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Interview with Judy Pace

Judy Pace is a rarity, not so much because she's a young Black actress as because she's a young intelligent actress.

Young actresses are mostly heaven to look at and hell to talk to. Either they have nothing to say, or they're afraid they'll offend somebody if they say it. So you get quotes about how long the distances are in Los Angeles and what a wonderful woman Julie Andrews is to work with.

Judy Pace doesn't mess around like that. She says what's on her mind, and that must be a family tradition. Chicago audiences are familiar with her activist sister Jean Pace, a singer who often appears with Oscar Brown Jr.

Judy is currently co-starring with Christopher Jones and Yvette Mimieux in "Three in the Attic," which is a box office hit in its Chicago world premiere. If it does as well nationally, it could be her big break in the movies.

In the meantime, she keeps busy with a regular role on Peyton Place (starting this month), with a chain of dress shops she operates with her sister and with modeling assignments and TV commercials.

"The hardest thing to do," she said in an interview, "is to find any sort of movie role if you're a black actress. People don't realize that. They talk about Sidney Poitier and Jim Brown - but where are the actresses?

"Let's face it. If it weren't for TV, all the young black actresses in Hollywood would be unemployed.

Whenever they cast a movie, they don't look for actresses, but for vocalists. So Diahann Carroll, Abbey Lincoln and Barbara McNair get movie roles. But name me one young black actress - not a singer, not somebody with a pre-sold image - who's in the movies." Miss Pace said she established a five-year-plan for breaking into the movies. "I figured if I didn't make it by then, I'd quit wasting my time," she said. "I spent two years studying, taking acting classes and workshops, things like that. Then I began to do some modeling and to get an occasional TV role. And then the 'Three in the Attic' role came along in the fifth year, two weeks before the deadline . . . Not that I wouldn't have stretched the deadline, of course."

The interview ranged widely, and her remarks were direct, outspoken and laced with wit.

On the Peyton Place role: "I play a character who has hang-ups like everybody else. I'm not exactly a lady on the show, I suppose; I'm pregnant, running away from the police and blackmailing the doctor. And I don't come from the suburbs; I come from Harlem."

On roles for black actresses in the movies: "I think Peyton Place is more honest in dealing with the sorts of problems people are really into. You go to the movies, and if you see a black girl she's a goody-two-shoes. All the black women in the movies seem to be nurses, schoolteachers, social workers. Black women lead real lives, baby; they're not all doctors' wives."

On TV talk shows: "What gets me is the way the audience is always applauding all these noble, stupid statements the hosts and the guests come up with. Like a guest will say, teenagers aren't all bad, we have some good ones, and the audience will applaud. Or the host will say, we've got to support our boys right or wrong, and everybody will applaud like crazy, as if that made any sense. I don't think the audience listens, it is conditioned to applaud anything that sounds safe."

On her career: "If 'Three in the Attic' makes it, I'll have it a lot easier.

"Producers don't look for great performances, they look for lines at the box office. If your movie makes money, you get job offers. I have a good, strong role in this movie, and I'll get some of the credit. Or the blame, if it works out that way. But you know what? I don't think it will."

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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