Saturday, September 20, 2014

Watch! Magazine: Marvelous Madam, Téa Leoni - September 2014

Téa Leoni shines as secretary of state in new series of note, Madam Secretary
“I’ve certainly enjoyed flying sweetly under the radar,” says Téa Leoni, the divinely droll star (Flirting with Disaster, Tower Heist) known for doling out her Kate Hepburn-esque brand of Yankee Cool, oh-so-sparingly. MIA from a TV series for eons, the NYC-bred mama of two is blowing her covert status with the feisty new drama Madam Secretary, playing a CIA analyst-turned-college professor-turned-overnight secretary of state when her predecessor dies, shadily. Leoni, 48, jokes of her return, “My mother says, ‘House guests are like fish—they should be around for four days.’ I have the same thought about actors. But I have an idea this is going to be a lot of fun.”

What possessed you to commit to possible years as Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, a secretary of state who’s—
Not an obvious pick, and comes in the middle of someone else’s term who’s likely been offed? Not that I know the latter, for sure—I wish they’d tell me—but I’ve always loved being a fish out of water.

I love that we see a lot of your home life with your TV hubby, Tim Daly, and two teens on Madam.
Between Madeleine Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton, my suspicion is we’ve had pretty fantastic women in this position. But we never got to see [Hillary] Clinton bolstering Chelsea through a difficult moment—or burning Bill’s eggs. And the producers are open [to ideas], so I feel like I’m a part of the process and not just a dog on a leash.

Please, you’re the antithesis of “dog-on-leash.” You’ve never worked the La-La Land scene and, well, you’re just not J.Lo.
I know. But if I had that ass, I might be!

But you’ve got gams, baby. Back to the show and its awesome cast, including Bebe Neuwirth, Keith Carradine and Broadway’s Patina Miller—all singers.
Yeah, we’re going to have the “M-Sec Orchestra.” I already named it! And it’s no mistake that they’re all comedians, too. Most of the great players I’ve met [in D.C.] have fantastic senses of humor.

Your silent-movie star grandmother, Helenka Adamowska Pantaleoni, was the co-founder of UNICEF, so you’re a third-generation UNICEF ambassador. Have you met Madeleine Albright?
I just had breakfast with her. It was an hour and a half that I’ll not soon forget. I now realize that I’m clairvoyant and named my [15-year-old daughter with David Duchovny] Madelaine after Madeleine Albright—I just didn’t know it at the time.

Love it. Speaking of kids [Leoni also has a 12-year-old son, Kyd Miller Duchovny], how much is left of you after endless shooting days?
When the kids were younger, I’d strap one on my back and basically stuff the other one in a canvas tote and take ’em with me. Now they’re too heavy. [Laughs.] I said to my son, “I’m going to do this show and I’ll be real busy.” He said, “That’s all right, Mom. I was starting to get sick of you anyway.” [Laughs.]

But he must dig that his mom’s a tomboy chick into golf, snowboarding and tennis—not to mention a total car hound. It’s funny—on the show you say to Tim Daly, “We used to have sex more often—is it because [now] I have too much masculine energy?”
If I told my TV husband about the car I have now, I don’t think we’d have sex again. I have a 1966 120 Mercedes with an LS1 2001 bed engine inside of it.

I’m scared. When we last met, you showed off a kick-ass, root beer brown convertible Mercedes.
Still have it, all [computer] chipped and souped up. My daughter wants it on her 16th birthday.

Is she going to get it?
No, I’m going to drive it off a cliff. You think I’m going to hand a 16-year-old a root beer brown Mercedes convertible, souped up? No. That child is getting a 1975 Volvo that goes 45 mph, at best.

Harsh! Last question: Are you channeling anyone for Madam Secretary?
In the pilot they’re planning a dinner for the king of Swaziland and his 10 wives and I say, “Did we need to invite all the wives? Couldn’t we have cut it off at, say, three?” That’s exactly what my grandmother would have sounded like at the U.N. I see her in this gal.


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