TV Land’s hilarious comedy The Exes returns Wednesday for a fourth season of the riotous antics of divorce attorney Holly Franklin (Kristen Johnston), her sunny assistant (Kelly Stables) and the three recently divorced roommates (Donald Faison, Wayne Knight and David Alan Basche) who live across the hall from her in the building she owns.
Last season, Johnston, who won two Emmy Awards as alien Sally Solomon on 3rd Rock From the Sun, started having difficulty moving her body and her memory became unreliable. “It was almost impossible to remember lines and I couldn’t hold my head up without a brace, so I could only work for an hour at a time,” she recalls. Her illness was eventually diagnosed as lupus myelitis, an autoimmune disease in which her body’s immune system attacks her spinal cord.
While Johnston sought treatment for the rare disease, Leah Remini (The King of Queens) was brought in to fill the void left by her departure. This season, Remini returns for five episodes to complete her character’s story arc and Johnston is excited to share screen time with a woman she calls “a forever friend.”
When we spoke, Johnston hinted at a “season-long story about Holly … and getting married. [Laughs] The midway point ends with a wedding and that’s all I’ll say.”
Originally, that episode was written as the season’s finale, but TV Land was so enamored with the show’s direction that it upped the season from 12 to 24 episodes and paired The Exes with another TV Land sitcom smash, Hot in Cleveland. “At TV Land, they love comedy,” says Johnston. “For those of us in the world who make our bread and butter through sitcoms, we’re very grateful to them.”
When asked if the role of Holly has changed, Johnston is introspective. “The role has changed,” she says. “It’s gotten deeper, in a weird way. I seem a little less goofy, she’s just a little more — there’s actually some depth to her, which is a byproduct of me and what I’ve gone through.” Johnston’s lupus is now in remission, and she’s thrilled to be back at work. She looks forward to sharing The Exes with her fans, old and new. “It’s not brain surgery — we’re not changing the world,” she laughs. “But it is, in my humble opinion, 22 minutes of seriously funny acting and it’s just a joyful way to spend 22 minutes.”
The Exes > TV Land > Wednesdays beginning Nov. 5