What a difference an Emmy nod makes, huh? Best known as the resident bombshell in so many '80s angst-bombs (Less Than Zero, Solarbabies), Jami Gertz never got the props she deserved. We first met her as überprep Muffy Tepperman on the cult gem Square Pegs. Since then, she's handed in handfuls of strong turns, including a brief visit to ER as head shrinker Nina Pomerantz.
But it wasn't until the stunner stunned us with her Emmy-nominated stint as Ally McBeal misfit Kimmie Bishop that folks finally realized she is one funny honey. Now, she's ready to be taken seriously, playing one of comedy's greatest gals in tonight's Gilda Radner: It's Always Something (airing 9 pm/ET on ABC).
"I read her book and remember when she died [of ovarian cancer in 1989], thinking, 'God, this shouldn't happen. She's so young.' She was so great," Gertz recalls to TV Guide Online, pointing to Radner's SNL breakouts Emily Litella, Lisa Loopner and Roseanne Rosannadanna. "She was so willing to make herself funny the goofier the better. So, in doing her characters, I really had to get them down."
Thankfully, there were tons of Gilda goodies to guide Gertz from glam to goofy. "A lot of [Gilda's] stuff was on film. I even had her audition tape," she says, adding that talks with widower Gene Wilder and fellow SNLer Laraine Newman offered a better sense of the woman behind Baba Wawa. And? "I think the fact that she was fearless really made her stand out."
As for Gertz, she didn't fear playing such a beloved icon, but does admit that the six-week shoot had its downside. "It wasn't easy to leave my three kids and husband, but the role was worth it," she says. "I love making people laugh."
Sounds like Gilda would approve.