Jane Kaczmarek, <EM>Raising the Bar</EM> Jane Kaczmarek, Raising the Bar

Steven Bochco, the mastermind behind NYPD Blue and L.A. Law, assembles another top-notch cast for Raising the Bar (Mondays at 10 pm/ET, TNT), a new legal drama about New York prosecutors, defense lawyers and one no-nonsense judge played by Jane Kaczmarek. We caught up with former Malcolm in the Middle mom to discuss her new show, working with Zack Morris and her duties as a real-life mom.

TV Guide: It's good to see you back on television again!
Jane Kaczmarek
: [Laughs] It's been long enough that I was able to travel and spend some time with my children — I waited really long to have kids. You wait that long and you want to be there. I did not want to put in the kind of time I had to put into Malcolm in the Middle. I passed on a lot of stuff until something came along that interested me, and I've been very grateful to TNT and Steven Bochco for being creative about figuring out a schedule where I can work a real minimum in a very condensed way and have the majority of my week available to be a mom.

TV Guide: What attracted you to Judge Kessler?
: I like the idea that she's a professional woman as opposed to Lois [Kaczmarek's Malcolm character]. I think of Kessler as being Lois's twin sister if she had gone to Vassar — she's got a lot of the same drive and fury behind her, but she's much more polished and eloquent.

TV Guide: What have you learned playing her?
: We're so ignorant of the legal process. One day I was banging the gavel and our head writer [David Feige], who wrote the book [Indefensible] that the series is based on, said, "In 20 years as a lawyer, I have never once seen a judge bang a gavel."

TV Guide: In the opener, Kessler gets hot and heavy with a law clerk who's 20 years yonger!
: All I can say is that it ends sooner than I hoped it would. Something happens that does knock her down a bit.

TV Guide: Describe Kessler's relationship with the Mark-Paul Gosselaar character?
: [Kessler] just finds him insufferable. [Laughs] His idealism and quest to protect innocent people irritates Kessler because of something very close to her heart.

TV Guide: You share quite a lot of screen time with Mark-Paul — how is it working with him?
Kaczmarek: I wasn't familiar with [him], but my children's nanny just loved him on Saved by the Bell, [and] she was right. I've been really impressed.

TV Guide: Have you ever had a Lois moment with your own kids?
: [Laughs] We were on an airplane, and they didn't have one of those changing tables in the bathroom. I got down in the aisle when they were serving drinks and insisted on changing his diaper right then and there.

TV Guide: Have you spoken with Bryan Cranston since his Emmy nomination for Breaking Bad?
: He's the greatest guy on the face of the Earth, and I'm so happy for him — I think that show is great and I'm glad he's getting an opportunity to show all these wonderful sides of himself.

TV Guide: Anything else coming up?
Kaczmarek: I haven't done a play in 10 years, so it's time to get back on the stage. I'm doing John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves, and it's with my best friend Kate Burton who was my roommate at Yale.

Watch clips of Raising the Bar in our Online Video Guide.

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