Divine Comedian: Siobhan Fallon Hogan

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Article Spirituality
Actress Siobhan Fallon Hogan is serious about faith and family, but that hasn’t stopped her from being funny, too.

She’s appeared in more than 25 major motion pictures and countless episodes of television shows including Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, and 30 Rock.

But when discussing her “big break” into Hollywood, Siobhan Fallon Hogan breaks into hearty laughter when her husband, Peter, interrupts. “Whoa, whoa, whoa—her first big break was when she auditioned to be my wife. I cast her in the biggest role of her life,” he laughs. There’s never a dull moment with a comedian.

Finding her role: When people meet Hogan, they inevitably think, “Where have I seen her before?” The answer: just about everywhere. She is one of the industry’s most successful character actresses, playing the school bus driver in Forrest Gump, Elaine’s roommate on Seinfeld, a tri-Delt sorority girl on Saturday Night Live, and dozens of other roles.

“Since I was a little kid, I just loved being on stage and loved acting,” says Hogan, who was raised in the small town of Cazenovia, New York, the second of five children. “It was instinct.”

Her parents pressed her to pursue a career in teaching. But as much as her parents were practical, Hogan’s talents are rooted strongly in her family tree. Her late father, William J. Fallon, is a role model morally and comedically.

“He had an Irish wit that was truly brilliant and a great stage presence,” she says. “So many people say that he was the funniest man they ever met and that he should have taken his act on the road—he could recite a poem or tell a joke and have the entire audience in the palm of his hand.”

Hogan says her father, an attorney in the small town of 12,000 residents, was consistently honest and always upfront. “He was a great example and a great Catholic, not at all judgmental or arrogant—a class act.”

Family first: Hogan has balanced a successful Hollywood career with a 16-year marriage to Peter while raising three outwardly happy children, ages 7 to 14. She chose to raise them on the Jersey Shore as opposed to the fast-paced worlds of New York or Los Angeles—harmonizing work, family, and a Catholic school PTA.
Hogan tries to work only one or two months out of the year. “I’m sort of the opposite of other actresses; it’s lucky that I’m a character actress because I really don’t want to work that much,” she says.

“I say ‘no’ to a ton of things,” she laughs, “so it works out perfectly!”
As a mother, Hogan selects her movies carefully, for appropriate content. “Faith influences the roles I choose and the way I shape my characters,” she says. “I have passed on several projects where I felt the writing was derogatory or degrading toward my religion, women, or the general dignity of human beings.”

Hogan once quit a TV show because her character was to have an affair. She turned down another TV role because of the script, even though it would have offered her family financial security.

Success, though, has not been lacking in Hogan’s acting career. In early 2009 Hogan landed her largest role to date, co-starring in New in Town with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. She persuaded the producers to take out the swear words to make it a family film, and her character’s strong faith is not simply a comedic device. “Goofy” clothing, mousy hair, Hogan says of her character, Blanche Gunderson: “I can really relate to that kind of woman.”

Hogan reflects on her career with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor. “My doorman in Manhattan used to always say, ‘Too bad you’re not pretty like your sister or you’d work all the time’!”

Serious side: Though her comedic flair inhabits just about every aspect of Hogan’s life, the family’s faith is something she models sincerely.

Between supplementing her children’s religious education at home and attending a weekly rosary group, Hogan finds time to volunteer at a local nursing home and give Communion to residents. “It is incredibly humbling and moving to see the faith that the seniors have,” she says.

Sending her children to Catholic school is also important to Hogan. “Kids these days are exposed to so many things at times that I consider are too early,” she says. “I believe it’s important to keep them a little more naive and learning in a faith-filled atmosphere.”

Describing their morning routine, Hogan paints a different picture than your stereotypical harried and hassled suburban mother: “Every morning on the way to school we say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Hail Holy Queen. Then we go around the car and make special intentions for the day.”

Next act: Through it all, the sharp-witted actress lets no humorous opportunity slip through the cracks. This spring Hogan debuted a one-woman show, “The Salty Sea PTA,” which is “loosely based” on her two-year stint as PTA vice president at her children’s Catholic school.

The good-natured satire of life in the suburbs drew rave reviews from theatergoers and PTA members alike at her local New Jersey theater, and she hopes to continue the act at a larger New York venue this fall. “All names have been changed to protect the innocent,” she says, letting out another hearty laugh.

This article appeared in the November 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 74, No. 11, pages 47-48).