The Front Weekly in Pittsburgh
published January 31, 2005
Nancy Mimless: One Of Pittsburgh’s Busiest Actresses
by Tom Leturgey
Nancy Mimless may be the prototypical Pittsburgh actress; when she was asked to be
the focus of a feature story, she wondered if she had done enough to warrant such
attention. While she may initially come off as a girl-next-door type, like Sandra Bullock,
this Steel City born and bred performer has established quite a one-of-a-kind resume.
The youngest of Kenneth the late Rona Mimless’ children, Nancy knew at an early age
that she wanted to perform. It started with singing The Archie’s “Sugar, Sugar” in the
living room and later performances at Peabody High School and the then-upstart CAPA
After graduating from high school and earning her B.A. in Theater from Pitt in the mid
1980’s, Nancy tried her hand in Los Angeles. She was immediately hired by Chuck Barris’
former Gong Show production company, which was still filming offbeat game shows.
By then the Gong Show (at that time hosted by some guy named Jeff McGregor) and its
companion shows—the Newlywed Game and Dating Game—were shadows of their once
famous incarnations, but it did provide a unique opportunity and a paycheck. Nancy met
celebrities of the day like Raider’s lineman John Matuzak, members of the LA Dodgers
and wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper.
If the Game Show Network were to ever pick up Gong Show episodes from the Reagan
era, you’d see Mimless’ appearances as “Rappin’ Katherine Hepburn,” or “Flashdance
Nancy” from the Pittsburgh-themed show. “We did a lot of (those) shows,” she says. “I
spoke Pittsburghese and danced.”
Tuned into “the industry,” she was able to parlay her position as a Contestant
Coordinator into more than three dozen appearances as an extra.Nancy’s infectious
enthusiasm and verve caught the eye of showbiz superstars Steve Martin and Robin
Williams. Martin tried, unsuccessfully, to get her a few lines in LA Story and Williams
remarked, “you’re funny,” when Nancy herded a group of extras together “like cattle”
and spontaneously created a dance during an Earth Day special.
She says if you blink, you’ll miss her appearances on TV’s Night Court and Married…with
Children, as well as the Val Kilmer big screen dud, The Doors.
The game shows were soon canceled, but because of her tenacity Nancy continued to
find work here and there, including a spot on the first season of the tabloid show Hard
A lack of money quickly became a problem so she moved back to Pittsburgh. Back in
town she found a tight-knit group of agents and producers, but armed with beauty,
charisma and optimism, she was able to find a small crease with local talent scouts.
Nancy has worked consistently (including a stint as a line dancer with the Parrot on top
of her beloved Pittsburgh Pirates’ dugout during the country dance craze in the early
90’s), but not enough to quit her day job downtown.
Over the past decade, Mimless, who easily allures with a smile and quicker wit, has been
in nearly 20 theater productions throughout Western Pennsylvania, including a standout
lead performance in Agnes of God last year. She’s also performed in other meaningful
shows with a touring group for children and Crisis Center North. While Mimless almost
always earns favorable reviews for her wide array of work locally, she still occasionally
fields calls from friends who see a repeat of The Weakest Link in which she was the first
contestant booted by the persnickety Anne Robinson.
“Pittsburgh’s a nice place,” she says. “Unfortunately, I can’t make a living doing what I
love.” Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop the East End resident from participating in
audition almost continually for a variety of parts. In the past year, she been has seen in
Armstrong Cable and Shop n’ Save (as a seen-it-all bathrobed wife who frowns as her
husband juggles flaming skillets) commercials, not to mention her most famous role—a
counter-dancing diner waitress who wins the Ohio Lottery. “It must still be running,” she
says. “I still get checks.”
Mimless was also heard last summer in radio ads for Kennywood Park and the Pittsburgh
Tribune Review. “I’ve done a lot of funky things.”A loyal member of the Screen Actors
Guild, Equity and the American Federation of Radio and TV actors (she’s Secretary for
the Pittsburgh AFTRA chapter’s Executive Board) Nancy will keep charging ahead,
despite the fact that fewer major motion pictures and TV shows are spending time in
Pittsburgh. “My goal is to make a living as an actor,” she says. “My dream is to make a
mark and have an impact on the industry.”
It seems there isn’t anything typical about this modest girl next door.