Although Ed Begley Jr. was recently killed off Veronica Mars, in reality he's all about staying alive. A veteran character actor who came to fame — and collected six Emmy nods — as St. Elsewhere's bumbling Dr. Victor Ehrlich, Begley is also a longtime environmental activist intent on helping the planet. Unlike many of his entertainment peers who ride around in gas-guzzling SUVs and live in mansions, Begley resides in a modest solar-powered home, drives an electric car and even takes the bus.
While fans admire his dedication, they don't have to live with him. His blonde-bombshell, image-conscious actress wife, Rachelle Carson, does, however, and she often finds herself at odds with his green lifestyle. Their hilariously contentious relationship is showcased in Living with Ed, a six-part HGTV reality show that will air Sundays at 10 pm/ET beginning Jan. 7, but will offer up a sneak peek today at 1 pm, following the dysfunctional duo's appearance at the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
TVGuide.com: So I watched the first episode.... How the hell did the two of you ever get married?
Ed Begley Jr.: Isn't it amazing? God has a sense of humor to put us two together. Honestly, I'm crazy in love with Rachelle — but don't ever tell her that. If she finds out, I'm doomed.
TVGuide.com: How did you meet?
Begley Jr.: A mutual friend introduced us, and I called her up for a date. It was, like, 9 pm, and I said, "I just got off work, do you want to grab a bite?" Apparently I didn't give her enough warning because she was obviously mad and said, "This is highly inappropriate." It wasn't like a midnight booty call! So I went, "OK, bye." I thought, "Let me get away from this one as quickly as possible." A few years later we met at an environmental event, and I had forgotten that she was crazy....
TVGuide.com: Wait, what was she doing at an environmental event?
Begley Jr.: I have no idea. Trying to pick up environmental guys, maybe? But we hit it off and started dating. We split up a lot those first three years, like 20 times, and then finally we reconciled in 1996, and we've been together ever since. Now we have a beautiful 7-year old, so clearly we were meant to be together. Rachelle is my bashert, as they say [in Yiddish]. My destiny.
TVGuide.com: Now you sound like the Yiddish-spouting Scandinavian you played in Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind.
Begley Jr.: I know, the goyishe guy is starting with the Yiddish again.
TVGuide.com: You're the son of Academy Award-winning actor Ed Begley, and Hollywood types aren't exactly known for being environmentally conservative. How did you get into it?
Begley Jr.: Although my dad never used the word "environmentalist," he was one, in a way. He'd been through the Depression, so he'd turn out the lights and save things. We never lived in Beverly Hills or some fancy area. We lived in Van Nuys in a very simple two-bedroom house that I think was the exact same size as my home today, like 1,700 square feet. So that was the way I was raised. Growing up in smoggy L.A. is what inspired me to become an activist. By 1970, I'd had a bellyful of it, so I said, "Enough already. I'm going to buy an electric car."
TVGuide.com: In 1970?
Begley Jr.: Yup. People said I was out of my mind, that I would never find one. Do you know how I found one? It was highly complicated — I opened the phone book. There was a guy named Dutch in Reseda who was selling them. They were basically golf carts [that had] windshield wipers and horns and were licensed for the road. They were for retirement communities, for old people to drive around in. And there I was, this 20-year-old blond kid driving it around [the streets].
TVGuide.com: I heard you used to take the bus.
Begley Jr.: Oh, I still do! Why drive downtown when I can take public transportation? I can do my sudoku or the crossword....
TVGuide.com: Does Rachelle take the bus with you?
Begley Jr.: She did back when we were dating. [Someone in the background screams, "Oh, please!"]
TVGuide.com: Was that her yelling?
Begley Jr.: Yup. See, she just pretended to care. But the minute the ring went on her finger, she was like, "I want a limo! I'm going to go get a perm! And I may stop at Chippendales on the way home."
TVGuide.com: On Living with Ed, it seems like you win most of your arguments.
Begley Jr.: Oh, she wins a lot of the time. The truth is, she really does care about the environment. But she also wants everything to look good. Once, she wanted to get an Infiniti or some car like that, and I said, "Honey, if you want that car, buy it yourself. But if you want a Prius [hybrid], I'll buy you one brand-new." She didn't just take it because it was free; she also saw that it was a great, stylish car. We've influenced each other and kind of met in the middle. Like, I had this draught-tolerant garden, but she complained that it looked like the Addams' Family yard, so we had it relandscaped. It's still draught-tolerant, but now it looks nice.
TVGuide.com: You two really go at each other on the show. How much are you playing it up for the cameras?
Begley Jr.: A bit, but honestly we're always doing that. When we go out to dinner parties, we have fun getting into our "Bickersons" routine. Then we'll get home to a message from our host saying, "OK, that was really difficult. We're fighting now, too!" We're like carriers — we pass on this weird bickering thing. Hopefully viewers will enjoy our shtick while getting tips on how to live simply, so that others can simply live. That's my goal.
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