You hear the name Kathy Najimy and immediately the hard-core King of the Hill fans know she's the voice of Peggy Hill. But in her latest film, she goes an opposite way with Say Uncle; she plays a mother who gets a little too overzealous when a strange man (Peter Paige) starts hanging out with her kids and other kids in the neighborhood park.
Peter actually wrote and directed the film as well; Kathy was his first choice for this role and when she accepted, he knew he found a great catch. I caught up with Kathy who told me about taking the role and about what's up for Peggy and the rest of the Hill's in the next season of the Fox comedy.
Here's what we talked about:
This seemed like a hard role to play, so what made you say 'yes' immediately?
Kathy Najimy: It really wasn't a hard role to play; people know me from all the comedies, but that's not all I've done. I've done dramas and political stuff, but people know me from all the big comedies. But I liked a lot of things with it; I liked that it was a departure from that, maybe people would see I'm just an actress playing a funny person, that I'm really not that person. I felt she was a really easy part to play; I feel drama is much easier to play than comedy - and a real life person is used here.
So could you relate to her?
Kathy Najimy: I agreed with a lot of her points of view; many people know me as a feminist political activist, gay rights activist, and on that we differ on her homophobia and misinformation. She just didn't get enough through the feeding tube about gays and lesbians. But I feel she has the right signals going off and instincts to say, 'This man is inappropriate,' gay or straight; it has nothing to do with the fact that he's gay. So there were so many things that played there; there was her obvious homophobia, but I don't think this movie is about that. I think this movie is a little bit about hysteria and fear and fiercely protecting your kids and being a movie star - Maggie got to be a movie star in her little community. But if you showed me beat for beat, all those things, being a parent, I would start a rally, too. I don't care about him being gay. You shouldn't leave any single person in the playground playing with kids, you should never let a child into your apartment, shut the door, ever; it's not appropriate. So I agree with it.
You and your husband had a sub-plot going with your relationship; was some of that taken out or is that how Peter wanted to do it?
Kathy Najimy: No, that's how Peter had it, but again pump in some information for people to process; she wasn't happy at home - not so much that made her a bad person and that she was so bitter, but she needed a place to focus and get attention, and she wasn't getting attention from him. And this is all hindsight stepping back and saying, 'Oh!' I don't think it was to show what kind of sad and misguided person she is; I think it was more like 'she doesn't have much in her life.' That's why she's doing this big 'dog and pony' show.
What would you say was a scene that really defines your character?
Kathy Najimy: Well, I'd say the sex scene, Wednesday night and he just gets on top of her and you see the close-up of her face; there's just something profound and universal about that and really sad, she hides the cigarette. I really got her and I really didn't think she was a villain. And another reason why I played her is because I didn't want someone else to be like a 'gay horror show witch.' She had a lot of reason to be concerned.
It's funny that you bring up the word 'villain' because I was thinking 'she's the villain' even though she's not really a villain. Did you have to get in the mid set to play that part?
Kathy Najimy: It changed my perspective to think of people who are on the other side of that spectrum, politically. You tend to think of people as right or wrong, black or white, those people, those conservatives, traditionally religious, homophobic people. But I have to tell you, there wasn't an ounce of time spent trying to understand her; I agree with her. And Peter and I would fight about this; he would say, 'You're character is wrong, your character is wrong.' Because even though his character is not a molester, and we know that gay people, homosexuals don't molest; it's straight men who molest. But gay or straight, his character was inappropriate and in that way, I think she was right. She didn't go about it the right way, she lied about it, she had a little bit of fear. But beat for beat, I'm on her side; I'm a mother, I'm on her side, it's inappropriate, I don't care, you don't take a little girl into the bathroom, you don't. He was innocent, but wrong.
To switch gears a little, do you miss sitcoms?
Kathy Najimy: No, I did one for three years (Veronica's Closet) and pulled myself out; I get offers all the time. It was a really good experience, but I had that experience; I have a kid now and I don't want to be away from my kid every day. And there hasn't been anything that I've seen or been offered that is any different than any other sitcom - not a big fan of sitcoms and I don't watch them at all. Rosanne was good, but that was about it. So, it's really not for me; I don't want to do it. I want to stay with King of the Hill, which is the best job in the world; it is the best job in the world, and I am the most blessed person on Earth. Great writing, good character, and one day a week - no hair, no make-up, no line memorizing, wonderful actors, wonderful writers; it's like they come from Heaven. I'm a big complainer, and I have nothing to complain about, literally; they do such a good job. And I have that, and I do little tiny movies every once in a while that are interesting like this. And I speak - I go around the country and speak on different issues; and I feel with my family I'm filled up. And with that being said, you could hand me a sitcom script and I'll be there tomorrow. And I like guesting; I just did That's So Raven cause my daughter's a big fan, it's like The Beatles to her. And I'm on something now called Game Show Marathon which is kind of like a Dancing with the Stars kind of thing; keep watching every episode to see who wins, every single episode.
Yeah, how did you get involved in that?
Kathy Najimy: My friend, Ricki Lake is hosting and she knows I like games; I just won $100,000 on Celebrity Poker for my charity, and I gave money to Afghan women, and I give a lot of money to AIDS. It's a great way for me to play games, which I love, and make money for charities, which I love, and say the name of charities, which I LOVE. And she asked me and said it was for charity, I said, 'Sure!' So again, tune in to all of them to see who wins another $100,000 for his or her charity.
So what's going to happen to the Hill's next season?
Kathy Najimy: Peggy becomes a realtor; it's hilarious. Tom Petty makes a lot more guest appearances, Chris Elliott is a guest - he's just the funniest man ever, Johnny Knoxville is a guest; we have so many good guests coming in, ZZ Top. Oh, here's a good one we just did - Peggy finds a woman who she finds she's more feminine than, cause you know Peggy has the big helmet hair and so she really doesn't feel that feminine. So she finally meets this woman and it turns out to be a drag queen that she's hanging out with; so that's really fun. And one that's really good - Hank becomes addicted to video games; that's a good one, that's a really good one.
I want to know when you and Brittany Murphy are going to sing a duet on the show?
Kathy Najimy: Oh, wouldn't that be great! Let's do that! Brittany's a dear friend of mine and is such a talented singer; she's great, and it's just mind blowing. I'm so proud of her; she's a great person and that was one of the greatest gifts of King of the Hill was her.
Do you guys go in the booth together?
Kathy Najimy: Yeah, as much as possible; not when one of us is away doing a film. But, I'd say it's 70% together.
What do you want to do in the future that you haven't done yet?
Kathy Najimy: Wow, that's a good Barbara Walters question. You know what I really love, and this seems like such a simple goal - I don't want to be on an hour drama, cause it's too much work and time, but I was on Chicago Hope for three episodes years ago and I loved it. I didn't have to commit to being there every day; when you're on it for three weeks, it's a lot of lines for a rich character - like if you're on all year, it's kind of watered down what you get to go through. I would love to do another one of those, another one of those like Commander in Chief or Grey's Anatomy, or some other hour-long guest; it's not terribly lofty but I'd love to do that.
So Kathy Najimy president?
Kathy Najimy: Kathy Najimy president or a drug dealer or affair haver or stealer; it's horrible and it'd be awesome!
Finally, what do you want people to know about Say Uncle?
Kathy Najimy: I would say about this movie that no matter how you feel, at the end you're going to have a long discussion at the end with somebody. It's not really black and white, is it - which I think is very brave; at first, I was frustrated like 'Can't he be better?' But it's nice that he's not.
You can see Kathy and Peter in Say Uncle when it opens in Los Angeles and New York on June 23rd and following cities in the coming weeks; it's rated R.
And I couldn't help but notice Kathy's shirt promoting her husband, Dan Finnerty's band, The Dan Band; if you want to find out more about them, CLICK HERE.