Some people are the talk of the town, but Mary Alice Young truly is the talk of Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane, narrating, as she has since Day 1, the goings-on of the twisty little berg. This week, though, Brenda Strong is a disembodied voice no more, filling the (literally) tall order of playing Ted Danson's new love interest on ABC's Help Me Help You (Tuesdays at 9:30 pm/ET). TVGuide.com spoke with the Housewives star.
TVGuide.com: It's fun to talk to you....
Brenda Strong: Aww. It's so funny, because usually when I do radio shows they're so happy to hear my voice.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel an obligation to do "sing-songy" readings?
Strong: Only if asked. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: "It was just a day like any other day...."
Strong: Yeah, I walk around doing the narrative of my life. "And here I am, making coffee this morning...."
TVGuide.com: Is it safe to say that Mary Alice never met a proverb she didn’t like?
Strong: [Laughs] I don’t do the writing, only the talking.
TVGuide.com: I'm thinking that's why she killed herself, she couldn’t get them out of her head. "A stitch in time saves nine...." "Absence makes the heart grow fonder...." Make. It. Stop!
Strong: Exactly. Interestingly enough, [the dialogue] may appear trite, but these are actually new takes on very old themes. They do their best to make it appeal to the audience on a very visceral level, so that they don’t feel preached to.
TVGuide.com: Here's my theory, based on the flashbacks we get now and again: Mary Alice was only killed off simply because she was too tall.
Strong: You're so right! It's my personal theory, because they wanted to get me horizontal.
TVGuide.com: So you wouldn't be towering over the others.
Strong: The funny thing is, I just did a flashback with Eva [Longoria]. I was like, "I should be standing on the street and you should be on the curb," and they wouldn’t let me do that. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Seeing as Mary Alice's ghost must be lingering around, did she know what that accused pedophile guy was up to in the Youngs' old house?
Strong: I would imagine she knows pretty much everything. Whether or not she speaks about it is another thing.
TVGuide.com: Did we ever get the story on why you wound up with the voice-over gig, even though Sheryl Lee narrated the original Housewives pilot?
Strong: I don’t know if it's even interesting news anymore, but ultimately what happened is, after the pilot was cast, they evaluated how everything was working, and their idea of the voice-over in a conceptual way was different than what they needed in the actual program. Initially, they wanted something that was a bit more ethereal and removed, and then when they saw how funny the show actually was, they realized they needed [something] a little bit more dynamic. They actually loved her and what she did, it just didn’t fit the show any more.
TVGuide.com: Interestingly, you both appeared on Twin Peaks....
Strong: Yeah, and she was dead on that show. And I was dead on Everwood. There seems to be a really interesting theme here that I am willing to break, at this moment in time. I'm not playing dead anymore! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you get to hang with the other ladies at all? Or do you show up on a Saturday afternoon in your pajamas to do this stuff?
Strong: I don’t show up on Saturday afternoon in my pajamas, although I think that everybody has the fantasy that I do! I do show up sometimes in my sweats, fresh from a hike or a yoga class. And I'm really privileged in that I don’t have to sit in makeup and hair for two hours. I get to see everybody a lot more than people would imagine, just because there's so much press that we all do together. And socially, some of the girls and I have carried on above and beyond what's going on with the show. We have dinners together and showers.... Oh, I take that back. That’s going to sound really wrong! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: You mean bridal or wedding showers.
Strong: Right, right. Exactly. We're not showering together.
TVGuide.com: No, that's Grey's Anatomy. So, you have some appearances starting this week on Help Me Help You?
Strong: I have a recurring arc on the last four episodes of the season. I'm playing Linda, this fabulously dynamic woman who speaks five languages and adopted 12 children from all around the world, and is an ambassador and has written books.... She's this really accomplished woman who Ted's character, Bill, is absolutely intrigued by — and at the same time threatened by. Thank god Ted Danson is so tall. He was so great about saying, "Oh, yes absolutely, wear the heels!" It was great. He's as charming off screen as he is on screen. He's a generous host.
TVGuide.com: Across your wide variety of TV gigs, do you find yourself typecast at all?
Strong: I generally don’t play insecure, neurotic women. I usually play women who are either in control or powerful or threatening in some way. There's usually a theme of a strong woman — no pun intended — that I play. I don’t play the victim.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any upcoming films to talk about?
Strong: A Plumm Summer, which I shot this summer, is in final editing now. It's an amazing story about two brothers in the 1960s. Hugh Jackman plays the modern-day older brother — it's a flashback to his youth — and Henry Winkler plays my fiancé.
TVGuide.com: Were you like, "Pinch me, I'm Fonzie's girlfriend"?
Strong: [Laughs] It's funny because Henry and I have worked together once before, on The Kid and I, and yeah, it's a little strange because I grew up watching Happy Days. It's one of those occasions where you're not disappointed by the person that you finally meet. It was the same thing with Ted and Cheers.
TVGuide.com: Can I talk you into narrating a cozy little ending to our Q&A?
TVGuide.com: Um, you have to think it up yourself. I haven’t prepared anything.
Strong: [Laughs] OK, hang on one second.... "Matt might have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but he picked up the ball and ran beautifully with it all the way to the end of the interview. It was the most fun Mary Alice has had in a while."