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?
Tracey Ullman: 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?
Ullman: 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?
Ullman: 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?
Ullman: 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?
Ullman: 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?
Ullman: 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!