NEW YORK — To prepare for her role as a calculating vixen in the miniseries "Fresno," a satire of television's popular evening soaps, Teri Garr had to force herself to do something she had never done before.
She had to really watch some soaps.
"I got tapes of 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty,' and when I saw them I said, 'We're doing a parody of these? These are a parody,' " Garr said in an interview.
"I watched them and I kept saying, 'Didn't we just see this scene?' "
"Fresno," a six-hour CBS miniseries that begins Sunday, tells the story of "passion and intrigue in the raisin capital of the world."
In the series, also starring Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman and Charles Grodin, Garr plays sex-goddess Talon Kensington, the love-starved wife of a power-hungry raisin heir.
According to Garr, the producers had a difficult time casting the part.
"This woman is very vain, all that makeup and hair and mousse," she said. "The women they had come in who looked like that, actually, didn't get the humor in it.
"I said, 'Boys, I get the jokes, and I can do this.' "
The fact that Garr really gets the jokes may surprise fans who have watched her play a long parade of flaky blondes and helpless housewives in movies from "Young Frankenstein" to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to "Tootsie."
"I seem to excel at those parts," she said. "If you get your foot in the door doing one kind of part, that's the kind of role they call you for. I can't say I resent it--then I would resent my whole career."
Watching real soaps for the first time in her life was an eye-opener, Garr said.
"Joan Collins was the best. She really could sort of pull it off, be really outrageous and never even flinch. She was always either drinking champagne early in the morning or smoking some kind of a cigar or eating chocolates or doing something decadent."
But overall, Garr was rather surprised at the message that came through from the serials. "There's people doing whatever the hell they want and getting away with it," she said.