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Wendie Malick Interview: "Funny and Snarky’s Been Very Good to Me"

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Image attributed to Wendie Malick

Wendie Malick

Wendie Malick starred for seven seasons as Nina Van Horn, the outrageous ex-model and fashion editor on Just Shoot Me!, which earned her an Emmy, and joined the cast of Frasier for the final season as Ronee Lawrence. From 2010 until 2015, Malick portrayed Victoria Chase on TV Land’s comedy Hot in Cleveland, alongside Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves. Her character was sworn enemies with daytime diva Susan Lucci (All My Children).

Other TV appearances are Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Kate & Allie, NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Cybill, The X-Files, Law & Order, Jake in Progress, Rush Hour, Pitch and NCIS: New Orleans. Film credits include Scrooged, Apollo 11, Raising Genius, Adventureland, Confessions of a Shopaholic, About Fifty, and What Happens Next.

“Comedy is probably my favorite place to be for the long haul. But, for all of us who love to act, it’s getting a chance to try on different personalities and personas.”

Finding Father Christmas, starring Malick, Erin Krakow and Niall Matter, premieres November 13, 2016, on  Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The New York native is on the board of directors of the Environmental Media Association, the board of advocates for Planned Parenthood and the advisory board of the Humane Society.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Wendie, what interested you in the Hallmark movie Finding Father Christmas?

Wendie Malick: You know, I get a lot of edgy characters, and every now and then, it’s really nice to do something that I can have all of my young nieces and nephews and cousins watch, that sort of wholesome Christmas fare. I love the city of Vancouver so much, and it was a glorious time to be up there. It’s such a delightful town.

I had some time to do it, and I love the Pacific Northwest. It was an interesting role because I got to be the matriarch of the family in sort of Old New England, which is a part of the country I’m very fond of. Those elements made it appealing to me.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about the movie.

Wendie Malick: Well, it’s sort of a mystery. A young girl who never knew who her father was had a mother who was an actress. She knows very little about her dad. Through a series of clues, she ends up in a small town in New England looking for answers. Without giving too much away, in the course of it, she becomes a kind of welcome member of this little storybook town in Vermont at Christmastime and ends up discovering herself as well as who she belongs to.

I think it’s relevant because so many families these days are not traditional nuclear families. There are so many of us who are hybrid, and this young lady is one of those people who is just trying to find the missing links and find out where she belongs in the whole puzzle of any given family. I think that in the end, love triumphs. More and more, I have realized that families can be who we choose rather who we are being born into.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I understand that when you finished your final scene, the cast and crew gave you a big round of applause.

Wendie Malick: Hallmark took very good care of us. We had a wonderful experience working on this movie, and the crew was just lovely. I was treated as the elder statesman. I’m now at that point in my life and in my career where I’m an elder, and they pay me some respect, which is really nice (laughs). I think we need to start remembering that experience is wisdom. It’s valuable.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you someone that really decks the halls at Christmas?

Wendie Malick: No. When I got to the set, I thought, “Oh, my God, this is so decorated!” I was just laughing. Of course, we shoot Christmas movies in the summer, so it was extremely hot, and there was everyone in their cozy little scarves and hats. But, no, we keep it pretty simple. We always have a tree. We live on a ranch, and we often have one or two Christmas trees, various evergreen, and then we buy live trees, put little twinkle lights on them and a few ornaments, if the kids are around. Then, we plant them afterward. We don’t do cut trees. We do live trees. We’ve got trees from 22 Christmases ago. Some of them are getting rather mature at this point like me (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I enjoyed your performance this season on NCIS: New Orleans!

Wendie Malick: Oh, thank you! I had such a great time down there. It was a blast. It’s interesting because not being a regular on a series for the first time in a long time, I’m dancing with different partners. That’s how I like to put it. I get to go and play with different friends.

I’ve been on several different shows this year, and it’s fun because I know some of the actors and some of the crew people. But, you’re visiting, and some of the roles may be recurring, but New Orleans is always a place I will say, “Yes,” to because I love that town. That crew is just fabulous and the cast is so wonderful. They show their guests a really good time. They’re excellent hosts.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your role as Sylvia Lund, mother of Sebastian Lund (Rob Kerkovich) may be a recurring one?

Wendie Malick: Yeah. They said they really liked the chemistry we had, and Rob and I get along great. They gave me a clip of another episode he’d done that showed just how quirky and ADD he was, or OCD, I guess, is what his condition is. It was so much fun to channel that and be the explanation for his erratic behavior (laughs). If you look at his mother, you realize why he’s the way he is. It was great fun.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I never missed an episode of Hot in Cleveland! Your character was so snarky. Do you like funny and snarky as much as being sensitive and compassionate in a role?

Wendie Malick: Funny and snarky’s been very good to me, as I often tell people. When people meet me, they’re usually very pleasantly surprised that I’m so kind and normal (laughs). So, it doesn’t set the bar too high in terms of expectations. I love doing all of it. Often times, I will do a play just to sink my teeth into something a little meatier. But, I have that funny and snarky character down. I’ve been doing versions of it in various television shows, and I love doing it. Comedy is probably my favorite place to be for the long haul. But, for all of us who love to act, it’s getting a chance to try on different personalities and personas.

That was one of the lovely things about NCIS, having a chance to be a mother who loved her kid with every fiber of her being and was really scared about the possibility of losing him. I think we all have all of that in us, and it’s just tapping into whatever’s required of you for any given character.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You worked for a congressman before getting into acting?

Wendie Malick: I worked for Jack Kemp in Washington after college, after that summer. I was in Washington about three months wearing a McGovern button, and he was so great about it. I got to experience Watergate as it was unfolding in Washington. It was a pretty fascinating time to be there.

That was in the days when Republicans and Democrats actually got together and had dinner on weekends and would discuss things they were trying to pull off and how they could help each other get bills passed. It was much more fraternal in those days and people stayed in Washington on weekends. I think that’s where a lot of those relationships were really hummed. Now, that doesn’t happen so much, obviously.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And, might not happen again in the near future?

Wendie Malick: Yeah, which is really a shame because it takes both sides to make anything happen.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you work with Kemp because of your interest in politics?

Wendie Malick: Well, yeah, and my dad was a supporter of his, and we used to ski with his family. He said when I got out of school, if I was interested, he’d find a place for me on his staff, and I could experience what life was like in Washington. I jumped at the chance.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve been a lifelong Democrat?

Wendie Malick: Yes, and I come from a long line of Republicans, but I went rogue in college during the Vietnam War (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is the most important issue facing the nation today?

Wendie Malick: I think, right at the top for me is the environment, and there wasn’t too much talk about that during the campaign, unfortunately. I think that if we don’t get that right and start really making some huge decisions and changes in our behaviors soon, the rest of it doesn’t make any difference. Without a planet, without clean water, without clear air, without sustainability, the rest of it is actually a moot point. I worry very much that we are possibly beyond the point of no return, but we have to try.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you surprised at just how hostile the race was?

Wendie Malick: My dad, who was a big Fox watcher for a long time even stopped watching Fox because he was so appalled at all of it. Did it surprise me? Yes. The level to which we sunk in this election is very disturbing to me. This is not the way adults should behave when there are so many serious problems out there, and we’ve spent so long talking about the most mundane things. Some of it was important, but it was such a character assassination rather than focusing on what they were going to do for us, and I never thought anyone was clear about the issues.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are your other passions, Wendie?

Wendie Malick: I am very involved in trying to save the last of America’s wild horses. We are losing them systematically. They’re being rounded up and put in government holding facilities, and too often times, they end up being slaughtered. It breaks my heart to think of those magnificent animals being treated as disposable. They were the ones that fought our wars, delivered our mail and helped us to settle this country. I think they deserve our protection, and I would love to see that being honored again.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any other projects you’d like to discuss?

Wendie Malick: We did a play last summer which we are hoping to do a production of it this coming year here in Los Angeles. It’s a new play I did with Gary Cole, written by Richard Dresser. We just did a workshop of it, and I think we’re going to mount another production of it. I just finished doing The Guys with Dan Lauria on 9/11, which we do every year to honor our first responders and our firefighters. It’s a beautiful play about a firefighter who lost eight of his men in the towers. We do it every year around that time, It’s a gorgeous piece.

Then, I’m a gypsy, and I go and guest on other people’s television shows and do little movies and stage. I told somebody that now I’m just a gun for hire like everybody else. I’m on American Housewife on November 22, and I play Katy Mixon’s mother. I’m another outrageous mother. That seems to be my normal M.O. I ended up being the mother-in-law of Diedrich Bader who was sort of a love interest of mine on my last series Rush Hour. I like that I can cover that whole range of love interest to mother.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you finding that there are less and less roles of substance for older women?

Wendie Malick: You know, I don’t know, and I can’t speak for everyone. I’ve been very fortunate as I move into this next phase or my third act, as I like to call it since I worked with Betty White. There’s a whole third act when you turn 60. I actually found that I’m enjoying the roles people are offering me.

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