The Perfect Primate? Renowned actress/singer, Mary Votava, aka “Monkey Woman” from Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Mary Votava)
Monkey Woman had it all. She was beautiful, fit, athletic and super-sexy in her 2-piece jungle costume and bright yellow go-go boots. What a swinger! (Photo: SyFy)
Fourth in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with Contestants of the Syfy Channel’s Reality TV Show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?”
By Mark Otnes, 4-5-2015
Editor, The Joe Report
When Syfy TV viewers first caught a glimpse of Mary Votava, they could see right away she was fit, trim and beautiful. And muscular. And athletic. After all, her homemade “bikini-n-bananas” costume left little else to the imagination. But when Votava firmly planted her wooden staff, opened her mouth wide and suddenly let forth with a loud, piercing monkey scream, “Ooo-Ooo! Aaa-Aaa-Aaa!,” everyone else in the room (and everyone watching at home) could tell that this powerfully petite, modern-day female Tarzan was someone intent on making a STRONG impression on her competition—and she did!
As her fans now know, Votava hails from Kirkland, Washington and is a part-time actress and singer who’s appeared in numerous stage and theater productions as well as independent films produced primarily in her native Northwest. But it was 9 years ago, when her on-screen looks, performing talents and outstanding athleticism all fused together perfectly to help land her the role she’s STILL best known for today—a tree-climbing, vine-swinging, dog-fighting, banana-swallowing, superheroine wannabe, affectionately known as—Monkey Woman.
We’re GREEN with Envy— As shown in this superb “head shot” or publicity still, Mary’s piercing green eyes were perfect for a jungle-bred, eco-warrior, super-heroine character like Monkey Woman. WOW! (Photo: Mary Votava)
Va-Va-Va-VOOM! Votava and many other beautiful contestants vied for a spot on Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” TV show. (Photo: Syfy)
Votava debuted her Monkey Woman character back in 2006 on Syfy’s ground-breaking,“Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (WWTBASH) reality TV show (to great excitement and potential). But sadly, after only three episodes, she was unexpectedly eliminated by its host, Stan Lee. Despite an all-too-short foray into reality television, Mary’s appearances proved “wildly” entertaining and she left an indelible impression upon the hearts and minds of millions of fans. But whatever became of the beautiful Mary Votava after her untimely departure from the show? Where did she go? What did she do next? We were eager to uncover the fate of the Syfy jungle queen and contacted Votava recently at her home in Washington. She kindly consented to our request for this interview and also provided many of the its exclusive photos as well, most of which have never been seen by her fans before. Enjoy!
The passing of the years have done little to dim the natural beauty of Votava, though she now seeks a life largely out of the limelight. (Photo: Mary Votava)
Before we begin, please allow me to thank you for taking the time to reply to our questions. I’m a huge fan of yours, of your Monkey Woman superhero character and of the show, Who Wants to be a Superhero? (WWTBASH). It’s been a genuine pleasure to conduct these contestant interviews and I’m sure your fans can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to since 2006.
TJR: Let’s begin by catching up. What most of us know about Mary Votava ends about 2007. According to LinkedIn, you’re now a “Product Marketing Manager” for Microsoft in the Greater Seattle Area. Congratulations! What have you been up to for the last 7 years and how did you end up working in that particular position?
“Around 2008, I began seriously looking for a career change. I explored the idea of going back to school to get another degree, and around that time began doing part-time marketing contract work with different groups within Microsoft. I found it to be a great fit for me, as I enjoy the intellectual challenge, the people and culture of high-tech, and I have always been a huge fan of Microsoft specifically (at one point, to illustrate my nerdy side, I even put on my Match.com profile that I get way too excited about a finely crafted Excel spreadsheet). One opportunity led to another, until I came into my current position on the US Office team.”
A natural beauty— Mary Votava at home in Kirkland, WA. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: What’s a typical day like for Mary Votava now, in 2015? Can you walk us through it?
“I pretty much live the Monday-Friday ‘American Dream’ now. My boyfriend and I wake up and get ready for work together, I feed the cats, listen to NPR while sitting in traffic on the 405, go to a lot of meetings and write a lot of emails (and occasionally actually do work), go to hot yoga in the evening, cook and eat dinner with my boyfriend, relax a bit and/or work on assorted projects, go down to my secret lair and monitor Kirkland for any supervillain activity and intervene if necessary, etc. You know, normal stuff.”
Remember the Alamo! Votava and Sheppard during a recent visit to the historic battle site in San Antonio, TX. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: In previous interviews, you’ve discussed your childhood and family, but your fans know very little about your current personal life. For example, when we interviewed Chelsea Weld aka “Cell Phone Girl,” we learned that she was just about to be married. Is there any similar information about yourself that you’d care to share at this time?
“I share my life with an amazing man that I met on Match.com after moving back to my hometown, Kirkland, WA, in May. We’re both lovers of all things science (fiction or non), and enjoy quiet nights together on the couch with our Surfaces, going out in downtown Seattle, and outdoor activities. Re: the latter, Kyle has been introducing me to what Pacific Northwest has to offer, like sailing, snowshoeing, and wool socks at REI. We’re very happy together, and you can monitor my Facebook profile for any future relationship status changes of the Chelsea Weld variety!”
Mary Votava in costume for Pirates of Penzance. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: Your fans also already know that you’re an accomplished actress and singer, and that over your career, you’ve appeared in numerous stage productions (see a scene from The Mikado, above), performed live with an LA-based improv-comedy troupe called The Omelettes, and have acted in numerous TV shows and films. But we don’t know your performing arts goals and ambitions. Is it ultimately to be a television or film star? A singing star? Or something else?
“I did spend many years working in the performing arts, but found very little enjoyment or satisfaction in the process, or the industry as a whole. Luckily, I have found a place where I am happy and excited to come to work every day, so my professional ambitions are now very much about expanding and growing my career at Microsoft. I feel proud to be part of a company that is on the forefront of technology, whose philosophy is about empowering people. My work now aligns with what is of paramount importance to me, which is my own personal philosophy and how I live my life. My over-arching ‘goal’ is to leave the world a little better for my having been here, and have fun while I’m doing it; to be a good person, be kind to others, contribute to society, help those in need, bring a smile wherever I go, be easy to make laugh and difficult to offend, always wonder, always learn, always grow, always love. At the end of the day, if I can take inventory and feel confident I spent a little more time being this type of person vs. being a jackass, I am content.”
More Silliness in Fur Bikinis—In this screen grab from “Space Guys in Space—Amazons“ Votava portrays Goodah, an “ugly” alien Amazon who’s eager to have “space relations” with the Earthlings. Shakespeare, it’s NOT. (Photo: badmouth.net)
Comics legend, Stan Lee, enjoys a front-row seat during Votava’s ear-piercing demonstration of her “Monkey Woman” jungle call. Oo-Oo-Ah-AHH!!! (Photo: Syfy)
TJR: You’re clearly a very creative, multi-talented individual. Could you share your feelings and memories about your favorite show business moment to date?
“That is very kind, thank you! I must say that one of my all-time favorite memories from my time in show-business was hanging out with Stan Lee at Comic Con before WWTBASH season 1 premiered. Stan isn’t just a creative genius, comic tycoon, or celebrity – he is the type of human being I aspire to be. He exudes a vitality and kindness that is apparent to everyone around him. He was gracious and encouraging to each individual person he spoke with, and had incredible energy to boot! I have one vivid memory of walking through the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, following Stan as we went from a panel to the exhibit booth. I’m a notoriously fast walker, but at 84, Stan was easily outpacing me and everyone else. The security escort had him stop a couple of times so the group could catch up. I knew that’s how I wanted to be in 50 or so years.”
This zombie-ized “fan art” of Votava was created by renowned graphic artist “Brett” and pays homage to her many appearances in various low-budget horror films. Absolutely FAN-tastic work, Brett! (Photo: bhold-designs)
An Actor’s Life isn’t all Fun and Games— Having grown dissatisfied with her life as an actress, Votava has recently decided to switch careers. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: Okay, then…what’s your least favorite show-biz memory?
“My least favorite memory would be when I was at a callback for a Crohn’s disease medication commercial. Unlike most gigs, this one paid well. So while I was doing my best impression of a woman thinly veiling the agony of impending explosive diarrhea while she greets her friend at a coffee shop, all I could think was ‘I NEED this job. I really, really NEED this job.’ That thought was soon followed by ‘Shit (no pun intended), is this really what I want to be doing with my life?’ Soon after—
I began searching for a new career.”
Votava’s singing and acting talents were BOTH called upon during her portrayal of Mabel, in “Pirates of Penzance.” (Photo: Mary Votava)
Gettin’ Down ‘n Dirty— At home, Votava doesn’t hesitate to shed her makeup and show-biz past in pursuit of her latest passion—home improvement. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: Well, it’s wonderful that you’ve found your new niche over at Microsoft, but your fans will be saddened to hear this news, nonetheless. Now that you’re moving out of the limelight, I’m curious… of all your talents as a performer, what did you enjoy the most and why? What truly satisfies Mary Votava’s creative soul?
“I definitely enjoy singing most. There is something about music that is both nerdy and magical for me; an art form based on the frequencies of sound waves emitted moment by moment, totally dependent on the flow of time for its existence. I like being a part of that, being a source of beautiful sound waves.”
TJR: Do you play any musical instruments? Have you recorded any albums or song CDs that your fans could buy? Are there any Mary Votava performance videos out there, other than the few currently up on YouTube?
“I play piano, and do some songwriting as well. However, I have not recorded anything yet. It’s on my bucket list, but right now not super high on the priority list. I have a lot of creative projects in the works that I’m passionate about – including stuff like DIY home improvements. But I’ll definitely let you know when I get bitten by musical inspiration again and start posting anything to YouTube.”
Holy, Superhero Snuggles, Batman! Votava tries to stay warm in a bathrobe and by hugging fellow TV superhero, Adam West, as the two wait to participate in an autograph signing session at Comic Con. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: In previous interviews, you discussed your interest in superheroes, Wonder Woman, X-Men and Batman in particular. Are there any plans for a Monkey Woman comic book or graphic novel? And besides being on WWTBASH, what other effects have superheroes had on your life?
“There’s no plan for a Monkey Woman comic or graphic novel, but one thing the X-Men taught me is that even if it didn’t happen by puberty, superpowers can still kick in later in life, particularly after some kind of trauma. So just for good measure, any time I trip or fall down the stairs (Kyle calls it ‘pulling a Mary’), I check to see if I’m telekinetic. (Nothing yet.)”
Will Monkey Woman be swinging into a comic book store near you? Sadly, no. Despite this mocked-up cover, there are currently no such projects being planned for Votava’s Syfy TV superhero. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)
TJR: Did you get to keep anything from the show? Your costumes? Your bed logo? Or..?
“I’m so bummed I didn’t think to take my bed logo – that would have been fun to have! I do have the poster of the cast with Stan’s autograph framed and hanging on a wall at my house. I also saved some of the marketing and publicity materials that came out around Season 1. Oh, and I *might* have the costume in a storage bin somewhere, maybe…”
MeOW, Mary! In this EXCLUSIVE PHOTO (taken 3/2015) for The Joe Report, Votava redonned her original costume and posed holding her autographed mini-poster from Stan Lee. (Photo: Mary Votava)
Is that your jungle staff or are you just happy to see me? Votava’s appearances at comic cons always turned heads among fans and collectors. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: Some of the other contestants from the show have attended comic book conventions in character. Do you ever participate in cosplay (costumed play) or attend comic conventions dressed as Monkey Woman (or any other character)?
“I went to a few conventions as Monkey Woman for a couple of years after the show aired. I reserve the majority of my cosplay for Halloween or Kyle now.”
TJR: The first time fans see you on WWTBASH is during an animated sequence wherein you morph from your street clothes into your Monkey Woman costume. In those comic panels, you’re described as “A Barrel Full of Heroics.” What were your thoughts when you saw yourself on the show? Did you approve of how they portrayed you?
“Hee-hee! ‘A Barrel Full of Heroics.’ I loved those opening panels! I think I felt fairly portrayed for the most part. One thing I was going for that maybe wasn’t apparent due to editing choices was a bit more tongue-and–cheek humor. Monkey Woman has a big heart and strong will, but she’s also supposed to be a bit of a cheeky monkey. I think I was portrayed as a little more serious than was my intention.”
Jungle Power! Graphics from the show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?,” presented Votava’s “Monkey Woman” character as “untamed, unbelievable and UNDEFEATED!” (Photo: Syfy TV)
On the streets of Hollywood, Votava posed on Stan Lee’s well-deserved “Walk of Fame” Star with fellow superhero-wannabe, Matt DeMille. (Photo: Matt DeMille)
TJR: Your fans are also interested in what didn’t make it on the air, what ended up on the cutting room floor (and why). Were there many Monkey Woman scenes cut out of the show? If so, what did we miss? These are the sorts of “behind-the-scenes” stories fans love to hear!
“I don’t envy the editors tasked with condensing hours and hours of footage into a few 43-minute episodes. I’m sure time constraints are the main reason most of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor. I may have talked about this one at some point, but just before I failed the infamous restaurant challenge, I had an encounter with a homeless person who was crossing straight into my path as I was walking to the restaurant. Before the challenge started, the producer had made a big thing out of giving us each a $20 bill, saying “don’t lose it – you’ll need it for the challenge,” so of course as soon as I saw the homeless person, I thought for sure the challenge was going to be about charity or sacrificing our lunch money for a needy person.
So, in responsible superhero fashion (rather than just giving him the money to spend on any unhealthy substances), I asked him if he wanted something for lunch, and he seemed appropriately delighted at the prospect of getting a bite to eat. As I was asking him what he wanted, the director came running up and told me not to talk to the guy but to keep going to the restaurant.”
Clearly a favorite of Stan’s, it must’ve been difficult to cut Votava after only three episodes. (Photo: Mary Votava)
“I was a little confused at first, but the director was very insistent, and it slowly dawned on me that I was talking to an actual homeless person. I asked the director if I could buy him lunch anyway, since I’d already extended the offer. He said no, I needed to keep going to the restaurant and order food for myself.
I felt awful for having promised someone lunch who was actually in need, not just a well-fed actor playing a bum. Before I continued on to the restaurant, I made the director swear to me that they were going to give the homeless guy a nice meal from the crew’s lunch buffet. One of the D.A.s later confirmed that they had honored that promise, so I was happy.”
Superhero Team Up— The show’s unusual challenges regularly required contestants to work both for AND against each other, resulting in some very enjoyable television. Here, Votava poses with fellow Season 1 contestants Steel Chambers and Chelsea Stams. (Photo: Mary Votava)
No Speargun Required— Votava’s real-life scuba-diving experience probably came in handy when she was asked by the show’s producers to “fight a giant squid” (in un-aired footage) for WWTBASH. (Photo: Mary Votava)
“There were other weird activities and challenges we did that were completely edited out of the show. For one of them, we were all taken to a neighborhood downtown (I can’t remember where exactly) and told we were supposed to run around ‘assisting’ as many people as possible, and that whoever assisted the least was going to be up for elimination.
So we all poured out of the limo and started running around with camera crews following us, frightening pedestrians (“ma’am, that purse looks heavy, may I carry it for you?”) and getting kicked out of local establishments because we weren’t purchasing anything, and weirdos in superhero costumes can’t just come barging into Office Depot offering to help customers find something when we didn’t work there. After about 10 minutes of feeling less like superheroes and more like a public nuisance, a few of us resorted to just picking up trash off the street. I guess the ‘garbage collection challenge’ didn’t quite make the cut.
One other ‘behind-the-scenes’ thing I remember is this exercise wherein we had to get onto a little stage in the lair and act out improvised scenes. Ie: “Monkey Woman and Creature Fight a Giant Squid.” I had no idea what the production team were planning to use that footage for. And apparently—neither did they!”
Monkey Woman should have no fear of climbing trees, and Votava felt it important to demonstrate her skills on the show. (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: Stan Lee’s first challenge for Season 1 contestants was “changing into your superhero costumes in public.” Surprisingly, you decided to change your clothes—up in a tree. That seems like a VERY hard way to accomplish a simple task. You could’ve just stepped into a nearby porta-potty (like others), but instead, you climbed up a tree and reemerged later wearing your Monkey Woman costume. For an event where contestants were supposed to “change without being seen” (ala Clark Kent), it seems unlikely that you would’ve been able to find enough privacy in a tree to avoid exposing yourself in an “unheroic” fashion. We can understand wanting to stay in character as Monkey Woman, but what were the realities of that challenge? Were you embarrassed? Did it go smoothly? Or difficultly? Did you feel like you might fall at any point? What can you tell us that we may not already know about that event?
According to Votava, unless you’re standing in the right place below a tree, it can be difficult to see someone perched high above. (Photo: Mary Votava)
“The amount of privacy afforded by a tree is entirely dependent on the type of tree involved. Ideally, it would be a very leafy, deciduous tree with minimal ground visibility. As you noted, my main objective was to maintain Monkey Woman’s M.O. (you know, for artistic integrity).”
Home Again— If you need someone to climb a tree—you know who to call! (Photo: Mary Votava)
“No embarrassment. I can guarantee you that the film crew saw a lot worse that day, and people not directly below the tree wouldn’t have had good visibility as it was fairly leafy from further away. Also, having worked in theater for years, I am quite adept at changing modestly with no coverage other than my own clothes.”
Clearly a “comfortable climber,” Votava still enjoys hanging around on neighborhood jungle gyms. After all, it’s important to keep in shape for crime-fighting! (Photo: Mary Votava)
“No fear. I took gymnastics for a couple of years as a kid, and climbing trees was one of my favorite childhood activities. I used to climb to the top of a tree with my journal and write poetry as a kid. So I’m very comfortable “hands free” in trees.
But here’s what you may not already know that went on behind the scenes: Once I’d climbed up the tree and started to change, I heard a “HOLD” from below. The park’s groundskeeper had come over and was talking to the crew. He wanted me out of the tree immediately, for park liability reasons. (Yet another superhero public nuisance).
So… I had to climb back down. The groundskeeper let us film one quick shot of me coming back down from the tree in costume. But what really happened was that I did most of my changing down on the ground, climbing back up again for that final exiting shot.”
As agile as her namesake, Votava performs her final flip out of the park’s “changing” tree. (Photo: Syfy)
In a second EXCLUSIVE PHOTO (taken 3/2015) for The Joe Report, Votava demonstrates she’s lost none of her beautifully fit figure. Only the faded stripes on her yellow go-go boots need a touch-up. WOW! (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: You’re clearly physically gifted as well as talented. In addition to your obvious beauty, you’re fit, toned and muscular. As a result, you quickly proved to be a leader among the show’s contestants, at least athletically. For example, climbing up that tree was the first indication of your impressive athleticism. Most woman would have struggled to accomplish that feat within a reasonable time (if at all), but you climbed right up—just like a monkey! Then later, when you ran past the crying little girl (D’oh!), you did so nonetheless, with the powerful stride of someone who runs regularly. What sports or other exercise activities do you participate in and enjoy? What is your typical health regimen? What are Mary Votava’s favorite “beauty secrets?”
“Thank you for all the compliments – I’m so flattered! Throughout my life, I’ve always has some kind of regular (>4x per week) fitness practice. When I was a kid and all through high school, I was a swimmer (in addition to a masterful tree climber). In college, I started running regularly and continued this, or using elliptical machines at the gym, throughout my 20’s. For the past few years, yoga (now hot yoga) has been my main fitness regimen. On my off days, I stay active and have participated in a plethora of other athletic activities over the years, including soccer, volleyball, rock climbing, figure skating, and Australian rules football, to name a few.”
High atop a Hawaiian Volcano, Mary demonstrates a difficult yoga pose. (Photo: Mary Votava)
Look out BELOW! Staying in shape has helped give Votava the courage and confidence to attempt numerous activities, including—gulp—cliff-jump diving! (Photo: Mary Votava)
“I’m also a healthy eater. I avoid all the ‘carb bombs’ like sugar, bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. I drink a lot of water. I wear sunscreen. I exfoliate regularly. I use anti-oxidants and moisturizers. I floss my teeth every night. I hang upside-down in an inversion table. I probably have about 40 good habits built into my daily/weekly routine that I’ve adopted over time. It’s all well-known stuff – there is no secret recipe other than doing them, and doing them more or less every day for the rest of your life. (I give myself 1 day off per week to be lazy and eat junk food if that’s what I feel like).”
TJR: In a later episode of WWTBASH, you famously revealed your strength and amazing physical endurance (again) during the “attack dog challenge.” That was the moment that many of us became life-long Mary Votava fans. Your determination and courage were VERY impressive to watch, even in the show’s edited-down, final form. After that challenge, Stan Lee himself commented:
“Monkey Woman…I don’t know that I’ve ever seen ANYTHING like what you did today. Young lady, I am VERY proud of you.”
A frustrated Votava vowed to tackle the attack dog challenge head-on. The results of her attempt were inspiring, to say the least! (Photo: Syfy)
TJR: We have to imagine that you were riding pretty high after that!
“Oh my goodness, yes – that moment alone made my entire experience on the show worthwhile. I’d felt frustrated for most of the filming because I didn’t know what was going on, or what the rules of the game were, or if there even WAS a contest taking place or if we were just being strung along like puppets. And I was pretty frustrated with my life at the time in general.”
Look in those EYES! Votava hopped over the fence into the yard and actually charged at the attack dogs like a linebacker, showing INCREDIBLE courage and determination. (Photo: Syfy)
Back to Earth— Despite her bravado, the petite Votava was quickly brought down—and then HELD DOWN—by the two trained attack dogs. Time and time again, she was turned and DRAGGED around the yard. (Photo: Syfy)
“But that day, I got to prove to myself what I’m made of. I figured I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity to wear a full dog suit and try something like it (YOLO, right?), so that challenge was a bit of a personal metaphor to me. I’d made up my mind that as long as I didn’t have a time limit, and as long as I wasn’t sustaining serious bodily harm, I was going to just keep moving little by little until I reached my goal—for no other reason than because I decided so.”
Putting Her Head Down— After 9 minutes of a very painful and dangerous “Dogs vs. Human” backyard wrestling match, Votava eventually found herself pushing past the dogs through the use of sheer WILL. (Photo: Syfy)
“I’ll admit, when I got in there, it was a lot harder than I had imagined (those dogs were A LOT stronger than the goofball Labradors I grew up with), but I’d already made up my mind. So, for my own personal reasons, it was a very meaningful 10 minutes; to have Stan Lee witness and then acknowledge it the way he did was truly one of the proudest moments of my life!”
SUCCESS! By touching the back door, Votava successfully completed the arduous challenge. At almost 10 minutes, her struggle was (by far) the most impressive and inspiring of all. (Photo: Syfy)
Determined— If you need a poster-child for “getting it done,” we’d know who to suggest! (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: In previous interviews, you’ve said that the show’s producers thought none of the women would be able to make it to the door in the dog challenge and that they should all just try to “put on a good show.” Some did just that, but then YOU absolutely refused to quit. Your performance against the dogs had to be the single most inspiring moment on that show—ever—by ANY contestant. I don’t really have a question for you here, but if you have any other “behind-the-scenes” memories from that day or that event that you haven’t already shared, I know your fans would LOVE to hear about them.
A Battle of Brawn— Fellow contestant, Steel Chambers (aka “The Iron Enforcer”), a man-mountain of MUSCLE, felt the two dogs could do little to stop his progress. At one point, he actually appeared to LIFT both dogs off the ground as he marched across the yard! (Photo: Syfy)
“Again, thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so honored that my turn in the dog challenge resonated with so many people – as I said above, it meant a lot to me at the time, and the fact that it inspired other people as well is incredibly heartwarming and humbling to me!
I’d like to share something that happened behind the scenes that hopefully helps exonerate one of my fellow cast members. Before the challenge, the dog trainer thoroughly went over all of the safety instructions with us. He told us that the dogs were trained to grab you ONLY by the arms and legs, and pin you to the ground.”
Shocker— Chambers goes down and quits! (Photo: Syfy)
“He was explicit that they would not go after your hands, feet, head, or anywhere near the neck. However, “Iron Enforcer” (Steel), missed this piece of information. So when the dogs knocked him down close to the door, he wasn’t certain they wouldn’t go straight for his jugular.”
What Just Happened? A hulking, sulking Chambers made no attempt to mask his disappointment after failing against the dogs. Votava believes it was simply a matter of miscommunication. (Photo: Syfy)
“Another thing that I still think funny is what was going through my own head during the challenge. After failing the ‘lost child’ challenge (shown below, Ed.), I was hyper-vigilant for any twists or tricks.”
Run, Mary, RUN!— As Votava strode quickly and easily through the city’s park plaza (in her furry bikini and go-go boots, nonetheless), she appeared to be a natural and top contender of the competition. However, WWTBASH creator Stan Lee had prepared some unexpected “tests” which soon tripped up Mary’s chances. Regardless of the outcome, THIS—is what a superhero LOOKS like! (Photo: Syfy)
“So while I was wrestling with 150-ish lbs of German Shepherd, my mind was racing with ‘is there someone in ‘danger’ in this yard that I’m really supposed to try to get to, like a fake mailman?’ or ‘is there something else going on here that I’m supposed to do besides get to the door?’ Even for hours afterwards, I was still on pins and needles waiting to find out if there was some other trick to the challenge that I’d failed. I really didn’t expect it to be straightforward, and was pleasantly surprised that it was!”
Please help me! I can’t find my Mommy!— Sadly, Votava may have been TOO focused, because in the next regrettable instant, she ran right past the person she was supposed to help. (Photo: Syfy)
Staying in Character— Votava dusted the lair as only a “Monkey Woman” would. Hilarious! (Photo: Syfy)
TJR: In one scene in the lair, you were shown hanging like a monkey, dusting some shelves. Was that your idea entirely, or was it some sort of director-suggested stunt? What else did you do on the show to try to BE Monkey Woman?
“That one was my idea. I vaguely remember a big rope hanging in the middle of one of the rooms that I climbed up at some point, too. I also snacked on bananas during the filming and pretended to pick nits from the other contestants’ hair and eat them!”
Show-Biz Glamour Was Great— But the high-tech business world is where Votava prefers to live and work now. Sorry, boys! (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: At one time you had your own show business website, maryvotava.com, but it’s no longer on the internet. Have you taken it down for upgrades? Or is it gone for good? Besides Facebook, what are your future self-promotional plans online? Perhaps a personal blog or performing videos?
“Maryvotava.com is officially retired. I don’t have any plans for self-promotion online, other than keeping my LinkedIn profile up to date. I’m solely focused on my career in the high-tech industry now.”
Monkeys Love Cats? Well, Votava certainly does. She currently cares for two! (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: Judging by your photos online, you’re also quite the cat fancier. Can you tell us about your interest in animals, your favorites, etc.?
“I LOVE animals and support the Humane Society and ASPCA for the great work they do! My parents are great nature lovers, and I grew up with (not all at the same time) cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish, and the occasional rescued crow or squirrel. We were always taking in strays and housing them until we found their owner. Many ended up staying.”
It’s a Cat’s Life— And clearly it’s a loving one if you’re living with Mary. Purrrrr (Photo: Mary Votava)
“As far as my own pets go, I like cats because they are low-maintenance, high-yield, and self-cleaning (of course). My two babies, Piggy and Pie Face, both came from shelters. Piggy “sings” duets with me and stands up on his hind legs when he smells chicken or just wants to be petted. Pie Face likes eating Doritos, and dragging laundry into whichever room I’m in as “gift” (and I’m grateful because laundry is definitely a better gift than dead things). She is curled up next to me right now, purring.”
SUPER Shelves! In this third EXCLUSIVE PHOTO for The Joe Report, Mary gestures to some new shelving she recently enjoyed building and assembling in her home—for FUN! (Photo: Mary Votava)
TJR: How about hobbies? Since you’re beginning to move away from acting, singing and performing, what do other activities do you enjoy participating in now?
“I am passionate about learning or trying out new things, ie: I recently took a few aerialist classes to learn some circus tricks. I always love geocaching (nerd alert!), especially when I’m traveling or visiting a new city. I tend to cycle through 1-off creative projects like knitting, sewing, building things (just built some custom CD/DVD towers to house our media until my boyfriend can digitize it), painting, cooking, or working on a piece of music.”
Not Too HOT to Handle— Votava poses pretty on a fast-looking motorcycle while on vacation. Va-va-va-VAROOMMMM!!! (Photo: Mary Votava)
Superhero or Villain?— The reintroduction of (eliminated) contestant Steel Chambers as a villain called “The Dark Enforcer” was intended to put the remaining contestants on their guard. And it worked! (Photo: Syfy)
TJR: Turning back to the show… When the “Dark Enforcer” (fellow contestant Steel Chambers in a surprising return) first comes back up those stairs into the lair, you immediately moved off the couch and into a defensive position with your staff at the ready. Then, when he began insulting the others, and especially Tyveculus, by saying:
“Tyveculus, you’re a joke!”
TJR: Were you worried tempers might suddenly flare between the two men and that things might get out of hand? Or did you feel it was all scripted and preplanned? What do you remember about that moment? Were you EVER worried that contestants were going to be called upon to actually FIGHT villains physically? What was the reality of that night’s tense situation? What was happening?
“LOL, no I was never worried we were going to be asked to physically fight or be put into any real danger. There were many times where we were directed to do something during the film shoot. Dark Enforcer’s entrance is a good example of one of those directed moments. No one was actually worried, upset, or angry. Steel is a really good guy who was playing a part, and we were supposed to play along.”
Ba-Da-BOOM!!! In a show that portrayed mostly normal people trying to look and behave “super,” the first sight of Steel Chambers as The Dark Enforcer evoked one of those rare GOTCHA!-moments wherein viewers felt like they were finally seeing someone who could’ve REALLY been super-powered. Chambers’ height and physique were perfect and his appearance was ELECTRIC. Fortunately (according to Votava), we now know that his bluster was all for show—and FOR the show. Phew! (Photo: Syfy)
Votava found herself inside a “handsome hunk sandwich” during the show’s premiere, posing with fellow contestants, Matthew Atherton (l) and Tobias Trost (r). (Photo: Syfy)
TJR: That’s fascinating! I don’t think many fans really knew or appreciated those aspects of the show until just now. Thanks for all of your insight. I know your fans also wonder about the other challenges of Season 1 and your VERY untimely elimination. As we recall, you were eliminated from the show for revealing your secret identity to a waiter during the “restaurant challenge” and for not disclosing to Stan Lee beforehand that you were (at that time) working as an actress.
As a result, and despite your obvious “super” potential and outstanding performance against the attack dogs, Monkey Woman was suddenly “history” after only 3 episodes! Looking back on your days on the show now, what do you remember the most? What would you have done differently? What do your fans NOT know about your experiences on the show?
Diggin’ that Curvy Linework— Votava’s “Monkey Woman” character would’ve been a sheer pleasure to draw in comic book form, as the show’s talented artists were happy to demonstrate! (Graphic: Syfy)
Are you lookin’ at Me? Well, YES, we kind’a are, Mary. Zinga! (Photo: Mary Votava)
“Other than the dog challenge, what I remember most about my experience on the show was the sense of sheer confusion around what was happening. I felt constantly in the dark over what was going on. The instructions we got day-to-day were generally vague or misleading.
For example, the producer once came into our bunk room at bedtime and told us to keep our costumes close by in case we immediately needed them sometime in the middle of the night. Some people were so concerned by this, they were going to sleep in their costumes. Nothing ever came of it, of course.
For the entire duration of the filming, except when we were sleeping, we were outfitted with body mics. Our interactions were always being overheard and possibly recorded. We spent most of our time off-camera just being ourselves, chatting with one another, or the production crew, or bystanders, etc. while wearing the microphones.”
A Somber Stan Lee listens as Votava apologizes (according to Mary—in POST-production) about revealing her secret identity to a waiter and for concealing the fact that she was indeed, an actress. (Photo: Syfy)
TJR: And what about Stan Lee’s disappointment and belief that you had lied because you hadn’t disclosed being an actress?
“I never made the slightest effort to conceal the fact that I was an actress. I talked about it constantly during the shoot, as per why I was discussing it with the actor playing the waiter in the restaurant challenge. The production company asked me to state my occupation as ‘real estate investor’ after I’d explained that part of how I was paying my bills (at the time) came from the recent sale of a house I’d remodeled. The ‘I’m sorry I lied to you’ line was recorded in post-production because they wanted stronger justification for my elimination. And so it goes!”
Facing her Fate— After being called forward, Votava stood silently while an off-camera Stan Lee discussed her actions. This would be the end of Monkey Woman (on the show). (Photo: Syfy)
“If I could go back and do anything differently, I would probably think about my role on the show from the perspective of the producer and just play along / have a bit more fun with it. I believe there was very little I could have done differently to stay on the show longer, and stressing over it added no value to my experience.”
Who Dat?—While we pictured Votava more as a Seahawks fan, she was clearly rooting for the Saints at this particular face-off. Sit down, Mary! It’s hard to focus on the game! (Photo: Mary Votava)
Still in the Swing— Monkey Woman and show business are behind her now, but Votava has even GREATER plans for the future. (Photo: Mary Votava)
One more beauty shot for the road. Enjoy, fellas! (Photo: Mary Votava) Click to enlarge.
TJR: Finally, what are your plans and goals for the future? Where can your fans see you next? How can they send you greetings or follow-up questions to this interview?
“If I ever end up in a public-facing role within Microsoft, I’ll be sure to let you know where I can be seen talking about technology. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch. I don’t spend a ton of time on social networks, but when I do, I love hearing that Monkey Woman lives on in the hearts and minds of my awesome fans!” —Mary Votava
Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to the beautiful and talented Mary Votava for all of her help with this interview. She has clearly (and very happily) moved on to the next exciting chapter of what’s already been a wonderfully successful and amazing life. Stay tuned for the 5th in this, our series of exciting follow-up interviews with contestants from Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” —coming soon to the pages of The Joe Report!