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The Penny Johnson Jerald Interview

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Interview with Lady Mac

What I loved was how at first you're very much in the background. You're writing thank-you notes and being…

…the perfect wife?

Yeah. And I'm thinking, "Oh yeah, she's evil," because this was too much of a set-up. And then the claws come out and it looks like you're just as ambitious as he is, and you think that you're really up to something. But then you call Carl and he's all, "I've taken care of it," and you're taken aback. You're not really evil. You're out of your league with people like Carl. That's what's so politically sophisticated about the show. We're so used to seeing the evil ambitious wife that we're automatically assuming that you're much worse than you really are.

But that's the excitement of playing her. I don't know from week to week what I'm going to do. I've been naughty and I've been looking, like, one week ahead, but that's because Penny Johnson Jerald wants to make sure that if she's playing a married woman with children, there still is a certain image that I would love people to get about the strength of family unity. I strongly believe in family -- personally -- and so I take a look at that. I look at the realistic relationship of a marriage that's lasted twenty-five years. I've been married for many many years. Happily, happily married. Crazily happily married. I have a daughter. I have a nephew as well and so there are realistic things I keep in check. I keep that very real.

You mentioned Hillary. Are there any other "real people" you think about when playing Sherry?

Hillary and Lady Macbeth are the clear-cut individuals that inspire my performance. But then a lot of it comes from [laughs] Penny. It comes from Penny the teacher, the disciplinarian, the perfectionist, the workaholic. [Laughs.] It comes from sides of me that I don't care to bring to light in my everyday personal life, but they're parts of me that can rear their ugly head if I can cultivate them with the help of my director.

I notice at times that there seems to be a reference to the Nixon era -- mostly the clothing and the sets. The guys wear these wide ties like young Republicans from the early seventies, the women wear sleeveless tops and pearls, and you had that one assistant for a couple of episodes who had what seemed to be a beehive. Is that a conscious reference?

[Laughs.] No, that's not consciously said. And I'm not sure if that's a conscious decision or not.

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