When Chuck Lorre was casting the housekeeper on “Two and a Half Men,” he envisioned an ethnic woman playing her. Instead, Conchata Ferrell’s sardonic Berta owns that role.
Growing up in West Virginia, Ferrell, 71, had no designs on acting. “Where I come from, if you looked like me, you could not get there,” she says. Yet, she has managed to consistently steal scenes in roles as varied as on “Maude,” when Bea Arthur hired her as a housekeeper, and onstage in a Tennessee Williams play.
Before chatting with us, Ferrell said she wouldn’t talk about Charlie Sheen versus Ashton Kutcher. Yet she mentions them, saying, “I loved Charlie and adored him and I also loved Ashton.” Coming from others, this could sound like Hollywood-speak, but Ferrell doesn’t have that phoniness. Here, she answers our “5 Questions.”
- You’re at a magazine rack and can only pick three titles. Which ones do you choose? I would probably pick “People,” particularly if it’s the end of the year. I know too many people in them and the stories aren’t true. I love “Rolling Stone” and I like “Time.”
- If your TV carried just three shows or networks, what would they be? One would be PBS. I adore Masterpiece Classic and I am one of those women who would name her cat Mr. Darcy. HBO because they just have the best stuff. And I am not just being loyal — I like CBS. I like “Madam Secretary.” I like “The Good Wife.”
- What has been your strangest fan encounter? When I was doing “Hot L Baltimore” for Norman Lear I was playing a hooker and I would get letters from guys in prison who wanted to show me their hometown and waterbed.
- Tell us about a time when you were starstruck. I did a play with Tennessee Williams. We did “Battle of Angels,” [which later became] “Orpheus Descending,” and I did the crazy lady who had visions. At the opening night party, [director] Marshall Mason came to me and said, “Have you spoken to Mr. Williams yet?” And I said, “What am I going to say to Tennessee Williams?” And he said, “He is the one who yelled bravo at your curtain call!” I think I had a glass of wine and maybe a hit, and I went over to him. He was wearing his white suit — very Blanche DuBois. I finally said, “Can I have a picture made so I can send it to my mother?” And I have a couple of pictures of us laughing together.
- What are three things you have to have in your fridge or pantry? Caffeine-free Diet Coke, Laura Scudder’s Peanut Butter and popsicles. I have Type 2 diabetes so everything is sugar-free.
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