Kirstie Alley Goes for ’Big’ Laughs on TV
LOS ANGELES - The plate of snacks is tempting, filled with chocolates, cookies and more, but the only member of Kirstie Alley ’s household to bite is Bradley the dog.
"No, no," Alley says, shooing the Welsh corgi away. She’s equally disciplined with herself, nibbling on tiny heart-shaped mints while a visitor samples olive pate.
"Eat it all," she urges. "It’s one of the ways I got really fat. I ate one of those jars a day."
Now, restricting herself to fruit, veggies and whatever the Jenny Craig diet plan serves up (Alley is the company’s new spokeswoman), such sins — and more than 20 pounds so far — are past.
Is this any way for the star of Showtime’s "Fat Actress" to behave? The very title of the reality-comedy series is a rebuke to the notion that "F" is the modern scarlet letter and that anyone wearing it, especially in Hollywood, should get thin or get lost.
Alley does intend to get thin, or at least thinner. But she refuses to let unflattering tabloid accounts or general cattiness stand as the last word on her weight, her worth or her employability.
"The second I made the decision to create this show, I was liberated. The game the tabloids wanted me in was the game of hiding, and then they find me and they would get the worst shot of me they could possibly get.
"It was like I was being hunted. I thought, `End of game,’" Alley said.
Unkind photos aren’t the reason she decided to executive produce (with Brenda Hampton, "7th Heaven" creator) and star in "Fat Actress," and they aren’t why she wants to slim down.
The reality series-cum-satire debuts 10 p.m. EST Monday on Showtime. The first episode will also stream simultaneously online on Yahoo! (http://tv.yahoo.com) and be available until March 12.
"I’m personally happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’ve been happy, really happy for many years," Alley said. But her weight, which has been as high as 203, doesn’t suit her active life as single mom to two children, ages 8 and 10.
"I love to go to Italy, to Positano. You walk up a thousand steps every day there. I’m going to Italy this summer. Am I going to be running up and down those steps in Positano or am I going to be, like, sitting in a wheelchair at the bottom?" she said, adding a dramatic image for effect.
The pounds came on slowly as she reveled in playing the happy homemaker and hostess, cooking for family and friends and enjoying the results with them.
"Last year I did a movie and when I saw it I went, `Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ Now it can’t really be camouflaged. Now it’s not even a matter of wearing the right clothes. That’s when I said, `Uh oh.’"
The 5-foot-8 actress, wearing a long, fitted dress, looks far slimmer than gotcha photos make her out to be. But she’s as frank and funny as her public image: This is the woman who, in a 1991 Emmy acceptance speech, thanked then-husband Parker Stevenson for giving her "the big one," and who giggles when the moment is recalled.
Given the entertainment industry’s infatuation with waist size, Alley endured criticism even when she couldn’t be considered anything but slender.
She recounts meeting with the director of "Fatal Attraction" when he was casting the role that ultimately went to Glenn Close . "I weighed about 125, and he told me to go away for two weeks and lose some weight. I thought, `Oh, my God, 125 is fat.’ I came back at 112, 114."
The obsession with looks extends beyond the industry and beyond weight, Alley said, whose swooping, animated conversation takes frequent philosophical turns.
"We have forgotten we are not our bodies and so we’re walking around like a bunch of robots. ... Yeah, it’s great to have a pretty body, just like it’s nice to drive a pretty car. But you aren’t your car, and you aren’t your body."
Professionally speaking, Alley figures she was lucky to be defined for years as the sexy woman who was funny in "Cheers" and films including "Look Who’s Talking."
But the chubby woman who’s funny is different, she said. "I’m not going to be hired to play ("The King of Queens") fat Kevin James’ fat wife, because that’s not the way it goes. So you have to create the show."
Based on Alley’s life and world, "Fat Actress" has appearances by friends including John Travolta and executive Jeff Zucker of NBC Universal Television Group. It’s reality, sort of.
"In the show I’m much more tortured and much more desperate and worried than in my real life. But the exaggeration of that stuff makes it funny," Alley said.
At times raunchy, profane and of course, blunt (including a bit involving Jenny Craig that was filmed before Alley started the spokeswoman gig), the series’ humor is steeped in Hollywood narcissism and pettiness.
Alley figures the concept is elastic enough to accommodate the change she wants to make in herself.
"It’s not just about being fat. It’s about things that happen with women. When I’m skinny in this sitcom, what are the problems going to be? There’s only a million of them, just like in real life."
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