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Whitney Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Whitney

This is an interview with Jane Kaczmarek and Peter Gallagher on November 30, 2011 about the show Whitney.

Question:
How did you both get involved with Whitney?

Jane Kaczmarek:
We were asked, which is always the best way to get a job. Somebody just calls your agent and says, would she do this? Would he do this? I'm speaking for Peter now, because I've been doing that for about 25 years, but we were very excited.

Peter Gallagher:
It is a rare and wonderful thing for Peter, I might say. Those are the kindest words you can hear. Please, we'd like you to do this.

Jane Kaczmarek:
I had done an episode before as Whitney's mom and then they wrangled Peter Gallagher into being Whitney's dad. As you can understand, we don't have names. We're Whitney's mom and Whitney's dad.

Peter Gallagher:
It's Vince and Candy, that's right. You're Candy and I'm Vince.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Vince and Candy, that's right. So we do have names, but we were just asked to do this. And Peter and I have worked together before so I, for one, was thrilled to not only be working with Whitney and the young people on that show, but to work with my dear old friend Peter Gallagher.

Question:
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters of Candy and Vince?

Peter Gallagher:
I play Whitney's father, Vince. And I think in her world view, all of the difficulties she has with men and with life in general stem from her terrible father who is I don't think is as terrible as she remembers, but certainly not reliable, a bit of a con man, sort of a day late and a dollar short kind of guy, always with an angle. And it was an enormous amount of fun. And Jane and I, in the show, Candy and Vince were married and they are no longer.

Jane Kaczmarek:
We have quite an antagonistic relationship.

Peter Gallagher:
We do.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Whitney blames both of her parents for a lot of her colorful ways. And as Candy, her mother, I've been married since. Vince has been married since. And I have quite a bit of hostilities towards him.

Peter Gallagher:
I'm completely oblivious of it, as I am still.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Whitney is determined to keep her parents apart because she doesn't want to have a destroyed Christmas the way she had growing up when her parents were together. That's kind of the premise is that she finds out during the course of the show that both of us are showing up at her house for Christmas and she's trying to get out of that, and mayhem ensues.

Question:
Peter, can you compare Vince to Arthur Campbell for me?

Peter Gallagher:
Vince gets more laughs. And if he doesn't, Arthur will outlive him. One's an authority figure and one's only an authority figure in his own mind. There's not a lot in common there. One's totally unreliable and one's very reliable, but they both vaguely resemble me at the moment.

Question:
How much more episodes will we see of Candy and Whitney's back story?

Jane Kaczmarek:
There are some business aspects that need to be worked out if that's going to continue. I really enjoyed doing the show, as did Peter. I loved working with Peter again. Our paths have crossed on the stage many times before in the past years, and it was so much fun to be working with him again on this show.

Peter Gallagher:
You know, I agree. I was so thrilled to find out you were playing this part. I couldn't believe how much fun it was going to be.

Jane Kaczmarek:
We had a great time. And we kind of come Peter and I both did theater and still do theater, so our kind of take on the way comedy is played was a very similar style. And Whitney and her young friends this is kind of a very new, contemporary way of storytelling. And we were very happy to be asked to the party. We had a great time doing the show and we hope, at least I hope, that there will be more episodes with us.

Question:
Have you guys actually met Whitney's real parents and how close are your characters how close do they resemble them on the show?

Peter Gallagher:
I haven't met either of her parents.

Jane Kaczmarek:
No. They're rather colorful sorts. I was watching some past episodes of the show last night and her references to them are pretty bleak. Very funny, but as she says she had this family and she's gotten a television series out of it.

Peter Gallagher:
And hopefully we won't take it away from her.

Jane Kaczmarek:
But they seem to be quite the character and she's a remarkable girl. She worked her way through the University of Pennsylvania which is an Ivy League school, working her way through college and she must have at a very early age decided that she was going to persevere and make lemonade out of the lemons that she was kind of born into. But she's an absolutely delightful girl who has been tremendously successful at turning these parents into comedy gold. So Peter and I were very happy to be asked to portray them.

Peter Gallagher:
She's also very generous. Whitney's very generous which I always think is sort of a hallmark of really talented writers and really talented, creative people, is that she doesn't have a death grip on every word or every beat and so on and so forth. So there's something very dynamic about working with her and she's clearly really, really bright and has earned her position.

Question:
Peter, is this a one-time cameo or are you planning on appearing in future episodes?

Peter Gallagher:
I think that's totally up to them. I had the time of my life. I it's funny, I feel like a lot of the things I've done over the last few years, I've been setting people up and so it's really nice to get a couple of punchlines. And as I say to do so in a really supportive and lovely environment and get to sleep in your own bed at night, so I was thrilled to be as Jane accurately put it, I was thrilled to be asked to the party and they were very generous. So I'd jump at the chance. I loved doing Covert Affairs and that's also a very happy family there, a very supportive, imaginative bunch and I would jump at the chance to do more episodes of Whitney. But that's up to them, we'll see.

Question:
Jane, you mentioned that actually both of you coming out of theater have sort of the same take on comedy and maybe a different take than the younger gang on set. Would you like to elaborate that a little bit? What is your take on how comedy should be performed?

Jane Kaczmarek:
It's funny because one of the happy memories I have is I was doing Lost in Yonkers on Broadway and Peter was doing Guys and Dolls on Broadway and when you're on a stage, you've got to nail it. You don't have editors, you have to be very aware of timing and kind of the energy thrown between characters. And even on Malcolm in the Middle that was a single camera show so it was completely left up to the editors on how they cut the comedy so that it would be prominent.

This is in front of a live audience, which I know Peter and I just love, having come from theater. But it's a little more subtle kind of a storytelling. Comedies now seem to be a little more quirky. The characters on Whitney are really sublime. You know, I think that the friendships that she has with her friends are the relationships are a little more subtle than certainly doing a Neil Simon play on Broadway or Peter doing Guys and Dolls.

It was interesting for us to be with them and for them to be with us because I think the styles overlapped and colored each other really well. And the big proof of the pudding is the audience. When the audience responds, you know that it's working. So it was very exciting and made me have to really listen and see how they were working their characters and how Peter and I came in as a little more broad than I think some of the characters on that show are. But I think it melded together nicely.

Peter Gallagher:
They were also very happy that they didn't have to help us up and down the stairs, so that was good.

Jane Kaczmarek:
You've got a couple shows under your belt and you've got a couple of belts under your belt and you realize, my goodness, years have flown and we've been so lucky, Peter and I, that we've worked all these years.

Peter Gallagher:
Jane and I actually first worked in Pride and Prejudice together, 25-some-odd years ago at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. She was Lizzie and I was Mr. Darcy.

Jane Kaczmarek:
We started doing Jane Austen together.

Peter Gallagher:
It's as much about any kind of company finding that rhythm and we were the new kids on the block and those kids, and the real kids in the show were just really generous and really welcoming. You can always tell when you're in a company where good things are possible because there's not any areas of the company that - where too much energy is going towards. And that was the situation. We were all a little bit surprised, the audience. You know, so it was a happy kind of mixture of people and styles and things. From the Borscht Belt, Kaczmarek and Gallagher.

Question:
You guys said you're industry veterans and Whitney and Chris are a little bit newcomers. Do you feel that they learned anything from you?

Peter Gallagher:
Any successful enterprise involves both. I don't know if you pick up but you'd listen and we seemed to be listening to each other and talking to each other.

Jane Kaczmarek:
I thought Whitney and Chris had tremendous confidence for being that young. They seemed very sure of that relationship they have I think is so wonderful. Those two are so believable as being a couple in love and so delightful to watch. They can get goofy and silly but then when they have tender moments together, they're really, really lovely.

I learned a lot by watching that, that the kind of idea of multi-camera sitcoms and studio audiences where you just think you've got to really crack it out of the park. Audiences really were appreciating the naturalness and subtlety of what they were doing. And I know that they appreciated us walking on and being very definite characters that they could bounce off of. I think Vince and Candy are kind of painted with a broader stroke. And I think that they enjoyed being able to bounce off of characters as definite as the characters Peter and I played.

Question:
You really got a sense of why the show's doing well?

Peter Gallagher:
Yeah, they were lovely. Rhea and Zoe and Dan, they're all great.

Jane Kaczmarek:
I think we appreciated is when you do theater, there's a green room and everyone just hangs out in the green room between their scenes being rehearsed. Oftentimes when you do television or film, everybody has their dressing room. Well, we have dressing rooms on this too, but they have their trailers that they go into. Anytime you have any downtime, people disappear into their trailers. This cast was wonderful in that they had a table kind of set out.

Peter Gallagher:
Some people actually showed up to it.

Jane Kaczmarek:
People just hung around between each other's scenes. And Peter and I sat with the rest of the cast and we would read papers and we were checking our BlackBerrys and everybody is talking and asking questions about when you did this and when you did this and oh, I know her. And this tremendous sense of familiarity and community comes from just people hanging out together, which is not always the case on television and films.

When you've got that trailer, people disappear into those trailers all the time. And this really had that feeling of being in a play where there's the green room and everyone is talking and just spending time together. And I think that has a lot to do with when we got up in front of the audience and in front of the cameras, that there was a greater sense of familiarity, certainly, with the characters because we were enjoying them so much as people.

Question:
Can you give us any hints on what Christmas for Whitney and her family is like?

Peter Gallagher:
Beautiful.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Peter gets to sing a little bit.

Peter Gallagher:
Yes, Jane and I get to dance a little bit.

Jane Kaczmarek:
We're very antagonistic ex-parents, but once you're a parent, you're always a parent.

Peter Gallagher:
Unless we're making love.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Yes, and well that kind of is a surprise and the heart of what Whitney is to find out what actually transpires between the parents at Christmas.

Question:
Peter, was this done during a hiatus or did you have to sneak it in real quick and do it?

Peter Gallagher:
As soon as I came back from shooting from Berlin, shooting the Berlin episode which we waited to shoot those exteriors, Berlin exteriors until after the, sort of the regular season ended, as soon as I came back from that, I was asked to step into Whitney. And I was thrilled to do so.

Question:
Would like to do it again?

Peter Gallagher:
It's fun. In some ways it is a sort of happy marriage between Peter and film. You have the capability to record events when they happen, but they added energy and surprise of an audience.

Question:
Jane, have you been working on anything else at the moment?

Jane Kaczmarek:
No, I had some health issues this year. I kind of slowed down a little bit this year. But Whitney started up in August and then there was a little bit of time before we did this one, so hopefully they'll pick up again in the spring. This is kind of a tumultuous year, the last year, in my personal life. And my kids are still pretty little, my kids are 14 and 12 and 9, we're all having birthdays right now. So it's good to be home.

Question:
Would you like to do another sitcom?

Jane Kaczmarek:
I love this format. Malcolm was so time consuming, that was a single camera show, which was often 12, 14 hour days. And I had two babies while I was doing that show and I was very grateful I had it for seven years that was a wonderful experience. I don't think I would be entering into that kind of a job situation again.

I love the multi-camera show, the schedule is much easier and I like being a recurring character. I think at this point in my life, I would love to be a recurring character on something as opposed to the kind of commitment you have from being a lead character on something. I'm very happy that multi-camera shows are becoming popular again, because it's a very happy place to be.

Question:
Same for you, Peter?

Peter Gallagher:
Yeah, ditto. I had a blast. I mean, just like anything else, if the people the people are great, you're going to have a great time. And then added to that the chance to do comedy, with really inspired people. Whitney's really talented, she's a really good writer and a really good energy around which to sort of build a show, much less two.

Question:
The Christmas episode of any show is always kind of an extra-special one. Do you guys have favorite Christmas episodes from over the years from either shows you appeared on or just shows that you love?

Peter Gallagher:
I like the Chrismukkah episode from O.C., and I did a Christmas movie once with Hal Holbrook and Eva Marie Saint, and that was fun.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Christmas on Malcolm in the Middle was always just it was just that the disaster was bigger. The Christmas episode was always even more horrible than what daily life was. I always remember the boys having fights with the ornaments. So they were throwing Christmas ornaments like snowballs at each other and they were shattering.

There is a Christmas episode on Malcolm where it starts with Lois, the character I played, and another woman getting into a fight in the parking lot with their cars. And they start ramming each other's cars until both of the cars are completely disabled. And it's a very funny, horrible look at two women going crazy ramming their cars into each other. And of course, the cars have ???war is not the answer??? bumper stickers on the back of the cars.

That was the beginning, the cold open or something and then of course, what happens since we no longer have a car, we have to make a homemade Christmas. And so everybody has to make each other their gifts instead of buying anything because we have to buy a new car because I destroyed it in the parking lot and hit this woman. I remember that being a funny thing. But it's funny thinking also about Christmas movies. You know, I remember doing one, and it was right after I worked with Peter on Pride and Prejudice. I went to do a Christmas movie with John Denver, and it was one of those filming in Colorado.

And I remember it was so warm and it didn't snow and they just brought in semi truckloads of snow and put it all over the place to make it look like it was snowy. And I got a copy of it recently. It's on it's on when they play all those old Christmas movies, but I got a copy of it because I wanted to show my children what I looked like when I was 30 years old.

And I remember watching it last year with the kids and I thought, ???Oh my gosh, I couldn't believe how young I was and how curly my hair was,??? and I'm looking at it just longingly thinking how - well, just how when we look at ourselves 25 years ago, we think we looked so much better. And I said to my kids, ???Well, there's mom, what do you think???? And my son said, he was silent for a minute and then he said, ???You look better with glasses on.???

Question:
Do you have a memory of filming Whitney that you can share with us?

Jane Kaczmarek:
My fondest memory of that was reuniting with Peter and sitting around that table, talking to that cast. We just had so much fun off camera with all those people that it was a tremendously happy week of work.

Peter Gallagher:
I'd have to agree. Because you're always not that you care that much when you've been around the block a few hundred times. You know, depending on the vibe in the room and the people you're working with or whatever, it doesn't matter. You're going to get your work done and you're happy to be it's good to do it and blah, blah, blah.

But I was also struck by as everything Jane's saying, by the fact that people wanted to sit around the table and you wanted to sit around with them and the people were nice. And the comedy was really sharp and the people were really skilled. And what I loved most was that we all had a little bit of elbow room, that it wasn't an environment of fear, it was a people were really moving shoulder to shoulder in the same direction and if you had something to bring to the party, you were welcome to try it.

And Andy Ackerman, our director was really generous in creating that environment. But Whitney, whose show it is and who writes it, and who is the hardest working person in show business, still had time to be gracious and but very sharp in terms of figuring out what the scenes needed. So it was pretty cool to be with such professionals who were really lovely, and that the rest of the cast too, as I said, Dan and Zoe and Maulik and Rhea and everybody, and Chris D'Elia is awesome.

Question:
Can you talk about any other projects you're working on right now?

Jane Kaczmarek:
I am about to decorate my house for the holidays. That's the project I'm working on. I'm part of a Paderewski music society and we are having our Fourth Annual Pomeroy and Paderewski party next week, where I have all my Polish sausage flown in from Milwaukee and we have a pianist who's a finalist in the Paderewski Piano Competition.

Peter Gallagher:
I still have two kids in college. I've got two pictures coming up. I did the recent Step Up movie in 3D, Step Up 4, and the new movie with Marcia Gay Harden and Ellen Burstyn and Lucy Liu and Toby Regbo called Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. And of course I'm doing Covert Affairs. We start back up in March.

Question:
Since this episode about Whitney establishing some holiday traditions, I was wondering if you have any traditions that you are going to observe for the holidays this year that you wanted to share?

Jane Kaczmarek:
I was talking about being Polish, that there's something called an Oplatki, which is a holy Communion wafer. And on Christmas Eve it's traditional that everyone breaks off a piece of it and passes it around to everyone else on Christmas Eve and you make a wish for them and they make a wish for you. And it's a tradition my parents always did growing up in Milwaukee and I have my mother ship some out for me, and that's one of the things we always do on Christmas Eve.

Peter Gallagher:
Oh, that's cool.

Jane Kaczmarek:
Yeah, too bad you're not Polish.

Peter Gallagher:
Yeah, well, there's still time.

Jane Kaczmarek:
You're Polish-Irish, maybe, Peter.

Peter Gallagher:
Yes, I'm Pirish. We've all been on the road so much and traveling all over, our Christmas traditions keep morphing. But it always involves the four of us being together somewhere, and some facsimile or actual tree. And the older we get, sort of the present aspects seem to be less and less about it and just a chance for us if we're not by our home, then to be somewhere away together where we just enjoy our company. And sometimes it's just the four of us without any extended family, and it can be just great, actually.

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