It took a bit longer than anyone would have liked, but in mid-November CBS finally gave a green light to a full season of Gary Unmarried (Wednesdays at 8;30 pm/ET), its freshman sitcom starring Jay Mohr and Paula Marshall as exes dealing with new significant Os. Marshall shared with TVGuide.com why the good news made her "mad," previews this week's riotous Thanksgiving episode, comes clean about "Californicating" with David Duchovny, and offers her take on TV's new shot at Cupid.
TVGuide.com: I know you were pulling hard for a full-season pick-up. How did it feel?
Paula Marshall: To be honest, it happened so late in the game, Jay and I were kinda mad! "What do you mean we don't know yet?!" I was trying to see if I could get a new kitchen! We were certainly happy, but it was a little anticlimactic.
TVGuide.com: After the first few times Gary held onto or built on Old Christine's audience, I started pestering CBS, but there never was any news.
Marshall: I know they were concerned about other shows - if they tell us, then they'll have to tell them, which I get. But to make a new TV show and have more and more people turn you on each week is almost unheard of. We're really fortunate to have this growing audience.
TVGuide.com: What's nice is that versus the typical show about former marrieds, we see Gary and Allison bickering but we also get glimpses of why they once made sense together.
Marshall: That's the loveliest part of the show. It's not just the bitter bitch of an ex-wife, which gosh darn it someone else could play better than me. I wanted to have that aspect of why they were together and stayed together so long. I personally think they were young, dated, got pregnant and tried to make the best of it before realizing they were different people.
TVGuide.com: Should a small part of us be rooting for Gary and Allison to get back together?
Marshall: I think so, and yet it's like when [Cheers'] Sam and Diane got together; it wasn't as much fun. You can get together and argue — like [on Everybody Loves] Raymond, and I Love Lucy — but what's happening these days is people get married, they have kids, they get divorced, and then they have to deal with it. A lot of my friends back home are like, "Yeah, I do that! The drop-offs are awful! You always forget something!" All those scenarios.
TVGuide.com: Do you wish that Allison got to be a little meaner to Vanessa (Jaime King)?
Marshall: No, because in that one episode, we kind of became friends, and that's a different take on the ex-wife and girlfriend. I thought it was interesting how they had us hang out a bit. Allison said, "She kind of reminds me of me! She's kind of fantastic!"
TVGuide.com: I like this week's Thanksgiving episode, where Allison's dad (Martin Mull) is all but backslapping Gary for dating the pretty and football-loving Vanessa.
Marshall: I know, isn't that crazy? We had so much fun. When I found out that Jane Curtin and Martin Mull were going to play my parents I almost died. Max Gail plays Jay's dad, and we've actually had him back for a couple more episodes.
TVGuide.com: The gist of the episode is that Gary and Allison fight over who gets "custody" of her parents for the holiday?
Marshall: Yeah, as a divorced couple, you swap holidays, and it's the first rime Allison doesn't have the kids for a holiday. So in a number of ways, I try to get my family and kids back. I steal things, and Gary steals things....
TVGuide.com: And you've got Matthew Lillard (Scream, Scooby-Doo) coming up as your brother.
Marshall: Oh my gosh, yeah! He has never done a sitcom, and you'd never know it. He and Jay had done a movie or something and became friends, so they had great chemistry.
TVGuide.com: Tell me how you braced yourself for the role you had on Californication.
Marshall: Well, the pilot for Californication was one of the best pilots I had seen in my life, the first episode I did was so well-written, David [Duchovny] is subtle and funny and honest and real, and Scott Wyman had directed me in Cupid, so I jumped at the chance. But not being 25, you don't usually do [near-nude sex scenes]! [Laughs] When I suggested that I throw up after David's character threw up, Tom Kapinos, the writer, said, "Oh. you're coming back, young lady," And I did seven episodes. But because of Californication I almost didn't get Gary Unmarried. CBS was afraid I wouldn't be available.
TVGuide.com: You mentioned Cupid. Are you particularly curious to see Rob Thomas' new version for ABC?
Marshall: I saw the trailer, but I want to see the whole thing. Rob had called me to say, "Paula, if it was up to me you'd be Claire Allen again." I've got to be honest — to replace Jeremy Piven [with Will & Grace's Bobby Cannavale] is a tall order. That guy is unstoppable, and the chemistry we had was amazing. I only want the best for Rob — he's a great friend and a great writer, one of the best I've ever worked with. I think ABC discovered they took that show off the air way too early.
TVGuide.com: So if you could get any one of your short-lived past series a do-over...?
Marshall: It'd be Cupid, because of Jeremy and Rob. It was one of the best working experiences I've ever had.