Amy Pietz isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. Which isn't surprising, considering she’s spent the last year doing a splendidly didactic turn as Franny Tolchuck, that hyper-involved, middle-class mom on Aliens in America (Sundays at 8:30 pm/ET), the CW’s post-9/11 satire of cultural acceptance in small-town Wisconsin. As much as she would like to think herself world-wise (she did, after all, take in a Muslim exchange student), Franny is influenced by the old-line gospel according to Bill O’Reilly.
Contrarily, Pietz — her political bent leaning more towards socialism — finds O’Reilly “to be really destructive to society,” says the 39-year-old actress. Her observation came only a few days before the Fox News host’s on-air comments about a famed Harlem restaurant had him labeled a racist (apparently dining at black-owned Sylvia’s can be as civilized as in an all-white suburb.)
Narrow-mindedness in real-life is annoying. Playing it for laughs? Golden. And Pietz even approached writers to give Franny more punch when it appeared the “power shifted,” and all the deliciously biting barbs were going to her on-screen hubby, Scott Patterson.
Pietz happily concedes that Franny almost always got to have her say and that the series never lost its sardonic tone. “I could always stand to see maybe a few more jokes here and there that have quite a provocative air about them.” Born in Oak Creek, a suburb of Milwaukee, she was expecting a more enlightened discussion with students when she visited her alma mater to screen an episode of the show at Milwaukee High School of the Arts. Students there seemed less concerned about the show’s sociopolitical observations than they were about “how much I make as an actress.”
Of course, after college Pietz took jobs in television “with the hopes of making money to pay off my student loans” — a four-year run on Caroline in the City played its role in burying the debt. Aliens, however, was all about art. “I took this role with a pay cut and a move to, potentially, Winnipeg because I believed in the script.” So much so, she auditioned three times.
If they hadn’t chosen her, Pietz would have gone back to her other job: birthing babies. It’s what she did during the strike. And it’s what she’s doing now that taping has wrapped. “It has made me a much better woman than I was before,” says Pietz who was inspired to become a doula, or birthing coach, by the people who aided her during the birth of a son whom she gave up for adoption. “Being a doula forces me to tap into the absolute softest parts of myself, the most ….” She pauses a moment and begins to cry. Divorced for about a year from actor Kenneth Alan Williams, Pietz contemplates remarrying some day and having other children. “It’s the most fascinating thing that has, a beginning, a middle and an end — wrap it up and you have this beautiful happy ending. This new soul. How do you explain the beauty of that?” Still teary-eyed, she complains of being “premenstrual.” No need to explain. Then she threatens, “You better not say I was crying.” She wipes a tear and laughs.
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