Living a Greener Life with Actress Frances Fisher

May 6, 2015

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JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to another edition of Green is Good, and this is the Hollywood edition of Green is Good with my co-host, Debbie Levin, the President of the Environmental Media Association. We’re so honored to have with us today the beautiful Frances Fisher. Thank you for coming on Green is Good today, Frances. FRANCES FISHER: My pleasure. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you. Debbie, you and Frances are friends for a very, very long time, so I would want you to take the honor and really introduce Frances the way she’s supposed to be. DEBBIE LEVIN: Everybody knows Frances Fisher as being literally one of the most talented actresses ever. I mean, seriously, like, ever. Movies, theater, TV. I have the privilege of knowing Frances as one of my besties. We actually met in Sundance, and I know exactly when we met. We met in January of 2003 because I have a sweatshirt, so I know the year, and we met when we did a conference and Frances came. It was one of those moments where, oh my God, I love you. You joined the Board immediately, and we have been incredible girlfriends ever since. But beyond being one of the best actresses in the business, Frances is one of the most dedicated activists I know in the environmental world and in the theater world and your passion is just amazing. She is the most genuine and authentic human being I’ve ever met. That’s just my little intro for you. Live up to that, babe. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I know when you met Debbie, but when did you join EMA and became part of that? FRANCES FISHER: I think it was right away. Debbie completely revamped it. When did Norman start it? DEBBIE LEVIN: ’89. FRANCES FISHER: ’89. Then this little powerhouse shows up and completely reorganizes the whole thing and gets so many fantastic people to be on the Board. Our EMA event is amazing. Every year it grows bigger and bigger and bigger, and more and more people come and we have an amazing Board. We have an amazing Young Hollywood Board. DEBBIE LEVIN: Which your daughter sits on, Francesca. FRANCES FISHER: Which my daughter is on now, yes. She was little before, and now she’s old enough. And then the regular Board and then the Executive Board. DEBBIE LEVIN: And the Corporate Board, which John sits on. FRANCES FISHER: Yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re such a very prolific actress and so busy in what you do for your profession. How do you have time to be an environmental activist? FRANCES FISHER: Well, it’s just your lifestyle, right? In the beginning, it’s turn the lights off when you leave the room. I have so many canvas bags. I give them away. I use them for everything. It’s not just to go to the grocery store. I have a little emergency bag in my backseat with all kinds of stuff. I use them for everything. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How did you evolve, though, in terms of your personal lifestyle? From 2003 here to 2015, Frances, what are you doing in your personal journey to be green? You’re not just talking the talk, but you’re walking the walk. We know that, but I want our listeners to hear. FRANCES FISHER: I’ve had a Prius since they were invented. I love it. I’ve seen other people with other types of cars that are hybrids, but I just love my Prius. I just really love it. What do I do? Recycling. I have glass containers that I put things in. I don’t have those plastic containers. It’s little things like that. What else? DEBBIE LEVIN: You’re really, really supportive of our PSA programs too, so that’s a huge thing, in terms of using your talent to really spread the message and voice our issues. You’ve worked a lot with John Quigley, who has also come here today. FRANCES FISHER: There’s so many issues going on on the planet. It’s overwhelming to think what do I want to get involved in? What I do is, depending on the time I have between jobs, that’s when my activism really kicks in. My lifestyle is pretty consistent. If we don’t have a planet to live on and air to breathe, all these other things, they’re moot. We need to take care of Mother Earth and Father Sky. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Obviously, you’ve walked a heck of a walk because Francesca now has also become an environmental activist and joined EMA, the Young Hollywood Board. In terms of the big issues that we face today, we’ve talked today about water scarcity, we’ve talked today about climate change, what’s really on your mind? Before you leave this planet, before we all leave this planet, what do you hope gets solved and what are you focusing on? FRANCES FISHER: Water. If we don’t have clean water, we won’t survive. The fracking thing, John, quickly, it’s terrifying to see what’s happening to our planet. So many people who don’t really realize it. I post things on my Facebook and I get messages from people around the country. “I didn’t realize that Keystone XL was so bad, because I’ve been told it’s going to give people jobs.” It’s like, balance that. Ed Begley, bless his heart. Are you going to get those organic things that are flown in from Chile, those blueberries? Think of the pollution for the traveling of the airplanes. You have to offset everything. It takes work. Even food labeling. I’ve taught my daughter to read labels because you can’t just believe the advertising of something. You have to look at the labels on the back of the container and see what the ingredients really are. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Frances, since meeting Debbie in 2003 and becoming part of EMA, how have you seen the evolution of Hollywood in terms of all the sets that you get to work on and all the producers you get to work with? Is Hollywood from the inside getting more green in terms of doing more things on their sets and in production? FRANCES FISHER: Sometimes. I’m very frustrated with a certain company because we had a craft service person who was bringing in all organic food. She had a guy, this was not in this state, it was in another state, she had a guy who was basically homeless, and she hired him to sort through all the garbage because everybody was just throwing all the trash in the same bin, which is what we’ve all done all our lives until the last decade or so, when we’ve really understood. They’re starting to make garbage cans that have the recycle bins and that kind of consciousness. This was fabulous. She gave a homeless man a job. He was the one who separated out the paper and the plastic and the garbage and everything, and took all the stuff that didn’t have meat and eggs in it and dairy, and separated it out to make compost. This guy was amazing. The next year, the studio said it cost too much money. I said, “If you feed people good food, their energy level will be better, they will produce more, they will have energy to work instead of eating the same tired food in the line.” It’s that. I’m sounding very frustrated because I am. And on the other hand, I worked on a show here in town where the craft services had brown rice and vegetables just waiting there. The actors are conscious. I think actors are probably a little more conscious of what they eat because they have to look a certain way on camera, so they kind of lead it all the time. The crew needs healthy, hearty food. I have to tell you about FRANCES FISHER: There’s a place called Serenbe. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Where is this? FRANCES FISHER: In Georgia. I went there to do a TV series, Resurrection, a couple years in a row now. Instead of living in a hermetically sealed apartment in Atlanta or in a house in the middle of this bustling city, I said I want to live in the country. I want a front porch. It’s the South. I want to live like that. My realtor said, “You’ve got to check out Serenbe.” I opened that page and I looked, and it says, “The best part about living here is the life here.” It’s 1,000 acres with an organic farm, organic restaurants, people who live in houses in community, face-to-face with all the front porches and kids running up and down the sidewalks because nobody’s driving fast in their cars. They drive around in golf carts mostly. So what is my point? Solar powered, geothermal. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Who are the people behind this? FRANCES FISHER: Marie and Steve Nygren were both restaurateurs in Atlanta, and they decided they wanted to raise their daughters on the weekends in this farm that they bought many years ago. As the land came for sale around their property, Steve would buy it because he didn’t want it to be developed. A lot of developers are unconscious. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So it kept growing. FRANCES FISHER: It kept growing, and then finally, what am I going to do with this? What he’s done is dedicated 30 percent of the property to buildings and the rest is green. Everywhere you look, there’s trees and flowers. Nobody has lawns. Everybody has herbs growing. I could run across the street and get an herb. DEBBIE LEVIN: These are the kind of communities that we should be having all over, but we don’t because it seems people don’t want to build it because there’s better ways to make money. JOHN SHEGERIAN: When you were doing your show, can you go there and eat? How did you get to know them? FRANCES FISHER: I lived there. DEBBIE LEVIN: She lived there, and I was so mad because the year that she lived there, I was doing a wedding and I was building a house, and I didn’t have time to visit. It was so upsetting. FRANCES FISHER: Hopefully, we’ll be picked up next year. DEBBIE LEVIN: I know, and then I’ll come. FRANCES FISHER: They have the agricultural pod. It’s like a neighborhood where the farm is. There’s another one that’s the arts district because they have a theater there. It’s all outdoor theater, environmental theater. They have an artist in residence program, painters, photographers, and they’re building the new neighborhood called Mado, which is going to have all kinds of holistic alternative medicines, probably cryo, a real doctor, old folks’ home, a teen center to help teens. They have a school on the property. DEBBIE LEVIN: This is the way people should be living, and it’s so difficult because we haven’t been able to figure out how to do that for ourselves. FRANCES FISHER: I think, also, when people make money, they think that they have to buy a McMansion and put a big wall around it to protect all their material possessions, and they are lonely and isolated. People in Bel Air don’t know their neighbors, and this here, nobody locks their doors. Steve and Marie thought everybody wants community. We can be on our social media, and that’s all very good and effective, but there’s nothing like walking into a theater and sharing a real experience, to see actors on a stage, especially if it’s good, to share that with an audience, walk in as strangers and come out because you’ve laughed and cried together, and look that person in the eye and go, “That was good, right?” Human connection. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Frances, was the whole production company staying there, or just you? FRANCES FISHER: Just me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How did you learn about it, and how did you even find out about this place? FRANCES FISHER: A realtor. I had talked to 10 realtors looking for places to live. I kept saying I want a house with a porch. They were trying to sell me on going to live at the Twelve, which is like this high rise, hermetically sealed windows where it’s all air conditioned. It’s awful. They said, “When you come in at midnight from working, you can just order from any restaurant around. They’ll send it right up.” I don’t care about restaurant food. I’m a vegan. I want to eat real food. This one realtor heard me, and she said, “I don’t handle any property there, but I’ll tell you about Serenbe. That’s where you want to be.” JOHN SHEGERIAN: How many homes are there for purchase or for rent? FRANCES FISHER: They’re building all the time. They had 140 homes, now they’ve probably got about 250. They’re not going to overbuild, but all the houses are together so everybody has community, but you could go out the back porch and you’ve got the woods. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You mentioned a little while ago that you’re a vegan. Is being a vegan in still a McDonald’s and Taco Bell world, is it hard, or is it getting easier, or do you find it no problem at all? FRANCES FISHER: It’s definitely easier, especially in Los Angeles now with the Crossroads and places that are popping up all the time, and Gracias Madre is one of our favorite restaurants. DEBBIE LEVIN: How is it for you health-wise? FRANCES FISHER: When I eat vegan, I can eat as much as I want. I did Kathy Freston’s 21-day vegan cleanse, and what it was was giving up five things. You give up coffee, alcohol, sugar, gluten, and animal products of any kind. 21 days later, the weight just slipped off me. Obviously, I’m not doing that stringent a diet right now, but my face just started glowing and I was more rested because eating healthy, organic, non-GMO food gives me the energy I need and I don’t have to eat a lot. I was eating raw for a while. You eat raw food only, the enzymes aren’t cooked out because they’re fresh and they’re clean. You get the energy right then. You don’t have to eat as much to fill your stomach up or to get the energy you need. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Do you enjoy, also, this whole revolution with juices? Are you enjoying fresh juices as well? FRANCES FISHER: Yeah, I do juices. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Do you really? FRANCES FISHER: And water. Lots of water. DEBBIE LEVIN: You did also mention the organic blueberries and the challenge between local and organic. That’s a huge point for people, I think, because I think people do need to understand that you have to look beyond the obvious. You can’t say I have to only buy organic when there’s a local farm that has not been certified yet, but is not using pesticides, and they’re growing their fruits and vegetables and herbs. You can go to a farmers’ market and get it and it’s right there and there’s no transportation involved. That’s the environmental choice. FRANCES FISHER: Because I’ve been doing it so long, it’s just part of me now. People starting it, it seems a little overwhelming. You just start simply. If there’s a 9 on the little sticker on the fruit or vegetable, that means it’s OK. If it starts with a 9, that means it’s organic. If it starts with a 4, it’s conventionally grown. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Explain why. I’ve never heard of that before. FRANCES FISHER: That’s just the way they label it. It’s like four or five numbers, I think, but the 9 is the important one. 9 is good; 4 is bad. DEBBIE LEVIN: Also know where it’s coming from. If it’s going thousands and thousands of miles, what is that doing for fuel? You have to think about that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Because of what you’re doing and your own walk, are a lot of your friends following and becoming vegan as well, and also living more sustainable lifestyles? FRANCES FISHER: I don’t know if anybody has turned vegan. DEBBIE LEVIN: I have not. FRANCES FISHER: But if you are not going to be vegan, just make sure that the animal flesh that you do eat has not been fed with GMO corn and things like that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Beyond meat, if you were to share with our listeners and viewers what to cut out of their diet that can make a good dent and make them feel better, if they’re going to keep meat in their diet but buy organic meat. FRANCES FISHER: Yeah, it’s a little more expensive, but the benefit of that, you feel better. I fell off the wagon. I did, in the South, in Georgia. You look at that, and Marie goes, “Just taste this.” But it was not factory farmed. The taste and the energy I got from that food as opposed to what I used to do before I was conscious, you don’t get energized by food, especially now. Back in the day, when our parents were growing up, when there was no such thing as GMOs, the Earth was actually vibrant. Now everything is so overprocessed. There’s no energy in the soil anymore. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners or viewers, what should they cut out? Milk, dairy? Should it be dairy, sugar, gluten? You give us your take on this stuff. FRANCES FISHER: Sugar is really, really dangerous and pointless. If you have to have sugar, you can do fruit sugars. Agave, yes, or maple syrup. At least it’s not white. I’d say get rid of anything white. Human beings aren’t supposed to be drinking milk. Mother’s milk, yes, when you’re feeding your child, but we’re not supposed to be drinking milk of other animals. White bread, anything processed, obviously not good. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Did you feel better after you cut gluten out? FRANCES FISHER: Yes. I rarely eat gluten. If there’s a little piece of French bread, of course, I’m going to indulge, but for the most part, like what’s in my home, it’s all clean stuff. I know that I’ve got something that I can eat that is healthy and nourishing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Francesca is the same way? FRANCES FISHER: Yeah, she’s doing really, really well. Every once in a while I’ll see on her Instagram, it’s like Big Mac. It’s like, no, no. She’s a kid, and it’s not all the time. She’s learning. I’ve taught her how to cook simple meals. I make this mac and cheese that you would swear that it was made with real cheese, but it’s made with diet cheese, and the macaroni is gluten-free. You just put it in the thing with a little almond milk. DEBBIE LEVIN: It’s so easy to do that because even though I’m not a vegan, I don’t eat a lot of meat, and when I eat it’s always organic. I’m scared to eat anything else anyway, but I have quinoa pasta and whole wheat. There’s so many choices right now, and it’s actually not hard anymore. It’s all available, and it’s kind of available everywhere. You just have to look and you have to try it and you have to realize that these things are such great options and it’s fun. FRANCES FISHER: Yeah, and it used to be that only Whole Foods had it. DEBBIE LEVIN: Right, but it’s not like that anymore. FRANCES FISHER: Whole Foods has a lot of conventionally grown things, too. You have to look in the right place at Whole Foods. But places like Albertson’s and the grocery stores, Piggly Wiggly, they’ll have a little organic section. DEBBIE LEVIN: Now it’s everywhere. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We had Ethan Brown on a little while ago from Beyond Meat. He’s in 7,000 stores selling his Beyond Meat products. DEBBIE LEVIN: Target and Costco and everywhere, they all have this now. It’s really amazing. FRANCES FISHER: The thing that I learned, this is important, because if you don’t want to do gluten, I don’t have Celiac’s but I feel better when I don’t eat gluten, I just can feel it, to eat a lot of these vegetarian or vegan things that are made, there’s a lot of gluten in them. You have to read the labels. You always have to read the labels. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a great point. FRANCES FISHER: Fresh is better anyway. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Beyond sustainability, Frances, before we sign off today, share what you’re up to professionally. What’s going on in your life and what’s your next project and what are you excited about? FRANCES FISHER: What is my next project? Right now, I’m fighting for actors to keep our Equity union from closing down the 99-seat theaters in Los Angeles. DEBBIE LEVIN: And fighting very publicly and very loudly, which is amazing. FRANCES FISHER: I love 99s, 99-seat theater, which is an incubator for new works and a place for actors to apply their craft and keep themselves fresh. The 99-seat plan was never made to give actors money. It’s a place to work when you’re not doing other things. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Is there a website that people can go to if they want to donate? FRANCES FISHER: Yeah, It’s not just us. Why we do it is we want to give it to an audience, and we need an audience. That’s what I was saying before about community. The theater is one place where people can come together and have a community. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Frances Fisher, thank you for joining us today at Green is Good. For Debbie Levin and John Shegerian, we’re Green is Good. Frances Fisher, you are truly living proof that green is good. Thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you. FRANCES FISHER: Thank you.

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