Extras are meant to fade into the background, never to be recognised and surely not remembered. Yet some prove the exception to the rule and when you’re in a scene as good as this one in Fried Green Tomatoes all you have to do is your job and you’ll probably end up being remembered for a long time. Few will recognise the names of Kathy Lawson or Missy Wolff. Fewer still would know they played Beetle Girl 1 and Beetle Girl 2 in the movie. Yet ask people what their favourite scene is from Fried Green Tomatoes and there’s a huge possibility they’ll say “When she rams the car of those two bitches in the car park.”
The genius of the scene is how relatable it is, how this happens to everybody and how we usually turn the other cheek too. We don’t really need people losing their temper and ramming into cars every time something likes this happens. Everybody knows if you rear end somebody most likely you’ll pay the excess. The point of the sequence though allows us to indulge in the fantasy. We’ve seen lead character Kathy Bates’s Evelyn Couch take a lot of shit from a lot of people throughout the film and this proves the turning point for her character. With a cry of Towanda she ploughs into their red Volkswagen Beetle Convertible (it’s no accident it’s red and a convertible) four times. Her punchline seals the deal and off she goes into the sunset. Towanda indeed. The writing and set up of this moment was always destined to be a classic if the two actresses hired in these small parts could make the Beetle girls believable but also instantly dislikable. To their credit they did and it remains their most globally recognised performances.
Kathy Larson was credited as Catherine Lawson for Fried Green Tomatoes. On IMDB she has 10 acting credits from Little Darlings in 1980 as Girl through to 1995 with the TV series in The Heat of the Night as Tracey Cole. Fried Green Tomatoes (Beetle Girl 1)and Kalifornia (Teenage Girl) are the roles she is best known for. The actress also had reoccurring roles on TV shows during 1989 to 1993 including Ryan’s Bar. See if you can spot her in the cast photo below.Maybe she works now teaching drama somewhere, acting in theatre, maybe she’s left Hollywood and the arts far away in her rear vision mirror. She’d now be older than Kathy Bates was when they had a stand off over the virtues of being a particular age.
Missy Wolff according to IMDB has been a stand in for Jeanne Tripplehorn and was offered the right of first refusal for the Ashley Judd role in A Time to Kill. She has four acting credits on the website for two roles in 1991 and one in 2010 and one in 2011. In 2011 she was also credited for Props for a short film Small World. This suggests she’s remained in the arts if not always in a way that gets her recognised by the Internet Movie Database. That’s okay, I worked on two short films and one feature film listed on IMDB but I’m not listed in any of their credit lists on the website. It’s a bit of process. After a quick google search it is proven true that she is still very much active in the arts. In 2015 she performed in Charleston South Carolina Who’s Afraid of Virignia Woolf? for the Footlight Players. A quick bio showed that she had been in other productions in Charleston and off Broadway productions in New York City throughout the years.
I imagine both Larson and Wolff were pretty excited in 1991 to get these small roles on screen. I like to imagine their families came to see them in with pride at a local theatre. Maybe for a while they dreamed of this being the first step of them becoming the next Julia Roberts or Mary Stuart Masterson. Maybe they thought they’d always get small parts and were already working towards having a different type of career. I wonder where Kathy Larson is now and hope they’re both doing well. I doubt they were anything like their characters. That’s working actors for you and Kathy and Missy remain two fine examples of working actors.
17 thoughts on “EXTRAS WHO ADD A LITTLE SOMETHING – KATHY LARSON and MISSY WOLFF”
A nice idea to post this tribute to these two ladies. You are right of course. I love the scene, but had no idea who they were, and never followed their careers before or since. So many ‘one-minute wonders’ in the history of cinema, but you have done these two proud.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thanks Pete, maybe with time I can be a bit more of an investigative journalist and find out more about where some of these actors are now in life and their careers. Of the three new segments, Star Character Actors is the one that you could just post something new every week for a long time. The Seven Ages is a lot of fun but tougher to do because you want to see more of the actor’s filmography.
They are like other character actors, you know you’ve seen their faces, but don’t know their names – at least that’s what happens to me. [No one can forget Kathy Bates though!!]
Agree on all points GP.
An excellent review of a very unusual and well chosen topic. Well done indeed!
Thank you John, 🙂
Well I definitely never knew the story behind these ladies before. You dig well!
I wish I did Jay but it’s all the good work the Internet Movie Database and a preliminary google search. Thank you though.
Lloyd – thanks very much for this article. But forgive for pointing out a distinction that I’m sure would matter to the ladies: they were not “extras” in this movie. A background extra job on a film or TV show does not speak or get involved in the foreground action. For example, the people who are glimpsed through Kathy Bates’ rear window – the ones walking in the parking lot way behind her – are background extras. The roles played by Larson & Wolff are classified as “principal performers.” As principals, they spoke scripted lines of dialogue and were involved in the foreground action. And they got paid a better salary than the background extras…. much better….
Right you are Bill and thanks for pointing it out. I pointed this out in another post about the series referencing Neil Mullarkey. I may have to make changes if I ever get back to it but I was doing one on minor roles that made an impact, star character actors and then these parts. Extras Who Something A Little Extra seemed to fit. They were more minor than minor and figured people would know what I was talking about. I may have to rephrase down the road. Thanks for reading and for your contribution.
Hi Lloyd – thanks for your response. I’m glad I found your postings, and I look forward to reading more. I knew Kathy Larson when we were young actors employed by daytime dramas in NYC in the 1980s. I did not know that she had booked this brief-yet-memorable role in FRIED GREEN. Thanks for making it possible for me to enjoy her scene! Bill T
That’s awesome, Bill thanks for sharing. I found some of that stuff when researching for this post. Working as an actor in New York City back during that time I bet you have many interesting stories.
This was a great read. Thanks for the tribute. Fun fact: Missy and I were paired up as audition partners for the movie tryouts, and we improvised the whole scene. They liked what we did and kept the lines that we came up with. At the filming, Kathy Bates sat under an umbrella drinking lemonade and fed us her lines. So we had to pretend that all the car crashing was happening. Anyway, who knew it would become such a popular scene! Thanks for the memories—Cathy Larson (aka Catherine Larson from ABC’s Ryan’s Hope)
What a lovely surprise and honour to have you comment and provide some insight into the day of shooting. I am glad you enjoyed.
Thanks and Regards
Oh, my goodness! Lloyd! Thank YOU, Lloyd!
Thank you Cathy. 🙂