Wendie Malick, best known for her role as Judith Tupper on Dream On, now plays Nina on the NBC comedy Just Shoot Me. She recently chatted on America Online.
Q: What's the future of your show? Could it take Seinfeld's place?
A: That's sort of the question of the hour. Everyone's coveting that spot. We won't know any of this for a couple more months. But we have been told that we are one of the possibilities for that Thursday spot.
Q: I was wondering if you were ever a model in real life?
A: I modeled for about eight years in New York and also lived in Paris for a year and modeled for Paris Planning. I used to do all the collections for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
Q: Why is your show called Just Shoot Me?
A: People think it has something to do with guns, but it's a fashion magazine, so it has a lot to do with images, photography.
Q: How do you feel about Just Shoot Me's growing success? Everyone seems to be talking about it.
A: It's nice to start slow and build gradually. I think sometimes if you really hit the ground running it's harder to sustain your success because in these shows when you have an ensemble, it really takes six to 10 shows before people hit their stride with each other. I think our show has gotten much stronger. We all are much clearer on who our characters are, and we're developing a rapport both personally and with our characters.
Q: Do you have a favorite episode?
A: I have two actually. My favorites have been The Assistant, with the window washer who fell off the scaffolding, and the other one was Old Boyfriends, which was the one with the radio show. One of them gave me a fake dictionary, so I was using words that were completely fictitious, so they were trying to make a fool out of me on national radio. They were both written by the writers of Dream On, so it was fun working on them.
Q: Is Nina a recovering addict, or did she just have a crazy past?
A: Obviously Nina did a lot of drugs in the '70s. She was definitely a party girl, and she lived that life fully and still tries to sneak things in occasionally, but she's more moderate. She knows she has to keep her job.
Q: Do you have any control over the scripts and how they're written?
A: Not very much, although we certainly all have pitched different ideas. Sometimes they'll take pieces of some of the things you suggest, but they have a lot of these story lines mapped out months in advance. The more we work together, too, the writers write toward the strength of the actors. That's the beauty of doing series television. You can mind things over a period of time.
Q: Are you anything like your character?
A: I do have a few things in common with Nina. We both modeled; and we both lived through the '70s; and I certainly was no angel. But I wasn't as bad as Nina. I was lucky enough to have good friends. I think that balance is the key and I've been lucky. I'm not a terribly compulsive personality. But I also consider myself lucky to get out of the modeling business when I did and had another career to go to that I wanted to do most of all.
Q: Why did you leave modeling?
A: I left in 1980, and I'd had a fabulous run and I'd always wanted to act. I took time out to model, to travel and meet people, and it was really fun. But I always knew I wanted to be an actress, so I knew I had to go back to New York and leave that party before it was over!
Q: Do you like playing this type of character versus a more serious one?
A: I like doing them all. I sort of wish you could do one for six months and then the other. There is something wonderful about doing one character over a long period of time because you can get deeper with it. Nina's a different one for me because she's so much broader and crazier and more eccentric than anything I've played before. It's sort of difficult because you always want to ground your character in reality, and she's so out there.
Q: Is the set of your show the kind that gets clips on blooper shows? If so, what's the funniest blooper that happened on the show?
A: There are so many things they couldn't even put on a blooper show because people have a lot of blue language! You get so embarrassed because there's kids in the audience! We've all appeared on that blooper show I think, we've signed releases for quite a few things!
Q: I would like to see more story lines about your character. Will you be getting more air time?
A: I think they've been pretty democratic about that. The show is certainly based on the relationship of Jack and Maya, but they've branched out and let us all have our episodes. Each character is very interesting, and the good thing about that is it could end up a lot like Taxi or Cheers, where any character could get its own story line.
Q: Do you think the writing on Just Shoot Me has gotten sharper this season? I think this year's episodes are greatly improved.
A: It's a combination of the writing getting more specific for the characters and actors, and as time goes by you have this wonderful backstory so there's history with all these characters, so the audience knows what's going on.
Q: What attracted you most to Just Shoot Me?
A: It was the writing, and the actors. I knew Laura from New York before. I liked the idea of doing an ensemble. My only concern was Nina. Nina originally was a much more bitchy, neurotic person before and I'm glad they've made her a bit dingier.