20 December 1998 (Calgary Sun)
Newcomer Monica Potter admits to feeling the heat when co-starring opposite veteran actor Robin Williams
NEW YORK -- How envied is Monica Potter? The former model's been an actress for less than four years, and she's already worked with Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise and Robin Williams.
Forget about being the target of jealous trash talk among her peers.
How does she cope with the pressure of working with such accomplished actors?
"I don't," says 27-year-old Potter sitting nervously in a Manhattan hotel room. "I sweat a lot."
She acts a lot, too.
She played Cage's wife in Con Air, and was hired by Without Limits producer Cruise to play the female confidante to '70s track star Steve Prefontaine.
Soon she can be seen in Patch Adams, playing the medical student girlfriend of a rebellious intern (Williams).
In the comedy-drama opening Friday, the Tom Shadyac picture profiles a real-life doctor who believed that personalized treatment would help to comfort the sick and dying. To that end, Adams would often dress as a clown called Patch to entertain patients.
For Potter, her Patch Adams assignment was to define her character's dysfunctional family past without having her character verbalize it.
"I was worried that toward the end of the film," Potter says, "that moviegoers might not get what she was about."
As usual, the self-deprecating Potter was under-estimating her abilities.
"I had to be assured a lot," she admits. But the Robin Williams seal of approval convinced her she was on the right track.
"He was incredible," confirms Potter, referring to Williams' nice-guy reputation. "He really wants to know everything about you, because he genuinely loves people."
In fact, she was amazed at the similarities between Williams and the real Patch Adams who visited the North Carolina set. "Like Robin, Patch wants to make sure you feel okay."
Potter did. And she has ever since she decided to pack up her modelling portfolio, and move to L.A. as an aspiring actress in 1994.
Potter already had a showbiz history. Born and raised in Cleveland, she began commercial modelling and acting in children's theatre there. When she was 18, she moved to Chicago to expand her modelling career, then to Miami.
At 24, she was in L.A., but she had 13 years of showbiz experience under her belt. The acting jobs just seemed to happen.
"I have been blessed," she says. "Everybody seems to talk about the downside, the nasty people who are out to ruin you, but I haven't come across them."
She smiles devilishly. "Well, maybe once or twice."
But who's counting? Not Potter. She's learning the positive ways to do things by observing actors she's worked with -- Cage, Cruise and Williams.
"They surround themselves with friends and the people they can trust most," she says.
What she hasn't mastered yet is how to pace herself.
"I'm very impatient," Potter suggests. "I'm like, 'Come on, let's go and do this.' But I'm learning you have to live in the moment without other things in the back of your mind."
Very philosophical. It's sort of like the Patch Adams character in the film. It's sort of Patchian.
"Actually," says a chuckling Monica Potter, "it's very Monica-ian.
"I'm learning I have to take a breath and slowdown. I'm happier that way."
So, she is.
Potter has two more movies coming out next year. One's a drama called A Cool Dry Place with Vince Vaughn. The other is a comedy with the working title of Martha Meet Frank, Daniel And Lawrence.
She filmed those a while ago. Right now, Potter's taking stock and a break.
"Y'know, 13 years ago I was doing commercials in Cleveland," says Potter. "The stakes are higher now, but it's basically the same thing. And you learn the same things about people."
What has she learned about herself? She's no post-fame whiner.
"For me to sit around and grumble about all the extra things you have to do as an actor is ridiculous. I don't get some people.
"I say to them, 'If ya don't like the business, leave it. Or quit complaining.'
"It's like, 'Oh no, another fitting at Calvin Klein.'
"Y'know, think about it. You could be working at Burger King."
Potter tries to amend what she's just said.
"Wait. Not that working at Burger King is a bad thing, because I worked at Burger King. I was a fry cook. It's okay."
Potter shakes her head from side to side like she's disappointed.
"That sounded so snotty," she says almost to herself. "That was wrong."
"Oh, my gawd," she says, "I'm sweating again."
THE MONICA POTTER FILE
BORN: In Cleveland on the blue collar side of town. "My dad was an inventor. My mom was a secretary."
HER START: "My dad sent pictures of me to a local agency." Beginning at age 12, she worked in commercial modelling, moved to Chicago when she was 18 for more modelling. Later, it was on to Miami, but the 5-foot-9 Potter says she was never tall enough to make it in high fashion.
WORKING MOM: She's the mother of two boys seven and three. "The oldest one knows what I do. The other one isn't sure."