Walk of Fame honoree and "Suburgatory" star recalls her climb
Growing up, Cheryl Hines always felt like she belonged somewhere else.
“I have a journal I wrote in, in high school,” she says. “Our teacher told us to write down what we wanted to be in ten years and I wrote that my goal was to make a living as an actress. In my imaginary life, in my head growing up, I was living in the big city.”
In her real life, though, she was in Tallahassee, Fla., with a “redneck” dad who sported a “Honk if You Love Jesus” bumper sticker on his silver El Camino. “He thought that was a little classier than a pick-up truck,” she jokes with her signature dry wit.
Yet with work and some help from her friends, Hines made it out of Florida and all the way to the Walk of Fame, which she receives on Jan. 29.
It was far from an easy journey, though. She deferred college after high school, instead enrolling at a local beauty school, only to nearly meet the fate of Frenchy in “Grease.”
“I realized I didn’t want to be that close to people’s heads and I was going to drop out,” Hines recalls. “But then my mom gave me a pep talk. So I made a pact with one of the women in my class that she’d help me with her Jheri curl—this was in the ’80s — and I’d help her with her perm.”
She coiffed hair for a year and tended bar, scrounging money for college. After graduating from U. of Central Florida, she landed a gig as a Janet Leigh stand-in at Universal Studios in Orlando. Sure, she was spending her time getting stabbed in the re-created “Psycho” shower scene, but “I was a professional actress at that point,” she says — a goal achieved.
She didn’t rest, though. Bit parts followed, including a guest-starring role on USA network’s 1993 sci-fi series “Swamp Thing,” based on the cult hit comicbook. Excited and certain of the show’s success, Hines drove to Los Angeles for its debut.
“I wanted to be in town before it broke big,” she quips. “Sadly, it didn’t quite have the impact that I was hoping it would.”
But she was finally in the big city, and her career soon took an upswing. Friends chipped in to buy her an improv class at the famed Groundlings — her teacher was “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow — and soon after she was asked to join the company.
“At the Groundlings I was surrounded by really smart, really creative people that came from all different places,” she recalls, “and it was there that I felt like I was a long way from home.”
She landed an agent and scored small roles on “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Suddenly Susan” and “The Wayans Brothers.” Then came HBO’s Emmy-winning “Curb your Enthusiasm,” where for 11 years she played the shiksa wife (and then ex-wife) of surly Jewish comedian Larry David.
Now she’s on ABC’s “Suburgatory,” where she plays Dallas Royce, an outrageous Southern belle with a deep-fried tan, enormous hair and who, per Hines, “is always determined to have a good time regardless of what the rest of the world is doing. Even at a funeral she could have a good time.” She took the role, she says, in part because it is such a departure from Cheryl David.
Back in Tallahassee, she never even thought about being on the Walk of Fame. But if her career stalls, she muses, that brass star on the Hollywood sidewalk could come in handy.
“Would it be sad it if I ended up as an old hooker that stands on my star?” she deadpans. “Then my john will know exactly where to find me. Things are looking up! I feel very good about that.”
What: Cheryl Hines receives a star on the Walk of Fame
When: 11:30 a.m. Jan. 29