Fans of CBS' Numbers (Fridays at 10 pm/ET) should brace themselves, since a new professor is coming to Cal Sci, and it could mean trouble for the tenuous romance between Amita and Charlie. This week, Kathy Najimy joins the cast as Mildred French, Amita and Charlie's very driven boss. Here, the actress — who can also be heard as Peggy Hill on the long-running King of the Hill — explains to TVGuide.com how "Millie" isn't exactly what she seems.
TVGuide.com: I've been reading your website, and noticed that you are quite the activist and work with many charities.
Kathy Najimy: The funny thing is that I used to do that before I was an actress. Growing up in San Diego, I worked for the same causes, just on a smaller level. Then when I got a low level of fame, I realized I could talk about the same things, but more people were listening. And that was very exciting. I think that is one of the perks of having a little bit of celebrity. A lot of people think that actors should just shut up and act — and I respect that point of view if it is an actor who doesn't have anything to contribute. But if you were a political person before, and you just happened into a movie, to stop being a political person makes no sense. I always laugh and say, "Dudes, if I have to choose, I'm a political person first. I would never do another movie again and be completely happy." I need to say how I feel.
TVGuide.com: I enjoyed your speech for EDIN, which encourages young women to have a good body image.
Najimy: When you are talking about something that really has to do with yourself, it is a little more daunting. But it is so important, and it is such an epidemic right now. What is happening with girls is just unbelievable. It's not even about thin or fat, it's making you feel like you aren't how you are supposed to be. The same magazine once had "Kirstie Alley Is Too Fat" and "Ashley Olsen Is Too Thin." Whatever you are, they're going to tell you that it is wrong. I really resent the time that women and girls spend trying to be what they are not. I doubt that the Numbers folks wanted me to do a diatribe on eating disorders. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: But it is good that you are willing to speak out, and have some fun with it. You raised money by playing Gameshow Marathon recently.
Najimy: I won two of those actually — Gameshow Marathon and Celebrity Poker Showdown.
TVGuide.com: I saw you on Celebrity Poker. You've got some Texas Hold 'Em skills.
Najimy: Here's the thing: I'm not that good of a poker player. I'm just a good actress, and I bluffed and bluffed that whole last round. When I won the first round [to make it to the championships], I didn't even have another shirt. You are supposed to bring two outfits; but I didn't bring a second shirt, because I thought for sure I'd be going home. So I had to go to the gift shop or something [to buy one]. But that money went for violence against women, V-Day. That's a great $100,000. You can get something done with that. And then for Marathon, I gave it to something called Girls Best Friend, which helps needy at-risk teenage girls. I love to win when it is for a good cause.
TVGuide.com: Josh Malina is a producer on Celebrity Poker Showdown. Is it just a coincidence that you are both doing recurring roles on Numbers?
Najimy: It is a weird coincidence. I haven't worked with him yet.
TVGuide.com: How many episodes are you doing total?
Najimy: At least 10, but they can ask me to do more, and I can say yes.
TVGuide.com: So tell me about Millie.
Najimy: Millie is awesome. I haven't done TV in so long for a reason: I haven't wanted to. There wasn't anything out there that I felt I could add something to. [Numbers] sent the script over, and I loved her so much. She's smart and sarcastic and spicy and opinionated, and she gets what she wants done. She is not evil at all, she just is one of those by-any-means-possible women. She doesn't really care about people thinking she's nice, or being a people-pleaser or kissing anyone's ass. And she gets to go on dates with Judd Hirsch, which I think is fun. When I walked out of the room after meeting with the producers and writers, I thought, "I liked every person there." They understood my kid concerns and [my] not wanting to work 24 hours a day. I got to the set, and one person couldn't be nicer than the other — from David Krumholtz ,who is adorable, to Rob Morrow, who is an old friend of mine. I kept looking for what was going to go wrong, and it was really fun.
TVGuide.com: Good to hear that you like it there.
Najimy: I do, and I like the way this character is going. Sometimes they take a successful woman and make her have an unsuccessful personal life, so that a woman who has chosen a career over love suffers in some way. I personally don't believe that is true. I have a career and a daughter and a husband I love, and I play games with my friends every Friday. We made sure Millie wasn't a firecracker at meetings who then went home to her 10 cats and sobbed because she didn't have a boyfriend. I just don't know those women, and I'm not willing to further that myth. She goes on a date in the first episode, and that's awesome.
TVGuide.com: Since she is Charlie's boss, and Charlie and Amita have this burgeoning relationship, is Millie going to put a stop to that?
Najimy: Maybe. Millie's goal is to whip the math/science and cosmology department into shape. What she doesn't want is her star professor, Amita — whom she thinks has a lot of potential and is on the right track — to get sidetracked.
TVGuide.com: Have you had to memorize a lot of math lingo?
Najimy: Yes. I don't like it. I've never said in a normal conversation "the giant neutrino telescope," but I had to say it like it was everyday fare. This is her language, this is her life. That's why they call it acting.
TVGuide.com: Where has Millie been all this time?
Najimy: She has been on a yearlong sabbatical in the Artic.
TVGuide.com: No wonder she needs to go on a date.
Najimy: No wonder! And she's so scruffy and scrappy. I'm always for the person who speaks their mind. She has an agenda (for the department to be the best it can), and she explains why — to cure diseases and to encourage young women to be all they can be. She's for all the right things.
TVGuide.com: How does she feel about Charlie's side workfor the FBI?
Najimy: She doesn't like it. If you are a computer operator, and the boss comes in and you are decorating a cake, that's just not right. Doesn't matter how delicious the cake is, or how good of a froster you are — the truth is that your job is working on computers. She sees the importance of the work that they are doing, but what's right is right.
TVGuide.com: You are also still doing King of the Hill in your spare time.
Najimy: I am. Knock wood. It is the best job in the world, man. Eleven seasons, and the writing is better than ever. I'm such a TV-writing snob, and I've rarely been disappointed. A lot of the shows are funny out of disrespect, but King of the Hill is funny while being respectful. It is all real-life stuff.
TVGuide.com: I've always thought that Peggy and Bobby had a sweet relationship.
Najimy: It is sweet, but sometimes she's a bad mom. [Laughs] But you know what, there are bad moms.
TVGuide.com: Do you really get to work in your pajamas?
Najimy: You can work in your pajamas or your string-thong bikini if you want. They were also very kind about negotiating time to do both shows.
TVGuide.com: Peggy is an excellent Boggle player. Yourself?
Najimy: Kathy is also an excellent Boggle player. They didn't know when I started that Boggle is my favorite game. In fact, Mo [Gaffney], my partner on the Kathy and Mo Show, and I play Boggle all the time. She's better than me — probably the only thing she's better at than me. I think it is one of the best-crafted games ever, so [the fact] that Peggy gets to play it is fantastic. Boggle nerds come up to me at the airport all the time.
TVGuide.com: Are you working with Mo on anything?
Najimy: Mo and I recently released the complete two-disc DVD of Kathy and Mo, after 20 years. We have both HBO specials on one DVD, and there is a whole other disc that has 20 years' worth of unseen material. It has everything you could ever want. Our hairdos alone will cause so much joy. They are so embarrassing!
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