Playing a nihilistic bitch didn’t always come easy. In fact, actress Kathy Kinney, The Drew Carey Show’s dressed-to-distress Mimi, says that in real life — minus the psychedelic muumuus and electric blue eye shadow — she looks ”like someone you’d want to care for your children or your aging mother. That’s the kind of roles I usually get sent out on — nurses, nannies, nuns. They used to send me to [play] Nazis. But I couldn’t quite get the meanness.”
Not a problem anymore. As Mimi, Kinney has helped create the sitcom world’s surliest, most blatantly cruel character — an evil clown in a land of Milquetoast Midwesterners. (A recent Mimi-ism to Drew: ”Your doctor called about some blood tests. It turns out you really are a pig.”)
Yet despite her invective toward Carey, the show’s hapless hero, Mimi’s id-like tirades have gained her a following. ”I went to my bank, and I was all ready to [complain] about a problem. A male teller ran over and said, ‘I just have to tell you that I love the show and I love Mimi!’ ” recalls Kinney, 42. ”There’s just something about her that [people] like. I think it’s that everyone has anger they want to voice.”
To mine her own inner hostility, Kinney had to reach way back. ”I [told one reporter] that I had based Mimi on the naughty, mean little girls I had known growing up. My mom read the article and pointed out to me that I was one of the mean little girls,” she says with a laugh. ”I definitely alternated between ‘Look at the pretty kitten’ and poking somebody with a stick.”
It’s appropriate, then, that Mimi looks like a maladjusted child playing dress-up — although that’s not how Mimi would describe herself. ”She thinks she’s Heather Locklear,” says Kinney.
Kinney, a Wisconsin native, describes her own, more understated off-camera look as ”Amish,” a fact she regretted at her audition for Drew Carey. ”I was dressed up in my faux Armani look, all black and white. I actually looked the best that I possibly could as a human,” she says. ”I went in and apologized for looking attractive.”