Interview: Cloris Leachman of American Cowslip

Disc Dish had a grand time speaking with the Cloris Leachman about her role in the independent film American Cowslip: A Redneck Comedy (Entertainment One, DVD $24.98, released on Sept. 7, 2010; read our DVD review).

Written, directed and produced by Mark David, American Cowslip is a colorful if undeniably dark comedy about a drug addict (co-writer Ronnie Gene Blevins) and his dealings with the colorful denizens of his small California desert town. The movie features such not-shabby co-stars as Peter Falk (TV’s Columbo), Rip Torn (TV’s The Larry Sanders Show), Diane Ladd (Wild at Heart) and Bruce Dern (TV’s Big Love).

I spoke to the very lively and very busy Leachman, a five-time Emmy Award-winning actress (and don’t forget, she’s an Oscar winner, as well!), on the phone as she was in a car heading over to the Laguna Playhouse, where she was getting ready to take the stage for a performance of her one-woman show entitled, not surprisingly, Cloris: A One Woman Show. I’m assuming that can be pretty grueling work for an actor, particularly when you’re also appearing in a new weekly television, as Ms. Leachman is in the new Fox sitcom Raising Hope.

Disc Dish: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Ms. Leachman!

Cloris Leachman: It’s my pleasure, dear.

DD: So tell me, how did American Cowslip, an offbeat dark comedy, initially make its way to you?

CL: Everyone always asks me that about all my projects! It came to me the same way all projects do — my agent called me with a script, I read it, we talked about it and its advantages and disadvantages, and then we made a decision.

DD: I assumed that Mark David might have had an in with you or one of the other well-known members of the cast.

CL: Actually, I think Diane Ladd might have known the co-writer and star Ronnie Gene Blevins. She read the script early on and was excited about it. It was a very interesting script about a drug addict. I think Ronnie was an addict at one time, but I don’t know how much of it is personal. I enjoyed the movie. It was made with so much care and detail.

DD: Many of your scenes in the film were with Diane Ladd.

CL: Yes, and that was a delight. And she gave me the most beautiful candle when we were finished.

DD: How do you enjoy working on independent films like American Cowslip? Are the working conditions and accommodations a little different from other Hollywood work?

CL: I’m always so beautifully taken care of on all the projects I’m in that I can’t complain. I’m actually amazed at how well I’m treated. Amazed and grateful!

DD: The last several years have seen you straddling the worlds of both film and television —

CL: –you don’t really straddle them. You go to each place separately.

DD: Okay. In which of the two worlds do you prefer to live and act?

The five-time Emmy winner on stage in Cloris: A One-Woman Show.

CL: I’ll answer that question with a story my mother-in-law once told me a about something that happened during the Depression. There’s a knock on her back door and she opens the door and there’s a women standing there. The woman asked my mother if she could please spare something to eat. My mother-in-law told her to come in and she offered her soup or eggs or meatloaf or macaroni and cheese. ‘What would you prefer?’ my mother-in-law asked. And the woman said, ‘I’m very fond of anything.’

DD: Gotcha. Before I forget, I wanted to tell you that I loved your appearance on the Bob Saget Roast a couple of years ago.

CL: That was a lot of fun! The funniest moment was when I told the audience that when Mary Tyler Moore has an orgasm, she throws her hat in the air. Everyone loved that! I saw Mary at the Emmy Awards a few weeks after that, and she had heard about what I said and was very amused.

DD: Speaking of Mary Tyler Moore, I read online about some sort of ongoing, friendly feud between you and fellow Mary Tyler Moore Show alum Betty White. What’s the story there?

CL: The story is that we’re both in our 80s! That’s it, and that’s big news. The truth is that Betty White and I aren’t even friends! We’ve worked together four times in 40 years. We’re both in the movie You Again, which is opening tomorrow.

DD: Maybe the two of you should get together and do a TV show or movie, so you can quell the rumors of a feud.

CL: Possibly. Anything can come your way sooner or later.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.