By Frazier Moore, AP writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Hail this TV season's other Felicity! Not the college
girl with curls. Felicity all grown up. The thinking man's (and woman's)
Felicity. The real-life Felicity, Felicity Huffman, who stars in ABC's
"Sports Night." This Felicity plays Dana Whitaker, producer of a nightly
sports show on an ESPN-like cable network. There, in the crackling
mid-Manhattan biosphere where the sportscast comes together and goes
on the air, Dana and her colleagues radiate passion for their jobs,
each other and the roguish turn of phrase.
"Sports Night," seen Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. EST on ABC, has been warmly
greeted as the season's freshest new comedy. And speaking from the
inside, Felicity Huffman adds her approval: "I'm enjoying it every
second. "I'm riding on Aaron's coattails. Great writer. "That's
Aaron Sorkin, writer of "A Few Good Men" and "The American President."
He created "Sports Night." "And also we have Tommy Schlamme," Huffman
adds. "It's a really funny name, but I would take a bullet for this guy."
Schlamme (rhymes with Tommy), with a number of films and "ER" to his
credit, masterminded "Sports Night's" formula of kicky staging and
ethereal camera work. "What can't this director do?!"
Huffman is blond and willowy, smart and a little goofy, and packs a
Tommy-gun chuckle. She has won praise on the New York stage, especially
in plays by David Mamet. A decade ago, she replaced Madonna on Broadway
in Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" and The New York Times saluted her "skillful
performance." More from Huffman's resume? "Basically, I got fired off
of the play 'Jake's Women,'" she reports. "And then I did an ABC pilot
with Ed Asner that was gonna be a big deal and was called 'Thunder Alley,'
and I got fired from that." (Fired from "Jake's Women," that notorious
Neil Simon flop-aroo? Fired from "Thunder Alley," which expired after a
spasmodic 10 months on the air? How lucky can you get!)
But how did Huffman land "Sports Night"? "During last year's pilot season
all my friends - actors, writers, directors - were saying, 'You gotta read
the Aaron Sorkin script.' So I started lobbying to do an audition. But then
I went in and bricked." Bricked? "Screwed up the audition. "I walked
out, and I was like, 'Uhhhhh, I just buh-lew it.' And there was Robert
Guillaume. I went up to him and I went, 'Ohhhh, Robert, I'm not gonna be
in on this. I bricked.' And he went, 'That's OK, baby.'" She is echoing
his breezy style. "'I tell ya what: If I'm in it, YOU'RE in it.'" Like
the man said, now he is (the former "Benson" star plays the sportscast's
fatherly executive producer) and so is she.
In Huffman's hands, Dana is a hard-charging pro who's good and knows it,
even as she drolly second-guesses herself. "Do you think she's scary?"
Huffman asks the reporter, inadvertently setting up the sort of rapid-fire
volley "Sports Night" relishes. "No, I don't." "Why don't you?" "Should I?"
"No! I don't want you to!" Rounding out the splendid ensemble are Joshua
Malina (who plays research analyst Jeremy), Sabrina Lloyd (as Natalie,
an associate producer and Jeremy's girlfriend), along with Josh Charles
and Peter Krause (the mythical sportscast's co-anchors). "We were
instantly a team," Huffman says, "thanks to Tommy and Aaron. From the
first read-through, they created an esprit de corps."
Huffman loves being part of a family of actors. Although "Sports Night"
shoots in Los Angeles, she remains a member of the Manhattan-based Atlantic
Theater Company repertory, where she met her husband, actor William H. Macy
("Fargo," "ER"). By then she already had a lot of experience with family.
She grew up in Woody Creek, Colo., with six sisters and a brother. "It was
so great! I'm the youngest, so my sisters broke my mother in. By the time
I came along, it was like, 'What time will you be home? Oh, never mind.'"
Each Monday morning her new family comes together for the "Sports Night"
table read, "and we're up on our feet by 3 o'clock. We finish shooting
Friday. It's fast. "And then inevitably on Saturday morning you wake up
and you go, 'Oh, THAT'S how I should have played that scene.' It's cab
acting instead of cab wit." Huffman laughs. Huh? "You don't know the
phrase 'cab wit'? You're in the cab going home from somewhere and you
think, 'THAT'S what I wish I'd said.'" Which, of course, is something
Dana Whitaker and her team would never suffer. Which is part of the
magic of "Sports Night.
Thanks to firstname.lastname@example.org for the transcription.