This change in her life conjures up her childhood imaginary friend, Mary.
In the 2003 film “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” Elfman played opposite animated characters, so she had some reference when taking on this new role.
“When we were filming ‘Looney Tunes,’ we had men in green suits, green screens, green little balls on sticks,” Elfman told a gathering of media. “This new project is quite different. It’s a whole different sort of approach to animation. We had rehearsal with a stuffed, life-size puppet, and we had an amazing puppeteer, so we would rehearse with her.”
Elfman said it was a fun, new experience.
“So oftentimes I’d have several different eye lines in the set with different dimension focal points, and doing a scene with (my costar) and he can’t see her, so it was actually a really great challenge comedically to maintain the scene with her, and the believability, the focal points, while doing the scene with him and the kids.”
As for this new role, Elfman acknowledged, “I like physical scenes to do with Mary, which means with the air, while doing a troubling, challenging, romantic, scene with him, about the kids, and she’s sitting there. And then there’s physical stuff. I just feel like, with all the comedy I’ve been doing, this really gave me some nice challenges, you know? Like, good, creative, fun problems. I felt super engaged on set at all times.”
When asked if she had an imaginary friend when she was a young girl, she said she didn’t, but also admitted it would have been fun to have comedians Tim Conway and Harvey Korman as imaginary friends, even though they were real people.
“I think that would be really awesome to have them as little imaginary friends, because you’d just be snort laughing all the time,” she said.
Looking back at the old “Carol Burnett Show” episodes, she’s definitely correct. Those two were always funny and even cracking each other up on set.
Why did the actress choose to do this show?
“I’m just always looking for writing that I feel that I can express myself in a true way, and I don’t really care if some things are like me or not like me, because you always have to find — even if you’re playing something extremely far from you — you’re finding a piece of that within you, I think, is a form of expression. I just want great writing and great costars, and to have fun, and make people at the end of the day, they come home, people are struggling through life, they turn on their form of entertainment that they choose, and, at the end of the day, I just want to bring some succor to people and make them laugh. Keep it simple, you know.”
When asked if there were a time in her life when she could have relied on an imaginary friend to help her through some tough times, Elfman was honest in explaining that her husband of 26 years has been her best friend and her anchor so she didn’t need anyone imaginary.
Elfman is married to actor/producer Bodhi Elfman. The couple have two children. Jenna won a Golden Globe for her role of Dharma in the hit sitcom “Dharma & Greg” that aired from 1997-2002.
“Imaginary Mary” premieres Wednesday with its pilot episode. The series then moves to its regular Tuesday night time slot.
JENNA ELFMAN DISHES ON HER ANIMATED IMAGINARY MARY CO-STAR'S DEMANDING WAYS
It’s hard to top the magical chemistry of the duo at the center of hit sitcom Dharma & Greg, which aired on ABC from 1997 to 2002 and boasted Jenna Elfman‘s breakthrough role. But now an animated character is making a run at the quirky bond between Thomas Gibson’s Greg and Elfman’s Dharma.
In Imaginary Mary, Elfman stars as Alice, a career woman whose childhood imaginary friend Mary (voiced by Rachel Dratch) comes back into her life.
The only thing worse than Mary’s timing is her constant need for Alice’s attention. Alice is in a relationship with Ben (Stephen Schneider). A single father, Ben is ready to introduce Alice to his kids (Nicholas Coombe, Matreya Scarrwener, and Erica Tremblay). That’s usually when Alice bolts, but she’s sticking it out. Maybe Mary can help her get back to her childhood state and connect with Ben’s kids.
Artists worked hard to make the computer-animated Mary a funny character, even revamping the first concept of the character. Meanwhile, Elfman has brought her own brand of funny the old-fashioned way in a series that gives her a showcase to sing karaoke, ride a mechanical bull, dance in the backyard, and react to the messes kids make in the buttoned-up side of her adult life.
Elfman recently spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about the series and dished on the prima-donna antics of her animated co-star.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: It seems Mary is more demanding of Alice than Alice ever was of her. Why would Alice create an imaginary friend that was so needy?
Jenna Elfman: Well, my character’s parents fought viciously and divorced and were never there for her. Mary’s personality is kind of representative of everything that goes on in a little girl’s mind from the absurd to the true needs, needing that emotional support. So the inner struggle of decision-making, I think many people have a noisy thought process, so the thought process of this girl trying to navigate the struggle of this brand-new territory of love, which she had never had an example set for her. She had a horrible example set for her and never had anyone who was there emotionally for her. Mary represents all those factors that are going on for her emotionally.
RT: Does Mary ever have good advice for Alice?
Elfman: Yeah. Sometimes one’s own reckoning has good ideas so Mary manifests that too. In the second episode, I’m doing yoga and I don’t know what to do and she’s like, “Go to him. Go talk to him.” I’m like, “Right, go to him, yes, communicate. Wow, what a novel idea.”
RT: Could Imaginary Mary still work as a comedy about a blended family without Mary’s added interference?
Elfman: Maybe, but I think Mary adds his dimension of inner turmoil that brings a comedy element to it that wouldn’t be seen if it was just a normal blended-family comedy.
RT: Have you always seen yourself as a physical comedian?
Elfman: Yeah. I’m a classically trained dancer, so I think I’m just naturally physical. I trained as a dancer, as a ballet and jazz dancer since I was five. I danced on the Academy Awards and danced in film. I have that whole lifetime of training, so I think I’m naturally physically inclined in terms of expression.
RT: When you dance or do karaoke, do you dive in full on?
Elfman: You have to. What else are you going to do, go halfway? You have to just commit and have fun. She was drunk and having this heightened moment of thinking she completely blew it with the first person she’s ever truly been in love with. The stakes were really high. I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything wild when the stakes were high in your life.
RT: Did you do the bull riding yourself?
Elfman: I did. I think they had a stunt double for one of the extreme moments, but I did ride it myself.
RT: Did you have to train for that?
Elfman: No, we just did a little practice session before filming one day. I came in early and we practiced.
RT: Did you pre-choreograph your backyard dance?
Elfman: No, [director] Shawn Levy let me play.
RT: Did you see the previous version of Mary and how different was she than she is now?
Elfman: Absolutely. Not like crazy different. They just made some adjustments to her face, brightened her eyes up, just made some nuanced changes that emotionally impact you more favorably when you’re watching.
RT: What other fun adventures do Alice and Mary get into this season?
Elfman: So much because Alice is someone who is like, “no marriage, no kids ever.” Now I have to, in order to have a meaningful relationship with Ben, I do have to engage with his children which is, like, terrifying for my character. So I have to engage and I have to help them solve their problems, and I don’t know how to do that. So everything from being accepted socially in school to helping a girl through her teenage stuff and then how was I as a teenager. It’s all that inner dialogue of what the hell do I do and do I tell them to do what I did and misguide them? Mary’s all part of that.
RT: There’ve been male imaginary friends like Drop Dead Fred and Harvey. Is it significant that there is now a show about a female imaginary friend?
Elfman: Anything that has an increase of female stories, I’m excited about.
Scientology Showdown! Katie Holmes & Jenna Elfman Caught In Awkward ‘GMA’ Run-In
For once, the drama at Good Morning America wasn’t involving Robin Roberts and her new arch-nemesis, Michael Strahan.
RadarOnline.com has exclusively learned that devote Scientologist Jenna Elfman had Katie Holmes cowering in fear behind the scenes when the two both appeared on the Mar. 29 broadcast.
“Jenna was doing the show live to promote her new ABC show,” Imaginary Mary, revealed an onset source. “She was happy and charming and the audience loved her.”
Too bad another scheduled GMA guest wasn’t so thrilled to see her!
PHOTOS: Sci-Fi Fallout! 13 Scientology Secrets Exposed In Film ‘Going Clear’
“Backstage Katie was terrified,” the source noted to Radar of Holmes, who was on the show to talk about reprising her role as Jacqueline Kennedy. “She was literally hiding from her and she seemed scared.”
“They had to change Katie’s dressing room because she wanted to be nowhere near the famous Scientologist,” the onset source added.
As Radar has reported, in the past, Elfman has been known to denounce those who denounced Scientology.
“It was one of the ugliest and nastiest things I’ve ever seen a human being do and to this day I just can’t stand her,” recalled one former Scientologist who left the church and claimed Elfman confronted her.
Holmes, 38, was labeled a suppressive person and shunned by the Scientology community, including 45-year-old Elfman, following her bitter divorce from the religion’s highest star-powered devotee, Tom Cruise.
“Katie got out of the religion and knows everything, and she wants nothing to do with Scientology,” an insider explained of the awkward morning show situation.
Thankfully for Holmes, said the onset source, “producers choreographed everything to make sure both guest felt safe and comfortable.”