The Iris Interview: Erin Gray talks Tai-Chi and her trip Down Under for Supanova!

Erin Gray

Erin Gray may be known for her role as “Colonel Deering” within the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century franchise, but over an extensive career in television and film, Gray has been able to expand and integrate her passions as a public speaker, writer and Tai-Chi teacher into her career as well. In Australia for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo, Gray and her team join a stellar list of guests from across the film, TV, comics, literature and performing worlds for two weekends of meet and greets with fans, plus much more.

“We’re at the height of our season,” Gray tells me, ahead of her trip Down Under. “We’ve been travelling non-stop and we’re a little road-weary; I say ‘we’ because I have my assistants, both my assistants travel with me a lot. We’re having a great time, we’re really enjoying the success of our company! We’ve learned how it’s important to check out the good restaurants wherever we are to create memories and not work all the time, but we really enjoy it.”

On the Supanova ‘tour’ which hits Sydney this weekend before continuing on to Perth next weekend, Gray can’t contain her excitement. Though having only been in the country last year, this trip has been long-awaited on a personal level, as well as a professional one.

“We are so excited, you have no idea!” she enthuses. “First of all, we’re bringing John Barrowman, who is guaranteed to have a party wherever he goes. We just love hanging with him and that’s going to be exciting. Then, we also have Katie Cassidy, who we just adore. We spent some time with her just recently in Calgary and we know that’s going to be fun. Then we have Laurie Holden from The Walking Dead, another beautiful lady, plus Tara [Platt] and Yuri [Lowenthal], who are the most amazing couple I’ve ever know. They truly are so cute together! I just think there’s only good things that are going to happen. I’m really looking forward to having some time off and exploring Sydney. I think the last time I was in Australia was last year; I went one day in Melbourne and one day in Adelaide and it certainly wasn’t enough time to really explore. My last real memory is when I shot a film along the Gold Coast. I so loved Australia.”

At the moment, Gray reveals that her current attention has been paid to her new project, Christmas in Palm Springs, which is also set to star Bill Cobbs, Dina Meyer and Ian Ziering. Aside from acting, Gray is most certainly an individual involved in many different projects.

“Right now, I have a film that I just finished called Christmas in Palm Springs, where I play the Mayor of Palm Springs, a film that’ll be on the Lifetime Channel. I’m not working as much as before. Most of my time is caught up with my company. I also teach Tai-Chi; I’m a Tai-Chi Master, so I teach four days a week, which is my passion. That is whatI love to do. I’m also working with Carol Barrowman, John Barrowman’s sister, we’re writing a mystery thriller. We’re so excited and we’re having so much fun! It’s just so joyful, they know how to have fun. As I said, it’s a party anywhere we go. We love it, because we feed off each other’s positive energy and I think we both have the philosophy to not take life too seriously, because we’re not going to get out  alive. I’m just thankful for all the blessings and things I’m grateful for; it’s a sunny day, my tummy’s full, I’m surrounded by people I love to work with…I mean, hello!”

For someone who has enjoyed a fruitful and busy career in the arts and entertainment industries, as Gray as done, being an incredibly experienced Tai-Chi motivator and educator would undoubtedly provide a great relaxing escape from the pressures of Hollywood and film. For Gray, her foray into this field began back in the 70’s and bloomed into a long lasting love affair since.

“Tai-Chi is my little oasis moment of the day, no matter how challenging,” Gray agrees. “I know I that hour and a half with my students and it’s rejuvenating and empowering and satisfying – it revs me up for the next day. It’s like taking a little vacation for an hour and a half. The first kernel of interest started in the early 70’s, when Richard Nixon went to China and the lead story in the New York Times was not only his opening the doors to China, but the fact that his reported kept having an appendicitis attack and had to have surgery in China. That was the first time I’d heard about acupuncture and how acupuncture was used in his surgery and his recovery; he was amazing that he could be there without pain medication and the help of a surgeon. I’m a person who loves knowledge and loves to search for things, so this interested me, the fact that there could be an entirely different way of approaching health and medicine.”

“Years later, I was doing Rockford Files with James Garner, trying to have lunch with my leading man who kept disappearing on me! I finally cornered him on day – how often does one get to work with, you know, a top leading man?! He basically said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t have lunch. I’ve got to go to my acupuncturist.’, so I was like, ‘Okay’. The lights went on when I heard and I immediately said, ‘You can’t go anywhere until you answer some questions: Why an acupuncturist? Why do you need it?’ and he immediately explained he had injured his knee doing a stunt in a movie and was in constant pain and western medicine could no longer do anything for him, except give him pain medication. He didn’t want to be addicted to drugs and be dependent on it, because he still had to leap over cars and hedges and chase the bad guy and look like he was in full control of his body, which he wasn’t. I got the name of his acupuncturist and went to do some treatments with him and I understood for years in going to him that I felt great afterwards; I felt revitalised and calm inside. I didn’t know whether it was just a placebo effect, whether it was just my mind lying on the table for a half hour meditation, just doing that every day is going to do the same thing.”

This therapeutic awakening of sorts continued through into other projects Gray found herself involved in, truly becoming an integral part of her life. A fiercely optimistic person to be speaking with, Gray’s positivity is infectious, something no doubt she attributes to this exploration of Tai-Chi and alternatives to western medicine.

“I had an instant healing that happened during Silver Spoons,” she continues. “The producers ended up writing an episode where I got to sing and dance; my biggest dream was to be able to sing. Dancing I can do, but singing, I’ve been told I can’t carry a tune and should keep my mouth shut! I studied singing for years and finally wrote this episode for this day where I was to perform. The day before, I got really sick with a head cold, so the producers sent me home and instead of going home, I went to my acupuncturist. Three hours later, I had a rush of energy go through my body and he basically said I was healed! I went back to the studio and everybody kept asking what drugs I was on, because there was no way I was the same person the left that morning: sickly, grey and pasty. I kept thinking I’d wake up the next day back to being sick, but instead, I went on to perform and I was completely healed. Once I had that sense of energy rushing through my body, I got it. My acupuncturist told me I didn’t need to see him and spend $150 an hour and fill out insurance forms, if I did Tai-Chi, it’d do the same thing as the needles. I started studying with a Grand Master for years and I still didn’t want to give up aerobics classes and training for marathons, but one day, I got sick with pneumonia. I remember lying in bed and saying, ‘Okay, I know how to fix this. I’m going to commit to Tai-Chi every day.’ I went for 20 years without having a cold or illness. I only got sick for the first time this year, but I pushed it because I travelled so much. I thought I was Wonder Woman, but I guess I’m not!”

Whether or not Gray will have time to fit in her usual sessions when she’s in Australia, it’s safe to say she’ll be making many fans’ convention over the next few weekends. A connection with the country and the people she’s bringing over is an element of this Australian trip Gray wants to further strengthen – no doubt it won’t take too long!

“It’s been many, many years since I’ve actually had a chance to spend a couple of days in Australia, not just a quick one day in and out again. I’m really looking forward to it. I know I did a film there years ago, actually one of the first sci-fi films for the Sci-Fi Channel and it was done on the Gold Coast. I remember coming there and going, ‘I could live here in a heartbeat’. I haven’t really felt that way in any other place in the world. I just really loved my time there; it just spoke to me. It felt comfortable.”

The Supanova Pop Culture Expo takes place this weekend at the Sydney Showgrounds before heading to Perth’s Convention and Exhibition Centre on June 20th-22nd.