August 16th, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The Wendie Malick Interview – Hot in Cleveland

Courtesy/tvland

There’s a storm brewing on the season finale of the sitcom Hot in Cleveland, and the shows central characters and its fans, better take cover and prepare for one hell of a cliffhanger!  For soap viewers, there is extra incentive to tune-in when Victoria Chase, played by Wendie Malick, prepares to head back to Los Angeles to try to win her long denied first Daytime Emmy.  Malick’s Hot in Cleveland alter ego is a former soap diva, who is set to go head to head in the competition with All My Children’s Susan Lucci (Erica), except she can’t get to the ceremonies!   Even La Lucci makes a guest appearance as herself during the episode, in a Daytime Emmy send-up that will surely leave you laughing.

On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Malick for details into the hilarious episode, working with Susan Lucci, creating her own fictional soap legend, and working with her Hot in Cleveland co-stars, including former B&B guest-star Betty White.  Wendie is such an accomplished actress from stage, primetime drama, and comedy that you will find her praise for the daytime genre enlightening.  Malick’s blend of dry humor, wit, and panache that she brought to our conversation make this quite the entertaining interview.

Hot in Cleveland airs this Wednesday night on TV Land 10PMEST /9CST, and don’t miss what could be in Elka’s (Betty White) secret storm cellar!  Could it be soap icons from the past?   Hmmm.  Wendie won’t tell, but she does give us a look into the creation of her fictional soap actress’ life and much more!

MICHAEL:

The soap opera angle of your character on Hot in Cleveland, Victoria Chase, is such a hilarious spoof.  I love it.

WENDIE:

I lobbied heavily for this when they told me she was going to be an aging actress.  I said, “Yes, I want to do that.”  It sort of parallel’s things we all actually are going through.  Of course, it’s an exaggerating version of our lives at a tender age, which is way more fun. (Laughs)

MICHAEL: 

Courtesy/tvland

I was digging into Victoria Chase’s background and bio and I see she appeared on the long running, now defunct soap, Edge of Tomorrow, in the role of Honor Saint Raven.

WENDIE:

Yes, she was on Edge of Tomorrow.  And, I remember Edge of Night was on when I was a kid.  I gave her the name Honor Saint Raven, which I have had in my back pocket for many years, which I think is the most hilarious name I could come up with.  It’s sort of a complete bastardization of every ridiculous name you have heard on daytime television. (Laughs).

MICHAEL:

That has to be partially based on one of the leading female characters on Edge of Night throughout its last years, Raven, formerly played by Sharon Gabet, which is really funny.  Now, Victoria was on Edge of Tomorrow for decades, correct?

WENDIE:

Yes. She was on it for 27 years and she started out as the ingénue. (Laughs) Then she was one of identical triplets, so she was the good sister.  Then there was the evil triplet-sister and then an ‘evilah’ triplet sister (laughs), who was named Magnolia, and she was from the south. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Wendie, what soaps did you watch previously, besides Edge of Night?

WENDIE:

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As a kid I watched Edge of Night and All My Children whenever I could.  My parents would not let us watch television in the afternoons, or even Peyton Place, or any of those wonderfully juicy things. We would have to sneak around to watch them.  My first job in television was in New York as an under-five on All My Children, and I was beyond thrilled and excited.  Shortly after that, my first real acting job was on Search for Tomorrow and I played Nurse Jones.  It was canceled six months after I was on it, and it was dying a slow and painful death.  I remember as Nurse Jones I had no first name and all I would do was recap what happened the day before.  I had to wear the stupid nurse’s outfit/uniform including the stocking and the shoes everyday, and it was so not what I had in mind. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

How was working with Susan Lucci?  How does she figure into the plot on Wednesday night’s season finale?

WENDIE:

I had never met her.  I heard she was wonderful to work with, and she just looked so ridiculously good.  She has been doing All My Children for 40 years!  We had to wear identical dresses, and of course, hers was half the size of mine. (Laughs) She was a total pro and came in and nailed it every time.  Susan was charming and lovely, and happy to be there.  She was a really good sport because we abused her lot, as she is my character, Victoria Chase’s, arch nemesis.  Now Victoria is the longest running daytime actress who has never won a Daytime Emmy, as she has been on her soap for 27 years without capturing the prize.

MICHAEL:

I see.  So that is why Victoria would be up in the running for the Daytime Emmy this year because her soap was recently canceled, and so she could make it into the eligibility period. (Laughs)  Then, for those who don’t know, how did all the ladies in the show end up in Cleveland…which is the premise for the sitcom?

WENDIE:

What happened was: my character’s (Victoria) show was canceled, Valerie Bertinelli’s character’s (Melanie) divorce became final, and Jane Leeves character’s (Joy) business was going down the tubes, and she was losing clients in the eyebrow sculpting business! So we all decided at Melanie’s suggestion, that we all get out of Dodge and go to Paris, where elder women are appreciated like fine wine.  Then on our way we hit bad weather and landed in Cleveland, and decided to stay there because we can be fabulous there. Because, we are really hot in Cleveland! (Laughs) 

Courtesy/tvland

MICHAEL:

Since you watched Susan Lucci as Erica on All My Children, I would think that must have been kind of cool for you to get the chance to work with her.

WENDIE:

Absolutely, she is the face of daytime.  Susan plays the beautiful, and then sometimes evil, and then a character that sometimes goes through redemption as Erica Kane.  Susan Lucci has gone through all of it, and she has done it and held on to herself.  It seems like Susan has also really had a life, and a nice family, and figured out how to have it all. Bless her heart, and she is still doing it all amazingly!

MICHAEL:

So, a tornado hits Cleveland and Victoria’s dreams of being at the Emmys to possibly accept her big award are destroyed?

WENDIE:

Of course!  And apparently right now, they are really all over the Midwest.  It’s narly back there!  Anyway, Victoria is getting ready to go to the Daytime Emmys and then a tornado hits.  I mean, what kind of luck is that?  And she truly thinks she has a shot this year, because she faked a rare disease to get sympathy votes. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So in Victoria Chase’s off-screen life she is saying this, not unlike the year at the Academy Awards when Elizabeth Taylor won the sympathy vote for being ill and took home the Oscar for Butterfield 8, when every one assumed it would go to Shirley MacClaine for The Apartment?

WENDIE:

Yup! So she is going for it anyway she can.  She will stop at nothing to win this award.

MICHAEL:

Victoria is up against Susan Lucci for the Lead Actress Daytime Emmy?

WENDIE:

She is up against Lucci, and against Kristen Macalister who pulled a really sneaky move… she died!  And so then, you might as well get an express ticket to winning.  It’s a cheap shot!  So Victoria’s way of being in the competition is to fake a really awful rare deadly disease. Then I get stuck in Cleveland in a tornado, and then I have to watch it on TV when the power comes back on. (Laughs) 

Courtesy/tvland

MICHAEL:

Will we see you and Susan Lucci together on screen?

WENDIE:

No. You will see her on television, and me in the basement in the same dress.

MICHAEL:

I know there is a big cliffhanger on Wednesday night’s episode!

WENDIE:

There are two cliffhangers in the season finale. The cliffhanger revolving around the Emmys will be revealed that night. Then there is something else that goes on after that, which really leaves all of us in the dark until next season.  Our new season begins in January.  The something else that is really serious is something that is about one of the other ladies in the cast, but I shan’t say who!

MICHAEL:

You know your castmate Betty White (Elka) has appeared on the CBS soap, The Bold and the Beautiful…

WENDIE:

Did she really?  She never told me!

MICHAEL:

On B&B, Betty White played Ann Douglas, a completely mean spirited mother figure that emotionally damaged her two daughters, in more ways than one.  Last year, the soap “killed-off” her character.  Ann died of pancreatic cancer in a short arc “dying with dignity” storyline, which just won B&B the Outstanding Writing Daytime Emmy.  Betty showed a side of her, which is nothing like the comedienne she plays on Hot in Cleveland.  Many in the soap industry thought she should have received a Daytime Emmy nod for those performances.

WENDIE:

Courtesy/tvland

Isn’t that fabulous that she is still pushing the envelope and still stretching as an actress?  She is absolutely remarkable!  I must tell you in all seriousness, being women in our second act and doing this show has been a great shot in the arm for women who don’t have to feel like their days are over.  Some people would say, “Oh, that was fun.  Now I have to crawl under a rock.  Now what do I do?”   It’s really up to each of us and the attitude we choose to have.  Betty White is this living example of someone who shows up everyday with this sense of gratitude, and leaves it all on the mat, and has this great time doing it and loves her life.  It’s contagious. We all feel so lucky to being doing the thing we love, with people we adore, and these seasoned fabulous writers, and this great crew. It’s kind of like coming home, and it’s such a gift to work on this show.

MICHAEL:

How is working with Valerie Bertinelli?

WENDIE:

I had never met her.  I remembered Valerie from the sitcom, One Day at a Time, when she was so young, and I thought, “Well, I don’t know if we would make sense as friends because I am from a different generation, and I am much more snarky.” (Laughs) But, I remember everyone telling me, “She has been through a lot. You are going to like her.”  And, I must say she is a very solid performer.  She is an amazing woman who has made huge strides in her life in terms of her own personal growth.  Valerie has still got a great body and a great sense of humor.

MICHAEL:

And, how about Jane Leeves?

WENDIE:

Jane Leeves I adore.  She plays such a dry witted character on the show, which I just love.  Jane and I got to know each other on Frasier. I played her mother-in-law.  My character married John Mahoney’s character of Marty Crane, and she married David Hyde Pierce’s character of Niles!

MICHAEL:

You know when I was reading Victoria Chase’s bio, it says the following: “She has five ex-husbands, three adopted children (she didn’t want to ruin her figure) and one grandchild.  She still suspects her third spouse may have been gay.”

WENDIE:

Courtesy/tvland

I don’t know too much about Victoria’s former husbands.  The writers actually came to us at the end of the season and said, “So, what do you guys want us to look at in terms of next season?”  And I said, “I would love to know who my children are, and what happened to them, and where did they come from? (Laughs)”

MICHAEL:

So she suspects her third husband was gay?

WENDIE:

Yes, she suspects after they hop into bed to have sex, and there is this great talk about stretch marks.

MICHAEL:

Do you think the powers-that-be at Hot in Cleveland will do another episode with a soap angle for Victoria?  They should keep this going.

WENDIE:

I wouldn’t be surprised.  She was offered a job to be the drama coach at the local high school.  She said she would fill in for awhile, but as soon as that phone rings with a real gig she is out there.  So, I have a feeling if the phone rings she would go back to L.A. for a brief visit, and work on a soap, perhaps.

MICHAEL:

Why not do some great cross-promotion between TV Land and the network soaps, and have Victoria Chase as Honor hit town… like do a cameo on All My Children?

WENDIE:

Oh yes, and have her eat up the scenery.  Just passing through Pine Valley… “Is that Honor Saint Raven?  What is she doing here?  I thought she was dead!”  Oh, the possibilities! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Do you think that in your neck of the woods of primetime television, that soap operas are perceived as the “poor step children” of the acting profession?

WENDIE:

Courtesy/tvland

You know, I don’t watch them because I don’t watch that much television, because I am usually working. Then when I am done I have dinner with my husband, and we have a niece who lives with us, too.  So my life is full, but I do Tivo a few shows.  I must say, I never watch any Reality TV, ever!   I hate reality.  I like make-believe.  So, I have never seen American Idol, or any of that stuff.   I thought that sitcoms were dead, and here we are with Hot in Cleveland, and the little engine that could.  So, I don’t think you should ever rule out anything.  It seems that there are some really talented performers who go back to working on soaps, because they get to stay in town, and have a normal life and do what they love.  I think there is a hunger for scripted television now that we have been so inundated with reality programming.  I have a feeling there will be a resurgence of a lot of the scripted shows.

MICHAEL:

There were awful sitcoms there for awhile.  They were so bad they all got canceled, and rightfully so.

WENDIE:

There were horrible sitcoms coming out. You really need to have good writers because without them, you are completely faking it and the audience can tell. We have a waiting list of writers that want to write on our show.  We have to actually edit out the laughter!  So it’s not like we add in any… they have to subtract it!  It’s a nice position to be in.

MICHAEL:

You know, soap actors have the daunting task of shooting their performances in one day and that’s it.  They then move on to the next day’s performance with so little time to prep.

WENDIE:

My hat goes off to those who work in soap operas.  They have to be on their game, and they have to learn so many lines every day that it is astonishing.  I remember you would have 20 pages of dialog in a day.  You would have to show up and know what you were doing, and there is no time to really rehearse.  I mean, it is fast!  So the people who do well on soaps and can nail it have done so much shorthand before they have gotten to actual episodic television or sitcoms.  It’s amazing how fast they have to work!

MICHAEL:

What is Hot in Cleveland’s production week like from an actor’s perspective?  I think its good to look at how your medium’s work week is structured to pull off what you do, as a comparison to what the soaps have to do on a daily basis.

WENDIE:

Courtesy/tvland

We rehearse from 10am-2pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  The thing with this show is; we have great writers, and they are always reworking the lines and fine tuning it and so every day there are script changes.  But they have gotten so good this season that none of the episodes were that difficult to do.  There was only one I think that got truly changed from Monday till Friday.  We rehearse for three days, and then do a run- through.  Then, the writers go back and re-work the script, and then on Thursday, we go in early and pre-tape some things that are not on the main set, or special effects, or tricky stuff, or prosthetics! I won’t go into that, but I have something like that at the end! (Laughs). Friday, we come in around noon and pre-shoot the show with the cameras, just to see if there are any odd camera angles they need to get.  Then that night at 6:30pm, we have the audience there. We shoot in front of them, and I have to say, I love shooting in front of a live audience.  

MICHAEL:

The infamous and hilarious still photo of you and Susan Lucci fighting for the Emmy in the identical blue dress… when did you shoot that?

WENDIE:

Susan came that night of the taping, and she did not even have to because she shot her material on pre-tape the night before.  Susan said to the producers, “I would love to come to it live that night in front of the audience.”  So, she did her part again, and came out in front of the audience, and they were so thrilled to see her.  It was wonderful!  So that night is when we did the photo opportunity of us in the same blue dress fighting for the Emmy… and we giggled the whole week!  She was like “Little-me!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So Wendie, with all the storylines Victoria Chase’s soap character (Honor Saint Raven) played on Edge of Tomorrow, do you think there is something left for her on the soap to still play, if the show would have not been canceled?

WENDIE:

Well, I know she was researching monkeys on a small island for a while. (Laughs) 

© JPI Studios

MICHAEL:

Very Gorillas in the Mist!

WENDIE:

I don’t think there is anything they didn’t squeeze out of the 27 years she played that character, or anything she has left to revisit.  Maybe, she could be a grandmother someday, but she wouldn’t like that very much. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

As we wrap, why do you think soap fans should tune-in to the finale of Hot in Cleveland?

WENDIE:

I think they will get a kick out of it, because it’s truly an homage to all the daytime fans.

  1. Doe says:

    This is a unique interview, Michael. I have watched Wendie Malik on so many shows and she is a class act. I saw her on ” Just Shoot Me” and she could throw out a line better than anyone. I also saw her on” Frasier”. She seems to always pick the best actors to work with and the most formidable. Now she is with Betty White who is the best of the best. Wendie is a funny lady who can deliver funny lines, also. I hope her show, “Hot IN CLeveland” will be on for a long time. We not only need women being smart and funny, we all need to relax and enjoy them. Thanks Wendie for the laughs, and thank you, Michael for this wonderful and different and joyful interview. Will be watching on her new sit-com……..

    Reply

  2. [...] finale will guest star Susan Lucci as Victoria's arch-nemesis and rival for the Daytime Emmy. The Wendie Malick Interview – Hot in Cleveland | Michael Fairman On-Air On-Soaps | Daytime Soa… Victoria never makes it to the Emmys, but she and Susan (aka Erica Kane) are wearing exactly the [...]

  3. Deebs says:

    This should be good…

    Reply

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