Tag Archives: Raising Hope

Cloris Leachman Talks ‘DWTS’ Redux: ‘I Insist On Coming Back’

            In case you haven’t heard, Season 15 of “Dancing With the Stars” will be the show’s first season of returning celebrity contestants.  Well, get ready, because force of nature Cloris Leachman tells us, “Oh, I insist on coming back!”

There is a catch, though.  The 86-year-old performer, already the eldest among the “DWTS” stars when she competed four years ago, reminds us that “When I did it, I had a bad knee, and they would give me a shot in my knee.  I had about three, and it’s not good to have too many of those shots.  So I had a knee replacement after the show was over for me.”  Now, says Cloris, who made it through six out of ten weeks before being eliminated from the show, “My knee is still sensitive and it doesn’t bend all the way as my right knee does.  So I’m sorry about that, but I want to go back and finish the last four!”

She laughs her wild laugh, then archly declares, “I must be there, that’s all there is to it.”

In fact, Cloris — who notes that ABC has a viewer poll concerning which stars should come back — says she is spending part of her time between filming seasons of Fox’s “Raising Hope” working on getting back into her best physical shape.  That way, “I can be ready for anything.”

Does she have a particular regimen?

“I don’t like the word ‘regimen,’ so no,” Cloris replies.  “I like to find out the latest thing in any department, and then I like to try it, no matter what it is.”

She also has parts in two movies coming up to shoot this summer (“The Home” horror flick set in chiller, and a drama that may get a title change) and another couple of films awaiting release (“Gambit,” “Adult World”).

And then there’s the talk of chances that her performance as the outrageous, only occasionally lucid Maw Maw character on “Raising Hope” might get her more Emmy attention.  Cloris already has nine Emmys, the most of any actor, out of more than 20 nominations — but says her excitement about the awards hasn’t diminished at all.  In fact, she feels it “more than ever.”

She also says, “If I have nine, why not ten and make it an even number?  It would be easier for everyone to remember.”  But seriously, “I’d be thrilled out of my mind.”

Funny Lady Mary Birdsong Has the Right Stuff for ‘Descendants’ Drama, Too

Mary Birdsong

Funny lady Mary Birdsong just finished her first guesting on “Raising Hope,” playing the mayor of the town inhabited by the hapless Chance family – a city official who might have a future on the show.

“On the outside, she is very Sarah Palin-esque adorable.  She could have been a runner up in a beauty contest.  She’s all smiles, knows what to say, wears great little suits from Talbots.  But she really likes to party.  A weekend warrior.  She’s kept it in control, she is a good mayor, trying to do a good job.  But she’s of course a drunk and a loose woman…I feel like I’ve monopolized the market on slutty drunks,” Birdsong says.

But that’s not a bad thing.  She explains, “The women who play bitches will give you the shirt off their backs; it’s the ingénues have to watch out for.”
Birdsong is also being widely seen now in George Clooney’s “The Descendants,” for which she gives director Alexander Payne credit.  “To cast a comedic actress, someone like me who is known for sketch comedy?  It’s a real testament to Alexander Payne’s conviction of his own vision.  That goes for Rob Huebel, too,” she notes of the “Descendants” actor and Upright Citizens Brigade alumnus.

A veteran of the audition process and knowledgeable about the prevailing wisdom in actor circles, she tells us, “It toughens you up, gives you a sense of gallows humor.”  For instance, when she was asked to meet Payne, she thought, “‘Okay, you guys are having fun with this crazy joke?’”  One gets so jaded, according to her, “When they say something complimentary, you know you’re never going to hear from them again — that’s the kiss of death!  It’s like, ‘You are so talented.’  ‘Oh, yeah?  You know what?  $#@! you!’”

But cast her, Payne did — and to the film’s benefit.

Martha Plimpton Too Busy Working for L.A. Nightlife, and That’s OK With Her

Martha Plimpton Fox photo by Matthias Clamer

Martha Plimpton was part of one of viewers’ favorite bits at the recent Emmy Awards – when she and her fellow Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy nominees rushed to the stage as their names were called before Melissa McCarthy was crowned winner.  To hear the “Raising Hope” star tell it, the Awards marked one of very few nights she’s spent out on the L.A.scene.

“I’m so busy working, I don’t have much time for other things.  The days are long and they’re going to stay as they are,” she lets us know.  “But fortunately the vibe is good on the set.  I feel like we’ve become really good friends, we love working together and we really enjoy each other’s company.”  Also, she says, they’ve been having a lot of fun with the new season of their zany Fox show that’s centered on the trashy but loving Chance family — including baby Hope, and inept young baby daddy Jimmy (Lucas Neff).

Talking about what viewers can expect as the new season continues to unfold she says, she says, “We have a family trip to Vegas coming up (Oct. 5).  Amy Sedaris is back for that episode.”   Sedaris plays her cousin — the cousin who dad the hots for her husband, Burt (Garrett Dillahunt).  “We’re going to meet Burt’s parents,” she notes, referring to guest stars Lee Majors (”The Six Million Dollar Man”) and Shirley Jones (”The Partridge Family”).  “You’re going to see a lot of us in our younger years. We’re going to do a lot of flashbacks.

“Originally, we had these two younger actors playing us.  We’re going to play ourselves younger more often, I think, this season.”   

When Plimpton does get a longer work break, she heads East.  “I still live inNew York.  When we shoot, I’m out here and I rent a furnished place.   New York is still my home.”

It’s On! Betty White Vs. Cloris Leachman Ultimate Octogenarian Emmy Matchup

Cloris Leachman

Betty White

When the 63rd Prime Time Emmy Awards are presented Sept. 18, unfortunately, we won’t be seeing what could have been the Ultimate Octogenarian TV Awards Smackdown.  No, even though Emmy queens Betty White and Cloris Leachman are each nominees this year, they’re in different categories.  Betty is in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy category where she belongs, while Cloris is a Guest Star nominee despite being on nearly every episode of her show, because that’s how she’s billed, and that’s how she chose to submit herself for Emmy consideration.

Still, awards handicappers are wondering which TV legend will add to her Emmy haul this year — or whether both, or neither, will win.   Accordingly, here is a snapshot of  the grande dames – or “old broads” as Betty would say – and how they match up:

Cloris Leachman:  Born: April 30, 1926, Des Moines, IA
Emmy Nominations 22
Wins 9 (8 primetime, more than any other performer)
Unforgettable As: Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein,” Nurse Diesel in “High Anxiety,” Phyllis Lindstrom in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

Betty White:  Born: January 17, 1922, Oak Park, IL
Emmy Nominations: 21
Wins: 7 (6 primetime; she was the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy)
Unforgettable As: Sue Ann Nivens of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Rose Nyland of “Golden Girls,” Sandra Bullock’s grandmother-in-law to-be in “The Proposal”

Cloris’ Other Honors Include: Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress, 1971, “The Last Picture Show”); induction into Television Hall of Fame; 1 Golden Globe, 1 Screen Actors Guild Award

Betty’s Other Honors Include:  3 Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, Induction into Television Hall of Fame

Current Job:  Cloris says she wasn’t looking to get back into series work when Fox’s “Raising Hope” came her way, but she immediately loved the character of dotty, awful Maw Maw, who goes around in her bra and orange stretch pants, and whose first response to her infant great-granddaughter was “get that dog off my couch!” 

Current Job:  Betty initially thought she was only going to do the pilot of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” as “a heavy, a villain,” but found she enjoyed her costars so much, she wanted to stick around.  Her shady lady Polish caretaker character, Elka Ostrovsky, has developed into “one of the gang” and a driving force on the sitcom. 

Cloris’ Other Current/Recent:  Upcoming remake of “Gambit” with Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth, Grand Marshall of several Gay Pride parades, 2008 “Dancing With the Stars” as oldest contestant ever.

Betty’s Other Current/Recent:  Celebrity Frontwoman for AARP, Facebook campaign that led to SNL hosting, Snickers spot, upcoming show in which seniors punk younger people.

Quotes About Betty:  “I’m so sick of Betty White.  Never liked her,” “She’s such a slut.” 

Quote About Cloris:  “Is she still conscious?”  (They’re joking!)

Redford Connection:  Cloris appeared as a prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” (1969).

Redford Connection:  When Betty’s SAG Life Achievement Award was announced, reporter Gregg Kilday asked her if there were things in show business she’d like to do that she’s yet to do.  “With a sly, mischievous smile, White replied:  ‘Robert Redford.'” 

Ms. Leachman in a Nutshell:  Miss Chicago of 1946 and a Miss America contestant, she majored in drama at Illinois State University and Northwestern University, and studied with Elia Kazan at NY’s famous Actors Studio.  Plays wild comedy and searing drama with equal brilliance.  Married to Hollywood impresario George Englund from 1953 to 1979, Leachman had five children. (Son Bryan died of a drug overdose in 1986.)  Animal advocate.  Notoriously colorful Hollywood character — everyone seems to have a Cloris story — she’s done interviews while bathing.

Mrs. Ludden in a Nutshell:  Three months after graduating from Beverly Hills High School, Betty appeared on an experimental TV station in Los Angeles — in 1939.  She performed onstage and on the radio before joining the daily, live variety show “Hollywood on Television” with Al Jarvis in 1949.  “The Queen of Game Shows.”  The love of her life was third husband Allen Ludden, the “Password” emcee.  They were married from 1963 until his death in 1981, and she was stepmother to his children. A great pet lover and highly active in animal welfare for decades, Betty is a Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) Trustee.

Less Known About Cloris:  “Joanne Woodward and I were the only women [film stars] who nursed our babies back when we were new mothers.  After that, nursing became popular and a lot of babies were much happier because of that.” 

Less Known About Betty: She has a sometimes-naughty sense of humor and there’s a clip of her telling “Golden Girls” castmate Rue McClanahan a blue joke that can be found on the internet.  Plays poker.

Cloris loves to eat: “Salad with my fingers”

Betty loves to eat: Hot dogs.

Cloris Deals With Age By:  Maintaining her vegetarian lifestyle, getting 10 hours of sleep a night.

Betty Deals With Age By:  Not thinking about it (she sleeps maybe five hours a night) and focusing on things that make her happy. 

Martha Plimpton, Raising Expectations for ‘Raising Hope’

Martha Plimpton Fox photo by Matthias Clamer

Martha Plimpton laughs at the notion, advanced by a TV blogger, that her new “Raising Hope” has nowhere to go with its premise of a 24-year-old slacker trying to take care of his baby as a single dad, with help from his ne’er do well family.

Four shows into filming, she says, “It’s going great, really fun.  The possibilities are endless, really, when you’re dealing with family life.”

Their low socio-economic position adds to their appeal, for her.  “I like the fact that we’re playing people who are jerry-rigging their lives.  It’s like they’re using duct tape, staples, anything they can get their hands on to make it work.  The opportunities for comedy are endless in that sense.

“And also, it’s all coming from a warm and loving place,” adds the brilliant performer, who won Tony nominations in 2007, ’08 and ’09, among her many other accolades.  “These people don’t bicker with each other out of irritation.  There’s a lot of heart, a lot of sweetness to the show.  I feel like we earn all the ridiculousness of it and whatever darkness is there.”

The 39-year-old daughter of actors Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton was playing young adult roles herself just the other day, wasn’t she?  And now she’s playing a grandmother?  Did she have any concerns about being tagged with the G-word?  After all, as she herself notes, “Hollywood tends to age actresses very fast.”

Plimpton responds, “In this instance, no because that’s the joke of it.  In our context, that’s the joke of the show.”   She admits, “I didn’t relate at all to being the mother of a 24-year-old, and I didn’t relate even more to playing a grandmother. But we’re seeing that my character also doesn’t relate to being the mother of a 24-year-old.”

She says she didn’t hesitate to go after “Raising Hope” since 1) she wanted to work with creator Greg Garcia, and 2) “It’s the first time I’ve read a pilot where I’ve actually laughed out loud.”

And she’s not even thinking about film and stage projects right now, says the actress, whose big-screen credits range from “Running on Empty” and “Parenthood” to “200 Cigarettes.”

“My whole outlook about my work and life is that I want to have a good time, and I don’t want to get bored.  This show is fun and new and challenging for me.  I’d like to see how things pan out with it before thinking about anything else,” she says. “ I’m really committed to seeing that we get off on the right foot.”