Pat Labez calls herself “an accidental actor.” Her love of theatre started in high school when she first auditioned for The Sound of Music, hoping to be a nun but would’ve been equally happy working backstage. McKinley Theatre Group was considered the best drama program in Hawaii back then and at age 16, she ended up with the role of Liesl, enjoying I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen. “Being in Hawaii, the ‘Melting Pot of the Pacific,’ we were ahead of the times with a Von Trapp family that consisted of a multi-ethnic cast, with no regard of one’s skin color, à la Hamilton. The following year, she was cast as Maria in West Side Story, another successful production. Years later, the stage would call her back and she played the role of Lily in Diamond Head Theatre’s The World of Suzie Wong, with an extended run to sold-out audiences. It was then that the casting director for Magnum, P.I., along with a talent agent, approached her backstage after the show to see if she would be interested in television. That began her journey in film. Earlier acting credits include co-star roles on the CBS series Island Son with Richard Chamberlain and twice on Jake and the Fatman with William Conrad, both filmed in Hawaii in the ’80s. She has also done a number of local commercials, PSAs, and industrial films between Hawaii, California and Colorado. After settling down to raise a family, Pat took an extended sabbatical and established a career in health and human services, working in long-term care administration and director of human resources.
A consummate volunteer, Pat once again stumbled back into acting in New York City following a project promoting diversity. In 2016, she was invited to audition for a lead in the short film, The Second Province, by writer/director/producer Zorinah Juan.It was a role of a mother with terminal cancer and the family dynamics between her estranged son and daughter. At that time, Pat was actually caring for her sister with terminal cancer who convinced her to resume acting. “When I lost my sister, my best friend and kindred spirit, I was inspired to tell more stories of the human spirit. Based on a true story, the short film, HOWARD, was born, thanks to the collaborative efforts with Zorinah Juan, Sibyl Santiago, a fine group of cast and crew, and the generosity of friends equally inspired by the story. The film was the recipient of the People’s Choice Award at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, a chance meeting with actress Marya Coburn led to a friendship (recently discovered that we’re actually also related!), and her continued encouragement during this time, along with talent manager Robert R. Blume, has resulted in a revival of sorts at a time when most folks are slowing down.
Pat’s New York singing debut was at last year’s Asian Artists Step Forward! concert at The Green Room 42 followed by another at The Triad. “All in fun,” she says, “just grateful to have another lease in life and doing what I do,” as she continues to collaborate creatively on projects while running a health and wellness business, all of which are positively impactful in people’s lives. “I am so happy to be able to work with Robert Blume and Step Forward Entertainment, featuring many talented folks during this lockdown, and look forward to the success of this benefit concert supporting The Actors Fund which has already donated over $10.5M to COVID-19 related recipients,” she says. Please go to www.SteppinForwardNYC.com for dates, showtimes and streaming information, and please consider donating at www.ActorsFund.org/StepForward. Thank You!
T2C: How are you dealing with home containment in Virginia?
Pat Labez: Quite well, thank you! Grocery runs have been pleasant with country hospitality in play. We try to support the neighborhood farmer’s market for fresh produce and eggs. Have had no burning desire to venture out, really, as I like the peace and serenity of the mountains over the chaos of the world lately. Just walking around our own property gives me ample exercise and fresh mountain air while taking in nature’s beauty with reflection and inspiration. Social distancing at its best.
T2C: What would you say is the difference of being in self lockdown
between Virginia and NY?
Pat Labez: We’re in the Shenandoah Valley overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains in the wine country of northern Virginia with wide open spaces. A week after we left New York City, the first case of COVID-19 hit our building and three floors eventually had positive cases. When you’re sharing three elevators in a 35-story building with hundreds of occupants, that can get a bit too close for comfort in times like these. Extremely grateful to have been able to come home when we did. Country living is just calmer vs. the skyscrapers, hustle ’n bustle, and understandable paranoia that ensued in the Big Apple.
T2C: What have you been able to accomplish in this time?
Pat Labez: A lot! No time for boredom, that’s for sure! I’ve been able to address nagging home, personal, and film projects in development. Oh, I’ve had to learn to do self- tape auditions during this period as well, and since technology is not my fortè, that has been an interesting process, but grateful to be invited to auditions. My health and wellness business has expanded immensely, helping a lot of people along the way, which has been extremely gratifying! I was so inspired and motivated by it all that I’m also taking a Cellular Health Coach program and taking in many life enhancing webinars. What can I say… I love learning! Thanks to Zoom and Facetime, in reality, it’s not so much “social distancing” we’re doing as it is simply
“physical distancing.” There’s still an awful lot of socializing, perhaps more so now… just online, this time! Reconnecting with friends has been great and even resumed hula dancing via Zoom. And now, as associate producer with Step Forward Entertainment, we are launching Steppin’ Forward Virtually to Celebrate the Music of the Legendary Neil Sedaka in mid-June to benefit The Actors Fund COVID-19 Relief efforts supporting the entertainment industry. That is gonna be amazing! Never a dull moment! Please consider supporting their efforts by donating to www.actorsfund.org/stepforward.
T2C: What has this time stopped you from accomplishing?
Pat Labez: Well, in March, my daughter, Amanda Joy, had just received an award from the European Law Students Association at a large gala which resulted in her being exposed to COVID-19. We suspect that she actually had a mild case of it but was unable to get tested since she did not exhibit, at that time, the current symptoms that would qualify for testing or even seek medical help. As such, all we could do was provide moral support, encouragement, guidance in applying whatever measures could help boost her immune system and help her situation, and a lot of prayers. Being very weak, lethargic, unable to taste, eat and function, stress levels were especially high during finals. Thank God, she got through it all and eventually plowed through the deadlines! Of course, we had planned on being with her, but can’t, so we celebrate across the miles her accomplishments as a 21-year old graduate of International Law and Globalization.
Additionally, on March 13th, I was scheduled for a callback on a network television program that was to start filming on the 18th. That morning, many productions stopped. So we shall never know what might have been. Perhaps they’ll resume where they left off when life returns to the new normal.
I was also associate producer and performer for a cabaret at The Green Room 42 scheduled for March 21st, Steppin’ Forward to Spring, which had to be cancelled till we’re back in the groove again. That was gonna be a bright, fun celebration of the spring season with songs of love, hope and rebirth.
T2C: What kind of emotions does this time bring out of you?
Pat Labez: Like many, anxiety and sadness do creep in, especially if one is fixated on the news. Fortunately, I manage to nip those emotions quickly and focus on the goodness that I still believe exists. The juggling of many projects helps remind me that there is so much more we can do to make a difference in life. There’s no time to wallow or bicker. Life is too short. Having spent many years in health and human services and having had so many losses of loved ones, I truly appreciate and embrace the present. There IS hope during change. If I can help and lift up one person every day, then I am happy. Carpe diem… seize the day!
T2C: If you were to equate this time to a song or song cycle what would it be?
Pat Labez: A Hawaiian song that’s near and dear to my heart is Kanaka Wai Wai – Walk Through Paradise – as it keeps me grounded and hopeful, especially in these unsettling times. It has a universal appeal, and this recording with Gladys Knight gives a glimpse of its beauty.
Let me walk through paradise with you,
LordTake my hand and lead me there
All my earthly treasures,
I would gladly giveTeach me how to love and how to share…
Oh, my Lord, my Savior
Lead me down that long and lonely road
Faith, hope and trust and charity before me
Let me walk through paradise with you…
T2C: What message would you like to give the world right now?
Pat Labez: Find joy in the journey… no matter the circumstance. I try to find the silver lining in everything, even when things don’t go as planned. I remind myself that while things could be better, things could always be worse too, so I simply choose joy. During this lockdown, mother nature has healed in many areas; families are spending time together; folks are taking care of their health and well-being; a deeper spiritual connection has evolved; and I hope people are more thoughtful of others, cognizant of the impact of their actions.
T2C: What is the first thing you will do when we are no longer self quarantined?
Pat Labez: Get a haircut. And hug those I’m able to! Between being Filipino and being raised in Hawaii, both cultures are huggers. I miss that!
T2C: What are the things that are getting you through this time?
Pat Labez: Faith. Family. Friends. Hope. Dreams. My health and wellness business has been so fulfilling on so many levels of being able to help people. I was quite ill a few years ago and I feel this has given me a second chance at life. To be able to share that is a gift. And it compliments my creative side, allowing me to return to showbiz and pursue many projects, supporting many stories that need to be told. Whether I’m able to take part as a performer or producer or supporter/cheerleader, it’s all good. I keep looking up.
T2C: What haven’t we asked you that you would like to say?
Pat Labez: I’m often asked if I have any regrets in life, certainly as it relates to leaving the industry for many years. I’ve had many lives. While I’ve always said that I’m an accidental actor, I do believe that nothing is really an accident. We find ourselves in certain situations for a reason and each provides important life lessons that help shape us. Who would’ve thought that I’d be back on stage and on screen and be part of producing shows that provide joy to others — in my 60s! When most are slowing down, I’ve been busier than ever. What a gift. I’ve been told that I’ve inspired others to not give up on their dreams. If that is so, then I am happy. So grateful. I pray for healing, strength, and hope. Thank You!