Article taken from L.A. Times
Jean Smart, veteran of such series as “Designing Women,” “Frasier” and “24” (as loose-cannon First Lady Martha Logan), already has three Emmys on her mantle. The most recent came last year, for her role as Regina, the suburban-queen mother of high-functioning amnesiac Samantha (Christina Applegate) on the just-canceled ABC comedy, “Samantha Who?”
Is all this hoopla old hat for you by now?
Not at all. Last year, supposedly, I was not a contender. I don’t know who makes these decisions. My husband informed me last year that he went online or something and looked at the Vegas odds on who was going to win — people will bet on anything! — I was one of the top two.
Did he lay a bet?
[laughing] No! Or if he did, he didn’t tell me.
If you were describing Regina to someone, what would you say?
She’s very impulsive. She never questions that she might be wrong; it’s always got to be somebody else and she’s happy to help them fix what’s wrong with them. I think she really, really loves her daughter and they had a terrible relationship before the accident. It’s great because Samantha doesn’t remember when I said this and that, you know?
This is her being a good mother?
Well, she thinks that meddling — I’ll meddle too, I’ll get in arguments with my son: ‘Why can’t you bring a sweatshirt with you? You’re going to be out . . . ‘ and it makes men insane. He’s 19. I’m just trying to squeeze in those last bits of advice before he’s gone.
In an episode coming up, we meet Regina’s mother — that will explain a great deal. Florence Henderson is playing my mother. She’s just a joy, hysterical, you’ve never seen Florence Henderson like this.
Do you and Christina Applegate work on things to project a mother-daughter dynamic, or because Samantha’s a blank slate, is it wide open?
We didn’t do a full first season because of the writers strike; we still feel like we’re brand new, we’re still figuring out our characters. That’s the hard thing about doing a TV series as opposed to a play or a film: You don’t know the middle and the ending, you only know the beginning. The most important thing about acting is to be as specific as possible; at the same time you don’t want to commit to things that later you might think, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t committed to that direction.” But people go through phases; they change.
It’s like in “24,” I said to the producers, “Martha’s getting a little preachy, I think she was more fun when she was off her meds. Can we get her off her meds again?” “Yeah, we agree, OK.”
Do you have a favorite episode from the first two seasons of “Samantha Who?”
The first one that comes to mind is the one where Dena [Melissa McCarthy] and I get drunk and do makeovers [“The Girlfriend”] — I think that’s the one I submitted to the Emmys last year. That was fun. Also because it had some very touching things in it.
You got to see Regina reveal things about herself that you could tell she wouldn’t normally, maybe not even to her own daughter. And then waking up — the way it was directed, it was like Dena and I were waking up from some horrible one-night stand or something.
And then Samantha comes home and it’s one of the first times that Regina really just comforts her daughter, because [on-again-off-again beau] Todd had chosen someone else. It just sort of had everything.
Did your “Designing Women” castmates really call you “the actress” (as Delta Burke has said)? How did that make you feel?
[rolls her eyes] Yes . . . It was very flattering, but it was mostly because I could cry at the drop of a hat. So whenever Linda [Bloodworth-Thomason] needed a scene where somebody cried, she’d write it for me.