Interview: Jane Leeves on THE STARTER WIFE
Niles Crane’s lady (Daphne Moon from FRASIER played by the lovely Jane Leeves) is making her way to THE STARTER WIFE and she’s bringing with her a secret! In support of her involvement on the show, Jane was kind enough to speak with us and fellow bloggers about her role!
Could you tell us a little bit about the character of Alizee and how many episodes you are going to be in. Is this going to be a recurring role or just a one or two episode commitment?
I am currently scheduled to appear in a couple of episodes. And I’m playing Alizee; she’s a lady with a big secret. I like to describe her as sort of an Auntie Mame, Holly Golightly, larger than life, kind of the life of the party lady. But she is incredibly vulnerable, as these women usually are, very ballsy though. You know she sets her mind on something and she does it. And she is harboring a rather large secret.
Okay, great. And how was it coming into this new series?
It was intimidating, I was completely intimidated, because I have taken sort of a rather large chunk of time off to devote to my family and their psychic hold is slowly letting me go a little bit, you know they’re getting older now. And to sort of step back into something that sort of required not only my acting skills again, but to come up with some different and varied accents that I might be using during the series.
And to sort of step into something, I always felt sorry for people stepping onto the set of Frasier; these were people who had been together for 11 years, and when you work closely with those people, you sort of have a short hand. And an actor said that it was like working with the Flying Wallendas, because we could just go, “Yes, and I’ll do this and I’ll go here and dah, dah, dah.”
And that’s sort of how you feel stepping onto a set where these people have established characters and you’re the new guy. But I couldn’t have been with greater people, Debra and Joe are just fantastic and I was very excited to do it, and very supportive, as well, they were.
I’d like to know what appealed to you the most about Alizee.
Well, the complexity of the character and to play somebody that I have never played before, you know I’m sort of usually the good girl, the sort of warm earthy girl and this was something that I hadn’t. I played Sally Bowles on Broadway and it struck me that was fairly similar to a Sally Bowles kind of a character. But I was really scared about doing it and I just remember when I was asked to do it, I just said “Yes, yes I’ll do it,” and put the phone down and thought, oh cracky what have I just done. But we like to challenge ourselves and this was so much fun.
You mentioned that you had taken some time off, I wondered how is it getting back into TV and do you see yourself in television or movies from here on out?
Well, you know it’s sort of interesting, when you’ve been on a show for so long and you sort of get used to that and then to find yourself sort of out in the marketplace again, the great thing about a TV schedule, especially a half hour, which doesn’t seem so popular anymore, everything is single schedule was that the schedule afforded me time with my family. And it would be fantastic to go back into something like that again, but that’s not the climate right now.
But I’m sort of gradually working my way back in. I’d love to do more TV, movies would be great too. I’m actually going to be doing a little more theater. You know I’m not sort of drawn to any one medium, it’s just where I feel the good characters are, and television usually writes great characters for women.
With taking some time off, I was curious how this role was introduced to you and why you decided this would be kind of a good role to start getting back into television with.
Well, because it was such a turnaround from Daphne and it sort of scared me a little bit and that’s why I said yes. I thought this is new and interesting and a complete departure from Daphne. So the producers actually approached me about changing my hair, as well. So they cut it dyed it and it was sort of like a new lease on life, really. And I came home and my kids didn’t recognize me. And they love it, she still smells like mommy, she doesn’t look like her, but she smells like her.
So you know, it was a complete sort of 360º turn from Daphne and that’s what interested me most.
Also, The Starter Wife seems like such a fun group of people to work with and a fun set, so I’m curious how your experience was or still is, if you’re still working on it for being part of the cast and working on the set.
Oh it was just great. I had met Joe Mantegna before and I had met Debra at various sorts of functions. And to have the opportunity to work with them was great and it was just sort of — I mean there is a lot of joking around and playing on the set and joined right in with that. But yes, they were very, very welcoming and sort of confessed to them before, “I’ve been out of the saddle for awhile, bear with me,” but it was just like putting on an old pair of shoes, you know a comfortable old pair of shoes and it was really, really fun.
I got a little peak at your first episode and I’m curious how, without giving anything away, obviously, how you feel like Alizee’s big secret fit into your portrayal of the role, before you got to reveal the secret?
Yes, I think they’re figuring it out and I’m figuring it out as we go along. That’s the great thing about television; you’re sort of flying by the seat of your pants. You know, “Wouldn’t it be great if she? And what about?” And I think the whole surprise is equally — you know there’s sort of a — I think it’s kind of clever casting, to cast me, actually, to play this woman who has this particular secret. It’s so hard to talk about it, because I don’t want to give it away. But I thought there’s a little bit of tongue-in-cheek casting in this, I think, in regards to that, and I think thought that was kind of clever of them.
Definitely. Did you feel like you had any particular inspirations or actresses you were thinking of for this role?
Oh gosh yes, I mean I kept thinking of, when she was described to me, I kept thinking of Auntie Mame, and as I said previously, I played Sally Bowles on Broadway, this sort of very vulnerable person who was full of bravado, but underneath it there is this quivering lump of jelly and if you just dig deep enough, you’ll find her. You know they sort of create these personas for themselves to cover up some stuff that is going on underneath. And there may be more and more layers of that to be pealed away.
Hello, I heard you mention that you were looking, possibly for more theater roles. Do you prefer theater to TV and if so, why?
No, I mean I find them equally as satisfying, certainly doing the four camera sitcom thing is like doing theater anyway, it’s like doing a little play every week and it really is very gratifying to have that audience there and have an immediate reaction. So it is, in some ways I do find it more gratifying than doing single camera, because you get an immediate reaction and you know if what you’re doing is working or not.
But they both have their challenges, and they’re both sort of equally satisfying, when you get to see the finished result.
Is there any character type that you would love to play, like just a genre of character that you would love to be in?
Well, I always think that I am like this character actress who has been handed these sort of leading lady roles. But I’m sort of always drawn to the crustier side of life, they sort of downtrodden women. But to get to play somebody flamboyant, which Alizee is; so I’m very lucky in that respect. And I’m going to be playing Mrs. Cratchit, so she is a complete departure from this, as well, in A Christmas Carol, over Christmas at the Kodak Theater. So that’s going to be something different to do, as well.