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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Her phone's still busy

October 26, 2008|Choire Sicha | Sicha is a freelance writer.

We caught up with Jessica Walter at her New York apartment on Yom Kippur and talked about how she keeps her black Lab shiny with a little oil, her recurring (non)-maternal roles on "90210" and "Saving Grace" -- and that "Arrested Development" movie. (Maybe!)

The movie is allegedly happening? Are there contracts?

Allegedly! I don't think anybody's had a contract. But we're all hoping it happens. I've heard rumors.

Well, so have I, but. . . .

Honestly, the most I know is what I hear from the other cast members, which is that everyone's hoping it comes together -- and that Mitch [Hurwitz] does have a story line. And that [incessant beeping] means I have a message on my phone. Does that bother you?

No! I'm glad you're popular.

Things have been pretty good. I have a nice big dog, a terrific husband, a fabulous daughter, who's out in L.A. And she is vice president of ABC Family programming and development.

Ooh, cutthroat. So are you atoning?

You know something, I'm not religious. But I'm very Jewish in my heart. Organized religion is a little tricky! I admire anyone who follows their heart. Mine just doesn't take me quite to the door.

So take me back. You went out to L.A., and thought, "I'll hustle at the TV scene and do an episode of 'Flipper.' "

That was out of Florida! One of the first shows I ever did. I was 18, or 20 or something. . . . This is the worst. The story is, I remember, that we were in trouble on our boat, and medicine was dropped from a helicopter and it missed the boat and went into the ocean, so they sent Flipper to dive down and nudge it up with his nose. So I was saying to the other actors, "Isn't it amazing, they had Flipper fall from the helicopter and into the ocean and he doesn't swim away!" And they said, "Oh, that's the dead dolphin, they keep it on ice." Remember the little pelican, Pete? I said, "Isn't it amazing, Pete doesn't fly away!" They said, "Oh, they broke his legs." Welcome to TV!

It's like finding out Lassie's been beaten and burned! So from there --

You know I was doing theater in New York. So when these jobs came along, it was like, wow, TV! My first big job was "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." One of the reasons eventually I decided to move there, there was a garbage strike in New York, an elevator strike and a subway strike, all at the same time. And I said to my husband, my first husband at the time, "Something's telling us. . . . "

A good time to get out!

Yeah, but I sure wish I still had that apartment! It was at 58th and 7th, you know the Stanford White building with gargoyles? We paid $300-a-month rent. And get this! When we left, the apartment was going coop. I could have had a two-bedroom, two-full-bath, 10th-floor, rounded oval looking up the park, like Central Park South? We could have had it for $15,000. At that time it seemed like a fortune.

And then TV shows got more packaged, in terms of like, the post-"Love Boat" era. Everything became lavish.

I loved those shows. I liked watching the makeup and the hair. You know "90210," the costume designer, Debra McGuire, she's really setting some fashions with these kids. I would look ridiculous in the outfits! But wonderful, creative, trendy stuff.

And those girls are model-thin.

Two. Two of them. Out of three! Ha! I'll tell you, when I was coming up in the business, especially in the '60s, there was a big emphasis on being thin. Twiggy was this famous skinny model, and all those Warhol girls were stick-thin and heroin-chic-looking, grungy. So to this day, I feel pressure to not gain weight. Barbara Bush said once, when she became first lady, everyone attacked her for having gray hair. And she said, "I thought when I turned 50 it would be OK to have gray hair, but it's not!" There's pressure on all of us. So I can empathize with those gals.

Have you ever had a tabloid run-in?

I am so not fodder for the tabloids. You know, way back, there was an article in a paper that lasted about six months, called 7 Days.

It was run by Adam Moss, who is now the editor of New York magazine!

[Current husband] Ron [Liebman] and I were appearing in "Rumors," Neil Simon's play. And there was an article that said we'd had a big fight about dressing rooms. And Cindy Adams from the [New York] Post called us! She said, "Before I put this in the paper, I want to check it out with you." And I said, "No, it is not true and thank you for asking." We actually called our lawyer! And he said, "Do you want to give more attention to this stupid thing? Just forget about it." So that was our only ever . . . we're the most quite boring people.

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