Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interview with Megan Mullally

Actress Megan Mullally, best known for her two-time Emmy Award winning role of Karen on Will & Grace, is also a versatile stage actress. Last year she co-starred on Broadway in Mel Brooks' musical version of Young Frankenstein and is currently treading the boards once more as Beverly in the controversial The Receptionist at the Odyssey Theatre, extended until November 21. Quick to admit that she is "not Karen", Mullally is a diversified character actress, who, in our conversation, became quite frank in her appraisal of herself in relation to the play and her various other acting projects. She's an actress who most assuredly knows where she's at and where she's going.
Q: Have you been a lifelong member of The Evidence Room,the company that is producing The Receptionist?
MM: Well, uh (chuckles)..since 2000, when they moved to the space on Beverly Boulevard near Alvarado (which is no longer their space), where their first production was The Berlin Circle. My friend Bart (DeLorenzo) was producing---he's the director of The Receptionist...and that's where I met my husband Nick Offerman, who was also in it...I became a company member and this is my third show for them.

Q: Don't they do very edgy works?
MM: Yeah...Bart picks really smart material that challenges you, which is good. I think one of Bart's strengths, apart from his choice of matetrial is his visual sense. The last three shows that I've seen that he also directed have all been absolutely exceptional. Voice Lessons...did you see that?
Q: Yes, it was great!
MM: Hilarious, and The Projectionist, which he staged so ingeniously and Churchill's A Number.
Q: How would you describe in your own words the character Beverly that you play in The Receptionist?
MM: The thing that I really responded to was that she's extremely loyal. I hope that's a trait I share with her. She's very no nonsense; she is the opposite of a flirt (laughs). One of the challenges...when I first read the play, I knew what I wanted to do with the character emotionally, but I was drawing a blank in terms of the visual...
Q: Very much the opposite of Karen, wouldn't you agree?

MM: It's a character that Karen would not find cute in any way, shape or form. At the beginning of rehearsal I went out with Ann Closs-Farley, the costume designer, and got that wig and then the pair of glasses...and we went to the Glendale Galleria and I put the wig on and just walked through the Ladies of a Certain Age Department (she cracks me up, as she looks amazing for almost 51) and I tried jackets on and that was good; I was set to go. I had gone to New York and looked at the ladies there and that seemed to be the haircut of choice right now and those wire-rimmed glasses are very much the rage with those ladies. I needed to take anything fresh or useful...not that she's so old, but it's that she's not a flirty or sexy kind of woman. Anything fresh or sassy with me had to go.
Q: I heard a lot of people comment about how strange the play is! But I think that's what makes it so interesting, as well as the fact that you bring to your character such a wonderful sense of humor.
MM: I think she has a sense of humor, especially with people she's very fond of like Lorraine (Jennifer Finnegan). She kind of thinks of her as a daughter. In the end when she believes that Lorraine has betrayed her, she remains loyal and goes to bat for her. And that's what's really heartbreaking about the play. I don't think the play is weird at all. I know some people do and I'm not casting aspersions on that, it's just that, first of all, it's a great piece of writing (playwright Adam Bock). It's very cool, and it's been a real privilege to work on. I love that it's not all spelled out, that there's ambiguity. And as an actor, every time it's so much fun to do and every time it just unfolds itself a little bit more.
Q: How did you enjoy doing Young Frankenstein?
MM: I loved it. I had a great time. It was just a great group of people to work with.
Q: I heard the actresses just couldn't wait for it to be over.
MM: Well, I can't speak for the others, but Sutton (Foster) went into Shrek and Andrea (Martin), that's just her temperament, she likes to keep moving and changing, but when I get in a show, I'll keep doing it for 70,000 performances...I keep going and going forever, but we don't live in New York, we live in Los Angeles, so...
Q: Might you do it here on tour?
MM: I don't think so. I feel like I did it and I did it with the greatest group of people imaginable and I'm pretty much booked up for the next year or so.
Q: Good for you! How was working on the movie version of Fame?
MM: It was so fun. I only worked on it for four days. I have a little song, the full-length version is on the soundtrack. In the movie they cut down about half of it.
Q: Bummer! Tell me about your short-lived TV talk show. What happened to that? You have the perfect natural quality for hosting a talk show.
MM: It was really a lot of fun, but it was bad timing. It was at the time that Rachel Ray premiered and we didn't have Oprah (Winfrey) behind us, but, more importantly, I really want to do something in the arena of talking to people about their stories. I don't know if syndicated television is where I'd like to be, because it's a really different world and it's much more sort of corporate - more corporate than it feels truly creative. So if I do something down the road, I prefer the talk format. It's probably going to be radio or a pod cast. I learned a lot about what I want to do and what I don't want to do. One of the problems with the show was also they wanted it to be celebrity talk, sort of what Ellen (Degeneres) does. I wanted it to be more everyday people talk.
Q: I heard people say they wanted to see Karen!
MM: I don't know how to respond to that. I'm not Karen. I'm not Beverly. I'm not Lydia, this character that I'm playing on Party Down (Starz) right now. She brings things out in people.
That's what I like to do: bring out the best in people. It's a very solid half hour of comedy from Adam Scott and Ken Marino. Last season when Jane Lynch left to do Glee, a slot became available. I'm not playing the same role. The whole cast is great and it's a well-scripted, very funny half hour comedy.
Q: Any network show in the offing?
MM: I was doing In the Motherhood for ABC last season, but it only lasted seven episodes. It was not a very satisfying experience, but I'm really happy doing Party Down.
Q: Who's your favorite film actor?
MM: Meryl Streep. I do love her, but I also love some of the character actresses, some of the Brits are great. I also like Patricia Clarkson...most of the people who haven't had plastic surgery (I laugh) I end up liking the most.
Q: No artificiality. What about Broadway actors?
MM: You mean, musical stars?
Q: Sure.
MM: I always enjoy Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters. Kind of the old school.
Q: Is there a role you really want to do?
MM: I want to do the Edward Albee play The Goat. When I read it, I fell in love with it. Bart (DeLorenzo) and I trying to get the rights to do it.
Q: I would love to see you do a play with Leslie Jordan. You were a scream together on Will & Grace.
MM: I'll be doing Karen The Musical. It hasn't been written yet; it's a couple of years out. (she laughs) Fox Theatricals is producing it, Casey Nicholaw is directing (Spamalot) and it's basically me and Leslie Jordan. He has so much stage experience. He's so funny.
Q: That's certainly something to look forward to. So you're doing Receptionist every Saturday through November 21. Do you like doing two shows back to back?
MM: Yes, but I hate waiting a week to do the show, though. You want to just keep it going. The 5 o'clock show seems just a teenie bit rusty. You have to prepare.
Q: You make the show fun to watch, as with just about every part you play.

It's been a pleasure.

MM: Thanks so much.

Remember to catch Megan Mullally in The Receptionist at the Odyssey Theatre on Sepulveda in West LA Saturdays only at 5pm and 8pm through November 21.

No comments: