Ron Perkins has been a working actor since 1995. He is known for his role as Mendel Stromm in Spider-Man. He also appeared in The Prestige as the manager of a hotel visited by Hugh Jackman’s character. You can see Ron in “Prince of the City”, “Endless Love”, “Troop Beverly Hills”, “Wired”, “Reindeer Games”,”The Perfect Game” and more. In TV Ron appeared in nine episodes of Fox’s “House”, seven episodes of “Roseanne” and four episodes of “Heroes”. Other TV credits include “Modern Family”, “Code Black”, “The Mentalist”, “Mad Men” and many more.
Nancy McLeod Perkins has worked in casting for thirty years. First in New York City, where she lived in Manhattan Plaza with her actor husband, Ron Perkins, and then in Los Angeles where she was the head of casting for Universal Television Studios for 15 years. Nancy oversaw the casting of all tv pilots and series, including all “Law and Order” series, “House”, “The Office”, “Friday Night Lights” to name a few. Since leaving Universal she partnered with Allison Jones to cast the pilot of “Parks and Recreation” for NBC and did the episodic casting for all three seasons of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” on HBO. For her work she was nominated for an Artios Award by the CSA for best episodic casting of a drama series. She has also worked as a casting consultant for NBC and Alcon Entertainment and is one of the producers on Miracle on 42nd Street.
T2C: When did you first move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
Nancy: I was lucky enough to marry in to the building! I moved to NY in 1981 to live with Ron and he lived there.
Ron: I was one of the original tenants and moved in to my apartment in June, 1977. The tenth avenue building wasn’t finished when I moved in to the 400 building. I was sharing an apartment on the upper West Side with three other actors and heard about the applications. I got one and mailed it in very quickly. Even though the neighborhood was sketchy, having my own new and clean apartment was worth the risk.
T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?
Nancy: I have so many fond memories. Being greeted each morning and evening by Mr. Burgess at the front desk. The feeling of being safe that I felt each time I arrived home. Interacting with all the different, interesting people that lived there. Being surrounded by artists was wonderful, especially at that young age.
Ron: I worked for a year and a half as the lifeguard at the swimming pool in the health club and met so many tenants with all different backgrounds. For example, Anita Baldwin, who I thought had moved to MP as a senior or member of the neighborhood. I once offered her assistance to her apartment and she showed me her scrapbooks. She danced with Fred and Adele Astare at the roof garden of the Astor Hotel and was in the Zeigfeld Follies. And Santa Anita racetrack was named after her!
T2C: Why did you leave the building?
Nancy: We decided to make the move to Los Angeles for more career opportunities.
Ron: Work was slow in NY at that time. We decided to try Los Angeles.
T2C: Who did you meet in the building and who were your friends. Did you stay friends?
Nancy: Ron was one of the original tenants so he seemed to know everyone in the building when I got there. He even had two friends from his small hometown in Indiana in the building – Barry Pruit and Bob Trebing. Mimi Bensinger was and is a great friend. We’re still in touch. We’re delighted when we run in to people in Los Angeles from back in the day, like Giancarlo Esposito, and reminisce about the Plaza.
Ron: All of the above – plus I played in a poker game with the actor Alan Rosenberg. We remained friends and still play golf together in Los Angeles. I also just worked with Christian Slater on a tv project – I’ve known him since he was a kid who used to come to the pool.
T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood and your business?
Nancy: When we left NY in the late 80s both the city and the tv/film business were depressed. There has been a comeback for both, which is great. The neighborhood is obviously much, much safer and cleaner. As far as casting, there is less of a divide between the NY and LA acting pool. Actors on both coasts are more readily considered for projects on either coast, I think.
Ron: I was shocked seeing Hell’s Kitchen when I visited after a long absence. It was so much cleaner and safer. As far as work, I have had more success in Los Angeles. There’s been more work for me in LA.
T2C: What did living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
Nancy: Unless you get incredibly lucky, making a livable wage as you start in the business is difficult. We could not have afforded to stick it out and pursue our careers without the safety net of MP.
Ron: It gave me a solid foot on the ground and the ability to continue pursuing my life as an actor.
T2C: How did living in the building make you feel?
Nancy: Grateful. Eternally grateful. And safe. It’s also a positive feeling to live somewhere that makes a statement of valuing artists.
Ron: Safe and secure. It also made me feel more like a true resident of NYC. Prior to living in MP everything felt transitory and uncertain.
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?
Nancy: The dark period of the AIDS epidemic and the devastation and sadness it brought. And I wish Rodney could have lived longer to see what a success his dream became.
Ron: I agree with Nancy. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything.
T2C: You loved the building so much you did this documentary. How did that come about?
Nancy: It started from a lunch that I had in Los Angeles at the Universal Commissary with Mary Jo Slater. We were discussing how much we loved the building and how we didn’t understand why it hadn’t been emulated in other cities and someone should do a documentary….and it grew from there. Mary Jo and I both benefited so much from living there we wanted to both celebrate and honor Manhatten Plaza.
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
Nancy: I don’t think the value of the management and staff can be overstated. Rodney, Richard, the Slenders, Mr. Burgess and everyone who worked there from the guards to the maintenance staff contributed greatly to the quality of life in the building.
Ron: It would be hard to overstate the contribution of the staff of the building. They made it feel less like a building and more like a community.
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.