Sure, it's common in sitcoms for actors and their characters to share the same first name. (Tony Danza, Charlie Sheen and Joey Lawrence are all perfect example). But for NBC's new sitcom Whitney — on which Whitney Cummings plays, wait for it, Whitney Cummings — drawing a line in the sand between the fictional photographer and the real-life raunchy comedian seems a bit more difficult. "We try to keep the TV Whitney as likable as possible," Cummings joked about the difference between herself and her character at Thursday's Paley Center fall TV preview panel, which was moderated by TV Guide Magazine's Rob Moynihan. But seriously, how different are they? We offer a few helpful tips for telling the two apart.
1. She's slightly less jaded about marriage in real life: On the show, Whitney takes issue with societal pressures to marry her longtime boyfriend because she's afraid of walking down the aisle after watching her mom and her dad each suffer through three failed marriages. Although Cummings really did witness three divorces by the time she was 15, she joked that these days, her faith in marriage usually coincides with the cover of People magazine. She said learning that Tiger Woods had strayed and that Sandra Bullock had been cheated on in the same year was a tough pill to swallow, but that the royal wedding helped restore her confidence in the institution (at least a little).
2. She and her TV boyfriend are really just friends: Although Cummings joked that co-star Chris D'Elia "is in love with me," the two have been friends for five years after working together as stand-ups. But they never dated. Cummings even said she wrote the part of Alex with Chris in mind. It didn't hurt that Cummings said every other guy that auditioned for the part "kind of felt like my little brother."
3. She's not as loud in real life: OK, that one might be a little bit of a stretch. In the pilot episode of the series, a stranger identifies Whitney as the loud one and the comedian proved she had no qualms about speaking up during the panel. As the lights dimmed to show the pilot episode to attendees, Cummings shouted, "Everybody laugh!" for comedic effect and later jokingly yelled at D'Elia to get a haircut.
4. TV Whitney isn't so raunchy, but neither is the real Whitney: The fictional Cummings' softer side is much more apparent from the get-go. Despite her well-known raunchy roast persona, Cummings insists she is actually closer to the character than most would think. "The idea of the roasts are to be as dirty and filthy as possible. ... I'm not that person," she said. "There's another big dimension to her," added executive producer Betsy Thomas, who called the real Cummings a marshmallow. "We're not shying away from who Whitney is. We're going right at who Whitney is."
Whitney premieres on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.