Venerable veejay Martha Quinn arrived at MTV in 1981 as a wide-eyed graduate fresh from New York University. She won a fast following on the brash new music channel, but in December of 1986, MTV traded in its veejays for newer models. Quinn packed up and made for Los Angeles, where she studied acting and worked on commercials and TV shows and even did stand-up comedy (she's hosting A&E's "Evening at the Improv" on June 30). Last year, she co-starred in CBS' short-lived revival series, "The Bradys."
However, people who want their MTV also wanted their Martha Quinn. So MTV rehired her, and now the 31-year-old Quinn is MTV's prime-time, weeknight veejay from 8-11:30 p.m. What's more, MTV agreed to let her tape her show in Los Angeles as part of its planned expansion to the West Coast. She talked about her career with Daniel Cerone.
Why did MTV decide to put you back in a prime-time slot?
Before I went back to MTV last year, they were searching for this prime-time veejay. I'd come in, do my shift and leave. I guess sometimes the things in your own back yard are the hardest to see. One day somebody finally said, "Well, what about Martha?"
What was your response?
I said, "I can't move to New York." I was involved in a series ("The Bradys"), and I had a Sprite commercial that just premiered on the Academy Awards. It's like I have two legs to my career, and I had been working really hard to strengthen my acting leg. I just couldn't put it into a cast and move to New York; it would atrophy.
You seem committed to stay in Los Angeles. When MTV first let you go, what made you move here?
I simply had no reason to stay in New York. My grandfather had just died. I had just lost my job. The two things that were keeping me in New York were gone. It felt like it was time. I had been at MTV almost six years, and it was the only job I ever had. So I was really at the edge of the diving board anyway. I definitely got pushed, but I was at the edge and would have had to make the jump soon, because people need to grow and change.
From MTV to "The Bradys." That's a wild jump. Were you criticized for that?
No. It was an incredible spot for me. I grew up with the Bradys. I mean, being Mrs. Bobby Brady--could you imagine? I don't care if nobody watched the new show, everybody knows about the Bradys, and everybody knows I was on "The Bradys" and that I was working in a different capacity. I was working as an actress on a big-name series. And that has done really well for me out here. Anyway, I was sort of the Brady of MTV, so it's really not a stretch at all if you think about it.
Was there a sense of satisfaction being asked back to MTV as prime-time veejay?
MTV has been so completely supportive of me. I know what you're saying--did it feel gratifying to be asked back? I don't know. I don't hold anything against them. You just do what you have to do, and that's what they felt they had to do at that time. That's just how things work. I've learned now that I can come back. I can survive. That's important. Because, guess what? I will be fired again. Because this is show business.
Is it different this time around, being prime-time veejay again?
Because of my other training since leaving MTV, when I walk onto that set I'm a much fuller entertainer. I have a different feel about what I do, a better awareness of my abilities as a performer. In fact, MTV is getting more of its money now, because before I was very limited. I wasn't out there in the world living. I was going to college, then I went right to MTV. I went from one sheltered environment to the next. Now I've been out. And I'm a bigger person for it.