Last seen flying around the ice — and cracking her chin — on Skating with Celebrities, new mom Kristy Swanson returns to TV with her feet on dry land and you might say her head in the clouds. Swanson is playing an Anna Nicole Smith type named Lorelei Mailer on tonight's Law & Order: Criminal Intent (9 pm/ET, on NBC). Swanson talks to us about channeling Smith, returning to work post-baby, and those pesky rumors about her love life with skating pro Lloyd Eisler.
TV Guide: Congratulations on your new baby. What's his name?
Kristy Swanson: Magnus.
TV Guide: How did this Criminal Intent job come about?
Swanson: Law & Order called my agent and said that they're doing the Anna Nicole Smith story. They knew I had just given birth a month before and asked, "How does she feel and how does she look?" My agent said, "Well, she's a little heavy, because she just had a baby," and they told him it would work for the story, because the character just had a baby, so she's up a few pounds, too. [Laughs] So after much discussion with Lloyd, I decided to do the show.
TV Guide: Did you bring Magnus from L.A. to New York?
Swanson: No, Lloyd wasn't keen on the idea, so Magnus stayed home with Lloyd and [Lloyd's] mom. I was away for seven days, so it was hard, but I talked to him every day on the webcam.
TV Guide: You sort of look like Anna Nicole on CI. Was this a role you were born to play?
Swanson: I don't know about "born to play," because I'm really sad she passed away. She seemed like such a fun girl. But once I read the script and saw that it wasn't exploitative, I wanted to do it. I know the media has been accused of overdoing her story, but the fact that you have two family members die within a few months and all this money's involved... it's an interesting story. Sorry, but it is.
TV Guide: What was the key to playing a character based on Anna Nicole?
Swanson: I try to make her as real as possible. She didn't appear that way, because she was always playing that role of the beautiful starlet in fantasy land, but she was a true human being with emotional problems. She had a lot of trauma and tragedy in her life and maybe a lot of it was caused by herself but still, that doesn't make you not have compassion for that person.
TV Guide: How did they get you to look so Smith-ish?
Swanson: It was definitely high-maintenance. I had hair extensions that they glued in, a ton of makeup... even her little beauty mark. I'm not going to look identical, but photographers were saying that it was kind of eerie and scary how much I look like her. And my voice is a little lower and more slurred, because there are a few scenes where I'm sedated. Anna Nicole was in my mind, even though I'm not technically her.
TV Guide: How much does the episode mirror the real story? Is there a dead, rich old husband? A kind of sleazy companion? A dead son? Does Lorelei herself die?
Swanson: Yes to all of that. And in our story line, I have a sister and the question is whether the deaths are accidental, suicide or murder.
TV Guide: I hear that you and Chris Noth, who comes into the case as Logan, had a fun time together.
Swanson: Oh, yeah. We were cracking up about bodily functions. Locker-room jokes.
TV Guide: Having been a lot thinner on Skating with Celebrities, was it tough going before the cameras overweight?
Swanson: Actually, my plan was to stay home for six months, lose the weight and get back in shape, but in this role it's perfectly understandable that I would be overweight. It's real life. I still have my post-pregnancy "pooch." It is what it is.
TV Guide: Are you engaged now to Lloyd?
Swanson: I guess you could say so. I don't have an engagement ring yet, but we're getting married, probably this October. We want a small wedding, hopefully in the Caribbean.
TV Guide: You fell in love with a guy who dropped you on the ice. I remember that show.
Swanson: [Laughs] It had happened earlier that week in rehearsal, so it was just opening the same wound I already had. It was my fault, because I jumped too soon. He pulled me back and saved me, actually. It could've been a lot worse.
TV Guide: Did you fall for him — romantically — on the show?
Swanson: [Laughs] No. I liked him, but I don't think I realized I had feelings for him until after the fact, when I really missed him. It's not what everybody thinks. In the media it was, "We fell in love on the skating show," but that's not the case.
TV Guide: Are you saying that you didn't get together until he was separated from his wife?
Swanson: Yes, he was legally separated when we started dating. But we were already a couple when the show aired four months later, and his wife went to the press and told stories, so that's what the media saw. Lloyd's a star in Canada, so when he sneezes, they write it in the paper.
TV Guide: What's Lloyd up to these days?
Swanson: He's doing really well as a skating coach here in California. And he's doing something fun for a reality show, but I can't tell you which one.
TV Guide: Do you still skate together?
Swanson: Not for a year. But I'm getting back into it, to get the pounds down.
TV Guide: What's next for you?
Swanson: I did a voice for a video game — I played an Interpol type — and I'm talking to New Line about some upcoming projects.
TV Guide: Was it more fun kicking butt in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or kissing Jennifer Connelly in Higher Learning?
Swanson: [Laughs] Kicking butt in Buffy. It was a lighter-hearted story.
TV Guide: By the way, do you know that the name Lorelei Mailer is a salute to another bombshell, Marilyn Monroe?
Swanson: Why is that?
TV Guide: Lorelei was the character that Marilyn played in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Norman Mailer wrote a book about her.
Swanson: Ohh.... In [the Criminal Intent episode], Lorelei gets some prescriptions that they say are under Marilyn's real name [Norma Jeane Baker]. So that makes sense!