Nicole Sullivan Interview -- JustJared.com Exclusive
Former MADtv star Nicole Sullivan is starring in her very own Lifetime original comedy series called Rita Rocks. It premieres with five new episodes airing in a one week strip, beginning TONIGHT, October 20, through Friday, October 25, @ 8:30PM ET/PT.
The 38-year-old actress talked to JustJared.com about her new show, her favorite character on MADtv and Zac Efron‘s beautiful face. Here we go…
JJ: I loved you on MADtv, especially as the Vancome Lady. Classic.
NS: And thank you for being patient! Sorry for the wait–there’s a show on Animal Planet called It’s Me or the Dog about a supernanny for dogs. I’ve got like four badly behaved dogs and [I was on the phone with them]. They asked me if I wanted to do the show. I said, “Do I? Yes, please!”
JJ: What are your weekend plans?
NS: Just a little shopping this afternoon. We’ve got a party tonight that I’m going to for (Heroes star) Ali Larter and her fiancee for their engagement party. I’ve gotta find something fancy.
(Continue reading Nicole Sullivan’s interview inside…)
Nicole Sullivan Interview — JustJared.com Exclusive
JJ: Have you heard of JustJared.com?
NS: I have! Absolutely. My friends are so into blog sites. All they do is email each other all the cool stuff. I don’t have to time to go on all of those sites. They love you!
JJ: What do you spend most of your free time doing instead?
NS: Well, I have a 1 1/2 year old son, so free time has kind of gone out the window. I love to surf the net but this time of year, my computer time gets taken up by my fantasy football team. So I’ve got to be finding a replacement kicker when I have a minute…
JJ: And I’m sure time is being sucked up by Rita Rocks.
NS: Absolutely. The hours are still pretty good but it’s a lot. I didn’t go to work for about a year [because of my son Dashel], and then all of a sudden you’re working, and it’s a lot being a mom, which is what the show is about. I get ready in the morning, and then I’m doing an interview or something, I’ve got apple sauce running down the side of my face…and I’ve got seven animals. Four dogs, three cats.
JJ: Big animal lover!
NS: Yeah, I think I’m illegal in the state of California, I think I’m only allowed to have three.
JJ: What are your hours like for the show?
NS: They’re pretty good, they’re about 9-5 on Mondays through Wednesdays, and then Thursdays like 9-8 , and then Friday, 10-10.
JJ: Not bad at all. Can you give a quick description of Rita Rocks?
NS: Basically, television has really changed so much over the past few years, and for the better. It’s really interesting, but I think we’ve lost some stuff. I think we’ve gotten so into “That’s a cool shot!” or “That’s a great special effect!” and I think we’ve lost a lot of people communicating and people dealing with each other. Like Cheers and Roseanne. People communicating. I think the show is trying to get back to that. The way they’re doing it that as a mom, once you have a kid you realize it’s never about you anymore. And so it’s about a mom who wakes up after 16 years and realizes “Oh my God I’ve been doing everything for everyone else but me,” and then kind of freaks out and says, I need some time for myself. Then she does what makes her happy, which is she starts a rock band in her garage, and she starts it with a postal worker, anytime soon but they’re having fun and it’s important for her to remember why she used to be happy when she was younger, that she had outlets like that.
JJ: So how did you find this project, or did this project find you?
NS: It was right after the writer’s strike, and I was like, ‘Don’t panic. Don’t take any job that just comes along.’ And this was the first script that I read, and I was like, ‘Am I panicking?’ Because I really liked it. So we met with the producers. I think it was just real. I love doing the sketches and I loved all of that and it’s still fun. But at a certain point, I wanted to do something honest and real. I’m also really quirky and like to do my little stupid bits, so for me, this was a perfect match. I get to tell a real story, and be in a real family but also do my physical stuff.
JJ: This will be Lifetime’s first original comedy in 10 years, do you feel any pressure to live up to such high expectations?
NS: I’ve worked for a lot of networks over the years, and they’re all trickier than the next in some ways. But Lifetime has been a dream. They’re so supportive and nice. And I was like, dude, why would you suddenly go into comedy? And they sort of guessed it ahead of time because we didn’t know the country was going to be in this shape. Things are kind of bad. And they said, we think the country needs to get back to what’s real, because things are not going the way we want to. It’s not just about fun and money. It’s about other things now. And it’s like, they’ve sort of anticipated that people are going to need to remember why they like family shows.
JJ: Who do you think is going to be your target audience?
NS: Well, women obviously, it’s Lifetime. But I think first and foremost moms. I think also with our little hotties on our show, the teenagers have a lot of stuff too [to get into]. Our next episode we’re shooting is about teen sex. In our pilot episode, a girl sends a picture of herself in her bra and underwear to her boyfriend over her cell phone. Before, that stuff didn’t happen years ago, but now it’s real. You go to MySpace and Facebook and there are kids in compromising positions. Like the Miley Cyrus thing. It’s like, “She’s just showing her bra,” but I would have never done anything like that. I mean, I’m not chastising her, it’s not the end of the world. But it’s just a different thing than what we went through. It’s a different time and kids are just growing up a lot faster. From a parent’s point of view, we have no clue what we’re doing. We’re making it up as we go along.
JJ: How many episodes have you shot so far? How has Rita has developed over those episodes?
NS: We’ve shot eight episodes so far and for me, it’s really fun because I’m playing music again. I sang as a kid but I haven’t sang in years. And so, for me, it’s relearning how to perform music in front of people, which is scary and vulnerable. And I think Rita is going through the same process, where she’s getting more comfortable in front of audiences.
JJ: Is there someone you model your character after, or someone you draw inspiration from for Rita?
NS: I think about this woman I met a few years ago. She was a younger mom at 28 and had two kids. I was like, “Are you happy?” And she said “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And you could tell there was something. She said “I just always wanted to be a hip-hop dancer, but I had the kids early and you’ve got to have a really good body…” And she was going on and on and then I asked why she didn’t take hip-hop lessons. I mean listen you’re probably not gonna be in the next whatever video but take a class. And she called me back and she said “I took five classes and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.” Like she just needed a little something.
JJ: Ah, moms who put their dreams on the back-burner because of their kids.
NS: Would she have been a star hip-hop dancer? I don’t know. But she could have given it a shot, or at least had fun trying. And a lot of times, kids are great, I love my son, but it’s a whole different ball game.
JJ: How does the atmosphere on Rita Rocks compare to other sets you’ve been on, like MADtv or The King of Queens?
NS: Well MADtv is different in that all that stuff they say about sketch sets being all crazy and dramatic and fraught with issues… it’s totally true. You never know who’s gonna have what part, and you never know who’s gonna get on. With all the stuff you do, you have to make it work yourself. So, it creates a rather competitive environment. And I’m not competitive about acting enough, so it was kind of traumatic for me. It started my career and it was everything to me, so I’m so thankful.
(Talking to Dashel) Honey, stop it. He’s kicking a bowling ball at me and making me kick it back at him. I don’t want to kick a bowling ball. And it’s gonna roll down a hill and crash someone’s car.
JJ: So this show is more stable for you?
NS: Absolutely. You know what you’re getting. I hate to use the word mature because I’m not saying the people at MADtv were immature but it’s just a more mature process and it’s easier for me to deal with. That being said, I miss doing stuff like MADtv, I miss sometimes the drama. Like when Britney Spears had her meltdown, I’m like dude, why am I not on that show anymore? It’s so much fun when you see people in the media messing up and you’re like, “Oh that’s good stuff…” And you want to get in on that. I don’t have that outlet anymore, which is frustrating.
JJ: Do you still watch MADtv? SNL?
NS: I do, I actually watch both now. I didn’t watch SNL for years because I was always like, “MADtv is good, MADtv is better!” But I”m over that now, like who cares. They’re both really funny.
JJ: Do you have a dream guest you’d like to have on for Rita Rocks?
NS: If we’re talking musicians, Eddie Van Halen was my little heartthrob. That’s how old I am. I love Eddie Van Halen! But I would love any of those old school rockers.
JJ: Who do you listen to know?
NS: (talking to her husband Jason Packham) Who do I listen to that’s hip now? Do I know any music that’s hip? No, he rolled his eyes.
JJ: Do you listen to music in general nowadays?
NS: I listen to what’s called ‘The Coffee House’ on Sirius [Radio]. That’s my favorite. They’re basically singer-songwriters. So it’s a lot of guitar people. You know the album from Once? Stuff like that.
JJ: Do you have a favorite prop on the set of Rita Rocks?
NS: Oh there’s a little stuffed dog. We have a dog on the show, a golden retriever but he can’t be there every week so we have a mini golden-retriever. When he’s not there, we’re like, “Where’s Auggie, we miss Auggie.” So there’s a little dog we’ve named her Goldilocks, a mini-Auggie. So that’s our favorite prop.
JJ: Did you have a favorite character on MADtv?
NS: The Vancome Lady was sort of the biggest one, the meanest and the kind of the funniest in some ways. I loved doing Lida and Melina (YouTube link), because it was basically making fun of people coming up to us on the street, telling us, “Oh my God, I love your show. That lady you want, that lady you do, that lady who…” And I’m like “I’m sorry I don’t understand any of the words you’re saying, you’re not using any adjectives.” I love that character. But I think my favorite is Antonia (YouTube link), which is that little girl with the pigtails and the lisp.
JJ: You should throw in some phrases from your MADtv days into Rita Rocks.
NS: And see if people catch them? “Cha, you know what?”
JJ: Yes! Please! Do you have any favorite comedians, or comedies on TV now?
NS: I love How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs. Have you seen How I Met Your Mother? Neil Patrick Harris is so brilliant on that. Comedians…I really like Brian Regan. He’s been around for awhile but he’s hilarious. He kind of plays, “I’m the idiot.” He does that joke like when stewardesses say “Have a nice flight,” and he says “You too, like if you fly, or if you ever fly again…”
JJ: The Internet says you’re German, Swedish, Irish and Norwegian descent? Is that right?
NS: The Norwegian, I’m not sure where that came from. Actually I’m just Irish and German.
JJ: Do you speak any foreign languages?
NS: Lord, no. I speak what I call restaurant Spanish. Just enough to wait tables and get around.
JJ: Registered Democrat or Republican?
NS: Democrat. I’m for Obama!
JJ: How did you come up with your son’s name Dashel?
NS: An author Dashiell Hammett. One of his books is “The Maltese Falcon”, and he also wrote murder mysteries back in the day. The film-noir type stuff. I loved reading that when I was a teenager. He’s always been one of my favorites.
JJ: You have a part in 17 Again? Can you tell us about your character for that?
NS: Yeah, Matthew Perry is one of my friends and he brought me on. They couldn’t find someone and he said, “Oh you want sarcastic best friend? Hold on. Just talk to the director for ten minutes and he’ll get it.” I went in and said, “What’s up?,” and he said, “I totally get it, you can have the part.” I’m playing Leslie Mann’s best friend. Matthew Perry misses his days of youth, so he goes back to being Zac Efron in high school. Zac and Leslie Mann meet up and of course she falls in love with but he’s too young, and I’m the best friend that’s like ew, knock it off, that’s gross.
JJ: What was it like shooting scenes with Zac?
NS: He’s adorable. He reminds of my generation. He reminds me of Rob Lowe. He has such a beautiful face. You could look at it all day and there’s nothing wrong with it.
JJ: He’s the face that has sold and will continue to sell millions of magazines.
NS: Once you meet him in person, you’re like, “Oh, I get it.” And he’s so lovely. What I think most impressed me though was what a hard worker he is. I think he knew I knew Matthew. so he would go up to me and say “Would Matthew say it like this, would Matthew say it like that?” He was really into making the part 100% real.
JJ: Any last words about Rita Rocks before we wrap this up?
NS: There’s something for everyone because there’s music, there’s family stuff, family drama, and there’s teen angsty stuff. There’s the mother trying to figure out how to deal with the teenagers but also the teenagers trying to figure out the mom. And so my fear is young people won’t tune in because they’ll think it’s a fuddy-duddy kind of show, but it’s not. The teenagers have a lot of funny lines and a lot of good stuff. We’re like “By the way, if you’ve got a teenager, watch it with them, they’ll think it’s hilarious too.” The parents are sort of mess-ups. They don’t know what they’re doing, and I think that’s gonna make teenagers laugh too, watching that.
JJ: The first two episodes are really funny. I hope the show does well!
Starting October 28, Rita Rocks will air regularly Tuesdays @ 8:30PM ET/PT. For more info on the series, visit MyLifetime.com. Watch the preview below!
“Rita Rocks” Preview