When the sitcom Retired at 35 returns to the TV Land network for its second season on June 26, Broadway fans can look forward to seeing Tony Award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur as the romance-challenged daughter of bickering parents played by stage and screen stars George Segal and Jessica Walter. To say that the effervescent Winokur is thrilled about her new role is an understatement, as she conveyed to Broadway.com in her mile-a-minute conversational style!
How excited are you to be joining the cast of Retired at 35?
I am ridiculously excited. After I did Dancing With the Stars [in 2008], I ended up hosting Dance Your Ass Off and The Talk, all this reality TV stuff. I had been in a weird funk—my dad passed away—and when they offered me Hairspray at the Hollywood Bowl last summer [reprising her Tony-winning performance as Tracy Turnblad in concert with Harvey Fierstein], I didn’t know if I could do it. But when I walked off that stage at the Bowl, I said, “This is what I'm supposed to be doing. I am an actress!” It really brought my spirit back and made me believe in myself again.
And now you’re in a TV comedy in a cast filled with stage veterans.
I have never fought as hard for a job. I walked into the room with 40 tall, skinny, perfect girls, and I was like, “Never in a million years am I going to get this, but it’s good practice to be auditioning again.” There was no physical description of the role: Even at the end, it was me [vs.] a girl who could have played Amber [Von Tussle, the glamour-puss in Hairspray].
Well, the Retired at 35 website has a video clip of George Segal bragging on you and saying that you keep everyone “up, and on their toes.”
Everybody in this cast is theatrical, and they have embraced me, and my energy, with open arms. George Segal said, “Let’s do a promo where I’m on the banjo and Marissa is singing!” Jessica and I were like mother and daughter instantly. I read with Johnathan McClain, who plays my brother, and I thought, “He has no clue who I am.” It turned out that he had seen me in Hairspray four times; he’s a total theater guy.
Tell us a little about your character.
I have a great arc—I’m engaged, but I may be in love with my brother’s best friend, and I want to keep the guy I’m seeing away from my crazy family. There are five people in the cast, and two are in love with me and three are related to me! The writers and directors are from shows like Roseanne and Married With Children and Friends; it’s like Sitcom Training 101, with the best teachers.
Obviously we would love to have you back on Broadway. Do you have any dream roles?
People are always asking, “Why aren’t you on Broadway?” and I’m like, “Because it’s not that easy to get back.” It’s not really a curse that I look like I’m 20 onstage—I was making out with Nick Jonas [as Link] a year ago—but I want to do the roles Ethel Merman did. My dream is to play loud, broad-y women in old-school shows like Annie Get Your Gun, Mame. I would love to do Mack and Mabel. I’m a Broadway girl at heart, and I would come back tomorrow if there was a show.
What’s new with your adorable son, Zev?
He’s a typical little boy: He just won a trophy in karate, and he loves video games. He is not even four yet, and he has won every level of Angry Birds. I don’t know what the purple bird does, and he’s like, “Mom!” Last summer, he came to all three [Hairspray] shows at the Hollywood Bowl. On the last night, he said, “I want Mommy and Harvey to watch me on that big stage.” I said, “Oh, you’re going to sing and dance?” And he said, “No, I want to tell jokes.” I said, “Someday!”