Attention casting directors: Marisa Tomei has got the TV bug. And not just any kind of TV: the Oscar winner is eager to return to the sitcom, where she got her start in 1987 on “A Different World.”
Tomei is still riding a high from starring in ABC’s recent “Live In Front of a Studio Audience” event, from executive producers Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel. Tomei starred as Edith Bunker in a re-creation of an “All in the Family” episode, and she said it convinced her it was time to get back to television.
“I’ve wanted to do a show for a while because I want to be in one place for a bit of time,” Tomei told Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “Part of it is just a different phase of life. After this ‘All in the Family’ live thing, I’m snake bit. I was telling my agents, I really want to do a sitcom! And they were like, no you don’t want to do sitcoms, nobody wants to do sitcoms. But I really want to do a sitcom!
“I like being in front of an audience, I do a lot of theater. And doing that, having that experience was such a thrill,” she said. “That format could be something I’d like to do. Because you can be very broad and I don’t get that many opportunities to do that.”
Tomei got on board “Live In Front of a Studio Audience” after a call from TV legend Lear, who reminded the actress that they met 30 years ago to discuss doing a TV project together. It took three decades, but it finally happened.”
“Norman called me on my cell phone,” she said. “He goes, ‘Remember 30 years ago when I said I was going to call you? I’m calling you now!’ And the thing was, I did meet him 30 years ago and he did say he was going to call me 30 years ago and he didn’t until now! So in this crazy way, Norman Lear discovered me!”
On this edition of the podcast, we talk to Tomei about how “Live In Front of a Studio Audience” went, whether she’d do it again, and the scariest moment of the evening (hint: it has something to do with that famous theme song). We also talked to her about her favorite episode of TV ever, the pilot to this year’s Netflix series “Russian Doll.” Listen below:
The premiere episode of “Russian Doll,” titled “Nothing in This World Is Easy,” comes from a story by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler, and a teleplay by Headland, who also directed.
The show, which premiered February 1 on Netflix, follows Nadia, played by Lyonne, on her 36th birthday. After leaving her own birthday party at her friend Maxine’s loft, Nadia abruptly dies that night — and immediately finds herself back in Maxine’s loft bathroom. It happens over and over again, and at first, only Nadia seems to be affected.
“Russian Doll” was recently picked up for a second season, and Lyonne and company are preparing a whole new tale for Nadia and friends.
Tomei literally stumbled across “Russian Doll” before it even premiered. She was walking through the East Village in Manhattan late one evening when she came across Lyonne, an old friend since their days starring together in the 1998 film “The Slums of Beverly Hills.” Lyonne was shooting “Russian Doll,” and Tomei was an immediate fan.
“I see Natasha at the corner of Tompkins Square Park, and I see the trailers there, it was late at night,” she said. “Just walking through her set is how I heard it was going on!”
The night “Russian Doll” premiered, Tomei binged the entire series. “It is an experience, like reading a really good book. It stays with you, there are so many layers to it,” she said. “It’s very much about this legacy, her character is holding because of the stuff she worked through with her mom. This metaphor of Russian dolls as females. There is always a Russian doll inside of us.”
“It’s also so pleasurable, and what Leslie and Natasha and Amy chose, everything is right,” she added.
Coincidentally, Tomei also knew Headland because they had met in the past with an eye toward working on TV together. (Memo to Lyonne, Headland and Poehler: How about casting Tomei in Season 2?)
“Leslye Headland and I met a few times to think of a show to do because I’ve been trying to do a show for a really long time,” she said. “In my dreams perhaps it would happen. I was gobsmacked to see that these two had gotten together and what they had created.”
As for “Live In Front of a Studio Audience,” when asked whether the cast might return next year (think of it as a repertory company), Tomei said, “If they did, that would be thrilling. It’s the best of everything for a performer, it’s a stage performance but everyone gets to see it and it’s quick — and we know the writing’s incredible.”
“I feel very lucky in a tiny way for one week to be a part of this golden age of television, because I’ve been wanting to do it for so long,” she said. “I can’t let the golden age of television pass me by!”
Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode With Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.