Voice-over in San Francisco. My son, 22, is opening a business for his clothing line – PLATINUM ATTIRE – and I am helping him set up his business.