Television Q&A

Smart and Soul

Jean Smart is the new indie queen -- The ''Center of the Universe'' star talks about her versatility and why she doesn't read reviews

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!

Originally posted Dec 13, 2004 Published in issue #797 Dec 17, 2004 Order article reprints
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