Once More Around The Loop
by Jay S. Jacobs
Mimi Rogers is nearly impossible to pigeonhole. She is a beautiful actress who has never relied on her beauty, but instead on a fierce intelligence and talent. She can play devastatingly dramatic roles in films like her recent acclaimed turn in The Door in the Floor as well spooky and unsettling parts like her recurring character on The X-Files. She has also tried her hand at more cartoonish people like the matriarch in Lost in Space and even outright comic turns like the spy girl turned future mother-in-law in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
She has a wide range of outside interests which run the gamut from vitally important (she is a staunch environmental supporter) to more frivolous (she’s an internationally regarded poker player and a member of the board of directors of the World Poker Tour.) As the first wife of superstar Tom Cruise, she spent some time in the gossip columns, but since their breakup she has tried to keep her life as a wife and mother private.
Mostly, though, she is a smart and talented actress who has been able to sustain a career in the unforgiving world of Hollywood for over twenty years.
Her latest project is The Loop, a situation comedy for Fox. The Loop is the story of Sam, played by Bret Harrison. He is the first of his crowd out of college to get a real job – an executive position with a major airline. The airline is run by Russ (Philip Baker Hall), a crotchety old school businessman. Rogers’ character is Meryl, a beautiful older VP who enjoys toying with the young exec.
“Mimi’s hilarious,” says her The Loop co-star Harrison. “She’s one of the funniest ladies I know… I’ve learned a lot from her.”
A few weeks before The Loop was set to debut, Mimi sat down with us to talk about her career and the show.
How did you first get involved in acting?
Oh, gosh. You know, I got interested in my teens. It was the sort of thing where I did local community theater. I sort of thought of it as a hobby and then kind of got the bug.
I saw in IMDB that you graduated from high school at fourteen. I thought that was fascinating, you hear so much about an actor over the years, but I had never heard that you were that extremely intelligent. Why do you think things like that don’t get publicized as much as…?
Like who you were married to…
Yeah, exactly…That type of stuff.
Yeah, well we had moved around quite a bit when I was a child. I can’t even remember how many different schools I’ve been to. So I was just anxious, really, to be done with it. Fortunately my parents found a private sort of experimental school at the time, where students were allowed to move at their own rate of speed and put in as much time as they wanted to. So I didn’t graduate at fourteen just doing the normal study day. I graduated at fourteen because I just plowed through all the work all the time, because I wanted to be done with it.
Speaking of things that don’t get publicized as much, you are also very involved in environmental issues. How long have you been doing that and how did you determine to give back to the Earth in some way?
I’ve been involved with the group The Earth Communications Office really since its inception, I think about ’87. For me it just seemed an obvious and logical concept that we only have one planet. If we ruin it, there’s really no place else to go. (chuckles) So it always kind of bemuses me that… I actually do find it hard to understand that people can be really, really short-sighted and sort of view the immediate gains at the expense of the long term. I don’t understand. How can you not fathom the idea that if you destroy a resource, that’s it. We’re done. That I just don’t get. So, as I said, it seemed like something that was obvious to me – an issue that needed to be promoted and supported and disseminated.
Back on to your acting career, I was recently watching a DVD box set of Magnum PI and there was a very young Mimi as a guest star…
I also noticed in your filmography that you did a few episodes of Hill Street Blues and Quincy M.E. As a young actress, how big a break was it getting on those classic shows, and how cool is it that all of those shows are now coming back on DVD and people can see them again?
Well, that’s very cool. Hill Street Blues, especially, that was my first professional job. That was my break. So that was in some ways the most excited I’ve ever been – when I landed that role. That was my entrée. (laughs) I think Quincy may have been my second job. So it was great. Especially now, looking back, it is very cool to know that I participated in these shows that are looked at as classic.
The first time I really remember seeing you was the movie Someone to Watch Over Me (a 1987 thriller with Tom Berenger), which was a terrific movie by the way. For a while in your career, you were the next big thing, doing that movie and stuff like Street Smart (with Christopher Reeve and Morgan Freeman), Gung Ho! (with Michael Keaton) and The Rapture. What was that period of your career like?
Yeah. Well, if I’m quite honest, I don’t think I was ever really viewed as the next big thing. I think what I was viewed as was an interesting actress. Or a promising actress. But I never really experienced the “It Girl” moment or the overwhelming heat moment. So I’ve actually been very pleased. I’ve sort of been slow and steady. The fact that I’ve been working steadily for twenty years to me is a wonderful accomplishment. Because there are a lot of people who maybe have a very hot period for a few years and then they seem to just sort of disappear. I’ve never had the problems that go along with that white hot intensity, but I’ve been able to work consistently. You know, a craftsman… You’re in and you’re out. I work.
Ideally, how would you like for people to see your career?
Just as consistently interesting.
I think one reason your career has lasted so long and been so fascinating is because you have always mixed very dramatic roles with comedy. Do you prefer comedy or drama? Which one is harder for you?
Honestly, comedy is always harder. Good comedy makes it look easy, but it has to be really precise. The timing has to be kind of perfect, spot on. I really enjoy that challenge. I enjoy any interesting, challenging role. But doing comedy and doing it well is an awful lot of fun.
Now I have to ask you, you had a recurring role on one of my favorite short-lived sitcoms, It’s Like, You Know…
(proudly) I know…
Actually, the show was cancelled right as you were in a big love triangle with series stars Chris Eigeman and AJ Langer. I’ve always wondered what was going to happen there… Do you know anymore? Also, what was that show like to work on?
(laughs) Yeah, I have no idea where it was going… But it was really fun. Those guys were great. The creative team was lovely. Those shows – The Loop is very different in that we’re a single camera filmed comedy, but the five camera stage comedies are great, because it’s a kind of hybrid between theater and film.
That was one of the things I was going to ask you, you also did The Geena Davis Show which was a more traditional live in studio series.
Which was heaven, I loved doing it.
I was actually in the audience for a filming of one episode.
Yeah, it was an episode – I don’t really remember the exact storyline, but as I recall it was about Geena was doing a work on a charitable cause and said something very inappropriate.
And she and I ended up… I think it was the one when I was trying to pretend that I liked… (laughs) She was trying to get her husband and I to like each other… She had told him nice things about him and she had told me he had said nice things about me. And at the black-tie dinner we realized that was not the case. (laughs again)
Well, you just mentioned that the other sitcoms are more theatrical. In what ways is the making of the Loop different or more of a challenge?
Well, like I said, with a five camera stage comedy, you basically rehearse all week. Then you tape the show in one night. Shooting The Loop is like shooting a movie, with the single camera. We don’t have an audience. We’re not on a stage. It’s a very, very different process.
The last thing I saw you in was The Door in the Floor. You were so good, but the movie and the role were so devastating. As an actress, is it hard for you to make the leap from that kind of role to playing someone much lighter like Meryl?
Not really. The Door in the Floor is one of my favorite films of the last six or seven years. I think it was woefully underappreciated. I had a lovely time working on that film. But it was a year before it came out. So I was sort of, you know, long gone…
What attracted you to The Loop?
I really felt that it was that rare thing – which was an original idea. An original comedy. An original perspective. I think of it as kind of intellectual lunacy. It’s a very intelligent humor when you can pull that off. Have you seen the show?
I’ve just seen the pilot episode so far…
So you see a little bit of what I’m saying. It’s like on the surface it looks like it might be slapstick, broad comedy, but it’s much more complicated than that. In the way that the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges – there’s a great deal of intelligence that goes into that kind of lunacy.
Your character is introduced in the pilot episode with the caption “Predator.”
In honor of your character in It’s Like, You Know…, will Meryl need to get sexual harassment insurance?
Well, that’s what’s kind of fun with our show. I amuse myself with the young man in ways that should get me sued. But he’s kind of oblivious to it and never really complains. (laughs)
So why do you think a beautiful woman can get away with a line like the one in the pilot “Why aren’t your pants around my head?” without sounding too slimy but a man can’t?
I think part of it is the inherent difference between the sexes. I think the other part is that Meryl… she’s not really trying to get him in bed. She’s just entertaining herself. I think that comes through.
Philip Baker Hall is so funny…
Isn’t he just hilarious?
I actually think he was the funniest guest role ever on Seinfeld as Mr. Bookman the library policeman…
What is he like to work with?
We all sort of live in awe of Mr. Baker Hall. He’s delightful. He’s a sweetheart. And what’s really fun is that he is so enjoying playing this insane man. The crazier his speeches become, the more he relishes it. So it’s really fun to watch him having a ball. He’s an ultimate professional.
Other than yourself and Philip Baker Hall, most of the cast is relatively new to series TV. What are they like to work with?
Well, honestly I don’t work so much with the other members of the cast.
Okay, I wasn’t sure if there was going to be more of a cross-over between the business and home worlds in later episodes. But you definitely are working a lot with Bret Harrison…
I work with Bret all the time and I’m madly in love with him. I’m so impressed, because, really Bret has to carry the show. They work him mercilessly. And I really think, as I said earlier, the really best people make it look effortless. Bret makes it look easy, but I’m really just impressed with how talented he is. I think he’s seriously, majorly talented.
The airline industry is so depressed these days.
That makes it ripe for comedy… (laughs)
Why do you think that leads to comedy?
I think it’s perfect, because one of the things that goes on with our show is that Philip Baker Hall and I are dealing with some new crisis in business every episode. In this business, that’s kind of the way it is. We’re always on the brink of utter disaster.
Well, like I said, I’ve only seen the pilot so far, what are some of the kind of things that we can expect for down the line on the show…
Essentially, here’s the premise you’ll see repeated. Poor Bret is essentially Wile E. Coyote and the rest of us, both at home and at work, are the Road Runner. So you’ll see him falling off cliffs, smashing into buildings (laughs), getting blown up. Basically you’ll see him thrown into utter disaster and pull it out magically, miraculously, at the end. Over and over and over again. In increasingly bizarre and hilarious ways.
Do you have any ideas for the show that you’d love to see them do – either about Meryl’s character or more generally for the show?
One of the nice things is that if you do well and get on the air, then the creative team has time to further explore all the characters. I think that’s what their plan would be and that’s what I’m looking forward to, although I’ve been having a great time. In the first seven episodes, you have to really, really establish your show. I love doing the show, so I’m hoping with everything that we do well. Because I think there’s just limitless areas to mine.
The Loop is getting a timeslot right after American Idol…
At least for our premiere episode. We premiere March 15th right after American Idol and then we go the next night, March 16th into our regular timeslot, which is Thursday nights at 8:30. Right after That 70s Show, leading into The OC.
So do you ever get the cast and crew together and clean them up in poker?
We did have one poker night here at my house, with the producers and some of the writers and Bret and Eric (Christian Olsen, who plays Sam’s ne’er-do-well brother Sully). I actually felt guilty and embarrassed, because I did win the most money. Which, normally would be fun – but this is what always happens – I find that I feel horrible about taking money off of my friends.
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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 21, 2006.