Wendie Malick discusses working with Betty White on ‘Hot in Cleveland’

By Greg Hernandez

HollywoodNews.com: Wendie Malick was so good as the narcissistic, boozy fashion model-turned-magazine fashion editor Nina Van Horn on the sitcom “Just Shoot Me!,” it’s hard to imagine her in a more delicious role.

After the series ended in 2003, she went on to play Martin Crane’s girlfriend in the final season of “Frasier,” John Stamos’s agent in two seasons of “Jake in Progress” and the mother of the bride in the short-lived ABC comedy “Big Day.”

Now she’s back on series television in a big hit called “Hot In Cleveland” in which she stars with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and the legendary Betty White. She series premiered this summer on TV Land and has been renewed for s second season.

“We’ve all had been doing this for so long,” Wendie pointed out when we talked recently. “I think we all figured that combined, we all had been working in comedy for about 187 years. We just weren’t sure if people anted to see something about women who were our ages: Valerie and Jane are pushing 50, I’m pushing 60 and Betty’s pushing 90.”

It turns out people did want to see it and the premiere episode was TV Land’s highest rated telecast in the cable network’s 14-year history.

“We have such an incredible demographic who watch this show it’s really amazing,” Wendie says. “I think part of it is going back to old-fashioned sitcom storytelling, it’s like the classic form. Really solid writers who know about jokes but they also build characters and the relationships. This really harkens back to the old days when you really started to invest in those people you watched every week. I think you can tell that we all adore each other but still give each other a lot of crap.”

Wendie, Valerie and Jane play three past-their-prime entertainment industry veterans from Los Angeles whose lives are changed when their Paris-bound plane lands in Cleveland, Ohio. There they find a welcoming community that is less shallow, youth-obsessed and weight-conscious than L.A., and where one of them leases a home with a sassy caretaker played by Miss White.

Did she know from the beginning that they had something special?

“We kind of did,” Wendie says. “We had high hopes for it and it seemed like they were putting all the right pieces together but as you know, you can put the greatest people in the world together and somehow it doesn’t work. So that first day when we did the first table read we kind of went, ‘Whoa. I think we’re onto something very fine here. And it as true, something was going on.”

Wendie plays a five-times divorced soap opera star named Victoria Chase whose long-running soap has just been canceled after 27 years on the air. [Real-life soap legend Susan Lucci recently guested as Victoria’s arch-nemesis]

To read more go to GregInHollywood.com.

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