Cloris Leachman has had a heck of a career. She is a celebrated American actress of stage, film and television. She has won eight Primetime Emmy Awards – more than any other female performer – and one Daytime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and numerous other awards. She also earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1971 for her role as “Ruth Popper” in “The Last Picture Show.” In 2011, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Raising Hope, where she hilariously plays “Maw-Maw”, the not always there, but always funny grandma to the Chance family. I was honored to speak with her about this role and her life in general. She certainly isn’t boring! Enjoy!
TheTwoCents: Can you talk about how you got the role in the show?
Cloris Leachman:Are you talking to me?
CL: Are you talking to me? How did I get the role? I think Greg, the creator of it, he wanted me. I think he just wanted me, and there I was, so he got me.
TTC: That worked out then. Can you talk a little bit about working with Leslie Jordan in the wedding episode?
CL: First of all, he walks in and he’s there and he’s so short that you just start laughing. I don’t know he handled it all his life, but he’s certainly turned it to something good. He’s just rare. He’s not a Little Person, but he’s very short.
TTC: I was wondering if there was anything about Maw Maw that wasn’t originally scripted for you, but you added to the role.
CL: Goodness, let me think for a minute. They added everything. I added a white bra that the head of wardrobe, we decided what kind of bra I would wear. It’s a white, good, serviceable one that holds me up.
TTC: Is there anything you’ve learned about comedy or being comedic from portraying this role?
CL: Oh gosh, what questions these are. Dear, dear, dear…what did I learn? I laugh too much. I keep ruining scenes and they have to do it over, so that’s not too good. What did I learn about comedy? Not to laugh. I haven’t learned it yet, I still laugh too much.
TTC: After playing so many great characters in your career, how much of a challenge was it to be different with Maw Maw?
CL: It was just easy as pie the first year. The second year, Greg said “this year, you’re not going to have …” What is it that I have? It’s not Alzheimer’s.
CL: Yes, dementia. Good for you. Dementia. So I did that second year, but I wasn’t comfortable with it. I couldn’t find myself, I really couldn’t. I didn’t know who to be because I was a little too aware and knowledgeable and with-it. I still had funny lines, but my character, I didn’t think, was as interesting as the first year. Third year’s the same thing. Let’s hope we have a fourth year and I find out.
TTC: When you were a young girl, before acting, what did you dream you’d be doing at this age?
CL: When I was 14, I had to make a list of what I would like to be in school. I’d been taking piano lessons from Andy Williams’ aunt, Cornelia Williams Hurlbut, and I loved her with all heart. I even did a game show once and I won a piano for her, and I gave it to her. That was my great happiness. I don’t know how much she taught me, but we talked all the time, just talked constantly together, just so interested in her and that she loved me. She sent me somewhere in Iowa to a place where all the best students are sent to compete, really with themselves. Anyway, I got the highest score, which was the superior rating. I loved the piano. I never practiced it, just with my heart, I just loved it. I would just touch the piano and it was as if something from Heaven came into my body. So I was either going to be a concert pianist – but I decided I couldn’t do that because I was definitely going to have children and they wouldn’t let me play and that’s really true, too. Or a social worker, but I do that in my work anyway. I’m always rubbing people’s backs or telling them what to eat or taking their cigarettes out of their mouths. Or I was going to be an architect or marry an architect. In my day, when I was little, women weren’t architects. But I’ve done architecture in every home I’ve ever been in. Right now, I’ve bought a new house in Topanga Canyon, but I can’t live in it probably till June. It’s clear down to the studs. It’s just beautiful and I love it. I’m very thrilled with what they’re doing so far. It’s sort of a hobby. What else? There were four things, but I don’t remember the fourth thing.
That’s just fine, Cloris. We’ll take what we can get! Please watch Raising Hope Tuesday nights on FOX!!!
Anne – Assistant TO the Editor-in-Chief