“God Brought This Script To Me!”
Moira Kelly is the third of six children born and raised on Long Island, New York, by Irish Immigrant parents, both devout Catholics.
Her first real encounter with Hollywood success came when she played two roles in Richard Attenborough’s Academy Award nominated Chaplin in 1992. More recently, she played a Harvard student in With Honors and took a lead role in the sleeper hit Cutting Edge. Kelly was heard by millions as the voice of Nala, one of the leading characters in Disney’s The Lion King. Her most recent work, apart from Dorothy Day, is Nick Cassavetes film Unhook the Stars.
In January 1993, while Father Ellwood Kieser was beginning to think about actresses who might be good for Dorothy Day, he read, he read an interview with Moira Kelly in The New York Times which stated the Kelly was an “ardent Roman Catholic” and an actress who frequently “dreams of playing Joan of Arc.” Kieser eventually offered Kelly the role, and she enthusiastically accepted it.
The following interview with Moira Kelly took place during a break in the shooting in late afternoon of April 27, 1995, at Broad Beach in Malibu, California. Everyone else on the crew had scurried off to get a bite to eat. The 27 year old Kelly came over to where I was sitting and said she would like to do the interview right there – on the edge of the grass between the cottage and the sand dunes that sloped upward ward the beach.
Question: Can you tell me about your religious background?
Answer: Well, my parents are truly good people. They show us…my brothers and sisters and me — through their own actions what it means to be Christen. For me, they are the strongest example of Christ on this planet.
Question: Did you attend Catholic Schools?
Answer: Yes, in New York, up until eight grade, and then I went to public school because we didn’t have the money for all of us to stay in private schools. At college level, however, I again attended a Catholic school [Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.]
Question: Have your Catholic background and helped shape your faith?
Answer: Growing up Catholic has been a gift. Being in the movie business is hard. There are a lot of battles to face, and if I didn’t have that religious core — that base to turn to – I would be truly lost. At times, I see other people who seem adult because they don’t have a spiritual anchor.
I truly believe that God brought this, Dorothy Day script to me, because for a long time up until I was in eight grade – I wanted to be a nun. When I started working on my first picture, I went to a priest and said, “I’m still torn between becoming a nun and working in the film business.” The priest said, “Do you think that maybe this is the medium that God wants to use to get the message across?”
Well, for five years, I have been battling with this and waiting for the right character and script to show up. Then lo and behold, here comes Dorothy Day! So this script is truly a gift.
Question: Are there any ways that your own life has prepared you for this role?
Answer: Well, my mom always said that as a child I was so dramatic – and I always had a real fear of not being able to save the world! I wanted to come up with the answer that was going to make the rest of the world happy – that would make us all come together in community.
When I first read the script, I saw a lot in Dorothy’s life that paralleled my own life. It was both interesting and very frightening to recognize how close to the woman I truly was in a a lot of ways. Taking this role allowed me to feel all those things. I had felt before in my own life. I was able to bring them to the surface and finally put them to rest – to find answers to them by walking in someone else’s shoes.
Question: In your opinion, what was Dorothy Day’s greatest struggle in this film?
Answer: Abandonment. She always felt abandoned by her father, by the men in her life, and at one point, by God. She also had a problem with taking on too much and expecting herself to carry the whole load, rather than putting it in God’s hands and saying, “I will just be your instrument; You work through me/”
But Dorothy’s fear of abandonment is really a strong thing in her life. The title of her autobiography. The Long Loneliness says it all. It is certainly a fear I can appreciate and sympathize with greatly.
Question: Do you think your growing knowledge of Dorothy Day and your playing this role in the movie will affect your own life and future?
Answer: We’ll See! (Laughing a bit mischievously!) We’ll see!