“At 62, I got the role of a lifetime,” Louie Anderson says. It’s hard to argue. His role on the first season of FX comedy “Baskets” just earned him an Emmy nomination for supporting actor. The performance was a revelation, and not just because his character — Christine Baskets — is a woman.
“I always thought I would have to be older to play the parts that would suit me the best,” Anderson says. “I just didn’t know it would be my mother.”
Christine emerged as one of the year’s singular comedic creations. A Costco-obsessed suburban widow living in Bakersfield, Calif., who is fiercely proud of her adopted twin sons (they happen to be superstar DJs) and just a little less loving toward her older biological twins — aspiring rodeo clown Chip and vocational-school dean Dale (both played by series star Zach Galifianakis).
“Baskets” mixes surreal situations, snarky dialogue, and enjoyably juvenile slapstick humor with surprisingly deep emotional reserves, especially when it comes to Christine.
The idea to cast Anderson came from Galifianakis, who created the show and executive produces with Louis C.K. and showrunner Jonathan Krisel.
“I wanted to cast Brenda Blethyn, and she wasn’t available,” Galifianakis told Variety before the show premiered. “I told Louis, ‘It’s a voice I keep hearing, like Louie Anderson’s voice.’ He said, ‘Well, should we cast him?’ It was an a-ha moment, and those a-ha moments I tend to go with, instead of overthinking.”
|“My mom is the nicest person in the world
and she would never have thought she’s like Christine. She was, but she did it in a much nicer way.”
When approached for the role, Anderson read the scripts and immediately knew he’d found something special. “This is like a job I already knew I was going to get somehow,” he says. “I thought I was a much better serious than funny actor, but I always thought I was both at once.”
The mix of oddball humor and serious moments helped “Baskets” stand out in an increasingly crowded landscape of ambitious TV, and Anderson’s work was widely heralded.
“He’s such a sensitive, deep, introspective person, and he has years of standup mining things from his family,” Krisel notes. “He’s bringing a character to the party that’s so well observed. I relied a lot on him on set. He brought this deep inner knowledge of a woman like this that that made it go to the next level.”
That came from the connection Anderson made between the role and his late mother, Ora Zella Anderson. “You know that thing I do where I narrow my eyes in the character? That’s my mom when someone says something she doesn’t like,” Anderson says. “My mom is the nicest person in the world and she would never have thought she’s like Christine. She was, but she did it in a much nicer way. I feel a very great satisfaction to playing a character that is anchored in Ora Zella Anderson.”
As “Baskets” gears up for a second season, Krisel says he told Anderson to prepare to carry even more of the screen time.
“I want to know the inner life of the kind of people who aren’t fancy enough to get a movie made about their inner life,” Krisel says of his “Lost in Translation”-inspired plans for Christine. “That’s some interesting drama: the lady at Costco and what’s going on for her emotionally.”
And Anderson can’t wait to go back for more. “This is a set where everybody knows each other, and it’s the most welcoming and warm and loving group of people,” he says.
“Nobody gets yelled at because they made a mistake. There’s no tension. [Krisel] really has a family environment. And it’s perfect because we’re shooting a family that has never been on TV before.”