As Ms. Morello, the terminally Caucasian teacher on CW's Everybody Hates Chris (Mondays at 8 pm/ET), Jacqueline Mazarella earns laughs with racist quips that would land celebrities like Michael Richards in hot water. To (in)cite but a few examples, Ms. Morello, in an attempt to relate to Corleone Junior High's lone black student, has proudly pumped a black power fist, brought cans of food to his "ghetto" home at Christmas, and dubbed him a "sweet sweetback." Although Mazarella isn't a series regular, the TV newcomer is thrilled that her character has become one of the show's funniest, most wince-inducing recurring characters.
TVGuide.com: Everybody Hates Chris has been your big TV break. How did you land the part?
Jacqueline Mazarella: It started out as a one-episode, one-line role last season. It was my first audition in Los Angeles. I had just gotten here from New York a few weeks before. It was such a small part that I didn't have any lines to prepare, I just had to do a couple of improvs. But coming from stage work, that was no problem for me. Since the series hadn't started airing yet, I didn't know anything about the show other than it was about Chris Rock's life as a kid. At one point [the casting director] asked me to sort of flirt with Chris, so I had to clarify: "You said he's 12, right?" And he was like, "Uh-huh." I ended up getting the part, but when I got the script, my only line was, "Hello, Chris." [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: You must have impressed them, because you parlayed that one line into a prominent recurring role.
Mazarella: I don't know how that happened exactly, but I'm certainly having a ball. I've done 20 episodes so far.
TVGuide.com: What makes your character so wonderful is that she believes she's being nice. Unlike Caruso, the consciously racist school bully, Ms. Morello thinks she's relating to Chris.
Mazarella: The reason the character works is that she loves Chris, and she really wants to help him, but she makes all of these assumptions about who he is and what his family is like and where he must live, so all of the things that come out of her mouth are so horribly racist. My job is to make the lines seem like they come from a good place, that she just doesn't know any better.
TVGuide.com: How are you getting along with your fellow cast mates?
Mazarella: I work mostly with the kids. I've never gotten to work with Terry [Crews, who plays Julius], and I only worked with Tichina [Arnold, who plays Rochelle] a couple of times. But she's hilarious, and all the kids are great. Travis [Flory], the boy who plays Caruso, couldn't be nicer. It's funny that he plays the bully, because he's such a sweet kid.
TVGuide.com: Is there anything special coming up on Chris that you can share?
Mazarella: Most of the names (Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, Wayne Brady) have already been on. Orlando Jones is coming up [as a guest star], and he's hilarious. There are some really funny episodes coming up, including one called "Everybody Hates Eggs," about that assignment everyone has in junior high where you have to take care of an egg like it's a baby. My character completely crosses the line in that one. I'm not sure how much I can tell.... But let's just say there are an uneven number of kids in the class when people are being paired off.
TVGuide.com: So you end up with Chris?
Mazarella: I'm not saying a word.
TVGuide.com: Since Chris is in eighth grade, what happens when he goes to high school? Will you still be his teacher?
Mazarella: In TV land anything's possible. Maybe I'll get a transfer? That would be nice.
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