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Meet Actress Molly Gray

From West De Pere to the West Coast

By Freddy Moyano

Molly Gray incarnates the villain role of Goneril in ‘The Lear Project’, which will screen at the Tarlton Theatre on May 29. Julian Joaquín Photo

Born in Green Bay and raised in the west De Pere area, actress Molly Gray said she took an interest in acting at an early age.

“The men in my family are very scientific and the women more creative,” Gray, whose father is a retired physician, said. “My mom was a dance teacher and actress. She still performs regularly with Birder Players in their musicals, so I absolutely take after her.”

Her acting debut came as Gladys Herdman in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a De Pere Christmas tradition at the Webb Theatre – which is when she said she began to develop a clear ambition for performing in front of audiences.

“I had the lead in The Servant of Two Masters, which was St. Norbert College’s fall play, when I was 16,” Gray said. “I also did the tour of Tony ‘N Tina’s Wedding when it came to the Meyer Theatre.”

After graduating from Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, where she was a member of the drama club, Gray went on to major in theater at Butler University in Indianapolis.

Gray, the eldest of three children, said her college years allowed her to travel and deepen her passion for acting, completing apprenticeships at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in Michigan, The Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts and the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia.

Her approach to learn from different acting cultures and places did not end there.

“I moved to Chicago for a year after school, but quickly moved to New York where I spent six years working on Off-Broadway shows, earning my SAG (screen actors guild) card and producing short film projects,” Gray said. “I moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and have been fortunate enough to land a really great manager, and continue to pursue work acting in television, film and (when there’s not a pandemic happening) theater.”

Among her preferred roles, the villain types – a preference she said began in eighth grade when her class performed Romeo and Juliet.

“Even though I missed out on the lead, I was able to play the role of Tybalt, the villain, which to this day might be one of my favorite experiences,” Gray said.

A passion that never sleeps

As for screen acting, Gray said it naturally became part of her life when she moved to New York. “I landed a few roles on minor sets or friends’ projects and tried to take on everything I could as to how production runs,” she said. “It was really inspiring to see my friends create their own projects and content. Always being up for a challenge, I wrote, produced and starred in my first pilot about working in a late night bar in New York called 86 My Life.”

She said they filmed the pilot down the street from the bar she was working at back then – and was a true homage to the “City That Never Sleeps.” 

Gray said filming started around 4 a.m., typically shot until noon, then back to work by 4 p.m.

“It was definitely a crash course in filmmaking, but I had so much fun making this project,” she said.

Shakespearean at heart

Gray said she owes a lot of her dynamic resourcefulness and fascination for William Shakespeare to Dianne Timmerman, a college mentor and “super hero” she has always admired.

“She ran six miles per day, raised five children, taught and performed while learning languages in her spare time,” she said. “She’s amazing… One time in class, she walked to the center of the room, turned around and just transformed as she all of a sudden started performing a Twelfth Night monologue. Watching her perform Viola was magnificent.”

Before she moved to Los Angeles, Gray said she was cast in an episode of Inside Amy Schumer, which ran for three seasons on Comedy Central.

“Really super fun,” she said. “Great set. Excellent team. I landed that role through a casting agency.”

While in New York, Gray said she met Goran Ivanovski, whom she ended up marrying (last year) after years of friendship and mutual work in several projects.

“It’s really nice to marry a fellow artist, because you have a built-in scene partner, reader and sometimes collaborator,” she said. “The hard part is you’re both artists and freelancers without a stable 9-5 job.”

Gray said she has always been fascinated by female Shakespearean characters.

While in LA, she said she wrote and performed the role of Goneril in The Lear Project (2018). “I wanted to take a notorious character from a Shakespearean tragedy and place her in a totally different world,” she said. “For The Lear Project, I made Goneril heir to a Mafia family in modern day Boston and created a short that would explore a scene between her and Edmund plotting to take down her father. She was definitely a lot of fun to play.”

A little more about Molly Gray

Molly Gray has been interested in acting since she was young, and got her start in ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ as Gladys Herdman. James DePietro Photo

Comedy or drama?

”I think I’m equally drawn to comedy and drama, especially projects that sort of blur those lines.

Most of my theatrical experience has been in drama.”

Are you a Green Bay Packers fan?

“Yes! My dad was the team’s physician for the last 29 seasons (retired in 2021), so we definitely grew up in a Packer household. Going to games, Super Bowls, Pro Bowls all through the Mike Holmgren/Brett Favre and then Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers era was an amazing time.”

Favorite Green Bay hang-out spot?

“When I’m back in Green Bay, Nicky’s Lionhead Tavern is a must. Johnny Nick is a phenomenal cook and a muffaletta and a Spotted Cow is a must. For my wedding this past June, Nicky’s hosted the after-party and we had a blast. I loved going to the Weidner Center as a child as well, and am so grateful to my parents for exposing me to the arts at such a young age.”

Acting tips for someone who is just getting started?

“Find the joy and love what you do. Keeping sight of why you are pursuing your dream helps when the times get really tough.

Find opportunities anywhere you can. Just because you hear one “no” doesn’t mean there isn’t a better “yes” somewhere else for you.

Be nice to everyone. No one wants to work with a rude person. There will always be someone more talented than you, so always be nice.”

Current projects?

“I’m currently working on a script with my writing partner about a woman vigilante who targets and murders rapists, as well as a few short projects and have recently started ‘The Artist’s Way’ workbook for the first time.”

Plans for the next 5 years?

To be happy and fulfilled creatively. These past two years have definitely challenged how I find space for creativity and art so I’ve had to adapt and find new ways to fulfill that need. It’s an ongoing test, but I find the only way for me to truly be happy is honor the artistic part of my soul, even if what that looks like is different than what I thought it would be.

Freddy Moyano is a film producer, entrepreneur, actor, critic and voice-over artist based in Green Bay. Follow Freddy on Instagram @freddymoyanoofficial.

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