5 Questions With Swoosie Kurtz of FOX’s ‘Call Me Kat’

Call Me Kat Swoosie Kurtz ©2022 Fox Media LLC. Credit: Lisa Rose/FOX

By Jacqueline Cutler

Sheila wants to change the way Kat dresses, acts and lives. She only wants the best for Kat. After all, Sheila is Kat’s mom in FOX’s Call Me Kat (Thursdays). Swoosie Kurtz returns as the title character’s mom in the comedy’s second season. The redhead first popped up on TV on The Donna Reed Show in 1962, and she kept going onstage, where she won two Tony Awards (Fifth of July and The House of Blue Leaves), and onscreen, where she won an Emmy for Carol and Company. If you’ve wondered about her unusual name, which rhymes with Lucy, it’s from her father. A World War II Air Force pilot, he flew a Boeing bomber called The Swoose (half swan, half goose). Growing up the only child of a military dad, Kurtz attended 13 schools. When he retired, the family settled in Los Angeles, and she attended Hollywood High. Kurtz’s ambition to go onstage was cemented then. Here she answers our “5 Questions.”

1. Anything new for Sheila this season?
Let’s just say there is trouble in paradise — that, and then some very funny stuff. Like last year, we had very funny stuff, like the therapy episode that went pretty raw and got so deep and serious, and in the same episode, we were throwing blue paint at each other. Call Me Kat is something we all need right now. We can momentarily put COVID aside and just live with this wonderful woman who is so resilient and positive and upbeat, and it doesn’t matter if you are knocked down; it’s how you get up. She has something to impart and teach to us all.

2. What were some of your earlier jobs to support yourself when starting out?
I worked at Macy’s for a bit. After three days, they wanted me to take over the department. It was women’s clothing of some kind. I forget what. I only lasted a few more days at this hourly rate, and what I made, I would spend. In 1970, I was on unemployment, and they gave you $65 a week tax-free, so I got this job in a play, and I’m going to take it, so here was my pay — $60 before taxes; of course, an actor will take a pay cut to work.

3. What three foods do you keep in stock?
I eat very healthy and very carefully. Always coconut stuff and rice. I am big into rice of all kinds, and brownies if possible. Because as they once said, chocolate is good for you.

4. Tell us about a time you were starstruck.
I am still able to be starstruck so easily. When I worked with Michael Caine on a movie, and we were in bed together. He electrocuted me on the treadmill, and it was a shock to the system. I was in love with him. Nobody will know who Imogene Coca was, but I worshipped her brilliance. [She was] energetic and mischievous and full of life. I was living in New York and trying to be an actress. I heard that she and Sid Caesar were playing at a cabaret room in some hotel. I waited for where she and Sid would come out, and I stopped her, and I said, “Miss Coca, I am sorry to disturb you, I worship you. My name is Swoosie.” And she said, “[Director] Jerry Zaks said you are a genius!” Oh my God, if I knew that when I was watching her when I was 7, I would not have believed it!

5. If you could invite anyone — living or dead — to a dinner party, who would be there?
Stephen Hawking, FDR and Hedy Lamarr. She lived in a house two blocks over from [choreographer and director] Michael Bennett, who I worked with for a year.