The actress talks about Peggy Hill and the new episodes coming up
Kathy Najimy might not be someone you'd recognize on the street... but you might recognize one of her voices. Najimy has been the voice of matriarch Peggy Hill on Fox's hit animated series King of the Hill for the past 11 years and more, since Fox recently picked up the series for another season. I was in on a conference call with Najimy to talk about the new episodes of King of the Hill and Mother's Day. Here's what the actress had to say.
Have you ever met anyone that's close to Peggy Hill? Are there any Peggy Hill's in your life?
Kathy Najimy: Wow. Yeah, absolutely. Haven't you met so many people, you're at a party and you're discussing something and they add a bit of information and everybody is so completely aware that it's wrong? It's amusing for that moment, isn't it? Anybody who has kids, as they gather information and spew it back it to you, it's always wildly entertaining. My daughter once looked at me and made a big proclamation that God blessed her (Laughs). You just shake your head and go, 'Really? Wow, that's interesting. I've never heard that.' I think they get excited about information coming into their head. I think that's a lot like Peggy, right? She gets some information and she's so excited to let it out that she doesn't bother to make sure it's anywhere near correct.
What have you learned about Peggy over the last 11 years?
Kathy Najimy: That's a really good question. I have learned, actually, quite a bit from her. I've learned that a family can have little glitches without being labeled dysfunctional. Just watching it and being a part of the Hill family, they get into these little scuffles and they make wrong decisions and then the next moment they're all sitting around the table eating pork chops like nothing ever happened. It's just a lovely metaphor for "forgive and forget." (Laughs) I think that, at the core of this family, that there is a real respect and that is really moving, and funny. I think these everyday situations that the writers come up with, that's why the show has been on for so long.
Do you play Boggle in your spare time?
Kathy Najimy: I play Boggle constantly! I have no idea how they knew that, because I came, I think it was the third episode ever, 12 years ago, and I read that Peggy was a Boggle champion and I almost stepped out of my skin with excitement. I think Boggle is my favorite game. This summer we were lucky enough to be at the beach all summer and I played more with Boggle than with my kid. I love it, a lot.
What can you tell me about WALL-E? Who do you play?
Kathy Najimy: I play a character named Mary and I actually haven't seen the movie. I'm seeing it on the 20th. I was so honored to do it. When my agent called and said Pixar, I said yes right away. I know there are not a lot of characters. I think there are 5 human characters. It's a combination and a little tiny bit of live-action. It's really, very ahead of its time. I can't wait.
With Mother's Day coming up, who do you think Peggy Hill would pick as the top TV moms of all time, and why?
Kathy Najimy: Oh, Peggy Hill? She would pick Peggy Hill as the top TV mom of all time. You mean, of living people?
Kathy Najimy: You know, Peggy has a very strong parental code and she's very proud of it. Not only will she parent her kids, but she'll parent yours as well. In fact, I think it's a great subject for a Weekly Musings column in the Arlen paper. If you have any child-rearing problems at all, or want to know how to make spaghetti and meatballs, she will advise you and stand by it and then bask in the glow for quite a few hours. A great mother, she thinks. Hands down, she thinks she's the best mother.
Well, who would come in second?
Kathy Najimy: I guess that lady with the blue hair. I forget her name.
If you as Peggy Hill could change anything about Hank or Bobby, what do you think it would be?
Kathy Najimy: Better Mother's Day presents. If they just put a little more thought into it and weren't afraid to go to the Large and Lovely Ladies shoe section and get her real size shoes. Jewlery is always good. I think she's pretty darn happy with Bobby and Hank. That's the thing about King of the Hill. Mike (Judge) is kind of a genius when he designed these characters because they're pretty much unaware of the rest of the world and it's pretty rare where families are like that. It's just their little world. Peggy thinks Bobby is handsome and as smart as all get-out and she thinks her husband is maybe a little bit stuffy, but I bet she's go to George Clooney and go, 'You look a lot like Hank.'
What TV mom have you looked up to the most?
Kathy Najimy: Other than Peggy Hill, who, honestly, I just love this character. I can't tell you how much of a joy it is to play her every week. I'm a complainer, but I can't ever find anything to complain about King of the Hill. It's one of the best stuff we've ever had, ever. This character is fantastic. Also, a live-action mom that I really like is Roseanne, because I've found her to be the most realistic. Who doesn't love Mary Tyler Moore, I loved her, and Lucy. She was the beginning of my career.
What are your plans for Mother's Day?
Kathy Najimy: They never tell me. I know I do get a massage. The rest of the day I have my daughter take me from thing to thing and there's always some wonderful surprise.
How is it different for you doing a voiced character. Is it more difficult than you being in front of the camera?
Kathy Najimy: That's another good question. I would say that, really, it's easier to do voice-overs. I've done hundreds of them and I also have spent many many years in front of the camera too. Artistically, it all comes down to the words. You can be on a TV show that has really brilliant writing and have the time of your life. You can be in a film that has not-so-good writing, so it's really not the genre for me, or the venue, it's the writing. I did a Broadway show and it was fantastic writing and it was grueling but I had the time of my life. I've done some sitcoms that are sort-of shallowly-written and I wanted to jump. It really depends, but, generally speaking, just because of the mechanics of it, voice-over is easier because there is no hair, no makeup, no wardrobe, no fittings, no line memorizing. You don't have to me woken up in Russia at 6 in the morning and go film a scene. It's just easier on the body, the family life to do voice-overs. That being said, I've had some of my most fulfilling experiences acting in front of the camera too.
You have to live the role more, so to speak, if you're in front of the camera, when you're bringing a character in...
Kathy Najimy: No, no I use the same acting muscles, even more because you have to channel all of it into your voice, whereas when you're live-action you get props and scenery and other actors and your facial expressions and what happens to help you. It's not necessarily easier as an actor to do voice-overs, it's easier as a person. Acting-wise, it's sort of different.
You can catch a brand new King of the Hill episode on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 11 at 8:30 PM ET on Fox.