By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Sandra Cruze and Sarah Hunter were tired of being cast as grandmothers with cancer or Alzheimer’s patients with “one foot in the grave.”
“We want to show an audience that being older, and particularly an older woman, can be fun — especially with an open mind,” Cruze says.
They address this through their original web series “We’re Not Dead Yet,” which debuted on March 17. Episodes one through three are available on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, the website twoheadsarebetterproductions.com and TikTok. The episodes are released at 5 p.m. Wednesdays.
“Our parents didn’t tell us what to expect when we were older,” Cruze says. “We thought we could write (stuff) better than that. We started writing these little episodes about two women doing whatever the hell they wanted.”
The episodes are less than 10 minutes, with Cruze playing “Dita” and Hunter starring as “Lilly.” The duo write and edit the scripts together. Next season “We’re Not Dead Yet” will give a little more backstory and will have a serious slant to it.
“We really want to build on the idea that older women have something to say,” says Hunter, a 50-year retired teacher. “It’s never too late, and it’s real life — even in the midst of the saddest thing in the world.”
Cruze and Hunter, both writer/actors, met almost 30 years ago at Ellouise, Cruze’s hair salon in Pasadena.
They realized salons had the perfect atmosphere for their creative ideas, like poetry readings, music events and original plays.
In summer of 1999 they launched Hunter’s original play, “Got Estrogen,” and “Unplugged and Off the Hook” with Cruze starring.
In 2009, they began producing weekly poetry and music with local talent featuring Cruze’s pals from her reggae singing days in Al’s Bar in Downtown Los Angeles, as well as Hunter’s huge cache of friends.
They attracted a coterie of fellow actors, musicians and writers and started producing plays of famous playwrights as well as their own, including Cruze’s original play/musical “Moonshine Mamas” and Hunter’s “Daughter of Earth” — a tribute to the late Agnes Smedley.
The two have a shared history. They were in recovery, but “we’re still crazy.”
“We’re different in many, many ways,” Cruze says. “There’s always a push and a pull with us, and people think it’s funny. My husband always says, ‘Are you guys rehearsing or are you really in a fight?’”
Hunter recently performed in her award-winning solo show, “Dogs are Better than People.” The 70-minute show covers her bad relationships with men, her alcoholism and her sobriety, as told by her five dogs.
“When you retire from a half century of teaching, many people simply retire,” she says. “I kicked off a whole new career here with Sandy. We’re very serious about it. We’re closers. We’re finishers.”
Hunter began creating characters and dramas in her neighborhood backyard at the age of eight in West Lafayette, Indiana. From graduate school to her time in Los Angeles, Hunter has remained a dedicated student of classical and modern theater.
Her interest in American history prompted her to write “Daughter of Earth,” Agnes Smedley’s harrowing story. She has dubbed Japanese cartoons, done voice-over work, had her original plays produced in Los Angeles and Pasadena, published a short story, adapted children’s stories for the theater, and adapted Sandra Cisneros’ “House on Mango Street” for student production. Working with Cruze has allowed her to continue writing and acting.
Cruze says writing saved her life. From jotting down ideas on napkins, business cards or her computer she has gone on to write “Groundless,” a one-hour TV series with Rey Deegan-Sandrey Productions, about two professional women who step over the line of the law.
Cruze enjoys collaborating. She worked with Dave Brown and Rey Deegan on the musical “Moonshine Mamas.” It is now being worked into a TV limited series, “Moonshiner’s Fate.” She has produced numerous 10-minute plays, making one into a short film, “The Physics of Killing.”
The brains behind Two Heads are Better Productions, Cruze and Hunter acknowledge the comparison to “Grace and Frankie,” which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
“We’re a little more relatable,” Hunter says. “We’re not kazillionaires living on the beach. We’re normal people with normal situations.
“We worry about problems without having to worry about money. We don’t live in an $8 million house on the beach. We have to finance every single thing we do. This isn’t a ‘cheap hobby.’”
Hunter says she wishes Americans had the same thoughts as those overseas about older women.
“Older women, grandmothers, they’re at the top of the food chain,” Hunter says. “Here, we have commercials joking about she sheds burning down, or mom living in the shed in the backyard, or a woman being locked in a closet with the Depends overnight, or with bed pans.
“Neither one of us are stupid. Let’s say our series — God, please—a studio calls us in. We already know these young, 30-year-olds will look at us and say, ‘You’re both aware that you’re not going to be in it.’ We’d say of course. These actresses who have names and carry SAG cards would. We have no illusions about being stars of our own series.”
They just want to see the show succeed.
“We’re Not Dead Yet”