Meet actress Tammy Dahlstrom who always finds the funny
Comedy is subjective and comes in so many different styles. Some jokes are obvious, while others are subtle. An actor’s job is to take what is written on the page and make us laugh. And that’s exactly what actress Tammy Dahlstrom does.
Millions cackled watching her as the bonnet wearing, good-natured frontierswoman ‘Martha’ alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi throughout the third season of the wildly comedic TBS series, Miracle Workers: Oregon Trail.
Now, Dahlstrom is earning guffaws starring as the tough-love undercover U.S. Marshall ‘Diane’ in the new Dekkoo original comedy series, Marriage of Inconvenience.
But these are only the most recent television roles Dahlstrom has emerged on. She recurred as the uber-assistant ‘Gloria’ in the HBO tech comedy Silicon Valley, as well as appearances on Life in Pieces, The Middle, Just Add Magic, Monk, and too many others to name.
Dahlstrom has also shown she can deliver the dramatic, as evidenced by her appearances in Criminal Minds, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, and the feature films A Boy Called Po and Wake Up.
We caught up with Tammy Dahlstrom to find out more about how she finds the funny.
Where do you start when you get a script?
Tammy Dahlstrom: Well, you just said it – the script. If something is funny on the page, then you’re halfway there as an actor. The script really is a blueprint for the character and then from there I get to use my imagination to bring her to life. I give myself what I call “couch time,” which is basically me creating as many details as I can in order to shape the character into a full person.
Then, I dissect the actual script looking beyond the text but for additional ways to insert her point. When it comes to comedy, physical behavior is a huge way to add more layers of humor and aren’t always written on the page. So, getting the script on its feet and trying out different stuff is always helpful.
Tell us about your latest project, Marriage of Inconvenience?
Dahlstrom: It’s been described as a modern, gay version of the classic comedy The Odd Couple. Basically, it’s two strangers enter a witness protection program where they must pretend to be a married couple to hide their identities. I’m the undercover U.S. Marshall Diane, who puts Owen and Franklin together – for better or worse – and then must keep them from getting killed or kill each other.
The show was created by Jason T. Gaffney, who portrays the very sloppy Owen opposite the uptight Franklin, played by David Allen Singletary.
What drew you to want to portray Diane?
Dahlstrom: Honestly, I’ve never played a cop. Diane is the authority in the show – she’s the law. So, I love that she is tasked with keeping everything from falling apart, which is not easy with Owen and Franklin. It sets up a lot of conflict in the show which is the root of all comedy.
Jason T. Gaffney wrote the series with his father, Ed Gaffney, and it literally made me laugh out loud when I read it. But the story also has a lot of heart at its core, which is why I think it’s such a fun ride for audiences.
And I am so thankful that I got to play Diane at all, considering I was cast before the pandemic. We were all set to shoot and then everything shut down. A lot of projects fell apart, but I was thrilled with Jason alerted me that we were still a “go” nearly two years later.
You also took audiences for a ride on the trail with Miracle Workers: Oregon Trail. What was that like?
Dahlstrom: In a word – incredible! I just remember the second day of shooting, I was sitting around a campfire with Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi and the wild coyotes were howling in the background as we shot a scene, and in-between takes we were just laughing and joking.
It was the first shoot since the start of the pandemic, and we were all just so excited to see other humans in person. It was the most delightful experience and both Daniel and Steve are not only talented, but also so generous and kind to work with.
What was your preparation for that role?
Dahlstrom: Well, I started by reading up on the Oregon Trail in the 1800’s. It was a fascinating time and really a tough life. I think that is what sets up my character, Martha, for some major comedy because she is so positive and kind-hearted. No one would suspect that she thinks “killing ourselves” is their best option, but in the beginning, she literally says that.
Then, weeks later when they’re all starving, she agrees that eating her only child is the smartest choice because he is the weakest of the bunch. Of course, this is all comedic absurdisms set up by the brilliant executive producers Dan Mirk and Robert Padnick.
So, I just learned as much about this time and world as I could from books and articles, and then showed up to set ready to play. The costumes also helped me get into that world – there’s nothing like wearing a bonnet and full skirt caked with dirt while trampling on the trail.
Tell us about your journey as an actor. How did you get started?
Dahlstrom: Actually, I started young as a commercial kid while growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles. It was terrific and quick. I would miss a day of school here and there, so it didn’t really impact my life negatively.
Then, when I got older, I started studying acting more seriously and expanded my skillset. I didn’t study theater in college, I studied communications and filmmaking, but I’ve certainly put in the hours and honed my chops with plenty of respected acting coaches and studios. And, I’m still learning – from coaches and peers, both on-set and off.
Is there anything else you’re working on?
Dahlstrom: Yes, I’m excited to be creating a few things myself. I just finished up a new comedy digital short with my creative partners, Jeff Witzke and Michael Cotter, under our production banner, Fun Dome. We like to use comedy to poke fun at ourselves and society, and that one will be releasing soon.
Also, I’m writing a comedy pilot related to the fanatical world of college football. I’m a crazy tailgating fan for my alma mater, The University of Southern California (USC), so I’m all about crazy gamedays. Also, fingers crossed that we’ll get picked up for a second season of Marriage of Inconvenience. I would love to keep telling Diane’s story.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Dahlstrom: Trust your instincts – they’re usually right. Whether that is in life or working on set, I find that when I simply trust myself, I can’t go wrong. Also, be kind to everyone. I was reminded of this while working with Daniel Radcliffe, who is probably the kindest person I’ve ever worked with.
He set a generous tone from the start, which then created a wonderful atmosphere to work in. The spirit of any production starts at the top.
Lastly, what is your favorite comedy of all time?
Dahlstrom: That is so hard to answer because there are so many. But, I grew up watching reruns of Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy and Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show – so those two genius funny ladies are at the top of my list. They both inspired me to believe I could make people laugh too – also they both had red hair like me.
What do you want to see next from the comedy phenom? Let us know in the comments!