She hit the bong with Peter Sarsgaard and Zach Braff in this year’s indie hit Garden State and sparred with Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman at the dinner table in I [heart] Huckabees. Now former Designing Women star Jean Smart is back on series TV as the devoted wife of John Goodman in the new CBS sitcom Center of the Universe (Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.). It may be her only 2004 role not to win critics over, but this working mother of one has no complaints.
This year you’ve been the scene-stealing queen in indie features. Why do another sitcom?
It’s the perfect job if you’re a mom. Hats off to anybody who can do a one-hour drama, because I don’t know when they see their children. And John Goodman was a huge draw. We have good chemistry.
But the show’s getting slammed by critics.
No! Don’t say anything else! I haven’t read the reviews.
Oh, you’re so lying.
I know … I used to hear actors say that and think, ”Yeah, right.” But I did a play with the late Nancy Marchand, and somebody made the mistake of asking her about a review. And she barked, ”What the hell do I care what they’re saying?!” and she meant it. I realized that she was right. I don’t read them unless somebody tells me they’re great. It’s too masochistic.
You popped up in Garden State and I Heart Huckabees this year. Why are indie filmmakers knocking on your door?
I don’t know — maybe because I’m not really a type. I’m sort of a character actress and a leading lady. I go back and forth, and ultimately it serves me well.
You played Aileen Wuornos in a 1992 TV movie, and Charlize Theron won an Oscar for playing her in last year’s Monster. Think you could’ve pulled off Monster?
Honestly? Yes, I do! I was pea green with envy. I wish that I could have done the prosthetic thing, but they had a lot more freedom. Park Overall played my girlfriend, and we weren’t even allowed to intimate that. It was okay for me to shoot somebody, but I couldn’t put my arm around Park Overall!