I wear granny panties now. Super high waisted. Full coverage in the tush. Thick cotton. Comfy as all get out.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s absolutely mind-blowing to feel like myself in my underwear. And it’s not just about feeling like myself in my underwear. I’ve been feeling like myself since I went back to work on my new FOX series, Call Me Kat.
It all started when Jim Parsons — whom I played opposite on The Big Bang Theory for nine seasons — approached me about playing the lead role in an American version of the hit BBC series, Miranda. He and I decided that if anyone was lovable enough for people to tolerate even though she’s a little annoying, I was that person. (I hold that this is a great compliment!)
Miranda focuses on comedienne Miranda Hart’s adventures as an extremely tall, awkward, unconventional woman. Her mother longs to marry her off and, meanwhile, she has a crush on an impossibly handsome guy who is “out of her league.”
Our American version features average-sized me as Kat (not Miranda). Kat is awkward and unconventional. Swoosie Kurtz plays my mother, who is always trying to marry me off, and the fantastic Cheyenne Jackson plays the “out of my league” college crush who has recently moved back to our hometown of Louisville, Ky.
Kat is 39, single, and not devastated by that. She leaves her job as a math professor after her father dies and opens her dream business: a cat cafe where cats roam about and are up for adoption. Kat works at the cafe with a confident, empowered millennial, played by the fierce and hilarious Kyla Pratt, and a “cautionary tale” of an older single man, played by the firecracker that is Leslie Jordan. Groundlings alum Julian Gant plays the owner of the bar where Cheyenne takes a job; Julian adds joy to our days and our scripts. We are all having a blast.
Kat is a “rad cat lady” and not a “sad cat lady.” She sings when she’s nervous; she’s socially anxious to the max; she dances madly and kicks excitedly, and she is goofy and quirky and tender and adorkable.
Also, Kat is the size of a lot of women. I did not lose the 20 pounds I think I gained over quarantine, which I could probably lose to play this character. I’m not in the best shape of my life, and that’s OK. Like me, Kat is a size 6/8 who wishes she was a toned 6 and sometimes feels comfier in a size 10. On The Big Bang Theory, as Amy Farrah Fowler, I got to also “be myself,” body-wise, but the character was awkward, fashion-challenged, and super nerdy, so I think it felt like it “fit” more. In Kat, I am playing a woman who is not a caricature. She’s not a joke visually. I mean, she’s not supposed to be. She’s just… real.
If you know even a little bit about me, you might see some similarities between Kat and me. Our executive producer/showrunner/head writer, Darlene Hunt, has taken everything about me, combined it with everything about her, and created Kat, who is a fusion of both of us. We hope people will love her in the same way people find a way to love me, and to love Darlene, and to love women who are a lot but not too much.
For me, the true miracle is that I get to go to work every day and essentially play. I play at being the most creative, most adventurous, most daring version of myself. Darlene and our co-Executive Producer, David Holden, will rewrite things on the spot — we are without a live audience of writing staff on set due to Covid restrictions — and they’ll throw anything at me.
“Try it with a British accent,” they might suggest. “Try it with a spit take.” “Can you sing this line?” “Add a pratfall and take the chair down with you.”
The answer at my job is always: YES. As someone who chronically says NO to most things, my job is to say YES and make everyone laugh. Our show also has a lot of heart, a lot of tender moments, and a lot of opportunities to demonstrate that even those of us who make you laugh also have our moments of doubt, fear, shame, and cluelessness.
So far, I’ve gotten to sing. I’ve gotten to play the piano. I get to tap dance in an upcoming episode. It’s as if my mother told Darlene all of the things I do and Darlene puts them all in the scripts. In a good way!
And here’s the kicker: I’ve been a professional actress since I was 11 years old. I have loved — albeit in different manners and doses — every job I have done. Even the challenging jobs have taught me so much. Beaches birthed my career. Blossom made it thrive and established me as a public person. The Big Bang Theory resurrected my acting career and gave me and my family a new life and gave me a new identity. But Call Me Kat — whether it goes one season or two; whether I get nominated for no Emmys or all the Emmys; whether you think it’s funny or whether it’s just my mom — this is THE JOB that has affirmed for me that I am a performer.
All of my previous acting jobs have hired me to perform and I have loved those jobs. But this job is the one where I can see that this is the profession I truly thrive in when the fit is right. I always felt like an accidental actress; luck was on my side and I found people who believed in my quirks. But this job was designed for my quirks, and it’s working. It’s not unlike finding yourself in a relationship with someone who eventually “gets” you, versus engaging with someone who sees you on the first date and says, “You’re my person. I want to gear this relationship towards loving every last part of you and bringing out the best in you. And I will do that every single day no matter what.”
Wow. That’s what Call Me Kat feels like. So of course I’m going to wear granny panties now. They’re comfortable. They fit me truly. And underneath all of that fabric is the meat of who I am. Call Me Kat is the meat of who I am in life right now — the zaftig, curvy, authentic me. Sometimes I’m functional. Sometimes I’m playful. Sometimes I’m sexy. It’s all me. And I can sing and dance. I can make you laugh. I can make you feel things you hadn’t thought to feel. It’s my job.
Call Me Kat premieres Sunday, January 3 at 8 pm before beginning our normal time Thursdays at 9 pm on FOX. Please come witness a lead woman you don’t usually see on TV: quirky, goofy, playful, not fancy, not made up, not a perfect size 2, or 4, or even 6. This is a show we hope will inspire people. To believe they aren’t too much, to believe being yourself is the only way to be and to understand that no matter what, we constantly get to reinvent ourselves. Even down to our panties.
Header image via YouTube/ JoBlo Streaming & TV Trailers