Loves being 'Malcolm' mom -- but loves the real thing more

Jane Kaczmarek loves being Mom.

Sure, she’s thrilled to death playing Lois and ruling the roost on Fox’s hit sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” — but it’s the real thing that gives her goose bumps.

“When you have kids, everything is different,” says the thesp of her two children, the youngest only 8 months old.

And now that parental joy is spreading to the acting front, where both Kaczmarek and her husband, Bradley Whit-ford, are wowing TV auds. While Kaczmarek heads over to the Fox lot for “Malcolm,” for which she was nomi-nated for an Emmy for best actress in a comedy, Whitford is constantly shuttling over to Burbank on the WB set of “The West Wing,” which picked up an astonishing 18 noms. But none for hubby, which leaves her kind of bummed.

“I’m more upset than he is,” says Kaczmarek, who was also seen in several episodes of “Felicity” last season. “He loves the craft and the daily application of acting. That category (best supporting actor in a drama) had about 70 names in it, all great actors. I know when I was filling out the ballot, I had to erase someone else’s name just to get Brad’s in.”

The two were married in New York in 1992, when Kaczmarek was filming “Equal Justice” and Whitford doing theater.

“As the years went by, he was working more and I was slowing down,” she says. “When the kids came, I was so satisfied that I would be happy to say good-bye to a full-time job.” Which, of course, is when “Malcolm” came around. Such is the life of finding work in Hollywood. When you least expect it, … .

Kaczmarek’s thespian background was plainly on the serious side early on. She graduated from Yale at 26 with a degree in drama and landed a role a few years later on the John Houseman series “The Paper Chase.”

“That was such a happy time,” says Kaczmarek of the show that had a loyal following. “We had no network inter-ference, which happens a lot now. They were all great scripts.”

But after being unable to even audition for a comedy, she appeared on Broadway in the play “Lost in Yonkers” and attitudes of casting directors changed.

“Suddenly, after doing Neil Simon on Broadway, people thought I could do comedy,” she says. And after a turn a few years back on “Frasier,” it’s comedy that might bring her to the Emmy podium, unless, of course, the kids are sick that night and need a little TLC.

“Brad and I think are the luckiest people alive,” Kaczmarek confesses. “Everything has been so totally unplanned.”

Including finding herself on Fox’s cornerstone hit.

“I’m really fortunate,” she says. “Basically, the writers give me stuff to say and the director tells me how to say it.”

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