Alum spotlight: GiGi New (BFA ’87)

collage of gigi and her family

GiGi New (BFA, Performance, 1987)

Watching Kristy McNichol on the 70s TV show Family inspired GiGi to become an actor. “I loved watching her. She was so honest in everything she did. I knew that’s what I want to do.”

v c u arts students performing on stage
GiGi and Chris Russell in Sorrows of Stephen (VCU 1986-87 mainstage season)

She got to act in a number of shows at VCU. Her most memorable was working with director Gary Hopper (former professor of acting) on Sorrows of Stephen. GiGi recalls, “I was teaching aerobics and when Gary cast me, he changed the character from a waitress to an aerobics instructor.”

v c u arts students performing on stage
GiGi (far left) in Anything Goes (VCU 1986-87 mainstage season)
(from left) Gary Hopper (former acting professor), GiGi’s son Cooper, Liz Hopper (professor emeritus, costume design), GiGi.

GiGi continued to act after leaving VCU in Richmond with The Production Company and later in Chicago. Ultimately, she ended up in LA, where she got an agent. Since GiGi has a Panamanian heritage, she felt the roles she was being offered were “marginalized. I was maid or nanny or had an accent.”

When GiGi was dating actor Nick Sadler (who became her husband in 2003), she told him a story about her mother meeting Alex Van Halen. “She didn’t know who he was and Nick suggested I write it down. I’m not a writer, but he said ‘I bet you’d enjoy it…just try it.’”

two people looking at camera
GiGi and husband Nick Sadler

That was the beginning of her writing career. Her first screenplay was Public Emily, which got her attention from producers at Universal. She went on to work as a writer’s assistant on Everybody Loves Raymond, on Nickelodeon’s The Brothers Garcia and on Fox series The Ortegas, which was shot but never aired.

GiGi was planning to write on Joey starring Matt LeBlanc, but the show fell apart. That, plus the fact that GiGi got pregnant, finalized the couple’s decision to move back East to Connecticut, where they still live. Their son, Cooper, was born in 2006.

GiGi’s son Cooper in the movement studio at PAC!

“Being in a writer’s room is not creative. You’re building widgets and my dream was to create my own show.” That sentiment inspired her to write a dark comedy called Mercy, about a young woman who loses her husband to early onset Alzheimer’s. It was picked up by Killer Films with Olivia Coleman and Miguel Arteta attached to star. “We did everything but handstands to sell it, but ultimately nobody bought it. Then, Olivia had to leave to accept her award-winning role in The Crown.”

two people hugging
GiGi pictured with Chad Coleman, known for The Walking Dead and The Wire.

She has another feature in the works and will be writing on a show for HBO Max, but can’t disclose details. Nick is still acting, and they’ve written a TV show together that has a producer attached.

Even as a writer, her experience at VCU resonates, “Writing a storyline, a scene and especially characters, you have to look at them through an authentic POV and make strong choices. Sometimes we skate over what a character’s flaws are and that’s the most interesting thing about acting, something Gary taught me.”

GiGi has stayed an active alum member in NYC! Check out some pics with Theatre alums from over the years:

two people with their arms around each other
GiGi with alum Andrew Hawkes
three people smiling
(from left) GiGi, Andrew Hawkes, and Bob Ed Pierce (BFA )
three people smiling in restaurant
(from left) GiGi, Patrick Held, and Jeanne Boisineau (BFA ’89)
four people smiling at camera
(from left) Court Watson (BFA ’03), GiGi, Mike Pitzer (BFA ’90), John Kristiansen (BFA ’90)

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the March 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.