Acclaimed Chicago actress Rondi Reed will head for L.A. in August to start Season Two as one of the leads in Mike and Molly, CBS’ Monday night breakout success sitcom.
While Reed had had roles in single episodes of some 17 network TV shows, Mike and Molly represents her first role in a continuing series.
ReelChicago spoke to Reed about playing Peggy Biggs, Mike’s mother, how it came about and what it’s been like to work with one of Hollywood’s A-Teams.
RC: How did Mike & Molly happen for you?
REED: About a year ago, I was doing Wicked in New York and I got a call to audition for the role of Molly’s mother. But then, my agent called and said,‘Forget it, Swoosie Kurtz walked in the door and nailed it.’ I was thrilled for her, left New York, came home and forgot all about it.
A few months later, I hear the producers are interested in me for Mike’s mom, a new character. At this point, the pilot and a couple of episodes had been shot. I said I’m already committed to Australia with August, Osage County.
RC: Let me guess what happens next: actor’s timing?
REED: We had literally finished the last run-through for August when my agent called.
He said the show made an offer for two guest star episodes. I didn’t have to audition and I didn’t need network approval, but I’d have to leave Australia a week early. And by the way, we have to know now.
Well, I can’t not go to Australia – this was partially my idea and I’ve got to go! We were leaving for Sydney the next morning. I did not decide capriciously and I knew there’d be ramifications. I thought for about 37 seconds and said yes.
RC: And you get to work with the trifecta of TV comedy: writer Mark Roberts (Two and a Half Men), executive producer Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men), and veteran director Jim Burrows (Will and Grace, Frazier.)
REED: If somebody had said, who would you want to do a sitcom with, I would say these guys. That’s how I felt from the moment I stepped in the room. With Jim Burrows, I feel like l have been placed in the care of a Zen master. Nobody does it better. He’s maybe the smartest guy on the planet at what he does.
I think Chuck Lorre is really a visionary. His success with long running sitcoms speaks for itself. He is the driving force underneath that keeps everything moving forward and relevant and funny.
RC: The show’s been nominated for two Emmys and is going into a second season. Does it feel like, “Pinch me, or it’s about time?”
Reed: I’m not jaded, but — I can still feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop at any minute.
All of the people affiliated with this show are television and Los Angeles veterans. They know how difficult it is to get the right mix. Timing, chemistry, audience appeal – there are so many factors that go into it.
But everything about Mike & Molly, the energy, the writing and the cast seemed right on the money for the time.
In a way, I think it’s a throwback to the older sitcoms.
RC: Mike & Molly is set in Chicago and three people involved in the show are from Illinois.
Reed: Molly, Melissa McCarthy (The Gilmore Girls) is from Plainfield. Mark Roberts is from Urbana. Mike, Billy Gardell (My Name is Earl) lived here for a few years doing improv and his brother now lives here.
RC: Wouldn’t it be great to actually film a Chicago sitcom in Chicago?
REED: I’ve been lobbying for us to come back and shoot an episode in Chicago, which would be really fun, although probably cost prohibitive. However, at Christmas instead of buying gifts for the cast I gave a donation to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. Two of the male leads, including Mike, play Chicago police officers.
RC: Do you have any ideas as to what Season Two will be like?
Reed: I don’t know what my plotline is or where I am going. But it’ll be fun to discover. I think all of us have a huge respect for the classic comedies that have gone before us that our producers and writers have been a part of. It’s a pedigree that is high.
It takes so many components to make a show like this look like it’s effortless and fun. But it’s not easy to do it and do it well. Hopefully we will keep chugging along.
I work with an incredibly lovely bunch of people. It’s hard to believe. That’s where I have to pinch myself.