ABC is looking to bring back the good old days of "TGIF" with a brand-new Friday night comedy block… and who better to lead that charge than Reba McEntire? The country-music superstar (who's known professionally as just "Reba") starred in the hit WB/CW sitcom "Reba" for five seasons, and is back this week with a new sitcom: "Malibu Country," starring Reba as a faithful wife and mom who packs up her kids and moves them from Nashville to L.A. after her country-star husband is caught cheating.
We chatted with Reba this week about her new comedy, why she loves performing in front of a live audience, how she got comedy legend Lily Tomlin to play her mother on the show, and what she thinks about ABC's new country-music soap "Nashville." (Hint: She's a fan.)
It's been five years now since "Reba" ended. What made you decide to get back into TV now?
I love television. I love the schedule. I love everything about it. Some days are longer than others, but it's fun. I mean, to get in there and get a new script every day and to play around with it and to create… I do enjoy it.
How did you get into this whole acting thing? Did it start with your music videos?
Yes, it did. I've always wanted to act and I never had an acting class. I never was in a play before "Annie Get Your Gun." So I just totally love it. Especially with this TV show, because I have music, acting, being a different person than myself… that's all the fun things you always dream about doing. That's what I loved about Broadway. But this television show, we've got music incorporated in it, since I am a country singer trying to revive my music career. It just worked out great.
You shoot "Malibu Country" in front of a live audience. How does shooting a sitcom compare to performing live music?
Well, at a concert, you have your set list, and you go through it all and you don't do a song twice. On a sitcom, when you do one scene, everybody laughs; they thought that was funny. I say, "Okay, well, laugh again, 'cause we're gonna do this same scene again." [Laughs]
But you get energy back from the live audience, right?
Oh, definitely. And that's why we love to have that live audience. Lily Tomlin and I, who plays my mother on the show, we're show dogs. We like to have that live audience in front of us.
Speaking of Lily, It's surprising to see her co-starring on a network sitcom. But you two already knew each other from a while back, right?
Oh yeah, Lily and I have known each other for over ten years. We've seen each other here in Nashville. She came up to see me in "Annie Get Your Gun" when I performed in that. And I've seen her one-woman Broadway play, too. I was just blown away by that. She's a very special person. Jane Fonda was honored one time in L.A. and I went to that, and Lily was there, so we got to visit again. So we ran into each other off and on. And so when we asked her if she would do this, we were thrilled to pieces when she said yes.
Watch Reba and Lily Tomlin talk about their "Malibu Country" roles right here:
You play a former country singer who faces age discrimination when she tries to reenter the industry. Is it fair to say you can relate to that?
Oh, definitely. I've been in the business going on three decades now. And so you can see when the regime changes and the younger generation steps in to kind of take over. We've just seen that again in Nashville here with the newcomers, the Luke Bryans and the Miranda Lamberts coming in. But that's the way it's supposed to be. That's what happened when I came in, and, you know, when Dolly [Parton] stepped in and when Loretta [Lynn] came in. Everybody has their generation, so it's very exciting to see what the new team and the new regime will bring.
Your show is paired up with Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing" on Friday nights. How do you feel about that scheduling? Is there an audience out there for a Friday night comedy block?
We'll soon know, but I'm pretty sure there is. By Monday morning, I can tell you a definite yes or no. But everybody seems to be really excited about it. And the ones who have, you know, sports events or whatever, they tell me they're gonna DVR it. And I tell 'em, "Be sure to watch it in 72 hours, or it won't count in the ratings." [Laughs]
ABC has another new show this fall, "Nashville," starring Connie Britton as a country singer looking to revamp her career. Have you seen that show yet?
I'm a faithful watcher. I've seen every episode. I love it. I think what they are doing for Nashville is the best tourism commercial in the world -- all the beautiful vistas that they have taped. The story's wonderful. Connie and [co-star] Hayden [Panettiere] are absolutely wonderful. All the characters are great.
Do you feel like that show is an accurate portrayal of the country-music industry?
Well, I haven't ever written a song in the back of a truck and then gone skinny-dipping. [Laughs] I'm not knocking it. I'm just saying I haven't done that.
So could we maybe see a "Malibu Country"/"Nashville" crossover down the road?
You know, that's funny. Connie and I have talked about that, and giggled about it, too. I'd love to be on it. I think that'd be fun. The first time I met Connie, I said, "Oh man, I just love 'Friday Night Lights.'" And she said, "Girl, I gotta pick your brain. Let's go have dinner sometime." They're great people. I love all of 'em on that show, and I wish 'em all the best of luck.
Get a sneak peek at Reba's new show "Malibu Country" right here:
"Malibu Country" premieres Friday, 11/2 at 8:30 PM on ABC.