gemified | March 1st, 2011 - 12:00 am

As writer, director, editor of ABM, and most importantly, current ABM Mastermind Champion, I always knew that Tina Cesa Ward knew her ABM. Only, we didn’t know too much else about her apart from her love of all things Buffy and pugs. After a few random questions I learnt not just of her love for Meryl Streep but also (contrary to what Dunkin’ Donuts would have you believe) she is one American that doesn’t run on caffeine. You realise from talking to Tina how passionate she is about the things in her life. She is the perfect mix of geek and fount of knowledge. Now, if only she’d support a proper baseball team… 😉

1.       What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?

Tina: I can’t think of anything specific, so in general, beef.
ABMFans: Vegetarian?
Tina: Yes. For about 15 years now, although technically I’m a pescitarian because I eat fish.
ABMFans: Yeah, I don’t think I could give up fish even if by some miracle I managed to give up meat.

2.       What’s your favourite thing about your hometown?

Tina: Downtown Cleveland. I was always in awe driving up on it when I was a kid. It’s the first city I fell in love with and realized how much I was drawn to city life, even though I’m a pretty big nature girl too.
ABMFans: How long have you been a NYer now?
Tina: 13 years.
ABMFans: Always Queens?
Tina: Yes! My girlfriend at the time came out here and got us an apartment, I didn’t care where. It was cheap and it was in Astoria. Since then I’ve moved down the street. So I’ve been on the same street for 13 years.
ABMFans: I like Astoria, a friend of mine just moved there, when I was last in NY actually. Even Rach admits it’s not so bad. She’ll deny that no doubt, but she definitely said it.
Tina: I was just going to say that! That girl and her knock on Queens. I couldn’t live where she does, so we’re even.
ABMFans: Park Slope or just Brooklyn? She’s such a snob sometimes. Bless her.
Tina: When she lived in Hipsterville, I totally couldn’t live there. And Park Slope is too far. But yeah, probably Brooklyn in general.
ABMFans: Ahh Williamsburg, yeah when I saw it on Gossip Girl I was wondering what on earth she was doing there. Not that she’s not hip, she’s just…Rachael.
Tina: She’s not hip, you can say, she admits it. Sorry Rach.
ABMFans: But we wouldn’t have her any other way!
Tina: Very true.

3.        If you had to lose one of your senses which would it be?

Tina: Taste. I couldn’t do my work without being able to see or hear. And as much as I’d miss the taste of dark chocolate, I would give it up for the other senses.
ABMFans: Smell? Apart from food I think it might be dispensable.
Tina: Yeah, I was just thinking it may be cruel to smell and not be able to taste.

4.       What’s your screensaver?

Tina: I usually am pretty good at when I walk away from my computer I put it to sleep.  But in the off chance I think it’s images of outer space including some fabulous shots of the moon. I really like the moon.
ABMFans: I’m liking it a lot lately, we’ve been having lots of foggy nights so it’s been coated in a kind of mist. I actually think it looks like yours as someone I know took a pic of it and put it on FB.
Tina: Nice. Yeah, there is nothing like moonlight. When the moon is full and it’s a clear night, amazing. And it can never be duplicated completely in film or photographs. And yeah, yours looks a lot like ours.
ABMFans: Yeah the more I learn about photography the more I am amazed by how much the human eye actually captures.
Tina: Absolutely.

5.       Which celebrity would you choose to be stuck in an elevator with?

Tina: Well most of the people I really admire are directors and most of them are dead. So I think I’ll go with Meryl Streep. I think she’d be a blast and she’s kind of a genius.
ABMFans: Agreed on all counts. For some reason I remember watching ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ a lot when I was younger, must have been on TV a lot, so I think I’ve always loved her.
Tina: Oh yes, ‘Kramer vs. Kramer!’ It’s my first memory of her. I saw it when I was probably too young and have such a memory of her nude scene. I think it was the first time I saw naked people. It will always be etched in my brain that scene and close to my heart. I would tell her that in the elevator, I think she’d be amused.
ABMFans: She has a wonderful laugh. And yeah, I was definitely too young to watch that movie.
Tina: She does and wicked sense of humour to go along with it.
ABMFans: I think I was traumatised thinking I’d fall off a climbing frame and hurt myself like the kid does.
Tina: Ah the things we take away from ‘Kramer vs. Kramer.’
ABMFans: That and making French Toast in a mug!
Tina: I think I may have forgotten that part. Crazy.
ABMFans: Between that movie and ‘Tootsie,’ Dustin Hoffman dominated my childhood too.
Tina: And that is perfectly acceptable. ‘Midnight Cowboy’ one of my favourites. But I hope that no child out there right now is having that same experience. Not a good time to grow up to Dustin Hoffman.
ABMFans: Definitely not with ‘Midnight Cowboy.’

6.       Are your neighbours noisy?

Tina: Not really. I live on block that dead ends at Astoria Park and we’re kind of isolated so we all know each other and that means we’re all pretty respectful. Every once in a while it can get noisy in the summer because of park traffic.
ABMFans: You sure you live in NY?
Tina: Queens baby!
ABMFans: As Rachael would say, “Meh.”
Tina: Take that Rachael!

7.       Do you have any phobias?

Tina: No actually. My father told me a story once about when I was three or four they couldn’t find me and it was at night and they went outside and there I was swimming in the kiddy pool, pitch black out. I was never afraid of anything. And if I am now I take it as a challenge, I don’t like being held back by anything.
ABMFans: Good way to live.
Tina: I try.

8.       How do you take your tea/coffee?

Tina: As anyone that has ever worked on ABM knows, I am the decaf drinker.  So that is first and foremost.  They go and get me my own coffee when I’m on set. And I only have it with milk. When I’m at home I have brewed cold green tea with afternoon meals, and I don’t put anything in that.
ABMFans: How do you survive without the caffeine? Aren’t you supposed to have it on an IV going straight into your bloodstream or something?
Tina: When I was about 22 I was dealing with something medical and I was told to stay away from caffeine for months. And then when I was able to go back to it, it made me feel awful. I get kind of jumpy and it bothers my stomach greatly. If I ever need a little pick me up, I have a can of soda and that does it for me. It’s handy to have a low tolerance.
ABMFans: Yeah, anything caffeinated is my last resort. It’s got to be a really hard day and then as soon as I have something like one of those frozen Starbucks drinks I am good for a long time.
Tina: Starbucks is serious.
ABMFans: That’s why I advocate the Jamba!
Tina: Yeah, but it’s ridiculous in cost.
ABMFans: Very true, for fruit.
Tina: Exactly.

9.       When were you most starstruck?

Tina: This is a toughy because I see a lot of people in New York and generally I’m not a starstruck type of person. I would say when I saw Jodie Foster in Chelsea one time, I was pretty stunned. If I would have said something to her it would have been kind of messy I think.
ABMFans: I understand. I’m pretty good most of the time, but sometimes I have been rendered an inarticulate oaf. It’s not a good look.
Tina: :)

10.    What topic would you risk it all on in Final Jeopardy?

Tina: Film directors or baseball. The two things I may know the most about. I know a lot about dogs too.
ABMFans: The Grammys is showing right now and it’s the Cee lo and Gwyneth Paltrow performance and there’s a pug muppet singing next to him and I think it’s genius! Your pugs are very cute.
Tina: I was going to watch the Grammys and then that whole opening number turned me off.  But puppets are always good, and a pug puppet makes it even better.
ABMFans: This is definitely the highlight.
Tina: No doubt.

11.    What is your earliest memory?

Tina: I have the worst memory of my childhood but I think when I was about five or something I would go upstairs in my attic-like room and play my mom’s record which was Sugar Shack by I believe the Archies. I just loved it.
ABMFans: On vinyl?
Tina: Yes.  It was ancient times.
ABMFans: I don’t think we’re that far in age if we were both watching ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ when we were younger.
Tina: But to most of the folks reading this, it’s ancient times to them.
ABMFans: Tell me about it. I remember asking Rachael what the best film of the 80s was and she was naming me these films, because she’s cool so she knows stuff, and then I realised she was probably about two years old when these films came out!
Tina: I have had such conversations with her as well and with most of our cast. They have a lot of great movies to see prior to the 80s.
ABMFans: OMG on that note you need to do something – Jessy’s never seen ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Indiana Jones!’ And Susan’s never seen ‘LOTR!!!’
Tina: One thing I will say about Jessy is that I really appreciate the movies that she sees, her television choices suck but she sees the same films I would. She loves heavy films and so do I. I would take a painful drama over films like ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Raiders’ any day of the week. Not that I don’t find those films fun, I just like to walk out of a film and be stunned and if that feeling last for the next few days, that’s a perfect film.
ABMFans: Fair enough, sort out her TV choices though. There’s some good stuff on there. Also, I watched ‘Never Let Me Go’ yesterday. You’ve seen that right?
Tina: I have not! And I was waiting for it. I thought maybe I would get a screening for it but it never happened.  I am very much looking forward to seeing it. Maybe I’ll go grab it this week.
ABMFans: Definitely do. It gives me hope for the future of British cinema.
Tina: Your cinema isn’t so bad. Your television however always looks like hell. Why is that? Is everything shot on video? No offense Gem.
ABMFans: None taken. I don’t know the answer I’m afraid.
Tina: Every time I watch a show on BBC, I’m amazed by the lack of lighting and camera placement skills. Find out what’s happening over there would ya.
ABMFans: As far as I can tell, we don’t seem to place much emphasis on the technical side of things. It’s all about training the next Dame Maggie Smith or Sir John Gielgud. The performance is the thing. Everything else is just distraction. But yes, we should sort that out. I’ll see what I can do.
Tina: Ahhh, I see.  I never thought about it that way. Interesting.
ABMFans: Yes, there’s method in our madness.

12.    What’s the most embarrassing DVD in your collection?

Tina: I don’t know if anything is embarrassing. I feel pretty good about my choices. Perhaps the most surprising DVD to others would be my Bruce Lee film collection.
ABMFans: Ahh, you’re that kind of awesome.
Tina: :) Thank you.

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