BY JENNIFER NERAD / SEATTLE CHANNEL
Nancy Guppy, host of Seattle Channel’s award-winning “Art Zone with Nancy Guppy,” has just been inducted into the Silver Circle of the Northwest Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). The Silver Circle recognizes professionals who have made lasting contributions to the television industry for a minimum of 25 years and, in this case, celebrates Nancy Guppy’s 37-plus-year career, her steadfast dedication to television, and her devotion to Seattle’s vibrant arts scene.
Nancy Guppy grew up in Seattle and, except for a three-year stint in Los Angeles, has lived in the city her entire life. After graduating from Queen Anne High School and the University of Washington, she enrolled in an acting class at Seattle Central Community College that helped launch her career in television. Between 1985 to 1999, Guppy appeared as a performer, writer, and/or producer on the late-night comedy show “Almost Live!” on KING-TV. In 2002, Guppy created, produced, and hosted “City a Go Go,” a weekly arts-focused program that appeared on KCTS 9 and Seattle Channel until 2007. The program evolved into “Art Zone with Nancy Guppy,” which Guppy co-created and has produced and hosted on Seattle Channel since 2008. In between, she also wrote for the HBO series “Not Necessarily the News,” co-hosted the KMPS morning radio show “Ichabod Caine & the Waking Crew,” hosted UWTV’s environmental series “The Salmon Exchange,” and produced “Verve,” an artist profile program on Seattle Channel. Even this long list is just a selection of the vast number of productions Nancy Guppy has worked on in her television career.
To celebrate this moment, we turned the tables to interview the interviewer and, we hope, get to know a bit more about Nancy Guppy, what inspires her, and what brought her to the Silver Circle. As retired journalist John Levesque noted in Guppy’s Silver Circle nomination, “There’s plenty more to say about Nancy Guppy. She is fierce. She is a force. And an hour spent in her presence will make you a brighter, happier person.” This interview has been edited a bit for clarity and length.
[JENNIFER] Nancy, you’ve just been inducted into the Silver Circle, meaning that you’ve given 25+ years, really 37+ in your case, to the TV industry. How does that feel?
[NANCY] It feels like I’m old, but in a good way.
Watching clips from throughout your career, it seems like you’ve found the perfect job for your skills and personality. But, what would you do if, for whatever strange reason, you couldn’t be a TV producer/host/actor?
If I couldn’t be a TV producer/host/actor then I’d like to be a billionaire.
What would you do with those billions?
Shoes and a kitchen remodel. The rest would go to people and things I believe in.
What was your favorite/least favorite/best/worst subject in school?
Math was my least favorite. My best subject was talking.
Your career has taken you in so many different directions. What’s the best thing you’ve ever worked on?
There are so many best moments. The best thing would be my nine years with “Almost Live!”.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Depends on the definition of weird. In college, I worked summers at a manufacturing company making widgets. Literally.
Widgets are underrated. You lived in Los Angeles for a few years. What was a highlight? How did the scene in L.A. compare to Seattle and how badly did you want to get back to the Pacific Northwest?
The highlight was that I became a professional writer. And it’s hard to compare the two cities because they were so different. Los Angeles had way more work opportunities but it was hot and sprawling. Every time we flew back to Seattle, as the plane descended into SeaTac my eyes would pop out of my head at how green everything was. Climate definitely played a part in wanting to come back.
In the HBO biopic of your life, who will play you? Who will play Joe (Nancy’s husband, Joe Guppy)?
Isabelle Huppert will play me. Joe says he wants to be played by Ken Jeong.
Awesome, I would watch that! Which “Almost Live!” character do you most relate to?
The character I most relate to is the know-it-all host of a talk show called “Me!” That character was ripped directly from the headlines of my actual life.
It wouldn’t be fair to ask you to choose a favorite artist, actor, dancer, or musician. So…I’ll go off-beat and ask you…who is your favorite, like, someone outside the art world. Who is someone you really admire?
There used to be a show on PBS called “Sewing with Nancy” starring (the late) Nancy Zieman. I hate to sew but Nancy’s friendly, down-to-earth midwestern demeanor enthralled me. Still does on YouTube.
Oh yes, she’s great. You turned me on to her, and I DO like to sew. If Art Zone had a time travel episode, which artist from history would you love to have on the show and where and when would you interview them from?
The subject would be the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, the year would be 1978, and the location would be the notorious Donut Shop at First & Pike in downtown Seattle.
Why art? As in, what drew you to art as a focus of so much of your career?
I’m aesthetically driven, the amount of visual art on the walls of our house may qualify me as an orderly hoarder, plus art is an expression of ideas and artists tend to think and communicate outside-of-the-box which suits my personality. Art is also a whole lot of fun.
Speaking of aesthetics, here at the station we’ve seen you wearing a “Capable Woman” bodysuit (one of Guppy’s “Almost Live!” characters), faux fur, mix and match stripes, leopard print, a purple and gold lame gown, I could go on. How would you describe your style? Who is your style icon? What are your fashion rules?
I like wearing patterns that almost clash but don’t (at least I think they don’t) and my fashion rules are simple: gotta feel comfortable, gotta feel like myself. Style icons include Patti Smith, the queen of cool classic, and Iris Apfel, the queen of crazy clutter.
What do you consider your greatest success? Or, your greatest failure?
NANCY GUPPY: My greatest success is collaborating with top-notch creative people. My greatest failure is a tendency to think I can’t learn something, usually in the technical realm, believing that thought, and giving up without trying.
What question have you been waiting for someone to ask you?
Watch “Art Zone with Nancy Guppy,” tune in Friday nights at 8, or binge-watch online anytime. Learn more about Nancy Guppy and Art Zone by reading our blog post from 2019 when we celebrated ten years of Art Zone or a 2020 interview with Nancy, on the art of the interview.