For the past six seasons, Mimi Kennedy has delighted audiences with her portrayal of Marjorie Armstrong-Perugian, a recently widowed, alcoholic cancer survivor with many pet cats on CBS' Mom. Initially a guest character, Kennedy was promoted to series regular in the show's second season, and more recently was again promoted when the series changed its opening credits to include her. After 40 years in the business, and an impressive list of guest-starring credits, it's a promotion Kennedy welcomed, although something she never actually sought out. "I tended to go from show to show and I often look back at my credits and wonder what was going on there?," Kennedy pondered during a recent chat with MediaVillage in her Los Angeles home. "I didn't know about series [television] and becoming a series regular. I tended to do whatever came along and got to work with the likes of Peter Cook on The Two of Us and Stockard Channing on Just Friends.
"I remember asking for $500 more [on Just Friends] for the second season, which broke my contract," she continued. "Then they fired everyone from the show and retooled it. Someone once said I could have been such a beloved character and why did you do that? I thought it was okay to ask for $500 more. I guess my agent should have said something."
Kennedy chalked the incident up to experience and moved on. However, that simple request followed her for years. "I'll never forget one casting director who said to me, ‘The word on you is you are very expensive, and you don't like to work,’" she recalled. "I thought, ‘What?’ But, again, that was my cluelessness and agents want to make money. So, if anyone wanted Mimi for a role it was going to cost them X amount of dollars, but [the agent] would have other young women on their roster who would love to do it.
"I dabbled in writing as it always interested me," she continued. "I [wrote] on Knots Landing. But becoming a mother opened a whole new world for me. I was as passionate about that as I was about acting, but really found it hard to combine the two. Was I someone's mother who needed me to be there? Or was I a character actor throwing myself into a role? That was hard, as acting wasn't just a job. It was something I really plunged into."
While raising her family, Kennedy continued to work steadily both in film and television, eventually landing the plum role of Ruth Sloan in ABC’s acclaimed period drama Homefront (1991). However, an encounter with creator/producer extraordinaire Chuck Lorre would change her life after being cast as Abby O'Neil, the free-spirited mother of Dharma (Jenna Elfman) on the ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg (1997-2002). If it weren't for that role, Kennedy would never have met Marjorie.
"What I heard was, they were reading for the role of Marjorie on Mom and someone in the room said, 'Mimi Kennedy would give us as good or a better reading of this. Do you want to see what she's doing?'” she shared. "So they offered it to me. When an actress like me at this point gets an invitation without an audition, you just say yes, especially if you like the people -- which I do. I went in and immediately loved the environment. Anna Faris (pictured above right, opposite Kennedy), Allison Janney, along with the whole 12-step thing. They kept asking me back."
According to Kennedy, "I was never too busy for Chuck," and Marjorie had left an indelible impression. "Towards the end of the first season Chuck said, 'This is amazing, Marjorie is a strong character.' I was still finding my way, and I'd only ever been to a 12-step meeting with a friend, which I've since remedied, and found it to be an amazing program. Mom changed my life and now we're going into our seventh season.”
Kennedy told me it was around the show’s third season that things really cemented, with the series evolving from centering on the multi-generational Plunkett family to one focused more on its leads’ outside friendships. "When I got word that they were changing the opening credits (to include her), that was fantastic for me and I was so happy," she beamed. "I'd been trying to do the best job possible and enjoyed working with my fellow actors. I [often] get to deliver the 'Chuck Lorre Zingers,' which have become calling cards of all his shows, and I think that's because you know what Marjorie's thinking.
"Marjorie is the wise owl presiding over everyone with a voice of reason," Kennedy added. "I love that in some way everyone on the show is a mom to one another. It's a dynamic they move around and it's like life. You might have a friend that one day says something that hurts you, or you misunderstand something they've done, then you talk to your other friends about what they did." (Pictured above, left to right: Mom stars Beth Hall, Allison Janney, Anna Faris, Mimi Kennedy and Jaime Pressly.)
With CBS renewing Mom for two more seasons, Kennedy is looking forward to much more Marjorie. She's not spoiling anything about this week’s season-six finale other than teasing; "There is a wedding, one that's been planned for some time and the whole thing ends up upsetting all of us -- but some beautiful moments come out of it.
"I do enjoy all of the girls and working with Chuck is like being in a repertory company,” she added. “He calls it family. It's a nice family to call family."
Momis telecast Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBS.
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