Actress Wendie Malick

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Emmy-winning actress reflects on the impact that doing comedy has had on her life and discusses her new series, TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland.

Actress Wendie Malick is best known for her Emmy-winning role as the snobby ex-model Nina in NBC's Just Shoot Me. The Buffalo, NY native started out as a model before landing theater roles on and off Broadway and finally moving to TV in the '90s, with spots on Kate and Allie, Baywatch and an award-winning role on HBO's Dream On. Her latest project is the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland. In addition to acting, Malick has focused her efforts on philanthropic work, including women's rights and the humane treatment of animals.


Tavis: Wendie Malick is an Emmy-nominated actress whose many TV credits include “Just Shoot Me,” “Frasier” and “Dream On.” Beginning June 16th you can catch her in the new TV Land series “Hot in Cleveland.” Here now, a preview of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland.”
Tavis: She’s not in this clip, but Betty White is in this series, and these days, speaking of “Hot in Cleveland,” she’s hot just about everywhere.
Wendie Malick: Oh, my god.
Tavis: So this should be a hit just given the fact that Betty White is in it.
Malick: Do we look out or what? Really. (Laughter)
Tavis: What about the timing of that?
Malick: It’s so amazing, and for me it’s so inspiring to be working with this icon, who is now back stronger and hotter than ever.
Tavis: At 88.
Malick: Yeah, and she, I think, is doing this great service to women of all ages, letting us know that there’s no expiration date on being fabulous.
Tavis: So since we mentioned Betty White, give me more about the back story of this series and the role that you and she and others play in it.
Malick: This is about three middle-aged women, or “women of a certain age.” (Laughter) Let’s face it, it’s the middle. Of course, if this was the middle I’d be living way beyond 100.
But we are all hitting the wall in terms of our careers and our relationships and decide to take a trip to Paris, and on the way hit some inclement weather and are forced to land in Cleveland and find out, much to our surprise, that we are, like, the hottest things – big fish in a little pond – and decide to stay there. We rent a house and Betty White is our caretaker.
Tavis: Is that a compliment to or a diss of Cleveland?
Malick: I think initially it was kind of like taking shots. (Laughter) It’s so cheap to take shots of the Midwest.
Tavis: Everybody does.
Malick: I’m from Buffalo, so I know.
Tavis: No, Cleveland specifically, everybody rags Cleveland all the time.
Malick: Cleveland is actually a pretty cool town, and I’m sorry about the Cavaliers, but that’s a whole other story. But I went to school in Ohio, I went to Ohio Wesleyan University and there are so many wonderful people in the Midwest, those good, fine Middle Westerners, and it’s actually quite a nice town in many ways.
But it’s easy for L.A. people to sort of pooh-pooh everything between here and New York, and I think that it is a place where people start to find out what goes on beneath this. We tend to be a little more superficial here.
Tavis: Since I’m from the Midwest, we do not pooh-pooh the Midwest on this program.
Malick: No, no, no, nor would I.
Tavis: Yeah, exactly.
Malick: I’m a Buffalo girl.
Tavis: There you go, there you go. I’m a huge TV Land fan. I’ve said that many times on this show. I love TV Land because I love all the old stuff, but this is, like, rare.
Malick: Here I am. (Laughter)
Tavis: No, no, no, no. I didn’t mean that about you. I didn’t mean that about you. (Laughter) What I was trying to say was I love all the –
Malick: It’s like fine wine, Tavis.
Tavis: I was trying to say I love all the old series, and this is new for TV Land. This is a first-run series.
Malick: Yeah, this is a big, giant gamble, and they’ve been absolutely wonderful. But I think like so many other networks, they’re trying to brand their station and try to do some original programming, and I think they felt, and I believe they’re right – of course, we’ll see – that there is a hunger for women who are in their forties, fifties, eighties to see themselves reflected in television, in comedies and storytelling.
We haven’t done such a great job of that in prime time television, in network television. So I think there is a hunger for this and we sort of bridge this amazing gap of women who are just now their children are grown, possibly they’re ending careers.
My character has been on a soap opera for 27 years that got canceled and she doesn’t quite know what she’s supposed to do next –
Tavis: And kept losing out to Susan Lucci.
Malick: Yes, that damn Susan Lucci, who apparently may come and visit us. I’m very hopeful that she will.
Tavis: That’d be nice, yeah.
Malick: (Makes noise.) But I think this is that interesting time for so many women in this country where they suddenly have options, and they realize they have a long time still in this life to sort of figure out, “What do I want to do next?”
So I think that they’re on to something intriguing. The other part I like about it is it’s about how strong friendships are among women. Girlfriends can get you through a lot. Men are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but there’s certain things that women show up for each other for.
Tavis: Is this a rarity, for you to see a script that shows you in your fullness and your complexity at this age in this town?
Malick: Yes. Well, and also where it’s about the women, and we are not the principals, the lawyers, the mothers, the wives, the sort of accoutrement; that we drive these stories. It was created by a woman, Susanne Martin, who came from “Frasier” initially, so the pedigree of these writers is quite wonderful.
They have some maturity and understand that these stories can get richer and more interesting as we get older.
Tavis: You’ve had a chance to be in some great series, speaking of series – “Frasier.” I was watching – they had a “Just Shoot Me” marathon on the other day.
Malick: Oh, how fun.
Tavis: Yeah, Memorial Day weekend, it was, like, 24 hours, all “Just Shoot Me.”
Malick: Are you sick of me yet?
Tavis: No, no, no, no. (Laughter) But I saw a lot of you two weeks ago.
Malick: I bet you did.
Tavis: Like for 24 hours, “Just Shoot Me” was on all weekend long on one of these channels. I raise that because I’m curious as to how, given the kind of character we’ve seen you play, how this juxtaposes against those other series that we’ve seen you in.
Malick: Well, the first one that I was lucky enough to do, that sort of put me on the map in this town, was “Dream On,” which was the first successful comedy on HBO.
Tavis: HBO, yeah.
Malick: That was my virgin step into doing comedy, at least – I did it for my friends and in my own life, but I had been considered a dramatic actress until that point, I think because I was tall and brunette.
Tavis: I have a hard time imagining that. With all due respect to your talent –
Malick: Thank you for believing in my range. (Laughter)
Tavis: No, with all due respect to your gift, you are so funny. You play these characters so well; I can’t imagine you in a dramatic role.
Malick: Well, this is why when Meryl Streep wanted to do comedy, everybody’s going, “Why?’
Tavis: “Why, why.”
Malick: But everybody wants to do it all. We all love to make believe and try on different hats, but I was really happy on that show because they gave me a chance to become somewhat neurotic, and that seems to have been my strength. (Laughs) I feel that I get to work out an awful lot of my own quirks in my work, and it makes me a saner person in my life. It’s probably saved me a lot of money on therapy.
Tavis: (Laughs) When did you – “Dream On,” to your point, allowed you to spread your wings, so to speak, but when did you know that you had the gift to do the comedic thing, because not everybody can. If you had been a dramatic actress, when did you know that once you made that turn, oh, I really can do this well?
Malick: I always sensed that that was where my strength lay.
Tavis: Oh, you did?
Malick: Yeah, and I had done plays all through school and did off-off Broadway and dinner theater and all that in New York. I was on a soap opera and was ready to shoot myself because I was Nurse Jones and I just had to recap what happened the day before, and I wore that little outfit and I thought God, this is so not what I had in mind. (Laughter) I make my friends laugh, but – and my husband.
Tavis: And me and a lot of other viewers.
Malick: And you. And you. I think that laughter is the best medicine. There are times when I think God, I wish my work was a little more serious, that I was tackling some of the great issues of the day, and then I will have friends, I will have people come up to me in the airport and say, “Thank you so much for helping me laugh before I go to sleep at night.”
Tavis: To your point, though, Wendie, about tackling some of the issues of the day, one of the things – again, I’m a huge TV Land fan and one of the things they’ve done so well, they are obviously mostly reruns, but they match the times. For example, running “Roseanne” right now is a pretty brilliant stroke –
Malick: Absolutely.
Tavis: – given what’s happening, what’s happened to the working class in this country.
Malick: Right.
Tavis: I raise that to ask whether or not there is something about the way this series is structured or written that you think does, in fact, fit into the times.
Malick: Absolutely. Did you hear me burp just now? It was really quiet, but –
Tavis: No, I didn’t hear that.
Malick: Oh, then I probably shouldn’t have brought it up.
Tavis: See, if you hadn’t said that, we wouldn’t have known that. (Laughter) Wendie just burped, y’all.
Malick: Princess Grace of Monaco.
Tavis: Are you going to apologize for that?
Malick: Excuse me.
Tavis: Okay.
Malick: No, I think something that we can do in that vein is to help women own where they are in their lives. Often, you can do that by poking fun at yourself and we all have our moments of vanity and craziness, but this is a culture that is so driven by staying youthful that I think a lot of women lose their way.
We’re here to poke fun at that and celebrate being in your forties. I’m 59 years old, and I have just come to be comfortable with that in the last couple of years.
Tavis: I was about to ask, is that easy for you to say?
Malick: Now it’s okay, and of course the joke is that everybody who works in this town, the minute they write about you, the first thing they do is put your age after your name. But particularly being around someone like Betty, I realized oh my God, this is the thing I love to do.
I love playing my own age. There are so many women out there who need to be represented and who I know can relate to me, and I just want to keep doing this until my brain goes, which could happen at any time. (Laughter) But hopefully not.
Tavis: Well, you are a hot 59 in Cleveland, Los Angeles or anywhere else.
Malick: Thank you.
Tavis: I love the shoes. This camera won’t do justice to those shoes.
Malick: Pickle-stabbers.
Tavis: Those are nice shoes.
Malick: They are about a foot long, with these toes. (Laughter) But thank you.
Tavis: Very nice. So TV Land has a new series. It’s called “Hot in Cleveland,” starring Wendie Malick and Valerie Bertinelli and –
Malick: Jane Leeves and Betty White.
Tavis: – Betty White and Jane Leeves, so it’s a great series. Good to have you on.
Malick: Thanks so much for having me.
Tavis: All the best of luck on the series.
Malick: Thanks.
Tavis: I’m sure you’ll be fine.
Malick: Thanks. (Laughs)

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Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm