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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Christine Lahti, 'Yonkers Joe'

January 04, 2009|Choire Sicha

Christine Lahti stars in "Yonkers Joe" as the girlfriend of a scammy gambler (Chazz Palminteri). It opens Friday. She also appears in "Obsessed," coming this spring. She is married to director-producer Thomas Schlamme; the oldest of their children is 20 and the twins are 15. We found her in Aspen over the holidays.

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Are you always up and about at 7:30 a.m.?

Yes, I am! If it's not skiing, I am up with my kids who are still in high school. I love getting up at 6 or 6:30 -- and I take them to school, or I go spin. Have you done that?

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Yes! You must be in great shape.

I'm in pretty good shape. Here in the high altitude of Aspen I did pretty well yesterday. I only fell down once. And I was standing still.

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And the kids are surviving high school?

They're doing great. I remember having a lot more sort of issues in high school. I don't know about you. But they're doing really well. I remember high school as being fraught with constant self-consciousness.

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I remember it being a nightmare.

Yeah! But I dunno, I was doing theater. What about you?

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I had dual interests: the theater's stage crew and marijuana.

Well, that's an interesting club, the marijuana club.

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We got a lot done.

I bet you did. I didn't know that existed in high school. I was so naive. I was in Birmingham, Mich., a huge public school, just massive. And I did theater, then went to the University of Michigan. Then I heard about things like marijuana. That was an exciting time -- the late '60s, early '70s, the hotbed of radicalism. That became the reason I still am such an activist. I'm so grateful for those years.

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What are your political goals for 2009?

Well. I'm full of hope for the first time in eight years, as a lot of us are. I'm hoping first of all for a lot of the women's rights issues to be addressed by Obama. I think the gag rule and a lack of funding for family planning, sex education -- all that stuff that Bush really pulled back. Certainly I'm grateful that Obama will not be reversing Roe vs. Wade.

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Are you going to D.C. for the shindig?

I'm not. I'm shooting a pilot in mid-January. I went to Clinton's inauguration, the first one.

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So what is this pilot?

The pilot is called "Operating Instructions," and it's for USA Network. I'm really excited, it's very comedic, the part. It's an hour dramedy. I play this very Republican -- which is a first for me! And it's good. I want to reach across the aisle and find compassion with Republicans. That's one of my goals for '09. She's a Navy officer, and she's now the top administrator of the naval hospital, modeled after Camp Pendleton. She's very anal and strict and lonely and funny and kinky -- she's really an interesting character. And mostly because I'm playing someone who watches Fox -- she TiVos Bill O'Reilly.

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What do you miss more: "Jack & Bobby" or "Studio 60"?

Oh, God! Isn't it sad that all these really -- I love both of them. . . . I would have to say "Jack & Bobby" if you had a gun to my head.

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I loved it. I was maybe alone.

You and my mom. Who else watched it? Oh, my kids watched it. Because I forced them. But it just didn't have an audience. Maybe it was the wrong network.

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Are you going back to directing?

Yeah. Well, I want to. I consider myself a student director. I do have a script that I'm trying to find financing for. It's always tough times to find financing for independent films -- now it's just ridiculous. People just laugh. "Sure, we'll give you a million dollars for a movie about a dysfunctional relationship between a mother and a daughter with no big stars!" You have to get the biggest gorilla movie stars. But they're busy making millions of dollars. They're going to come do my movie for $1.98? But I'm optimistic. It'll happen. I just find a way to keep lowering the budget.

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2009 is going to be sort of hairy.

Yeah, it really is. I'm just glad I have a job. I'm so excited about this pilot. Let's hope it gets picked up.

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You do have, like, two movies this season.

I do. "Yonkers Joe," of course, and a small part in "Obsessed," the Beyonce movie. She was just remarkable. She can act. She's a really good actress. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm thinking she's going to be pretty amazing. Of course my daughter was really impressed I worked with Beyonce. I'm riding high on that until she sees the part is really small.

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[90 minutes later] Hello?

Hi, it's Christine Lahti again. Can I amend my answer about 2009? The main thing I'm looking forward to in 2009 is the end of the war in Iraq. I thought about it, and I thought that what I want more than anything is to end that stupid war.

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calendar@latimes.com

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