Annie Potts joins 'Love & War' cast


Annie Potts, late of "Designing Women," has a nice whimsical take on her new sitcom assignment.

She's been hired to fill a spot on "Love & War," the highly rated but comically erratic CBS show from which Susan "Scapegoat" Dey was unceremoniously dumped last spring.

"I'm just looking at it like a party that's in progress to which I am arriving fashionably late," Ms. Potts said during an interview in Los Angeles recently.

"It is a party where everybody is already having a fabulous time. The food is wonderful, the drinks are flowing, and they've set up the table for me to come in and dance on, in, I hope, leather or lame."

And the ticklish situation of replacing another actor? "I don't think that actors can replace one another any more than you can replace one of your own pets," Ms. Potts said somewhat cryptically.

And, no, Ms. Potts hasn't talked to Ms. Dey. "I think that she's a charming actress. That's all I know."

Ms. Dey, acclaimed for her portrayal of Grace Van Owen on "L.A. Law," took the sitcom plunge last year when "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English introduced "Love & War."

Ms. Dey portrayed divorced, uptown Manhattan restaurateur/chef Wally Porter in the romantic comedy.

The comic hormonal hook? Wally impulsively bought a funky downtown saloon, the Blue Shamrock, and promptly fell in love with short, sexy male chauvinist newspaper columnist Jack Stein (Jay Thomas).

Despite occasionally snazzy repartee and a superb supporting cast of eccentric Blue Shamrock regulars, Mr. Thomas and Ms. Dey never generated real sparks together: either comic or romantic.

And so Ms. Dey, the comedy novice, took the fall.

On the "Love & War" season finale last spring, Wally was mulling Jack's sudden marriage proposal.

And now? Still safely ensconced behind Murphy Brown at 9:30 p.m. Mondays, when the new season opens, we'll discover that Wally freaked out over the idea of another marital commitment and split for Europe.

Enter Ms. Potts in the sassy persona of Dana Paladino, a seen-it-all former chef to Mick Jagger who is hired as the Blue Shamrock's new cook.

And, of course, Jack Stein will be smitten anew. The betting is that Ms. Potts and Mr. Thomas will be a far better fit, especially in the crucial area of comic chemistry.

Ms. Potts recently had dinner with Mr. Thomas and came away impressed. "I found him to be completely adorable."

And Dana Paladino? She's quite a bit different from that spunky Southerner Mary Jo on "Designing Women."

"She is New York born and bred, a downtown girl," said Ms. Potts, who recently said bye-bye to her bigger, lighter Mary Jo hair in order to acquire a short, dark Dana do.

"Her father is supposed to have been a well-known avant artist," added Ms. Potts, fleshing out her new character. "She sort of grew quickly in those sorts of circles and has traveled all over the world.

"She's done it, seen it, been it, and one could say other things, but I'll stop there."

In other words, someone much better equipped to verbally and emotionally joust with a squeezable pig like Jack Stein.

As for the Dana-Jack romantic relationship, Ms. Potts suggested it might have some prickly Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn and Ted Danson-Kirstie Alley "Cheers" aspects.

"I think they just hope it's a lively thing, with lots of sparks and conflicts, and I'm sure a good measure of sexual tension."

When "Love & War" debuted last year, Ms. Dey and Mr. Thomas were shacked up by the second episode. This year, the sexual dynamic will be different.

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