Katy Mixon, the lead of “American Housewife,” is — like her character, Katie — a ball of energy. The sitcom, which just got a full-season pickup, hinges entirely on Mixon’s presence and charm, a wisecracking sarcastic mom on her last nerve (and wearing her last semi-clean sweater). But Mixon tells Variety, that energy is where the similarities end. While creator and executive producer Sarah Dunn based Katie on herself, Mixon isn’t anything like Katie Otto. Mixon talked to Variety about what Katie’s going through, the importance of staying true to yourself, and what reception from housewives around the country has been to her “firecracker” role.
Do you feel like you identify with Katie Otto?
Katy Mixon: No. I’m nothing like her. I couldn’t be more opposite. I rock and roll in life in a completely different way. That is why I took it! I was looking to do something so very different than I’ve ever done — and right after “Mike and Molly” playing the Victoria role, and for six years in the “Eastbound & Down” role, I just jumped at the opportunity.
I grew up in a family of nine, honey. I grew up with six girls and one boy, so my innate instinct of who I am — I’m the third oldest, and I helped raise all of my younger sisters. I just fall into that aspect — that motherhood — naturally. When I first read it, I literally was like, I love it! Then came all of the different flavors and levels and character traits of her.
Katie’s feelings about her weight are a big part of her identity.
I know. She’s so consumed with it.
What is that like playing that character? There’s sort of a tragic element to her.
I think you’ve got to find the humor in it, honey. There’s humor in literally being like, This is who I am. I’m not a size 2. I’m not a size 4. I’m not even a size 8 or 10. Honestly, sweetheart, if I had the issues that Katie Otto had I couldn’t play her. I would have to have a therapist on set with me.
Who I am just couldn’t be more opposite of what the character goes through. I’ve never let the media dictate my identity. I’m who I am. I’ve been a size 4. I’ve been a size 12. I’ve been a size 8. I’ve been a size 2, and I think what I … I’m a big fan of just celebrating who you are. There no other person like you in this world and for me that’s powerful. That is the most powerful thing.
It’s interesting playing this kind of character that’s self-deprecating. I’m just not self-deprecating. I just find humor in it all, in the sense of like, “yeah, it’s okay. I had a doughnut today and tomorrow I’ll eat broccoli.” That’s my M.O. Katie Otto really struggles. She thinks everyone is talking about her. She thinks everyone is against her — and really she’s against herself in some way. I think she is learning — in each episode she tries and she fails and she gets back up on the horse — to really accept herself. The thing is at the end of the day, she does. She’s a firecracker. She is a little bit of a walking contradiction, but that’s what we all go through each day.
It doesn’t matter what gender you are, or it doesn’t matter what other background you come from, everybody deals with insecurity. Everybody understands, for whatever reason, what it’s like to not fit in, or not do it right, or not be perfect. That’s why I’m such a firm believer of the show. It’s not just pertaining to housewives. It’s pertaining to every single person in this world. Everybody deals with what it’s like not being excellent. It’s going to be okay. You’ve got to accept yourself where you’re at and forgive yourself, and walk through the fire. That’s been my anthem with it, basically, of learning how to play this role.
How has it been striking the balance between being aware of Katie’s weight and making fun of Katie’s weight?
I just don’t think about it, darling, to be honest with you. I think there is an aspect of it where it’s like, this is the role. This is the character that I signed up for, so if the Katie Otto character is struggling with her weight, she’s struggling with her weight.
I appreciate that the show depicts some of the sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle ways that the world reminds her of how she’s deviated from a standard of beauty. Like the depiction of Westport, where all of the moms wear yoga pants.
I know, and it’s so interesting, sweetheart, because personally for me, I think it’s awesome. If somebody is drinking green juices and doing that yoga, I’m like, Go get it girl. Walk to the beat of your own drum. Who I am, I celebrate people. I love whatever makes them tick, that makes them tick. But Katie Otto, she is really is resentful of it. For whatever reason. She just wants everybody to not be fake… but as much as she wants everybody to be real, she’s having to come to grips with her getting real, and where’s all this stuff coming from in the mix of the comedy. It’s wild.
“Housewife” is a term that encapsulates a lot of choices and contradictions for women. How do you feel about it?
“It’s so different for everyone. I’m loving it, honey, being able to dive into this. I’m 35 and I don’t have children yet. I can’t wait to have them. I grew up with a mommy that was like a hero. She was an unbelievable stay-at-home mom that raised 7 children, so in my eyes it’s just the most incredible job. Now it’s fascinating, because it’s going to be interesting whenever I have children. It’s going to be an interesting situation, of being a working mommy one day.
All of the Twitter feedback, the Facebook feedback, it’s been wild. I’m not a real social media kind of girl, but I’ve had to jump into it because of the situation and I’m loving it. Everybody’s like, “Katie Otto’s my spirit animal,” and “I’ve got to meet Katie because she’d be my best friend, she says it like it is.” They’re relating — and it’s moms from all walks of life, from aspects of all the Westport mommies that have tweeted me and said, look, we’ve got our green juices to people in Arkansas, from people in Wichita, literally.
Sarah Dunn was telling me that sometimes when you’re on set, she has to go up to you and remind you that you’d be tired and it would be hard and it wouldn’t be fun anymore.
She’s quite specific on her Katie Otto. Me, I like to add color.
What do you feel like you’ve brought to Katie that maybe wasn’t there before you got onto the show?
I think what my main goal has been is I wanted her to be so relatable. I wanted her to … in the midst of the sarcasm, in the midst of the cynicism, in the midst of the self-deprecation, she’s got a big heart. She’s got a huge heart. There has to be a balance in the role of comedy and of humor, but you’ve got to have that heart. You see her realize she’s wrong. You see her realize she’s not wrong. You’ve got to have moments of where you see the vulnerability of her.