For seven years, Jane Kaczmarek played a harried working mom on the hit show Malcolm in the Middle. Her hilarious portrayal of the drill sergeant-like matriarch of the Malcolm family rang all too true for many viewers. She played the part with inspired originality and no hint of the syrupy cliches that often characterize TV moms. Perhaps this is no surprise, given that Jane and her very funny husband Bradley Whitford (The West Wing & Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) have young children of their own.
Now that Malcolm's run has ended, Jane has a little extra time and was gracious enough to answer our questions about life in her Hollywood working parent household. Jane's responses are candid, natural and reveal that even an actress nominated for seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and two Screen Actors Guild awards struggles with juggling work and family just like the rest of us.
In addition to her sucessful acting career, Jane Kaczmarek is also the mother of three children — 10-year-old Frances, seven-year-old George, and five-year-old Mary Louisa — and the founder of Clothes off Our Back, an inspired non-profit that auctions celebrity clothing for the benefit of international children's charities.
You are a working mom and you played one on TV during the 7 year run of Malcolm in the Middle. That must have been a weird vortex of life imitating art imitating life. Did you and Lois approach working motherhood in a similar way?
The seven years Malcolm was on the air were extremely hectic. I was pregnant with my son the first season and with another daughter a few years later. I was grateful that the children on the show were older than mine because it was easier to keep track of who was who. I did have to remember to turn the volume down when I came home. And the day my son referred to me as “Mom, sir,” I knew I had to tone it down even more.
Compounding the chaos was the fact that my husband’s show [The West Wing] coincided with Malcolm’s run. We had nannies standing by at all hours of the day because we rarely knew what our shooting schedules were. Having people around to help was a real difference from the way Lois ran her household on Malcolm.
You and your husband are high profile, celebrated examples of the hectic working parent lives our readers live. Describe a day in the life during the years that you were doing Malcolm in the Middle and your husband was doing The West Wing. Who picked up the kids from school? Did they visit the set on a regular basis?