Exclusive: Baskets star Louie Anderson on the liberation of Christine Baskets

Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets on Baskets
Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets and Zach Galifianakis as her artistic and sensitive son Chip

One of the most memorable mothers of late on the smallscreen is played by a man — Louie Anderson.

Another Louis, Mr. C.K., urged fellow Baskets producers Zach Galifianakis and Jonathan Krisel to contact Anderson for the role of Christine Baskets based on Louie’s lifetime of stand-up and published memoirs.

Louie’s character Christine of FX’s noir comedy is a triumph of drawing out the little things in family life for a big effect.

It really shows no matter how good the writers are, the person saying the lines matters so very much to pulling off an award-winning role like Christine.

Minnesota-native Anderson naturally is a plain-spoken, warm and funny person, and completely in touch with his emotional life, making for an incredible turn as the matriarch of a family in various levels of crises.

Anderson’s Christine was crafted with love from memories of his mother Ora Zella Anderson and other female relatives, and earned him a supporting-actor Emmy last year.

The premise, on paper seemingly absurd, is as familiar and touching in the flesh thanks to this perfect alchemy of writing, performances, and chemistry served up by a perfectly matched cast.

The hub of this wheel is Anderson, whose multihyphenate and successful career has taken him from comedy clubs to selling out arenas, TV stages to the cinema, plus published best-selling memoirs, more writing and even animation work.

But the role of Christine Baskets has become one of his life’s most beloved and memorable roles. We all love her, and the series soars with his emotionally accessible and familiar performance.

Monsters and Critics spoke to Louie about this emotionally charged and liberating season for his Christine:

Louie Anderson in deep reflection as Christine in the Yard Sale episode, a turning point in her life

Monsters and Critics: We love how the absurdity of the premise has gotten very real. Can you talk about last week’s Yard Sale episode?

Louie Anderson: It’s such an emotional episode because when you lose a parent, especially your mother, it’s quite traumatic — at least it was for me. It’s the first time you realize that you’re mortal because the person that you came out of is gone.

It’s a little startling for people. I think there was that, and once again Christine was going to be shuffled to the back of the room when it came to the family and what was rightfully hers.

Her mom decided to right that ship with the will. But first Christine, in order to find that out, she really had to stand up for herself.

So, I think that was really good, there were lots of good things about that. That scene in the bank was reminiscent of something I wrote in my book Dear Dad which is now trending on digital which is so exciting.

In that book I described my dad’s radiation treatment — he had prostate cancer, and he opened up about his life to this perfect stranger who was doing radiation about things I had never heard of.

I remember how I was happy to hear those things, but I thought, ‘how come I never heard about this…you know?’.

I use that and the loss of things, and that was a very emotional scene to shoot. And just like that thing with the radiation, I picked out a stranger who I chose to unload my inner deep feelings about my mom and our situation and how she believed in me.

I think it was…you never know what you’re going to say when you are emotional.

That in hindsight is what I thought when we shot it. It was pure…just…the character and all that stuff…but it was familiar to that scene in my book.

That was the scene that, when we got done, many people on the crew had tears in their eyes. I knew that I had hit a chord.

M&C: The episode, hurt feelings, animosities…you unlocked a lot of genies from bottles…

LA: I think it was a really strong episode. I think it resonated with people and I think part of the thing is we all have a lot of feelings and when they come out we need to express them, and that happened to be with a stranger in this case. So there were lots of elements there, don’t you think?

M&C: A lot of layers, yes. I feel like Martha is becoming the daughter you never had. It appears Christine emotionally needs her…

LA: I have to go back to Jonathan Krisel setting up all these beautiful scenarios and relationships because that’s really what’s going on.

Jonathan Krisel is just…how lucky for me to find somebody at the top, he certainly knows what he’s doing. It’s amazing.

He doesn’t talk about it. He doesn’t telegraph it. He gets you in [a] position to run a good race that day.

Wherever he is pointing you seem to be the place you need to be. With the writers and him, these show stories are coming together and I don’t even see it coming sometimes. I don’t see it, he’s just so skilled.

I have to be honest, that whole scene…he takes his time. We walked through everything and Jonathan was so open. “What if I try this?” and he says, “Yes, try it.”

He believes in actors. He believes in the arc that’s been set up. And you’re right, the Martha thing…just so many great things.

Zach Galifianakis’s Chip looks on as Christine (Louie Anderson) meets Martha (Martha Kelly)

M&C: Martha and Christine, could you talk about that?

LA: I think it’s a cross between maternal and girlfriend. A true friend. I think the truth is Christine is maternal with everyone.

Her first instinct is to gather up people, gather in and hug them, I think. Whether it’s with words or with a real hug.

Yes, I do think she is making Martha a member of the family.

Louie as Christine greeting her Denver lover Ken, played by Alex Morris

M&C: You have a love interest, the carpet king of Denver…

LA: I don’t think Ken is a fluke. He’s the first person to pay attention to Christine in 25 years. Or is the first person that she realizes was paying attention to her.

And another parent who, they’re like-minded, [there’s] no judgment, she doesn’t feel judged by the fact that her son is in jail. His daughter is in jail.

I love Ken [Alex Morris] and he’s great in the part. He was perfect in the reading, and we read a lot of different people.

I was in on it and it was evident that he was so comfortable and knew and understood the part. Plus Christine really loves his family.

Alex Morris as Ken and Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets
Alex Morris as Ken and Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets

I don’t know if Ken and Christine are going to franchise Carpet Kings or they’re just going to be the fling that they are or if there’s a wedding in the future, who knows?

Because one thing is I know those writers are already thinking now that we’ve been renewed for season three. Where are we going to go?

Because this finale coming up [Circus, air date March 23] is quite wonderful.  I just love it all. This last episode was really a transformation episode for Christine. The sky’s the limit for her, in my opinion.

M&C: You underwent a lot of heartache while making this character. Was it hard to keep working or did the work help you with your character?

LA: Yes and no. I do think me and Christine have had a tremendous amount of loss. I think it takes time with a loss.

To me, it was such a big blow to lose my baby brother [Tommy Anderson]. I think I am always emotional about this particular thing.

He loved Baskets, and so, there’s comfort there. We had a great relationship and I am working on a tribute to him.

Watch the trailer for the Baskets Season 2 finale below…

Baskets airs Thursdays at 10pm on FX.

DON’T MISS: Martha Kelly talks Baskets as her character’s star rises in Bakersfield

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