Lesley Ann Warren is one of "those" actresses, like Raquel Welch, Bernadette Peters, Helen Mirren or Sophia Loren, who continually defy age and preserve their sex appeal while still working in a tough business for women over 40.
Warren was first on my radar when she was ďCinderellaĒ, paired with the uber sexy Stuart Damon. She later garnered an Academy Award nomination for 1982's "Victor/Victoria." She received Emmy nominations for "Family of Spies," and a Golden Globe Award for the miniseries "79 Park Avenue."
More recently, Lesley Ann has delighted fans of "Desperate Housewives" as Teri Hatcher's bawdy mom, and on "Will & Grace" as the mistress of Will's father.
Warren does lusty very well.
The new USA drama "In Plain Sight," is Lesley Ann's first regular series role since her "Mission Impossible" days from the sixties. In a classic scenario of the child parenting the parent, she plays Jinx, the feckless sexpot mother of Mary McCormackís deadpan Marshal character, also named Mary.
True to the networkís rallying cry of "Characters Welcome", the role of Jinx in the hands of Warren will certainly fill the USA bill for the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based noir dramedy that is infused with lots of male eye candy and compelling storylines.
Monsters and Critics spoke to Lesley a few days ago.
Many of our readers want to know how you stay in such incredible shape. Youíre ageless and you bring so much vitality in your character Jinx to the show. We want to know what your secrets are?
L. Warren Thank you, first of all. The last 25 years of my life I have been living a really, I would say holistic lifestyle. I got very sick in my 20ís and early 30ís because I was a ballet dancer when I was young and I was starving myself and all this stuff.
I had a lot of health problems when I was in my 20ís and I came upon this doctor, this naturopathic doctor, in my early 30ís and I just knew inherently that that was for me, and so Iíve been doing Chinese medicine, homeopathics, acupuncture weekly for a long, long time.
Plus I exercise a lot because of having been a dancer, and I donít drink coffee. I stopped drinking coffee in my early 30ís.
I donít 'drink' drink. I have like a half a martini once every three months or something. Itís like I live a pretty healthy life and I do believe that itís mind body spirit connection and so I think that that really contributes greatly to my energy, my sense of well-being and my physical well-being.
Of all the male energy thatís in the show, who are you routing for to capture Maryís heart?
L. Warren Thatís an interesting question because both Frederick Weller and Cristian de la Fuente have different qualities that would be and are really good for Mary, as a woman and a person.
None of us know where this is going to go, by the way.
None of us have the answer to this question, so I would have to say that as her mother, I want her to be happy and fulfilled. Who that person may or may not be is up for grabs at this point. I think each man in the show brings her different gifts.
What challenges you about playing Jinx?
L. Warren Itís interesting because I donít know how much of it you see in advance or whatever, but if youíre just seeing the first two episodes, she is so much more complex a character than is apparent initially.
I knew that going in because I had talked with the creator, David Maples. But what you will get to see is, what is revealed along the way, is her broken dreams and her sort of heartbreak and what motivates her to behave in the ways that she does initially, which seems like sheís just this great party animal.
But she adores her daughters, but has no clue as to how to raise them and gave up her own dreams in order to try to do this mothering.
What captured your heart about the role of Jinx?
L. Warren It is something that drew me to the character because when I first read the pilot, my character had a really small role in it, but I loved the writing of the show. I thought the show was really smart and sophisticated and edgy and very sort of cool and a unique tone for television, or anywhere actually.
I went in and met with David Maples, the creator, and it was his revealing to me where this character goes and the journey that she takes and the sort of heartbreak thatís at her core and thatís what really drew me to her.
I donít feel like I have ever played a character like her before and as an actress, thatís what is ultimately the most challenging to me.
What has been your favorite scene to film so far on In plain Sight?
L. Warren I mean I think it was the scene where I get to audition for Sweet Charity, which is a community theatre production of Sweet Charity thatís being done in the area.
So I got to sing, which is something I love to do, and then my daughter, Mary, walks in on me and I donít even know that she knows that Iíve gone to audition, and I feel humiliated and disgraced, and all the pain of the past comes bubbling up inside of Jinx and she lets it all out.
I think it was very revealing and difficult, and sort of heartbreaking thing to shot, and that, in combination with the singing, I think, was my favorite moment.
How do you get on with the cast?
L. Warren Itís so rare that you walk into a cast of people that you all get along. Itís really rare, trust me, and in this case, we all totally got along. It was crazy, I mean Mary and I it was love at first sight. We went to the table read before the pilot and I had never met her and she looked at me and said, 'You canít play my mother, you look young enough to play my sister.'
And I was like okay 'youíre in.' We totally get along. Thereís like a deep respect for each otherís work and camaraderie, and I would say that unfortunately when youíre shooting a new show, there isnít very much time for jokes and pranks off camera, but itís definitely a company that loves to work together and collaborate.
Least liked and most favorite quality of Jinx's?
L. Warren: What I like most about her is her child-like sort of sense of wonder and enthusiasm and adventure. My own mom has that and sheís 91, and she still has that, and I think thatís something to be admired.
What I think I like least about her is her inability sometimes to see the difference between what is real and what isnít, and how thatís led her into some really painful and difficult situations.
I draw from myself in certain ways. I look for the identifying feelings and then I look to my own life to help me to create those, but then I also create from my imagination or from people Iíve observed, a characterís qualities and bring them all together to help recreate a new and unique character.
Hardest thing about working on ďIn Plain SightĒ so far?
L. Warren I guess going back and forth to Albuquerque. I opted to not relocate to Albuquerque because I have a family and animal and mother and son and husband and I didnít want to relocate.
It was hard jumping on a plane almost every week.
That was the most difficult part of it and I guess sometimes when you donít relocate, you donít really make temporary roots so every time I went there, I had to reacquaint myself with where to go to eat and what and I felt a little lonely sometimes, but that was the only difficult part of it.
The rest of it was an absolute wonderful experience and I actually like Albuquerque. I found great places to go and they have a collage town there so that they have some really great restaurants and movies and whole food type places. So it was great.
What got you started in acting?
L. Warren: I was going to be a ballet dancer. I was born in New York, Manhattan, and I was studying ballet from the time I was six to about 14 and then when I was 14, I saw a Broadway production of 'Bye Bye Birdie' and I saw all these kids my age on stage doing this singing and dancing and acting and I became enthralled.
I decided that that was what I wanted to do and I started studying acting and I started studying singing at 16 - and then I started seriously auditioning.
My first audition was when I was 14, and in my last year of high school I was 16 and I got my first Broadway show. The ingťnue lead in 110 in the Shade on Broadway when I was 17. So thatís really how I began.
You have that elusive quality of comic timing; natural or learned?
L. Warren Thank you, first of all. I donít think, and this is just my opinion, but I donít think you can learn comic timing. I think you are either blessed with the sense of whatís funny or not.
I think you can learn how to do gags and pratfalls and that whole thing, but I honestly think itís like having musical ability, you either have it or you donít. I just feel like Iíve been just lucky to have been blessed with that, but I also think that a part of it has to do with a certain kind of willingness to jump off into the void.
You have to be willing to take what you think is funny and go with it and hope that other people are going to think itís funny, too. And then the other part of it is that I really try to invest my characters with the truth, even when theyíre comic characters.
I really try to invest them with what is truthful to them in the situation and the combination can work well.
Why do you think people should take their time to tune in and watch In Plain Sight?
L. Warren Honestly, for the same reason that I chose to do it; I think itís a really smart, very funny, very unique tone for television in general.
I think the writing is sophisticated, clever, heartwarming, moving and as the show goes on, these characters become more and more complex and richer in their relationships to themselves and to each other.
Thereís a new reverence about it that makes it kind of very modern, very edgy, very sort of cool and I think that all of those reasons are what are going to grab people and keep them, hopefully, engaged.
Can you compare and contrast working in theater or movies or television?
L. Warren Yes. I think that, generally speaking, working in movies it is the directorís vision. You answer to the director and it was very surprising to me and really different that in television, itís really the creator and the producer that really are the responsible voice in the showís tone and style and direction. And so I was so used to going to the director as being the person at the helm and thatís not true in television, itís really not true.
That was an adjustment. And, of course, in theatre itís an extremely collaborative medium, and the actors really ultimately are the ones that have the final voice because theyíre on stage and nobody can stop them doing what theyíre doing.
I like them all for different reasons. I do love working intensely with directors that I trust and respect, which is no easy case, but in this case, itís David Maples who has that position in a way. So that was equally interesting and challenging.