Cheryl Hines has an awesome responsibility on Curb Your Enthusiasm: She not only has to bring to life her character, Cheryl David, but also to represent all the women in the world who say they, too, are married to a man like Larry David. (Or at least the cantankerous version of himself the Seinfeld co-creator plays on Curb.) "It's funny — people come up to me all the time and say, 'My husband's just like Larry' or 'I'm just like Larry.' They see themselves through Larry's eyes or through Cheryl's character. A lot of women come up to me and say, 'My husband's just like Larry and I'm just like you.'" What does it mean to be just like Larry? Saying the things anyone else would leave unsaid. Being Cheryl means having to pick up the pieces afterward. Hines talked to TVGuide.com in advance of Curb's basic-cable debut on June 2 at 10/9c on TV Guide Network.
TVGuide.com: How would you explain Curb Your Enthusiasm to new viewers?
Cheryl Hines: Curb Your Enthusiasm is about Larry David, who was one of the co-creators of Seinfeld, who's a neurotic, wealthy guy trying to navigate through Brentwood and the [Pacific] Palisades without ruining other people's lives.
TVGuide.com: What can you tell us about your character?
Hines: I play Larry's wife, who has been through a lot with him and seen it all and is not very entertained by it. He always goes out and does something really idiotic and then comes home and tells me and we have to take it from there about how we're going to fix it and what we're going to do.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think Cheryl stays with Larry over the years despite his difficult personality?
Hines: Underneath it all, Larry is very intelligent and he's funny. That goes a long way.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think the show has been so successful?
Hines: Larry plays out what people are thinking and what they'd like to do, especially social taboos and things like that. People would like to yell at the valet every once in awhile, but Larry actually does it.
TVGuide.com: There have been so many great recurring celebrity cameos over the years. How did those people get involved?
Hines: What's great about the show is that it's Larry David being a version of Larry David. Larry in real life has these wildly successful, famous friends so they come on the show and play a version of themselves. You have someone like Ted Danson, who is the sweetest, funniest guy, and then he comes on the show and he gets to be a little bit of an a--. He likes to provoke Larry. I think a lot of it is people come on because they love Larry and they're good friends of Larry. A lot of celebrities come on because they're huge fans of the show and they want to be a part of it. We'll have someone like Shaquille O'Neal on one week and then someone like Ben Stiller or David Schwimmer.
TVGuide.com: Can you explain to viewers how much of the show is written and how much is improvised?
Hines: It's all improvised. Larry spends a lot of time writing a detailed outline about what the story is. Then we show up and don't discuss it beforehand and start rolling on it. A lot of the guest stars never get to see an outline — most of them don't. ... A lot of people have to audition for the show because it is improvised; it's such a different way of working. I really don't know one other show that's improvised. When you're doing an improvised show, it goes completely against how you've been trained as an actor because you're trained to study the script and what the other characters say about you and what the story is and everything you need is right there in the script. ... So, in the audition, they might get one or two lines about what the scene is and then they just come in and do it with whoever is in that scene. ... It's a fun way to work because then you get the genuine responses from characters and actors. It forces you to have an honest reaction to things.
TVGuide.com: How did your experience with The Groundlings comedy troupe help you prepare for the series?
Hines: I'm sure if I had not had training at The Groundlings, I would have never gotten this show. It is a different way of working. For me anyway, until I was exposed to doing improvisation and walking onto a stage without any script, I would have never felt comfortable enough to walk into a room with someone like Larry David and audition. They didn't tell me anything when I went to audition.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think Curb has been able to translate improvisation-style comedy to television so successfully?
Hines: Larry is a brilliant writer, which is kind of ironic since we don't have scripts. But he's such a great writer that he writes these situations that he knows will be funny and he knows will be entertaining and he knows how to pick and choose just the right people to plug in. He does a great job casting the show, because if you didn't have people who knew how to improvise, it would be a disaster.
TVGuide.com: What is one of your favorite episodes or story lines from the series?
Hines: I always liked the ["Mary, Joseph and Larry"] episode when it's Christmas and my family comes to visit and they bake a manger scene out of cookies and then Larry eats baby Jesus and eats Mary and then tries to make it up to my family by putting a live nativity scene on the lawn and gets in a fist fight with Joseph. It's actually based on a true story, because when I was home in Florida, my family had made a manger scene out of cookies and everyone was walking around saying, "Don't eat baby Jesus." And I immediately called Larry and said, "If you were at my house right now, you would eat baby Jesus and my family would go crazy." And then we started talking back-and-forth and he [loved it]. Then I said, "Well you know how they do live nativity scenes?" And he said, "I have no idea what you're talking about." ... It's one of my favorite episodes because I was so involved in the creation of it.
Watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, followed by Curb: The Discussion, on June 2 at 10/9c on TV Guide Network.