Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2000

Atypical actress is foil on ‘Norm’

Faith Ford rebounds from ‘Maggie Winters’ sitcom failure

October 1, 2000


— Faith Ford and Norm Macdonald are seated on a sofa during a rehearsal. The sofa is worn and couch-potato yellow. Macdonald is just your average guy. Ford is, well, quite the opposite.

Ford laughed, admitting that "why are you doing this?" has been the reaction to her appearance on Macdonald's politically incorrect sitcom "Norm."

She plays Shelly Kilmartin, a probation officer who once had a thing going with Norm, an ex-hockey player, gambler and tax evader sentenced to community service as a social worker. But she came to her senses. Or maybe not.

Ford appeared as a guest star on six episodes of the ABC series last season. Now she's signed on full-time. Reruns are scheduled through September, with the first new episode airing on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 8:30 p.m. Then, on Oct. 6, the show will begin running in its regular time slot on Friday at 8 p.m.

Ford played Corky Sherwood, the cute but naive reporter on "Murphy Brown" for nine years. It earned her five Emmy nominations for supporting actress.

After that, Ford was signed by the network as star and co-executive producer of "Maggie Winters," a sitcom about a divorcee who returns to her hometown. After it ended, Ford found "Norm" surprisingly attractive.

"To me it was literally about just going back to work," she said.

And what about Macdonald, the Canadian comedian who did the "Weekend Update" spot on NBC's "Saturday Night Live"?

"To play a comedian's love interest is a challenge to an actress because Norm isn't really an actor. He's learning actually as he goes along," Ford said.

As she elaborates, her remark turns into more of a compliment. She explains Macdonald's ability to improvise and surprise: "I'd be looking at the script and going, 'He's not doing anything that's down here."'

But now she's caught on to his method: "He's actually smarter than I thought he was. I used to think he was kind of meandering around. ... Then I saw him giving notes to the writer one day, and he was so specific in his notes as to what worked and what didn't work that I went, 'Oh, I see, so this is all just a little thing that he does!"'

But enough of Norm. What about Shelly?

Ford described this character as "smart, classy ... salt of the earth, who will get into anything, doesn't mind telling people her opinions, especially Norm." Shelly is the voice of reason on a show where the opinions expressed by Norm and most of the other characters are rarely reasonable.

So what are Shelly's current feelings toward uncouth, sarcastic Norm?

"I think she's got blinders on because I think there is (still) a physical chemical attraction there, but she's resisting it because she knows that it's not a good thing," Ford said. "That kind of guy is probably good for her, probably loosens her up a little bit, makes her laugh. There are a lot of women like that. ... They are so intrigued by the unknown, someone who is so foreign to them."

The "will they, won't they" aspect of romance has been integral to many successful sitcoms. But for now, Bruce Helford, co-creator and executive producer of Warner Bros. Television production, insists it's strictly "they won't, they won't."

He thinks Shelly's full-time presence is needed to "soften Norm. ... Bring out his best aspects. ... Show he genuinely likes women."

Full of praise for Ford's beauty and comedic skills, Helford said, "In our crazy world she's a very grounded presence." He seemed to be referring to both the character and the actress.

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