Robin Mullins: Actress
By Angela Wampler | April 29, 2008Robin Mullins was born in Wise, Virginia, raised in Southwest Virginia, and now lives in Abingdon.
When she's not auditioning, acting, singing or writing songs, she operates Forget-Me-Not, an eclectic clothing store for women. An accomplished singer/songwriter, she has worked in regional theater productions and appeared in numerous television and film roles for several years.
"Most people want to know how they can break into the film business. I always tell them to first get a professional headshot and then do all the theatre they can to establish some kind of resume," Mullins says. "Finding an agent is the difficult part and I can't help them with that. There are several websites online where a resourceful person can find auditions and state film hotlines. Anyone in theater or who has worked on a film can tell you that it is hard work, not glamorous at the time, and is not for whiners or slackers. Working in theater or film requires a large amount of resilience and stamina."
She continues, "It's not something I dreamed of doing. When I look back on things, I didn't really have a long-term plan. I just taught myself to do a lot of different things: sewing, playing guitar, writing poetry and songs, painting and drawing, collecting vintage clothing and jewelry, anything to make a buck. I know how to work hard; that is something that is required to work in film. And I can face rejection and failure. It helps to have a life other than movies, especially for a character actress. I audition and then literally forget about it until my agent calls up and says, 'Guess what? They cast you!' He always makes a big deal out of it. And you would be surprised at the actors from Southwest Virginia who are currently acting in film and working a lot more than me."
Mullins adds, "While I am grateful for the experiences that working as a performing artist affords, it doesn't define me as a person. I also have a deep appreciation for the work that fellow actors do. I admire the work that the Barter Theatre is doing in our area and hope that others realize the potential of art to bring about social change. Theater is a very healing profession, able to evoke the catharsis of laughter and tears. The power of film to motivate and inspire is staggering and needs to be approached with reverence. There's a lot of junk out there."
From her contacts in the theatre community, Mullins says, "I fell into doing film work. One of my friends, who is now a member of the group STOMP, persuaded his agent to sign me so I could audition for the feature film Nell. After that I just kept getting cast for things — commercials, TV movies, independent films..."
In the movie industry, Mullins received critical acclaim for her supporting role in Nell (1994), starring Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson. Deep in the mountains of North Carolina, a physician discovers a grown "wild child," who has had no contact with the outside world, having been raised by her invalid mother, and can speak only in a strange onomatopoeic language.
Mullins has an agent in Charlotte, N.C. who submits her for various parts, and she usually auditions in North Carolina. She says, "I have a nice relationship with The Fincannons, a casting agency in Wilmington, located near the Screen Gems studio. They know my work and request me often for readings. My resume is looking pretty good now, so I think directors feel confident that I can do the type of character they need. And my mountain accent has been very useful. I've done mostly characters who are Southern or mountain people.
She's not sure what is in her future — "hopefully another 20th Century Fox feature. I love working for them." She admits, "I haven't auditioned for anything lately. My agent is doing some online submissions, but most of the parts are in Los Angeles."
No need for despair, though. Mullins says, "Movies are being made everywhere now, and Hollywood goes on location. After doing Cold Mountain, several young actors moved from Asheville and Knoxville to Los Angeles; they just ended up spending lots of money and coming back home. In the business, there are 'a whole lot of pigeons and a little bit of crumbs.' But doing character parts and staying in the region has given me a niche that someone in Los Angeles perhaps cannot fall into."
— - Most recently, Mullins got a part in The Secret Life of Bees, scheduled for release in 2009, starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, and Alicia Keys. The film is based on the Sue Monk Kidd novel, published in 2002, that became a long-running New York Times bestseller. Set in South Carolina in 1964, it is the coming-of-age story of Lily Owens who encounters an eccentric trio of beekeeping sisters in a town that holds the secret to her mother's past.
Mullins says Fanning is "an intelligent, balanced young woman, traits I hope that Americans admire! She's very personable and recognized me from our last work together, Hounddog. which was also shot in Wilmington. She ran up and gave me a hug. She's not at all stuck-up or pretentious. I noticed on set that a group of young girls about Dakota's age had gathered and were taking photos with their phones, giggling and trying to get closer to the action. The production assistant kept telling them to move back. When there was a short break, Dakota talked to them and signed autographs — just a great kid."
— - Mullins says, "My favorite work was a day part in a TV movie called Gramps, starring Andy Griffith. I got to curse and rage and beat red roses with a fireplace poker — dozens of them — over and over. I drove an old Chevy wagon from the '50s and got to show some cleavage. There was a scene where Mr. Griffith's character, who was a villain, smashed my photograph, and his face was reflected on top of my photo in the broken glass. That was a hoot! Also, whenever my scenes came up, they were from the past, and were underscored with a cheesy heartbeat. For some reason, I liked doing and seeing that work.
Other Recent Projects
— - In the romantic tale, A Noise of Many Waters (2008), Mullins portrays the mother of a young man waiting for the world to end.
— - Cold Mountain (2003) was nominated for several Academy Awards. In the waning days of the American Civil War, a wounded soldier (Jude Law) embarks on a perilous journey back home to North Carolina to reunite with his sweetheart (Nicole Kidman). Based on the Charles Frazier novel, this is a tale of hope, longing, redemption, second chances, and faith. Including Mullins, supporting roles featured Renee Zellweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, Kathy Baker, and others.
Cold Mountain was filmed in Romania. "Being able to travel to [that country] and experience the people there was a most rewarding experience," Mullins recalls. "I think we saw Romania at an important crossroads in the country's history. Horses and wagons shared the road with automobiles. The people there were eager for a future, to have abundance, but still recovering from the Communist regime and the turmoil."
— - Mullins also appeared in The Angel Doll (2002), the story of two boys from different sides of the tracks, 1950s childhood, and self-redemption, and the made-for-TV movie, The Wilgus Stories (2000), a trilogy of coming-of-age stories based on the short stories of Kentucky writer Gurney Norman.
From left, Jude Law, Robin Mullins, and Nicole Kidman in Romania while filming "Cold Mountain." (Contributed by Robin Mullins)
Mullins with Frank Hoyt Taylor in "Coming Down the Mountain" (2003).