BWWTVWorld Exclusive - Catching Up With SUBURGATORY's Ana Gasteyer

October 12
6:27 2012
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Ana Gasteyer plays Sheila Shay on ABC's hit comedy series SUBURGATORY. The actress is best known for her incomparable work over six seasons on "Saturday Night Live." On stage Gasteyer made her Broadway debut as Columbia in "The Rocky Horror Show." Since then she has earned raves as Elphaba in "Wicked" on Broadway, and originated the role for the Chicago production, earning a Jefferson Award nomination. Other New York theater credits include the Tony-nominated Broadway productions of "The Royal Family," "The Threepenny Opera," Eve Ensler's acclaimed Off-Broadway hit, "The Vagina Monologues," and Manhattan Theatre Club's hit production of "Kimberly Akimbo."

Prior to joining "SNL," Gasteyer honed her comedy skills at "The Groundlings," the famed Los Angeles improv-sketch comedy group. On film she has been seen in "Mean Girls," "The Women," and "What Women Want," Television credits include "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Good Wife," " Seinfeld" (the "Soup Nazi" episode), as well as guest hosting "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn," "Live with Regis" and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."

The talented actress spoke with us about what's in store for her character on the show's second season and her future plans to return to Broadway.

When you were first cast in the role of Sheila Shay you described her as a 'Gladys Kravitz type', who I always think of as the quintessential nosy neighbor. Do you think Sheila has evolved since that initial characterization?

Yes, definitely. I think Emily [Kapnek] always had a fully conceived idea of Sheila as this alpha, Martha Stewart mom and I think she gave a lot of thought to the conflict in their family, as far as the adoration she has for her son and her sort of disdain for her daughter, who is in some ways very similar to her and in some ways very, very, very, different. And she's really explored some of the conflicts that both the similarities and the differences have created. So I think she always had sort of the germ of those ideas early on. But I think Sheila was initially there to function as an adversary for George as a newcomer. And now that George is no longer a newcomer, he's technically a year in, he's now more entrenched in life in the suburbs and our family dynamic has become sort of its own bizarre world. And also honestly, the addition of Chris Parnell, which I think was our third episode last year, as my husband just allowed for a ton of marital evaluation too, which is really fun. There are a lot of divorced families in our little world, or sort of fractured families, and the Shays are sort of solid as a rock and probably in some ways, they're oddly the most normal/most dysfunctional of the whole gang.

You mentioned Chris Parnell, who you had worked with previously on SNL. What is it like being together again?

It's incredible. We actually date all the way back to The Groundlings. We were students there together and we were in the performing companies there together. He's one of my absolute favorite performers. Actually, it's funny because way back in the day, he had gone to North Carolina School of the Arts for college and was just a really well-trained actor, and I always loved performing with him at The Groundlings because even as an improvisor, he had a lot of skills and training to call upon. So he's always really fun because he takes like the dancing really seriously and he takes the stage combat really seriously - he takes his comedy really seriously. And he's always very precise. And we just have an amazing shorthand because I trust him so much. And by now, I feel that way with everybody on my show, but that trust takes a while to develop and we had it instantly. And honestly, I think it really impacted the writing for our marriage a lot, our on-screen marriage I should say, because the immediacy of our dynamic was evident to the writers right away.

What's in store for the Shay family this coming season?

The Shay's have a really bumpy fall ahead because Ryan's adoption has been this revelation to Lisa and Lisa has had no power in this family ever. So basically we deal with every family member's secret keeping and then the fall out when he finally does find out, it's devastating. It's my favorite episode we've filmed!

I read you often watch the show with your real 10-year-old daughter. Does she have an opinion about your parenting skills on the show?

She says that she's glad I'm not as mean as Sheila Shay. (laughing) And there are times when she has to call me out as calling a 'Sheila Shay' move. Like I am pretty aggressive with the label maker at home, and so I have to be reminded to dial it back a little bit.

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Caryn Robbins Caryn Robbins is a features editor for BroadwayWorld, and Managing Editor of BWW's TV, Film and Music spin-off sites. Her original musical comedy DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT (follow @DearStudent) has been staged in two NYC theater festivals and was performed as an Equity Staged Reading in New York City in 2015. This June DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT won 'Best Ensemble Show' in Chicago's Premier Premieres Festival. Follow Caryn on Twitter @CarynRobbins
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