Owning Her Age

At 62, actress Wendie Malick is as hot in person as she is in Cleveland, the location of her surprise-hit TV show

With the launch of the new season of her sizzling TV show, "Hot in Cleveland" star Wendie Malick invited Life Reimagined contributor Nancy Griffin on set to talk about her surprising success at age 62, her life's journey (detours included) and how she's built on all her experiences to create rich new possibilities in her career and private life. Here, in the first of two installments, Malick celebrates the power of female friendship, onscreen and off.

It's great to see a show about four women over the age of 50 dealing with real-life issues in a hilarious way.

When I was a young girl, all of the big comedies on television were helmed by great women, funny women. Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore were my heroines, and of course, Lucy. Then they went away, and there was the Golden Girls, but for the most part women of a certain age were absent from television for a decade. They certainly were not the ones that were the centerpiece of any shows. I kept thinking, "Why isn't one of the networks doing a show about women who are baby boomers?" There's a huge hunger for that.

Mary Tyler Moore didn't have bedroom scenes, but the "Hot in Cleveland" babes do.

Yeah, Mary Tyler Moore was certainly a different time. And, being on cable at 10 o'clock, we get away with a lot more murder than the old days!

The four of you obviously have great chemistry. Did you all get along right from the start?

Well, I knew Jane [Leeves], because we had worked together on "Frasier." I actually played her stepmother, because I married Frasier's and Niles' dad, the last season. But I had never met Valerie [Bertinelli] and I thought 'Oh my God, she's way too young to be my good pal.' Because I remembered her from "One Day at a Time" and I hadn't seen her in her grown-up life, and didn't realize how bawdy and fun she is. She's a solid woman and a great broad. So I wasn't sure about Val only because I didn't know her. And Betty [White], I had run into at various animal charity events over the years because we are both activists in that world.

But you just don't know until you sit down with the other actors and read the piece. That first day, all of us knew at exactly the same moment that we were on to something. We started reading and by the end we all looked at each other around the table and went: "Yes! Yes!" All the pieces fit together. And everybody with her own style comes to the dance and brings something original that works with everybody else.

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In your group dynamic, is Betty White like the wise older mentor or one of the girlfriends?

I feel like she's a girlfriend, although she has this plethora of experience. She was telling us the other day that when she started on live television, they gave her a show, and she had to fill 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, and there was no script, no writers. She just had to come up with stuff and she would sing and interview people and tell stories. She said it really was "Live TV Show Acting 101." So for her, this is all just a day at the beach. But in terms of her example, she's a true consummate professional who happens to love what she does and has incredible generosity.

Do you four hang out at all off-set?

We do. We show up for each other's charity involvements. Betty and I have done a little bit of crusading for animal rights and animal protection. Jane and Val have joined me in things for the Environmental Media Association and the Humane Society. We also get together and go for hikes. They've been to my house several times; they come over to see the animals. Jane's daughter and my niece are going to the same school next year and they both love horses. We miss each other when we have long breaks, but we realize that we owe it to the other people in our lives to spend time with them. (laughs) So that's kind of important, too.

Do you text each other?

Yeah, we do. I never thought I would be a texter, but in the last couple of years I have gone completely over to that medium.

Can you give us some hints about story lines for the new season?

Joy's son has a baby who ends up coming to live with us. And Melanie becomes more and more romantically involved with her boss, and is getting ready to move in with him. Some of these relationships are deepening and getting more serious.

What about Victoria's romance with Sir Emmett Lawson?

Victoria and Sir Emmett are going to get pretty serious this season. This is the year that she just might take the plunge.