BETTY WHITE IS HOT (& NOT JUST IN CLEVELAND…)
FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS
It didn’t take long for BETTY WHITE to figure out that HOT IN CLEVELAND was sizzling.
She recently flew up to scenic Carmel, California to bask in the peace and quiet of her seaside second home as she worked on a new preface for one of her books.
As she always does, she rented a car at the airport and decided to make a quick stop at the market on her way home.
Of course, such public appearances are never quick when you’re one of the hottest stars in Hollywood.
“It took me an hour and a half to get out of the market,” BETTY told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from Carmel.
The swarming fans, however, weren’t interested in chatting about any of her classic TV shows.
“It’s not Golden Girls. It’s not Mary Tyler Moore (that they asked about). It’s Hot In Cleveland. It’s just amazing how the show has caught on.”
Indeed, HOT IN CLEVELAND appears to be the summer’s surprise breakout hit.
The show centres on three cynical, washed up Hollywood types — played by real TV vets JANE LEEVES, WENDIE MALICK and VALERIE BERTINELLI — who wind up moving to Cleveland on a whim after a grounded flight exposes them to the charms of the midwest.
BETTY plays Elka Ostrovsky, the caretaker at the house rented by the other women. Elka is sarcastic, short tempered and (in the pilot, at least) occasionally stoned. She’s also indiscriminate about sharing the details of her apparently extensive sexual past — in BETTY’S own words, Elka is an “old smartass broad.”
And yet, BETTY wasn’t initially keen on signing on to the show full time. She had agreed to do a guest shot on the pilot with the proviso that she wouldn’t be involved with the show if it was picked up.
“That was the arrangement, ’cause my schedule — I know it sounds crazy — is a real busy one.”
The pilot was picked up though and in an extremely swift three weeks at that. And the producers knew they needed BETTY — whose crackerjack comic delivery elicited most of the pilot’s biggest laughs — to stay on board.
“They began (to ask) will you do this, will you do that? I said, that wasn’t the arrangement. Well then they started making concessions: ‘What if you only worked three days? What if this and what if that?’ And I had such a good time on the pilot that I found myself saying OK.”
“Of course — pushover here — I wound up doing them all!”
BETTY’S time commitment to the series only grew as TV Land ordered a 20 episode second season just weeks into the first season’s 10 show run.
BETTY said that she relishes working on the show.
“It’s (so) professional, but it’s such fun. The chemistry between everybody — they all love each other and on both sides of the camera. It’s just a delight.”
“And of course to be able to be doing a multicamera show in front of a live audience again is just the best. On a one camera comedy show you beat the joke to death doing re setups. But with this, the audience helps guide your timing. It’s just lovely. And the chemistry I think between those three girls is just delicious.”
BETTY, of course, has been on a tear lately.
It began with her scene stealing role in last summer’s rom com blockbuster THE PROPOSAL and reached its peak with a Facebook campaign that eventually thrust her into the demanding job of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE guest host.
BETTY just earned an EMMY nomination for the spot — her 17th. (She called it a “lovely surprise.”)
While she has high praise for SNL honcho LORNE MICHAELS and cherishes the experience, she says she doesn’t think she’d be willing to host the show again.
“I think I got lucky this one time and I was so panic stricken. I don’t think I would have the courage to do it again. But everyone could not have been more supportive. I think Lorne Michaels is a genius. He’s just wonderful and couldn’t be nicer.”
“But I don’t think I’d be up for it again.”
The SNL gig again proved, if nothing else, that BETTY is an exemplary sport. Much of the comedic treasure on SNL was mined through jokes either about BETTY’S age or her willingness to say inappropriate things, whether she was calling AMY POEHLER a lesbian or creating winking double entendres around the word muffin.
Clearly, though BETTY enjoys toying with the audience’s popular perception of her, she’s wary of taking such excursions too far.
“Playing against type is always kind of fun if you don’t overdo it. Sometimes you get so busy playing against type you forget to play yourself. So I try to mix them up as much as I can.”
Also on the horizon is an appearance in the second season premiere of NBC’s razor sharp satire COMMUNITY, which she says she’s shooting next week. She chuckles constantly as she tries to describe the role.
“She’s an anthropology teacher and she’s a very nice, you know, naturally granny type lady but she blows a blow dart at one of the characters and she talks about all the terrible things that she’s done in the Amazon.”
“So she seems a very sweet lady with this nice little way, but she’s saying these terrible things.”
Also upcoming for BETTY is a role as — surprise, surprise — Grandma Bunny in the fall comedy YOU AGAIN, which stars SIGOURNEY WEAVER and KRISTIN CHENOWETH.
All these projects might seem like a lot to manage for her, but she’s eager to point out that she likes a stacked schedule.
While she faded from the spotlight a bit prior to her recent revival, she didn’t stop working. She filled her resume over the past two decades with scads of guest spots in TV shows and films plus frequent voice work.
So if you see BETTY WHITE in your local grocery store, choose your words carefully.
“Everybody says: ‘Oh, it’s so nice to see you back again.’ I never went away! I’ve been working steadily for the last 63 years.”
“I just love keeping busy. I guess that’s the bottom line.”