Seeing your name in lights is one thing, but when Holland Taylor saw her name -- all alone -- on the large poster for her play, "Ann," which she wrote and stars in, even the tough veteran actress had to pause.
Holy moly, she thought.
Taylor, 70, the smart, sexy Emmy winner best known as the acerbic matriarch on CBS' "Two and a Half Men," has earned a Tony nomination (for lead actress in a play) for her portrayal of Texas governor Ann Richards, who rose to national prominence in the late '80s and '90s. The one-woman show -- which she felt compelled to write (for reasons she still can't quite explain) after Richards' death in 2006 -- is playing at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre through Sept. 1, which would have been Richards' 80th birthday.
The transition from Yankee actress (Taylor was raised outside Philadelphia) to funny -- make that very funny -- Lone Star firebrand (with Q-Tip bouffant and matching white suit) takes 21/2 hours and includes re-creating her eyebrows, lips and energy (Taylor walks 20 flights to get revved).
She had breakfast recently with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
Congratulations on your Tony nomination. Do you think about it much?
I don't like the competition. Honoring people is wonderful. But setting up a horse race ... I don't think actors can be compared, really. To be part of the Tonys is great. But, believe me -- playing this role is its own reward.
How much of the script is in Richards' own words?
About 15 percent. We've never done an accurate count. All my files are in L.A. -- they fill up my guest room. There was a lot she didn't talk about, so I've taken some dramatic license. After years of research and talking with ... countless people.
What's it like having an intimate relationship with someone who's ... not around?
Well, I was writing Cecile last night ....
One of Richards' daughters?
Yes. We've become close. She's seen the play quite a few times. And once she said -- and this floored me -- that "It's like spending another two hours with my mother." What can you say to something like that? I feel like I'm "Ann-adjacent." I didn't know her. I know her through others. Cecile says I'm getting more like her.
Is there something about her that frustrates you?
That she's not alive.
Something annoying, tough to grapple with?
Well, she could be very, very, very, very hard on people, to the point of being mean. I think she got that from her mother, who was truly mean. She loved her mother. Had a sunny father. But her mother just wanted her to be married, a socialite. I have a picture of her inauguration. On the grandstand, there's only one person not standing -- Ann's mother. You really gotta laugh.
Why no mention of George Bush?
The play is not political, and please note that. It's about her life. About a life well lived. If you write a play about Amelia Earhart, is it going to be about aviation? Or about a hero?
Has Ann changed you?
There's no question my exposure to her has shaken up my attitude toward life.
Her vigor, taking delight in things, has increased in me -- by tenfold. And my seizing and enjoying the moment. I've never been good at that. The play is terrifically demanding. The Clintons, Meryl Streep and Gabby Giffords all came backstage the same night! Meeting President Clinton was almost indescribable.
He'd known Richards.
Yes. He had tears in his eyes. His cheeks were damp.
Changing topics ... I have a Charlie Sheen question.
I'm happy to tell you Charlie Sheen is a friend.
That period when things seemed to unravel for him ...
Brief period, brief period ...
... was around when you were researching Richards. Do you think she impacted your reaction to Charlie? You were one of the few people who seemed sympathetic.
Well ... I'd known him a long time. So I don't think so. I was on the show that week. It was really only a week or two that seemed chaotic. He'd had 10 years of being the most well-behaved person, respectful to the staff.... I care for the man. He has the human touch with people in a way I admire. But he's had ... a life that has ... predetermined certain things that will be quite hard for him to avoid. I want him to do well ... be well.
What are your plans once "Ann" is done?
I can't even see tomorrow.
Will it be hard to put her away?
Oh, she'll always be with me. I'm not a particularly woo-woo person. I'm a journeyman actress. I'm playing a role. I'm playing a role that requires absolutely all my heart. It's acting. Still ... I know she'll always be with me.