Peggy Gormley: Actress, Producer & Teacher, NYU Tisch

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Bio:

Peggy Gormley has worked as an actress and independent producer in New York for over twenty years. She recently wrote, produced and starred in Beyond Repair with James McCaffrey, who is her producing partner in Ships in the Night Films. Ships in the Night Films is an independent film and television production company. As an actress she has appeared in numerous films and television shows including The Last Temptation of Christ, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Sleepy Time Gal, The Squid and the Whale, Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and 100 Centre Street,  working along the way with a number of prominent directors including Martin Scorsese and Sydney Lumet.  Peggy is a lifetime member of the Actors’ Studio.  She studied acting with Stella Adler as well as with Marcia Haufrecht and Penny Allen.  

Peggy was actor Harvey Keitel’s producing partner at his production company The Goatsingers, where she served as executive producer of The Grey Zone directed by Tim Blake Nelson.  The film starred Keitel, Mira Sorvino and David Arquette.  At The Goatsingers, Peggy was also involved in the production of the Sundance Film Festival award-winning film Three Seasons, directed by Tony Bui, as well as the development of numerous other independent feature projects. Independently Peggy, along with partners Mark Bailey and Dan Cogan, produced the award winning short film Torte Bluma.  The film was directed by Benjamin Ross and starred Stellan Skarsgård, Simon McBurney and Sol Frieder. Peggy graduated Magna Cum Laude from Albright College in Reading, PA and has an MA in English from the University of Wales, Bangor, Wales, UK. She did her thesis on the poetry of William Butler Yeats. Peggy teaches directing performance at New York University Tisch School of the Arts’ Maurice Kanbar School of Film.  She has also taught screenwriting at Long Island University in Brooklyn and acting at Rikers’ Island.

What do I do best?

It has taken me a long time to realize that resilience and humor, which for me are inextricably joined, are what I do best.  Like every other human circling the sun on this planet, I’ve had my share of disappointments, failures and setbacks. I’ve had to acknowledge my weaknesses along the way, but without the ability to laugh and get going again, the temptation is always there to settle into some kind of bunker and stop taking chances.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I come from a coal mining town and I have a strong work ethic. I’m not sure that I’m naturally overly-gifted at anything I really aspired to do, but I work hard and endlessly to get better at what I love. I also have the gift from somewhere – probably DNA – of being fairly brave…ok sometimes, foolhardy.

What are my aspirations?

I will always aspire to be the best actress and writer I can be…the road I am on toward that goal is endless. I aspire to be more compassionate and forgiving….again it’s a daily pilgrimage toward that goal. Hopefully as I go along with both goals, I’ll also forgive myself if I’ve done my best and don’t get where I thought I should be – back to humor and resilience for that I guess.

My Biggest Success?

I don’t know about success but I can talk about gifts I’ve received along the way. I have had amazing professional opportunities – working with Sidney Lumet and Martin Scorsese among many others.  I have been lucky on my road and those opportunities were gifts. I have done a lot of volunteer work – teaching at Rikers Island and at a juvenile felon alternative sentencing program and cleaning and cooking at an AIDS hospice run by the Missionaries of Charity where I met Mother Teresa. That volunteer work was another gift.

I don’t worry too much about success or failure honestly.  Working hard  with integrity is the greatest success.

My Most Challenging Moment?

There have been many occasions when I chose change over comfort.  When a job or situation has reached its natural end, it is important to be honest with yourself and move on if you can. Sometimes – and often in my experience – it is moving into the unknown. I’ve had to give up financial security to get more fulfillment and satisfaction. It’s always frightening, but it has never been the wrong decision.

My Motto?

Be brave or your luck will leave you.  (It’s a corruption of D.H. Lawrence from The Virgin and the Gypsy.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

When I volunteered for the Missionaries of Charity, there was a man named Frank, who came in every Friday night after he finished work as a bookkeeper at a big office on Park Avenue. He stayed from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon – most of his weekend – and cared for homeless men dying of AIDS. He got up in the middle of the night to assist them. He bathed them, fed them and gave them their medication. He also talked to them and watched tv and played cards and games with them. They were his family. I came in on Sundays for five hours to cook and clean.

One Sunday I came in and Frank was not there. No one knew where he was. He hadn’t turned up on Friday. The following Sunday I learned that Frank had died of a heart attack alone in his apartment sometime the Thursday before he didn’t show up.

I always think of Frank as a hero. No one saw his valor or his sacrifice. Whenever I’m feeling sullen about lack of recognition, I think of Frank and he straightens me out.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I live at the beach…so home.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

My surfboard and my bike.

My Current Passions?

I am passionate about my writing/producing partnership and the work we are doing as Ships in the Night Films. Finding a great creative partner has been an unexpected blessing.