Lisa Kudrow may be an Emmy-winning funny lady, but she's serious about helping stars trace their ancestry.
The actress who became iconic as lovably ditsy Phoebe Buffay on the long-running sitcom "Friends" decided to bring a British show to the U.S. as executive producer of "Who Do You Think You Are?" which takes celebrities on emotional paths to rediscover their roots. The NBC series' second season starts Friday, Feb. 4.
"It exceeded my expectations for how it would be received," Kudrow says of the show's initial run. "A lot of people would like to do it, but it's a matter of making sure they really understand what it is. We try to make it as easy as possible, but it's a commitment of about 10 days, which is a long time for any (television episode) shoot."
Kudrow went through the "Who Do You Think You Are?" process herself in the show's first round, as did Brooke Shields, filmmaker Spike Lee, and spouses Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. This time, Gwyneth Paltrow, country star Tim McGraw and singer-actress Vanessa Williams are among those taking the intensely personal journey.
"They're going into their ancestral pasts and seeing exactly how brutal this planet is for human beings," Kudrow says. "It has been for a long time. If we're here, somebody suffered to make it possible.
"The people who do this are genuinely interested to get information about their families. They know, from the way we do the show, that it's going to be done very respectfully and that it's going to be accurate. We put a lot of work and research into this, and they're going to be able to get information they wouldn't get just by going on the computer."
The celebrity is kept pretty much in the dark until most of the information is gathered and filming is ready to begin. "All they know is that they haven't heard from us," says Kudrow, also being seen now on Sundance Channel, where her HBO series "The Comeback" is getting a second life. "We don't want to say which country we're waiting to hear from. And when we're shooting, things are still happening in the field. They're still getting information."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun