Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
If you were ever a fan of Bosom Buddies
, and you now watch CBS' Two and a Half Men
(Mondays at 9 pm/ET), not many a week goes by where a line delivery or physical flourish from Holland Taylor
doesn’t harken back to the days of Kip, Henry, and the Livingston, Gentry and Mishkin ad agency. Taylor's Ruth Dunbar was a role that would pave the way for many more women to be reckoned with. TVGuide.com welcomed the chance to take a walk down memory lane with Taylor, dropping such names along the way as Hanks, Clooney, Pfeiffer and Sheen.
TVGuide.com: Do you know what I have on my desk right here?
Holland Taylor: What?
TVGuide.com: The just-released Season 1 DVD set for Bosom Buddies.
Taylor: [Shocked] You're... joking.
TVGuide.com: You had no idea it was out? It looks petty bare-bones. No commentary or blooper reels or anything....
Taylor: I can't believe it. But I am pleased, because it has been syndicated for 20 years or whatever, and it's so "stripped" to fit 17 commercials in there that scenes end mid-sentence. And most of the shows have a little opening or a tag that is not plot-related, and in syndication they never have those — and I was always in those! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Adding to the outrage is there's no picture of you on the packaging.
Taylor: That is sad....
TVGuide.com: Hell, they barely made room for Donna Dixon. It's got this Tom Hanks guy all over it.
Taylor: I'm sort of surprised they don't [feature] Donna, because she was very much a favorite character.
TVGuide.com: She helped me through puberty.
Taylor: [Laughs] She helped me through puberty. Bosom Buddies was my first job out here.
TVGuide.com: I was going to say that that must have been the first time you tackled the role of the brazen, successful businesswoman.
Taylor: Yes, that was it. I have been hired many a time to basically do that part, and I have to thank [executive producer] Chris Thompson for it. Like all good television writers, he will find some essential thing in the actor, and he found an alter ego lurking in me, dying to come out... this monstrous woman who is totally thrilled with everything she does. Because I am in fact not that person, though I am sure people think I am.
TVGuide.com: For the time, I seem to recall, Ruth was rather bawdy in the realm of TV characters.
Taylor: But nonetheless she was very popular, and likable. And funny, certainly funny. She was great fun to do. I carried on that same kind of duality in The Powers That Be, which is what I really wish they'd bring out on DVD.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, that had John Forsythe and David Hyde Pierce....
Taylor: Elizabeth Berridge, Eve Gordon, Peter MacNicol.... It was a remarkable cast, and that was a tremendous breakthrough for me. And working for Norman Lear was an amazing experience, but as they say, "Satire is what closes on Saturday night." I don't think NBC had any idea what they had.
TVGuide.com: David Hyde Pierce played a suicidal husband in that, right?
Taylor: He was Valerie Mahaffey's put-upon husband, my son-in-law, and he was suicidal, always mumbling. He would never finish a sentence.
TVGuide.com: You haven't played too many shrinking violets in your career, have you?
Taylor: No, not too many. I think I am a very nice person and a gentle person and not an abusive person at all, but I seem to play those types a lot. And I certainly love playing them. But I am not talented enough to play a weak or recessive personality.
TVGuide.com: The Practice's Judge Kittleson, did you relish playing her as much as it seemed?
Taylor: I adored that. That was the most remarkable opportunity imaginable. I came in and played a small part of a judge, just doing one scene, and there again, it was a case of David E. Kelley catching onto something that he wanted to develop and use. I had just done One Fine Day, where I played Michelle [Pfeiffer]'s mother in a very tiny part, and he had sort of seen this flirtatious thing with [George] Clooney, and he liked it. He developed this judge who was a very good judge — she was smart and very legitimate as a judge — but she had this other side. It was fantastic. Completely out of the blue.
TVGuide.com: Oh, the things she and Jimmy Berluti used to do....
Taylor: She did great things in the courtroom, as well. Outrageous things, like making Lara Flynn Boyle go stand in the corner, or making a guy take his pants down....
TVGuide.com: We're talking about people like Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Michelle Pfeiffer.... You've been in some good company, huh?
Taylor: Oh, it's been wonderful. And I've often made great friends with the stars that I've supported. Téa Leoni (The Naked Truth) certainly counts as one of my greatest friends, and Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone).... I count Tom Hanks as a friend and I know he counts me as one. He's an insanely thoughtful and loyal guy. A birthday does not go by that I don't get a letter from him. He's a wonderful letter-writer. He does do e-mail, but he loves his typewriters, and he usually has one on location with him. Sometimes it's just a letter for no damn reason other than to say, "I'm thinking about you, how are you?" He's remarkable. Charlie Sheen is an incredibly good apple, too. I have incredible affection for the two guys [Sheen and Jon Cryer] on Two and a Half Men, and for the little guy (Angus T. Jones), too.
TVGuide.com: I really enjoyed the last episode, where Evelyn finds herself a "new family" when her sons don't give her the respect she deserves.
Taylor: The tables were turned! Imagine if you did surprise your parent and they had replaced you with other younger-generation people that were like you? The boys had this whole reaction like, "What the hell?!"
TVGuide.com: The show comes under fire every now and then for salty language. Obviously we've come a long way since Bosom Buddies, but what's your take on it all?
Taylor: We have one or two things that have crossed the line, but I don't think it should be restrained. It's a matter of, "If you don't like it, don't watch it." If it's a joke that could be heard by a teenager, and it's a matter of whether it's vulgar or in bad taste, it's up to the viewer to say, "I don't care for this show." But if it would offend a much younger person, this is where the adults have to constrain what their children watch. I really don't think it's correct to censor what is on TV at 9 o'clock at night, according to what children will possibly, by accident see. It's up to their parents to make sure they frickin' well don't! There have been a few times where I have thought, "Oh, my goodness gracious. Golly-golly, that crossed the line." But for the most part, I'm laughing my head off. I have a pretty ribald sense of humor.
TVGuide.com: I was watching How I Met Your Mother recently, and they had a character refer to someone's ex-girlfriend as a "whore" — and in a very harsh way. I was checking my watch, like, "It's 8 o'clock, right?" That had me more taken aback then Men's 9 pm innuendos about masturbation.
Taylor: It all depends what time you're on. Although I suppose we are on at 8 o'clock in the Midwest....
TVGuide.com: Yeah, yeah....
Taylor: Yeah, yeah. F--k 'em if they can't take a joke! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Have you ever had to draw a line on any of your other acting jobs?
Taylor: I have, as an actress, sort of cringed from behaving in a lewd way physically, but I have never said that I wouldn't say a line. But I've also never considered it. I have never had to say something that I thought was wrong. Though when I was much, much younger, doing commercials, I remember one for I think it was Woolite. They used the line, "It's fine for your lingerie." I was a French student, so I said it correctly, which is "lehn-zher-ee." But they said the way people say it is "lon-ger-ay." I insisted on saying it the correct way, and the producer got very snippy with me.
TVGuide.com: Last question: What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you, and about each of your TV sons?
Taylor: People might be surprised to know that I can walk on my hands, that I am yoga-adept. They had me do yoga poses [on Men] in order to freak Charlie out once. I was lying on my back with my feet up in the air. It could not be more vulgar. They did not have me do anything difficult from a yoga point of view — but I could, baby! What might surprise you about Jon [Cryer] is he's getting more action than anybody. Jon has a wonderful girlfriend whom he's marrying, and he's a romantic, sexy guy these days.
TVGuide.com: And Charlie, you're going to tell me, doesn't get nearly as much action as we think he does.
Taylor: [Laughs] Charlie's a very, very private guy, so I wouldn't hazard a guess as to what he might be doing privately. He's got this Charlie persona, but one of the things that might not occur to people is that he is an absolute gentleman. He is one of the most thoughtful, gracious, alert, aware and sensitive men I have ever known. This is really true. He is a thoughtful, thoughtful guy.
The March 19 issue of TV Guide analyzes How I Met Your Mother's Barney. Click here to subscribe.
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