When she was a teenager in South Windsor, Mellini Kantayya says she was a shy introvert. Fast forward a couple of decades and now she is a well-known actress, storyteller and author who is coming home this week. Kantayya, who has appeared on ‘One Life To Live,’ ‘As the World Turns’ and ‘Nurse Jackie,’ will be the featured guest Friday at the Mark Twain House & Museum’s “The Mouth” program, a storytelling series with WNPR personality Chion Wolf . Kantayya recently wrote ‘Actor. Writer. Whatever.’ essays on her ‘rise to the top of the bottom of the entertainment industry,’ and was more than happy to share her thoughts, her Connecticut memories and shamelessly plug Twain House House’s communications director, Jacques Lamarre, as she ‘Spilled the Beans’ with Java.
Q: Tell me about your life here in Connecticut. When did you graduate from South Windsor High School?
A: Let’s just say Duran Duran was on the charts when I was at South Windsor High.
Q: I know you are coming to Hartford to talk about your book, so tell me about your book!
A: The idea for the book came after I began looking at my life and that of peers and colleagues in the entertainment industry and I realized there was a huge disparity on how people outside the business perceived our lives. It’s a hard life we have chosen so I wanted to write something that had the dual purpose of providing curious outsiders an inside look at our life and at the same time provide some consolation to my fellow artists.
Q: Why would people in your business need consoling?
A: It’s hard for us to understand ourselves. It’s a hard business. You do the same thing over and over again and usually without a reward. It takes years to get that applause. The definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’ and that is what you do when you are an artist. People setting out to be stars are quickly weeded out. It’s a difficult job. But it’s like being a priest or a nun. You can’t quit it. It’s a calling.
Q: What will you be entertaining the audience with at the Mark Twain House & Museum Friday?
A: My futile attempts to get lucky, luck and serendipity. I do consider myself successful. I do have two or three projects a year
Q: How does one make their luck?
A: I don’t think I made my own luck and still am waiting for that lucky day. People have tried to find their own luck, ‘the secret’ has replaced Scientology when it comes to magical thinking. It didn’t work out for me.
Q: What is the one mistake you wish you could take back?
A: there have been so many. I think the biggest mistake is thinking that my ‘lucky break’ would come. I held onto that for a long time and my biggest success in that was learning to relish today’s bread instead of fantasizing about tomorrow’s cake. I have a great life, a great kid, a wonderful husband and make my living as an artist most of the time. If someone had told me that when I was a kid growing up in South Windsor I would have told them they were crazy.
Q: What were you like in South Windsor, the class clown?
A: I thought I was very shy but people tell me otherwise. I played the xylophone and timpani in the school band. I remember many a field trip to the Mark Twain House and it’s really funny. I always thought the Twain house and the Stowe house didn’t live up to their legacies. Then Jacques got there and the place has blossomed into something exciting, a salon of sorts. I visit Connecticut often because my mom still lives there but this will be an exciting homecoming for me. I will not only share stories but try to give the audience a laugh or two. It’s exciting and fun to listen to strangers tell their stories. It will be exciting and fun.
Tickets for “The Mouth” are $5.00. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. Information: 860-280-3130 or marktwainhouse.org