Texas actress playing Tiger Woods mom

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, August 18th, 2017

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TOM WARD
TOMPWARD@SBCGLOBAL.NET

Golfer Tiger Woods’ affair with Rachel Uchitel was recently
profiled on Reelz- Channel’s Scandal Made Me Famous: Tiger Woods &
Rachel Uchitel. Scandal Made Me Famous is a documentary series on the
ReelzChannel that delves into stories that turned everyday people into
household names and is now sinking its teeth into the Tiger Woods and
Rachel Uchitel drama.
On Nov. 26, 2009, Woods and wife Elin Nordegren, then 29, were
hosting his mother for Thanksgiving at their mansion in Windermere,
Florida when all hell broke loose. Up to that point Tiger Woods was a
revered sports hero and husband …that is until news broke of his
affair with night club hostess Rachel Uchitel. Woods affair was a huge
global story that totally destroyed his family man persona that he
spent 13 years building.
I couldn’t have been happier when I learned that my friend Mari
Deese Hampton was chosen to play Kultida Woods (Tiger’s mom) for the
show. Mari and her husband, renowned actor/director Jim Hampton (The
Longest Yard, China Syndrome, Teen Wolf, F-Troop), live in Trophy
Club. The Hamptons are a lovely couple….I’ve known them for years
and have worked with Jim on his golf game.
I was excited for Mari as she’s a terrific actress who began her
career in Dallas and studied under actor Lou Diamond Phillips at Adam
Roarke. She has appeared in numerous national television commercials
and TV series like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters. Locally
and  in Texas Mari has acted on the HBO series The Leftovers, the new
Dallas TV series and The Deep End.
Speaking with Mari I learned how she landed the role of Tiger
Woods mother. MH:  “Interestingly enough back when I was living in LA
in 1996 they were doing the Tiger Woods story when Tiger was really
hot coming on the golf scene. My husband Jim happened to be directing
a TV series called ‘Sister, Sister. I was Jim’s director assistant at
that time. I had heard that one of the actors on the show who was a
guest star on that episode got the role of Tiger Woods for that movie.
I called my agent and told him about the movie and the actress that
got the role I can’t remember her name, but they aged her because it
was about when Tiger was very little to the current day which back
then was 1997. I was submitted for the role of Kultida Woods, but I
didn’t get it. Now we fast forward 20 years later and I had worked
with a wonderful producer and he called me out of the blue and said,”
Hey, we’re doing Scandal Made Me Famous: The Tiger Woods Story would
you be interested in playing Tiger’s mom?” I said, ‘sure, and they
didn’t even make me audition so that’s how I got the role. I laugh
about it now because it took me 20 years to get this role.
Interestingly that same week I had an audition for a role of a woman
pretending to be Kultida Woods in an episode of the TV series ‘Fresh
Off The Boat’.”
TW:  Tiger’s mom was from Thailand, but your background is part Korean
is that correct?
MH:  “Yes, My mother is Korean and my father was Irish German.”
TW:  What kind of research did you do on Kultida to get into the character?
MH:  “I’ve been watching Tiger all these years because of my husband
Jim’s interest in golf and I would sit with him to watch the
tournaments. Jim would say to me during the telecasts I bet Tiger’s
mother was tough cookie and she’s probably like your mom. I do know
something about Asian mothers because I have one. I remember watching
the press conference that Tiger gave addressing his infidelity and
that’s where she stood out to me the most. She would not look at Tiger
in the eye. I thought to myself the worst thing you can do in the
Asian culture is lose face for your family. When he did what he did
with that cheating scandal he just didn’t lose face for himself. He
did it for his entire family and now your ancestors are marked. She
sat there just staring at the floor as there were no looks of support
for him then because what she thought what he did was wrong. So when I
did Kultida I was basically doing my mother and I was thinking what
would my mother do if she came downstairs and someone was beating me
up with a golf club. Her reaction was one of horror, but she didn’t
try to fight Elin for that golf club to protect her son. She was just
like what is going on? She feared for her son , but my feeling was she
loved Elin too. There wasn’t a whole lot of information on her. I
Googled her on-line and everything was mostly just pictures and a
little bit of a bio. Just knowing what I know about the Asian culture
and my own mother and how she would have responded in a situation like
that helped me a lot. So I wasn’t surprised by her demeanor at that
press conference. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at
that time to see what her attitude was following all the additional
revelations that came out. I’m sure he got it from his mama.”
TW:  Speaking of mothers your mom had a big influence on your life.
What does she think of your work on television and movies?
MH:  “I remember thinking to myself about my own mother when I did the
movie ‘Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay ’. I had never seen
the first film before I got the role for the second film, but I knew
it was a college boy comedy. My mother and my step-father had not been
to a movie theater since 1977 when they went to see Star Wars. I
vividly remember Jim and I were at a golf tournament in Wilmington,
North Carolina. I talk to my mother on a daily basis and I called her
up and asked how her day was going. She told me ‘we saw your movie.’ I
said,” What movie?” That movie you do. I said are you talking about
Harold & Kumar? I asked her what did she think? She replied, “there
are too many naked people in it.” I told her that I wasn’t naked in
it. And she told me that I was too old to be naked. So her response to
my role wasn’t she was so proud of her daughter that was on the big
screen, instead she was concerned there were too many naked people in
it. I hadn’t see the picture yet so I didn’t know what she was talking
about. So you can imagine my horror when the scene I had in the movie
was directly after the bottomless party scene. I laugh because I talk
to other friends of mine who had Asian mothers and it’s the same story
with them too.   When I decided to become an actor at age 30 I planned
for 2 years and prepared myself financially and mentally to do it. I
was so afraid to tell my mom because I thought I was an only child and
she would be adamantly opposed to me moving to LA to pursue an acting
career. She was the last person I told about my plans and when I told
her I was bracing myself for a barrage of tears and lecture on how
this was really dumb. My mom said something to me that surprised me.
Her mother was the little matchmaker in their town who set up all the
marriages. My mother had been promised to someone else for many years.
She said, “when I was not much younger than  you I opposed my family’s
wishes and didn’t marry the man that I was supposed to. I married a
foreigner and moved to a foreign country and I didn’t know anybody
except your father. However, if I hadn’t have done it I would have
never had you. So how can I ask you to not do what your heart tells
you to do.”
TW:  I understand the whole production was shot here locally.
MH:   Yes, the show was filmed right here in North Texas. The house
that they used for the interior was in Colleyville. The house that was
used for the exterior, where they ran the car into the tree, was right
down the street from where we live. That young actress who played Elin
Woods used a real golf club and not a plastic one for those scenes.
When she hit the side of that car and that glass you only could do it
in one take. This wasn’t a big budget James Cameron production. They
had one car and one piece of glass to get it done. She was a little
bitty thing, but man when she did it she had made quite a sound
hitting that car. That was a brave young actor who played Tiger Woods
because she was using a real golf club in those scenes. My scenes were
done in one evening and everyone on the set could have not been nicer.
I think the whole production took a week to shoot. I thought it was a
very good production and we all like productions that are shot here in
Texas.”
TW:  What other projects are you working on?
MH: “I did a show that hasn’t aired yet called ‘Lady Dynamite’ that’s
a sitcom on Netflix. I’ve got a really good co-star role and I’m
playing a Filipino. Plus, I’ve got a sitcom role coming up for a pilot
called ‘What A Night’. I’ve played everything from full white faced
geisha to Hispanic, Korean and Filipino. I’m fortunate because of my
looks I have a pretty wide range in the roles I’ve played over the
years. I’m sort of that ambiguous ethnic person. Also, I’m working on
Jimmy’s book and right now and I’m in the editing stages and gathering
photos to tell his story. It’s called ‘What? And Give Up Show
business!’ The book will have recipes in it because he’s a really good
cook. We will do an E-book version first so we can get it out faster.
You know Jimmy’s story and it’s wonderful. Somebody once said of him
that he’s the last living bridge between old Hollywood and new
Hollywood because he’s worked with everybody.”
Checkout the REELZCHANNEL to see Mari’s performance as Kultida
Woods. Their website is www.reelz.com.
Finally, be on the lookout for Mari’s other upcoming
performances and her husband Jim’s book too.

Tom Ward can be contacted at www.teetimewithtom.com

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