411mania Interviews: Reba McEntire
Posted by Al Norton on 11.02.2012
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with country music legend Reba McEntire to discuss her new ABC sitcom Malibu Country.
Reba McEntire has sold 60 million records worldwide, with 35 number one songs, over the course of her 35+ year singing career, and her first starring sitcom role was on Reba, which ran for six seasons on The WB and The CW. Her new comedy series Malibu Country premieres tonight at 8:30pm on ABC.
Al Norton: I want to start by telling you that my brother and I, like many people, text each other movie quotes and song lyrics and other things like that that we love and have meaning to us and in our regular rotation of texts is, "I learned more from the stains than I did from the paper."
Reba McEntire: (Laughing) That's terrific. Thanks so much. Is There Life Out There. I love that line. That's great.
Al Norton: So do you tell you agents, "only send me scripts where women named Reba get done wrong by their men?"
Reba McEntire: (Laughing) Actually, I didn't even get this script from my agent. My oldest son Brandon found it.
Al Norton: What was it that appealed to you, both about the show in general and your character in particular?
Reba McEntire: It was the relationship between the Mom and the daughter, between the mother and the children. Her sensibilities, her "no, you will not talk to your Mother like that, young lady, now you go to your room" attitude. It was that kind of sensibility that I grew up with and that's what drew me to this concept, which Dave Stewart wrote. That's what I really loved. The other scripts I had read were broad and kind of farcical, but I really wanted this script because it made sense. It was the kind of TV show I wanted to be a part of, the kind there is not a lot of out there.
Al Norton: When you saw Dave Stewart's name on the script did you think, "nah, can't be the same Dave Stewart?" (Stewart is a very successful songwriter/producer who also teamed with Annie Lennox to form The Eurythmics)
Reba McEntire: My son Brandon and Dave Stewart rode in a plane together from Nashville to LA and were talking about what they did and Dave Stewart was telling him about the concept for the show and Brandon said, "well you ought to get Reba McEntire." And Dave Stewart said, "no, she's already got a TV show", so Brandon told him Reba had been cancelled in 2006. Dave Stewart said, "well I should get this to her" and Brandon told him, "she's my step-mom, I can get it to her."
I had already visited with ABC and we knew we wanted to do something together and when I saw I was ecstatic. I got with my producers and showrunner from the Reba show and showed it to them and they were interested so we took it to ABC and they were, too, and there we went.
Al Norton: This is your second time around carrying the weight of a series on your shoulders as the lead; knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as you were staring work on Reba?
Reba McEntire: Oh my gosh, we don't have enough time for that answer (laughing). I had no idea what I was doing back there. I just came on as an actor, I was not involved in any of the casting or scripts, nothing. In this one I basically found the concept, took it to ABC, and started from the ground floor. What I learned from the Reba show has really helped me become an executive producer on Malibu Country, to help with the scripts, with the story pitches. I read with the kids, I auditioned Jai Rodriguez. I didn't read with Sara Rue or Lily (Tomlin) because we did not read with them, we just made them an offer. Everybody else I was there for the audition and read with them.
Al Norton: How much of a thrill is it when you find out that Lily Tomlin is going to do your show?
Reba McEntire: I was totally ecstatic, just so thrilled. I've known her for about 10 years, we've run into each other in different places. She came to see me in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway and I went to see her one woman show on Broadway. For her to say yes to this television show was a dream come true.
Al Norton: Are you at all surprised by the continued popularity of your first show?
Reba McEntire: No. I think it's a really good story, we did a really good show. When Kelly Clarkson and I did a tour together, Melissa Peterman (McEntire's co-star on Reba) was our opening act and when we were in hotels she'd come over and hang out and we'd find ourselves watching Reba reruns and laughing our butts off. We knew it was a good show. There were some clunkers in there every once in a while – every episode can't be great – but we shot a bunch of good shows.
Al Norton: Do you find that because of how much it's on in reruns, some people think it's still on the air?
Reba McEntire: Yes, that happens. Some people have said, "you're doing another TV show? How are you going to find time to do two?!?" and I say, "Reba got cancelled in 2006." It's a very common thing that people think we're still filming it.
Al Norton: Have you had the chance to watch any of Nashville and if yes, does it seem realistic to you?
Reba McEntire: Absolutely. I've seen all the episodes so far. I love that and Revenge, Scandal, Revolution, and Homeland; those are the five I never miss right now. I truly love TV. With Nashville, the concept of the show certainly does happen. It's more of a concentrated, compact story; I don't know that an icon like Connie Britton plays would be an opening act to a newcomer so quickly. That was a little farfetched…No, it was way farfetched – you don't go downhill quite that fast – but I get that they are telling stories in a concentrated way to get the full impact.
Al Norton: For someone who might not think of themselves as the target audience for Malibu Country, why would they want to watch?
Reba McEntire: Because it's entertaining, it's funny, and it's got an icon – Lily Tomlin – in it, and if you've ever seen anything she's done, you know it's going to be funny. The cast is great, we all gelled together so quickly. Sara Rue's character is too funny; she's so great on this. The kids are great, too; Juliette Angelo and Justin Prentice are two major rising stars.
Al Norton: On Reba, with a couple of notable exceptions, your character didn't date very much; will we see you exploring that kind of thing a little more on Malibu Country?
Reba McEntire: Yes, we will. Sara Rue's character Kim is always trying to get Reba back on the dating scene again. Reba's a little too serious, too uptight. Lillie May – Lily's character – is a more liberal person and is really loving the Malibu lifestyle and both of them are trying to get Reba to loosen up a little bit before she has a nervous breakdown.
Al Norton: I know you've got plenty of folks from the old show behind the scenes but at some point as Malibu Country gets more established would you want any of your old co-stars to show up?
Reba McEntire: I would love to, absolutely love to. They're my great friends and I'd love to work with them again.
Don't miss the series premiere of Malibu Country, tonight at 8:30pm on ABC.