Remembering Marcia Wallace 

I’ve never had to ask anyone about their dental history until I cast Marcia Wallace as a vampire.

Rae Allen, Kirsten Vangsness, Marcia Wallace & Reamy Hall after shooting season two of “Vampire Mob.”
​Still by Agnes Magyari.

The directions were pretty clear, if you’ve had dental work you probably should not use these teeth. 

It was an odd phone call to make. The answer would result in a rewrite of the script. I had an idea and some jokes on deck if the answer was “no fangs” from Marcia. Before that could happen, I’d have to introduce the topic of teeth. 

Years earlier, Marcia was cast in a pilot-presentation my pal Jane Edith Wilson created, which I also had a part in. We all met at the Improv on Melrose in the afternoon to rehearse what would be performed that evening. 

I didn’t have any scenes with Marcia but we ended up at the same table during dinner and I was a giant fan of “The Bob Newhart Show.”

Being home sick from school as a kid watching a block of “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Odd Couple” on WPIX, channel 11, was like medicine. Watching repeats of comedies that were primarily aimed at an adult audience when I was far from an adult, for hours on end, definitely shaped my writing-style. It also resulted in many parental warnings regarding the detrimental affect of watching too much TV and also of being too close to the screen. 

Marcia’s work as Carol on “The Bob Newhart Show” always stuck with me. The music of the dialogue that she and Bob Newhart played together still sounds fresh. The two of them often seemed like a comedy team that had a show built around it. Carol was the underdog you rooted for when she was dating and Marcia made her seem like someone you might run into in real life. 

Seeing her on “Match Game” as herself and being even funnier, using improv chops I’d learn about years later, made me wonder why she wasn’t on another show. 

"That’s My Bush" was the next time I remember seeing her on camera and that show was the first thing I brought up to Marcia during dinner at the Improv and we were off. Chatting away about comedy, politics, the history of sitcoms, The Simpsons. Marcia was cool to hang with and had no problem speaking her mind, something I love in human beings. 


Rae Allen, Kirsten Vangsness & Marcia Wallace on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Agnes Magyari.

I ran into Marcia a couple more times over the years, before I ever thought I’d create a series. Just as I thought as a kid, I wondered, why isn’t she on a show?

In 2009, I started writing “Vampire Mob,” first as a short play and then, initially, as a short film. The world kept growing and the idea of a mafia hitman, who is a vampire, having his mother-in-law, who is also a vampire, move in with him for eternity was scribbled on a legal pad. 

Writing for actors is my favorite way to write, so I decided to write a part for Marcia Wallace, without asking. Marcia as the mother-in-law from hell who was always going to be there made me smile. Having her voice in my head as I typed words made the character pop and when the writing was done, I asked her to say them. 

I didn’t have a resume to point to, never created a television show or even wrote for one. I had a script and really good actors to offer Marcia, but that was about it. Maybe it was running into her for years or a few mutual friendships, but she said yes, with a caveat, “I don’t usually do these things.” 

Marcia really loved the idea, the script and her character - she was on board. When Marcia said something was funny, she wasn’t just throwing around compliments to be nice.

When I asked Marcia about her teeth, she explained it simply by saying there there was more in her mouth that was put there by a dentist than not. We laughed and I started rewriting.

She showed up at the shoot with a couple questions and it was great. To have someone who has seen far more great comedy scripts than I ever will bat around ideas with me was a blast. 

Marcia Wallace and Reamy Hall on the set of “Vampire Mob” season one. Still by Joe Wilson.

There were bloopers because Marcia was making us all laugh.

There was just something about her “Ha!” that made those two letters so much funnier and say far more than two letters can. A combination of subtext and context and her voice and… Marcia was just fucking funny and she made everything funnier. Instincts, chops, experience, you name it, she had it.  

When the idea of doing another season of “Vampire Mob” became a reality, Marcia said yes, again. This time to more scenes, a few that would include Rae Allen as a dueling mother-in-law from hell, but not a vampire.

Rae Allen and Marcia Wallace on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Joe Wilson.

When I failed to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter and season two was on hold until I could, Marcia was more than supportive. Over six long months I raised the budget through the Vampire Mob web site and several eBay auctions. Marcia donated a signed copy of her autobiography, "Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way,"and several pictures for one of those auctions, which helped make it happen.

Rae Allen, Kirsten Vangsness & Marcia Wallace on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Agnes Magyari.

I scheduled a day from hell to shoot 15 pages in 8 hours with six actors, three camera operators (Agnes Magyari, Sila Agavale & myself), two makeup artists (Melissa Street & Cathi Singh) and two boom operators (Chad Wood & Patrick Caberty). The only reason we pulled it off is because John Colella, Reamy Hall, Jim Roof, Kirsten Vangsness, Rae Allen and Marcia Wallace absolutely rock as actors.

It’s one of the most fun scenes in the entire series and the chemistry with that cast, who sat down for the first time together to shoot this script, seemed like one that had been working together for months.

Hearing Marcia say, “Bob” again was too tempting to pass up on, so I didn’t…

Marcia Wallace and me on the set of “Vampire Mob,” season two.  Still by Agnes Magyari.

I needed a tiny insert shot of John Collella and Reamy Hall showing Marcia and Rae Allen how to use a gun for a sequence at the end of season two. Marcia was not a fan of guns (hence her expression above) and had never held one on camera before.

But even armed, Marcia was funny.

Rae Allen, John Colella, Marcia Wallace & Reamy Hall on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Joe Wilson.

Marcia Wallace & Reamy Hall on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Joe Wilson.

Rae Allen, John Colella, Marcia Wallace & Reamy Hall on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Joe Wilson.

I read Marcia’s autobiography between seasons one and two and it had a big influence on how I saw her character. Some of that influence was character history, subtext and some was attitude.

Knowing more about Marcia’s life made me recognize how important comedy is to survival in what can often be a hard journey and her journey had plenty of heartbreak.

"Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way," the title of Marcia’s book is good advice, almost all the time. Now is not one of those times. 

Marcia gave a huge gift to me, her talent. 

She made any funny a whole lot funnier. Marcia also gave me a chance, something I’ve learned to cherish in the City of Angels. 

"To Joe, the only producer to ever cast me as a vampire mother-in-law. All the best, Marcia Wallace, 7-2010."

While eating dinner, on break from shooting season one, Marcia asked me what my plans were in terms of the business. Did I want to direct or write? 

I told her I had spent a lot of time with very specific plans on what I wanted to do, which never worked out, “now I just make stuff.” She seemed to understand what I meant. 

Tony-winner Rae Allen & Emmy-winner, Marcia Wallace, on the set of “Vampire Mob” season two. Still by Agnes Magyari.

We talked a lot about how the business was changing, she was genuinely concerned how actors would make a living as more shows were being made online. I didn’t have all the answers but I understood the concern as a fellow SAG member, which she served on the national board of, and was one of the people who helped with the merging of SAG/AFTRA. 

The saddest part for me personally is that I won’t get to hangout with Marcia.

Rae Allen, John Colella, Marcia Wallace & Reamy Hall. Still by Joe Wilson.

I wrote a giant script with lots of funny for Marcia to make funnier in season three of “Vampire Mob.” That script is longer than the first two seasons combined and I was finally going to get Annie & Virginia out of the house and running a hair salon for vampires. 

I let Marcia know about the roller-coaster ride that were the options to make season three and how things were not working. She understood in a way that only someone who has worked in the entertainment industry for decades could. Delays happen, sometimes permanently. 

One thing I’m glad for is that you will have a chance to see Marcia’s funny in Muffin Top A Love Story. I’ve seen her work in it and she is, as always, hilarious. 

Marcia was a tidal wave of supportive words and when you’re an indie storyteller trying to make stories happen, those words were armor to wear in battle and they continue to be. If a cast member of “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Simpsons” thinks you write funny stuff, you do. Marcia gave me a lot more confidence in myself and my abilities as a writer/director.

I’m better at what I do because of Marcia Wallace. 

Now, the hard part. Getting used to the idea that the world has a little less funny in it, at a time when we need all the funny we can find. Not having Marcia’s funny is an even greater loss for all of us. 

I will miss Marcia, her laugh, those eyes that can act without words. I will miss seeing the character we created together. I will miss her making an entire room laugh with two letters.