Wendie Malick calls third act ‘the sweetest time in my career’

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Wendie Malick has portrayed some of the sassiest characters on television, including Hot in Cleveland’s Victoria Chase and Just Shoot Me!’s Nina Van Horn. She has brought some of that sass to her newest role in Darrow & Darrow a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie. She portrays Joanne Darrow, mother of Claire Darrow, a lawyer who fights for what’s right, regardless of whether it makes her a dime. However, Joanne would rather make a profit, so the mother-daughter team clash.

The Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film will be on October 22 at 9 p.m. and also stars Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Tom Cavanagh. I had a chance to talk to Malick about her roles, her love of film and, of course, her sass.

Lisa Iannucci (LI): You recently you did an interview where you said, “I’m always looking for a play,” but, you’re doing a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Darrow & Darrow. What does it take for you to pull away from doing a play to do film or TV show?

Wendie Malick (WM): We just closed Big Night that Paul Rudnick wrote and the thing I love about theater is it’s a total immersion that you cannot duplicate in a film. You get to tell the entire story in the room with people right there with you and there’s nothing in the media as thrilling as that.

However, it doesn’t exactly pay the rent. It’s a real labor of love. So I’m so grateful that I get to go back and do films and television. I have a pretty good time with whatever I’m doing. I love what I do and I’m grateful for the opportunity wherever it leads me, but once a year, at least, I love to get on stage. It just feeds me in a particular way that it’s hard to duplicate.

LI: What was it about Darrow & Darrow that made you want to portray Joanne?

WM: The writing, first and foremost. It was a very smart script and really well written. I loved how sassy my character was. Themes are very important to me. They’re your gateway into a character. Phoef Sutton wrote such an interesting, fun script and I loved the relationship with my daughter (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley). We just hit it off right off the bat. Then, I have this fabulous granddaughter and that relationship is particularly intriguing to me because, sometimes, when you skip a generation, you have a whole different possibility of relating. I am not a grandmother or a mother, although I did help raise my niece, but I always felt that way about my grandmother, my nana. She was a very special influence in my life and someone I could be very frank with.

LI: What was it like working with Peter DeLuise, who many of us remember as a young actor on 21 Jump Street?

WM: He was so lovely and really my kind of director because he is an actor, as well. He knows just how much information to give you, but not too much and gave us all a chance to find things on our own. Then, he would just gently guide you. He reminded me so much of his father (Dom DeLuise) who I had the privilege of spending a few evenings with and he was so delightful and had such a giggle in his heart. Peter has that but he also has a real gravitas about him. He is a very sensitive youth. He was a dream director.

LI: Who did you look up to when you were starting out in the business?

WM: Rosalind Russell is always at the top of the list – her style and her humor and her sass. There are just so many women over the years, both the Hepburns have hugely influenced me — Audrey and Katharine. On television growing up I was utterly enamored with Mary Tyler Moore who I got to work with and recently went to her memorial. She was so lovely and just sort of embodied all of the qualities that I admired. And Carol Burnett, who ended up playing my mother on Hot in Cleveland. That was such a trip for me, because I watched that show every week and just thought she has it all going on. She is one of the warmest, loveliest women that I ever met.

LI: You brought up the word sass when you talked about playing Joanna Darrow and when you talked about Rosalind Russell. You’ve also portrayed Nina Van Horn (Just Shoot Me!) and Victoria Chase (Hot in Cleveland) who have sass as well. Does sass in a character appeal to you?

WM: Yes, it does. I think it’s my irreverence and it’s also a way that women can use their power and their authority without being too strident. So I think there’s something in having a little percentage of sass in your demeanor that allows you to maybe get away with things you could not otherwise.

LI: Do you have that same kind of sass?

WM: I would say yes. I think every character that we inhabit, you draw from different parts of yourself. I believe we all have everything in our best spectrum of possibilities. It’s just that some are more dominant than others. For some people, it’s really hard to get in touch with your anger or their passion or whatever, but it all exists. I draw from different parts of myself and then I steal shamelessly from people that I observe and admire and am fascinated by.

LI: You’ve been on television shows where you started from the beginning and then you’ve joined shows like Frasier or Mom. How hard is it as an actor to come into a show that’s already going on that has a successful cast?

WM: Being there from the beginning and discovering it together is an amazing bonding experience. It’s really so juicy seeing that collaboration. We were always very careful on all of our sets, such as Just Shoot Me, Hot in Cleveland and Dream On, to make the guests feel at home. We embraced them as they came in so and let them know how happy we were to have them with us because it can be lonely.

Frasier was a sweet experience for me because a lot of our writers on Just Shoot Me had come from Frasier and they were lovely and very welcoming and really couldn’t have been sweeter. But I have been on sets where you do feel a little bit of a cold shoulder, you know, ‘Who do you think you are?’

LI: You have had an amazing career. What would you credit your success to?

WM: The genes (laughs).

Seriously, I am one of the women in my third act who still is viable and that’s such a gift because it’s really the sweetest time in my career in this weird way.

I think probably the first real seminal moment for me as an actress was the day I realized I was a character actress and that just freed me in such a profound way that I didn’t have to worry about being pretty anymore or trying to attain some sort of perfection that I never had. I was never much of an ingénue. I always was too tall and too brunette or too manly or something, so when I got to be a character actress that just let me fly but of course I still want to look as good as I possibly can.

LI: What do you think has to happen for women to get more opportunities in film and television?

WM: I think the most interesting stories are peopled with the characters that are in everyone’s lives. We all have people from all the generations who surround us and that makes for good storytelling and storytelling is the most successful way to populate a theory. I would advise women to find proper outlets where they can shine. I started writing and just had my first play produced by a New Jersey rep and I’m going to expand, it was just a short play in a festival. I decided to be more proactive about my own trajectory and I found that I really do love writing. I’ve always kept journals and I hadn’t really thought about, I wonder if I can actually write a script. So I now have a little something percolating that I may end up producing and doing it myself.

LI: You’re receiving a Carney Award this month. What does that mean to you?

WM: Art Carney said it’s for some of the unsung heroes of our business. I feel so honored to be in this company. William H. Macy is so brilliant and Richard Kind and Bill Fichtner and Xander Berkeley it’s – I think it’s one of the loveliest honors anyone has ever given me.”

For more information about Darrow & Darrow visit http://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/darrow-darrow/about-darrow-darrow.

© Lisa Iannucci (10/16/17) FF2 Media

Featured photo: Wendie Malick in Darrow & Darrow (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries)

Middle Photo: Big Night (Playbill)

Middle Photo: Just Shoot Me! (NBC/NBC © 2012 NBCUniversal, Inc.)

Bottom Photo: Wendie Malick in Hot in Cleveland (TVLand)

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