She springs up the steps into the Four Seasons grill looking as tall and terrific as I always remember her. She is wearing high heels with a navy blue, pin-striped suit and underneath a sweater with a hint of burnt orange that exposes just a touch of cleavage. She has a long, elegant face with beautiful laughing eyes.
She is Christine Lahti, one of the best actresses alive, now the star of TV's "Jack & Bobby." In this adult series, she is executive-produced -- and sometimes directed -- by her husband, Tom Schlamme. (He has been involved in "The West Wing," "Chicago Hope," "Friends," "ER" and many other TV outings.)
It was time for Christine and Liz to have a little talk; we hadn't seen each other for several years, since I'd visited at her Santa Monica house.
Liz: How about the fact that since we talked in California several years ago, your husband has become as famous as you are?
CL: I know, isn't that great? It makes me very happy. Tommy has seen incredible success, and he's so talented and deserving of it. He is just the best director. He really hit it with "West Wing," which he left a few years ago.
Liz: Women stars want equality for themselves but want their men to be "equal" as well.
CL: That's right. Tommy's potential is still being realized. I am just so happy when he directs me in "Jack & Bobby."
Liz: Tell me about this show.
CL: I think the idea was inspired by Bill Clinton and his rather unconventional upbringing, being raised by a single mom in a basically dysfunctional family. How does a young boy in this situation go on to become a visionary president of the U.S.? Of course, the mother doesn't know this as she is raising him.
Liz: So, in spite of the title, this TV series has nothing to do with the Kennedy family.
CL: No, nothing, but it's an appealing title; the mother chose those names because she wants people to think of greatness when they see her sons.
Liz: Briefly, Christine, tell me how you got started.
CL: I grew up in Michigan, outside Detroit, moved to New York in 1973, and did plays and was a waitress like everybody else. Finally, I got to play at the Public Theater in David Mamet's "The Woods." That kind of put me on the map.
Liz: What do you think of working in TV?
CL: Television, well, I think most of it is rotten. I tell my three kids not to watch reality shows; they rot the brain.
So, the fact that I'm in "Jack & Bobby," and it's well-written, topical, political and intelligent -- I just feel great about it. The mother is one of the most complex, three-dimensional women I've ever read about. Sometimes, she's so unlikable, you want to throttle her. But now and then, she is truly inspiring.
Liz: Did you get this job because you're Mrs. Tom Schlamme?
CL: Well, when Tommy started "Jack & Bobby" with the writer Greg Berlanti, he sure didn't have me in mind. I asked why I wasn't being considered? Tommy said he thought I wasn't interested and he didn't want to be accused of nepotism.
Liz: Actors have such short work spans usually; they probably should employ nepotism when possible!
CL: I agree. I plunged ahead because I was floored by the writing and the character.
Liz: How is "Jack & Bobby" doing?
CL: WB hopes to change the demographics. They want an older, more intelligent audience of successful people who work and have money. I know, it sounds crazy. But WB did pick us up for the back nine, and we're doing 22 shows. The reviews have been the best I've ever been involved with. We're also moving from Sunday nights to Wednesdays at 9, with a good show, "Smallville," as our lead-in.
Liz: You got good reviews for another woman you played in the TV movie "Revenge of the Middle-aged Woman." The trailers were marvelous.
CL: I just loved doing that -- now that woman was not a victim.