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Mary Lou Belli


Mary Lou Belli is an Emmy Award winning producer, writer, and director as well as the author of three books.


  1. How much latitude does the non-star TV comedy actor have regarding paraphrasing the script, in comedy?
  2. What’s the biggest difference for an actor shooting in front of a live audience (like Charles in Charge) versus shooting Monk?
  3. Are funny performers… just born that way or can you really teach someone to be funny?
  4. What is the most significant change, for an actor, regarding sit-com type performances from the 80s to today?
  5. How does an actor meet you, target you, and eventually get considered… by you, if they’re not already on the set with you?
  6. As a director of actors how do you compare directing a show like Friends, to directing a show like My Name is Earl?
  7. Do you always, never or sometimes have a say in helping get an actor you know an audition for a show you’re set to direct?
  8. What percentage of the time, if you feel strongly about the actor, can you influence the person being hired for an episode of television you’re set to direct… considering the Network, and producers and everyone involved?
  9. How is directing a Pilot episode for a sit-com different than directing an episode for an existing show?
  10. What is the most unintelligent non-performance mistake you’ve seen an actor make on set in your career? And why?
  11. (Bonus) Have you ever discovered anyone that managed to somehow get through to you?
  12. (Bonus) How important is a demo reel for you regarding a certain look/type for a smaller role?
  13. (Bonus) When you look at someone’s reel who is not a star, do you care if the work is legitimate or are you just looking at their skill set?

About the Guru

Mary Lou Belli is an Emmy Award winning producer, writer, and director as well as the author of three books.

Most recently she directed Monk starring Emmy award winner Tony Shalhoub and The Wizards of Waverly Place on the Disney Channel. On the CW she directed The Game, the spinoff to Girlfriends, a series Mary Lou directed for 7 consecutive seasons. She directed the pilot of the Web series 3Way, winner of 2 Logo awards and the 2008 Visibility Award. With over 100 episodes to her credit, Mary Lou directed Living with Fran starring Fran Drescher, Misconceptions starring Jane Leeves, and Eve starring hip hop artist Eve, as well as The Hughleys, Charles in Charge, Major Dad, and Sister, Sister. Mary Lou received BET nominations for directing Girlfriends and One on One as well as a Prism Award for Girlfriends.

She is the co-author of two books: The Sitcom Career Book and Acting for Young Actors. Her newest book Directors Tell the Story, which she co-authored with Bethany Rooney will be published by Focal Press. She has been a judge for the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant, a lecturer at the Chautauqua Institute, and a panelist for Women In Film, the DGA, SAG, and AFTRA. She’s judged the California Independent Film Festival, the Sapporo Short Film Festival in Japan, and CSU Media Arts Fest.

Mary Lou’s master classes enjoy SRO crowds at the International Thespian Conference, California State Thespian Conference, Missouri State Thespian Conference and the Southeastern Theatre Conference!