Actress Annie Potts became a television favorite in the sitcom "Designing Women," but before that she had appeared on the big screen in "Ghostbusters." She recently starred in ABC's "GCB," which was canceled. She grew up in Kentucky and studied theater at Stephens College in Missouri. The 59-year-old has been married four times and is the mother of three sons. She stars in the Hallmark Channel original movie "The Music Teacher" with Richard Thomas. It airs Saturday at 9 p.m.
In the Hallmark movie, you play a music teacher, and I understand in real life you are doing some teaching.
I have taught some master classes and things at my alma mater and sometimes at my kids' school. I will go in and talk to the theater students. I wouldn't really call myself a teacher.
Do you enjoy it? What is it the students most want to know?
I do. I love it. I remember from being in school how great it was for people to come in. It was nice if they had an attachment to my school, people from there who had made it. So it's like, "Hey, you did it. How did you do it? Was it hard?" When they are still in school, they don't know.
How does it feel now that you have made it?
For starters, I had great parents who said "go for it." They never made me feel I couldn't do it. I think they underestimated a little bit my ambition. [Laughing]. They supported me in every way. You know that really paid off for me? We all just want someone to believe in [us], and I mean if your parents don't believe in you ... My parents didn't have any idea about the entertainment business. Because I have a little too much information, I think I have made it more difficult for my own children. You know, sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Speaking of the hard side of this business, why don't networks give shows more of a chance to catch on like "GCB"?
I think it's just numbers for them. Although I think our numbers were good, they were hoping that we would instantly have some kind of, you know, "Desperate Housewives" numbers. I sure am sad that it didn't go forward because I was having a wonderful time, and gosh, that was a great character for me.
Does the business side of show business drive you crazy?
Yeah, I can't really be part of it, you know? All I can do is show up and do the best work I possibly can. That's all I can do. I've been at it a long time. Some are real heartbreaks. It's still hard to get anything on. First of all, it's hard to get the role. They say getting a show on the air and having it be a success, literally the odds are like winning the lottery. For me, I've won the lottery several times, so I've been awfully lucky.
Doing movies for television, you eliminate the worry of wondering if it will be picked up for another season.
Well, I love steady employment. [laughing] There is something wonderful to be said for that. I like doing a series. I like to work nine months of the year. You know school kind of puts you on a track. You work nine months of the year and you have a couple of months off. I like that schedule [laughing]. But, so few can have it. I love series television because it's so much fun to have that much opportunity to paint the character.
So when you do a character for a long time like on "Designing Women," do parts of that character start to blend with your own?
Somebody said there is a rule of thumb: The most successful TV characters are those who are most closely aligned with the people who are playing them. If you think about it, there really aren't many successes that don't have that: Ray Romano is kind of that guy. Jerry Seinfeld is kind of that guy. The character I played on "Designing Women" was a lot like me. The woman on "Any Day Now," a lot like me. Gigi (from GCB) [laughing], you know there are parts of me that are like her. You have the most success then I think. For me it was fun to put on the wig and all that paint.
Are you equally comfortable in front of a live audience as in front of the camera?
I am, I am. I sure do love theater. I mean that's where I started. I am actually sort of shy, but something happens when the audience comes in. It's something nice for me. It terrifies me, but I'm able to do it.
Is it a rush?
Yeah! Oh yeah, it feels good.
What is it like to age in the business and go from young, single girl to playing the mother?
Well, I became a mother myself at 28 so I'm always comfortable being the mother. I guess the implication is once you become the mother then you are no longer the viable sexual whatever. The ingenue roles aren't all that fulfilling. There is much more texture, depth, wisdom, humor, etc., the older you get. So I never thought that it was a bad thing.
I have always sort of been a character actor. I have always counted on the fact that it would be in my favor as I aged. There are always roles for me. The work that I have done hasn't been based on an extraordinary beauty that would be mourned if it weathered. [laughing]. Mine is a passable attractiveness that is just fine at 60.
So are you aiming for a Betty White-style, long-term career?
You bet! She is totally my hero. And you know, she always seems like she is having a fantastic time, doesn't she? I think she is.
Working and having a purpose is supposed to keep you younger longer.
Yeah, I mean who would want a purposeless life? I don't know anybody who wants that. I think it behooves us to show that to our children because God knows these children are going to live to be 120. Let's hope they are going to be productive. Otherwise they are going to be mighty bored.breakfast