Back in the '60s, Lily Tomlin burst on the scene in the flower-powered series Laugh-In, where she created classic characters like the precocious Edith Ann and phone-operator-with-attitude Ernestine. But the quirky Tomlin has never been just a comedian. Her performance in Roger Altman's 1975 film Nashville made it clear she had more than sketch comedy on her mind. With I Heart Huckabees (out this week on DVD), Tomlin again shows off her crafty acting and takes on some serious existential questions. Here, the ex-hippie treats TVGuide.com to some groovy gossip.
TVGuide.com: Huckabees looked fun to make. Had you and Dustin Hoffman worked together before?
Lily Tomlin: No, but we came close one time, back when Robert Evans was producing Popeye. They wanted Dustin as Popeye and me as Olive Oyl, but that never happened. Dustin is a real rascal and a very playful person. I thought I was going to be a little nervous or intimidated around him, but he doesn't let that happen.
TVG: What did you think of the rest of your costars, like Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg?
Tomlin: I hate to go into how really nice everyone was — but they were! Actors are like kids playing, so why would someone want to be known as a jerk? I've been on sets where someone won't come out of their trailer, but that has to do with feelings of insecurity.
TVG: The film didn't do that well at the box office. Did that upset you?
Tomlin: Well, [director] David O. Russell is a very original filmmaker and it's an extremely unusual film. I love it; I've seen it six times. I just hope more people see it on DVD. It's a real emotional and intellectual trip.
TVG: We've heard you're doing another film with your old pal, Robert Altman.
Tomlin: I'm hoping that happens. It's based on the [National Public Radio] show A Prairie Home Companion, and I'm supposed to work with Meryl Streep, [whom] I know but have never [gotten] to work with.
TVG: Care to reminisce about your TV days on Laugh-In?
Tomlin: You know, I thought Laugh-In was square and I chose to do another show called The Music Scene, but it lasted only half a season [on ABC in 1969]. We'd have concerts with Jimi Hendrix. It aired before a show called The New People, which was kind of like Lost, but parents were irate because these long-haired dopers were in prime time. So when it got canceled, I went to see [Laugh-In producer] George Schlatter and he immediately [cast] me.
TVG: Do you like it when fans come up and do impersonations of your Laugh-In characters?
Tomlin: You mean when they say "one ringy-dingy"? I enjoy it — what could be a better connection with another human being than having the same sense of humor?