The first thing Tracey Ullman's fans will notice in her new one-hour HBO special is that she's lost a bit of character. Make that about two dozen characters. No swarthy Middle Eastern hacks or doughnut-loving Asian women this time around. In fact, the mistress of disguise takes on only three personalities in Tracey Ullman in the Trailer Tales (airing Saturday at 8 pm/ET), which follows Ruby Romaine, Hollywood's favorite gossipmonger and veteran cosmetician, as she struggles to gain readmittance to Local 706 of the Hair and Makeup Guild. And apparently, that suits 43-year-old Ullman just fine.
TV Guide: Ruby's rude, crude and lewd — not exactly a role model. Why bring her back?
She's a horrible sort of alcoholic bigot, but she's funny. I just like being Ruby. [When I played her on Tracey Takes On] I used to get the most mail about her, letters that said, "We had a woman in our office for 20 years who is just like Ruby. She was really horrible and rude about everybody, but when she left, we really missed her!"
TVG: The cigarettes, the drinking and that hair! Did Ruby come to you in a nightmare?
I had a woman like this come on The Tracey Ullman Show years ago, and she'd done the makeup for Eisenhower. She's got the glasses on a chain 'round her neck, the blue eye shadow, somebody that last did her hair in 1962. And I thought, "Well, what's she gonna make me look like?!"
TVG: You also play a crabby Russian neighbor and a wannabe rap star. Don't you usually take on more characters?
Doing an absurd amount of characters is just very hard work. I kind of exhausted myself. Sticking on hairy chests in 110 degrees, it's not befitting for a mother of two.
TVG: You played a lot of dress-up as a kid, didn't you?
Oh yes. It's all I used to do, y'know put on a show in my Mom's bedroom and wear her negliges and stuff. Always liked dressing up, always loved clothes.
TVG: So are you a fan of any of those "makeover" shows on TV?
The cosmetic surgery show is freaking me out, the one where they take some sort of pretty regular looking guy from Pennsylvania and make him look like f---ing Wayne Newton. They give him that L.A. aesthetic of beauty and they send him back to his community looking like a real [expletive].
TVG: Your son Johnny McKeown, 12, has a bit part in the special. A chip off the old block, eh?
He's a little gold mine. I got him to scream with terror into the camera and wet himself. It's the sort of role you could only give to your own kid 'cause otherwise there could be a lawsuit!