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Actor/Director Tina Parker Talks Kitchen Dog, Dallas Art, and ‘Breaking Bad’

by Shelley Kenneavy 7 Oct 2014 4:08 PM

Native Texan Tina Parker has been with Kitchen Dog Theater for 20 years. Oh yeah, she also works in film and TV. But the Dallas stage remains her home.


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Jeremy Schwartz and Tina Parker in Kitchen Dog’s “Thinner Than Water.” Photo: Matt Mrozek

Kitchen Dog Theater’s season opener features a classic role for Tina Parker: brassy and dark, funny and vulnerable. Parker began with the company 20 years ago, and while she’s won roles in TV and film, the actor/director says her home is at this theater.

At Kitchen Dog Theater, Tina Parker may be Administrative Director and Co-Artistic Director, along with Chris Carlos. But that doesn’t mean she’s sitting behind a desk.

“So it’s not uncommon to see Chris Carlos out sweeping the parking lot, and me unclogging a toilet,” says Parker. “We’re hands on in everything. Like many people in the arts scene in Dallas, we all have to juggle multiple kinds of tasks.”

Parker has also acted with the company since 1993. She’s left her mark on more than 50 Kitchen Dog productions.   In Thinner Than Water, Parker plays Renee, the oldest of three siblings who ONLY have one thing in common – their father. But when their father falls ill, each has to decide how they’ll handle the situation, and each other. Renee is married to Mark, played by Jeremy Schwartz.

You may have seen Parker’s signature snark on the TV hit Breaking Bad. She played Francesca, no-nonsense secretary to attorney Saul Goodman. In one scene, she gave Walt White a shakedown after he broke into the office and tried to buy her off with $1700.

Her sarcasm and humor show up in Thinner Than Water too.

Parker is a native Texan, a graduate of SMU. She landed her first role in pre-kindergarten. She was very tall, so she was asked to play a toy top in a Christmas play for the first graders.

“Kinda from then on, I knew I wanted to be an actor,” she says. “I, you know, for a little bit wanted to be a horse jockey, but I was already too tall.”

She’s made a career combining work in local theater with roles in television and film. Breaking Bad is over, but the spin-off Better Call Saul has been renewed for a second season before it’s started, and she has her fingers crossed that Francesca will make another appearance.

But Parker isn’t making plans to head for the coasts.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here, so I kind of have the best of both worlds. I have this amazing theater company that I work for and kind of get to do what I want. And then I also get to dabble around in film and TV stuff. It’s pretty hard to leave. I mean it would be, it would have to be some amazing, crazy, like ‘here’s a giant gallon of money.’ Even that, you’d have to think about it.”

She’s a huge advocate for the Dallas art scene: “Dallas does not get the due it deserves for the kind of art, visual, performing, all of it. That’s why I always love to bring people here.”

PSYCHOS- Tina Parker and Sean Hennigan

You asked for a wake-up call? Tina Parker and Sean Hennigan in ‘Psychos Never Dream’ in 2012

Parker is dedicated to Kitchen Dog, which is known for provocative new plays with meaty roles for actors.  Plays like Thinner Than Water.

“It’s a really interesting, quirky two hours in the theater. And it makes you laugh, it’ll wreck you. And hopefully people will go away and talk about it. Because that’s kind of the MO I guess of Kitchen Dog. You have to be engaged in what’s happening. And the goal is always go away and talk about it. Have a drink, and ‘Man, what was that we just saw?'”

Thinner Than Water runs through October 25th at Kitchen Dog Theater in the McKinney Avenue Contemporary.