When Wendi McLendon-Covey was hired to play Liz, the annoying neighbor on CBS' "Rules of Engagement," the improv-ready actress didn't have to look far for inspiration.
"I actually know someone who has a lot of these traits, except that she is not a tap-dancer or cat lover, but she has that misplaced confidence and that unwavering belief in everything she does, and you think, 'Where does it come from? You've never made a good decision in your life.' But Liz keeps plugging along. She assumes that because her gastrointestinal ugliness is interesting to her, it will be interesting to everyone."
McLendon-Covey previously was best known for her five seasons as skanky Deputy Clementine Johnson on the cable sitcom "Reno 911!" -- adapted from a character she developed while performing with the Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings. "People are so surprised when I show up not looking like Clementine, but honestly, who has the time to look like that?" she says, laughing. "Who can do that to her hair on a daily basis?"
McLendon-Covey knew from an early age she wanted to be a performer, but it was only during her college years that she got up the nerve to sign up for Groundlings classes. As fate would have it, she met company colleagues and future "Bridesmaids" cast mates Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy at -- wait for it -- a bridal shower.
"It was so weird how everyone was acting as if that film was so groundbreaking," she says. "We did not think about that at all until people started asking us about it. None of us thought, 'Hey, let's create something for the canon of feminist cinema.' All anybody wanted to do was make a funny movie and use their friends. Luckily for me, I am one of their funny friends."
Favorite book: " 'A Confederacy of Dunces.' I love that Ignatius is so brilliant that he just can't live in the world. Everything offends his delicate sensibilities, and yet he's a big fat slob. His 'Journal of the Working Boy' is so hilariously delusional and uses such grandiose language. Sometimes I just read those entries for a lift. We all know people who are just so precious and they cannot hold down a job."
Favorite movie: " 'All That Jazz,' because that movie made me think, 'That's the life. That's what I want to do, and live in New York. I have to be a performer.' It was bleak in some respects, but hey, what a way to go. I've always been fascinated with New York. If I could, I would be bicoastal. I also love 'Inglourious Basterds' just for sheer entertainment value."
Favorite record: "A tie between Steely Dan's 'Asia' and 'Off the Wall' by Michael Jackson. I have loved ('Asia') since I was able to know what music was. I've always been a die-hard Steely Dan fan and I got to meet them, but I couldn't form a coherent sentence. The day I got married I kept playing that last song from 'Off the Wall,' 'Burn This Disco Out,' to kill my nerves."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun