Talk-show parody role came naturally to actress


Basically, talk shows give Kathryn Harrold the creeps.

"I want everyone to stay home and live their lives, instead of being interviewed about them," says the actress -- which may explain why she's delighted to star as Garry Shandling's new love interest (and first ex-wife) on HBO's talk-show parody, "The Larry Sanders Show," which begins its second season tonight at 10.

Praised by critics and funny people everywhere, the show chronicles the insecurity behind the glib polish of most talk shows.

Ms. Harrold, who seems too frank to fret, nonetheless relates. "The first time I did Johnny Carson, you can't believe what it's like before you walk through those curtains. First of all, you really want to go to the bathroom.

"Then you walk out there, and you don't fall down, and then it's like an altered state of reality. You talk so fast, five minutes feels like 20 years -- it's like living on hummingbird time."

And then?

Ms. Harrold flinches at the memory. First time out, "I did make some jokes about my family that I regret. You say something and you starthearing the audience laugh and they're encouraging you and he's encouraging you and you realize: I'd sell my soul for these people's approval. You understand why people go and debase themselves on 'Oprah.' "

Over the years, Ms. Harrold has hit the talk-show circuit to promote a number of movies and TV shows that never quite took off, including "I'll Fly Away," the recently canceled NBC series about race relations in the pre-civil rights South. She played lawyer Sam Waterston's girlfriend.

She got the "Sanders" part after giving a great audition.

Ms. Harrold grew up in Tazewell, Va. -- Appalachia -- to parents who owned a coal mine. With no accredited high schools within commuting distance, she was shipped off to boarding school, then studied acting at college in California. Soon as she could, she moved to New York and found work in the theater. Before long, she started landing movie roles.

On "Larry Sanders," Ms. Harrold gets to show off her sardonic side, honed to jaded perfection by years of dwelling in a grungier pocket of the upper West Side (with just a pied-a-terre in Los Angeles). Says the actress, wistfully: "It's hard to find the dark side in L.A." And the dark side holds a certain appeal.

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