Megan Mullally's Identity Crisis :: Is She Nancy or Is She Beth?
The vocal duo Nancy and Beth look like sisters that might be found performing on a episode of "Portlandia." The bespectacled brunettes have a retro-vibe, as if they fell out of some 1970s time capsule; they're so old school that one - is it Nancy? - even plays the ukelele. As for the other - is she Beth? - the one that doesn't play the ukelele? Well, let's say that if she took her glasses off she's a ringer for a certain Emmy Award-winning actress made famous for her role on a ground-breaking, gay sit-com.
Okay, that's because she is Megan Mullally, late of "Will & Grace" where her character Karen Walker bulldozed her way into the hearts and minds of television audiences with her boozy, self-absorbed ways. The role won her two Emmy Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the enduring love of fans of the show over its eight seasons.
But prior to taking the role, Mullally was an accomplished musical theater performer, first in the 1995 revival of "Grease" (with Rosie O'Donnell), then the following year in "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," (where she played the love interest to Matthew Broderick). She returned to Broadway, post Karen Walker, in "Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein" in 2007.
She also appeared on her own talk show and remains a frequent guest on numerous television series, including playing recurring roles on "In The Motherhood," "30 Rock," "Parks and Recreation" (where she plays one of character Ron Swanson's ex-wives named Tammy) and "Happy Endings" (as the thrice-divorced, traveling lounge singer mom to Penny Hertz.)
The ever-busy Mullally is equally at home on cable, such as Starz's original series "Party Down," and on the web, in the webisodes of "Children's Hospital," where she plays the disabled head of the hospital on this Emmy-winning satire of hospital shows.
One common thread in many of her endeavors is her husband, Nick Offerman; the comic actor whose break-out role was Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation." In addition to playing Mullally ex-husband on that the show, the couple have appeared in numerous indie films set for release before the end of the year, as well as on the Los Angeles stage, where they met in 2000 in a production of Charles Mees' "The Berlin Cycle," for which she won both the LA Weekly Theatre Award and the Backstage West Garland Award. Ten years later, she won her Second Backstage West Garland Award for her performance in Adam Bock's "The Receptionist."
Come this weekend, though, Mullally and actress Stephanie Hunt ("Friday Night Lights" and "How To Live With Your Parents For the Rest of Your Life") bring Nancy and Beth to the Wilbur Theater for their first concert outside of LA, where they've been performing at the local club Largo at the Coronet and as part of Offerman's shows.
Post-Boston, they had back to Largo in LA, then to San Francisco and Quincy, Washington, where they'll perform at the Sasquatch Festival.
The catch is, who is Nancy? And who is Beth? It was the first question brought to Mullally who spoke to EDGE while shooting an episode of "Happy Endings" earlier this week.
Is she Nancy?
EDGE: So are you Nancy or are you Beth?
Megan Mullally: That's privileged information. First, I should say, isn't that obvious. Second, I will say that under no circumstances will I reveal just who I am. Not even if you threaten to waterboard me.
EDGE: How long have you been performing together?
Megan Mullally: Well, we started performing together in June or July. And we've been doing a monthly gig in a club in LA called Largo. Our gig in Boston is our first one on our tour. We have been performing with my husband a couple of times in a couple of different cities.
EDGE: And you were on Conan O'Brien. You also are all over the Internet with your cover of the Riskay song "Smell Yo Dick."
Megan Mullally: That was the only time we ever performed that song. That was pretty recently. I did a movie in Cleveland over the summer, Nick was there also. It was called "Toy's House." This guy who played my husband in the movie told me about it. ("Toy's House" was recently shown at Sundance and will be released this summer.)
Watch the video on the Funny Or Die website.
EDGE: But you were making another movie in Austin where you met Stephanie...
Megan Mullally: The summer before last in Austin. We were making this movie called "Somebody Up There Likes Me." That comes out in April. My husband wrote it and co-produced it and stars in it. And Stephanie has a supporting role and I have a teeny cameo. I was just hanging around the set and started hanging around with her, clothes-shopping and stuff. And then she told me she played the yukele, so I said I really wanted to hear her. The very first time she played for me, she said that I had to sing with her. The minute we started to sing together, we just kind of look at each other and knew we clicked. Since then we've become great friends.
It was funny because the first time we sang was in Ford Fiesta or something. I was getting ready for a six hour drive to Oklahoma City to visit my mom. It was about 114-degrees - so it was definitely more comfortable to be in the car. And that's where we sang together for the first time.
EDGE: And you connected immediately?
Megan Mullally: It was one of those weird, one-brain things that happens one or two times in a career. I had it with Sean Hayes. And I had it with Casey Wilson on "Happy Endings." It's one of those things - we don't have to speak, we just know.
EDGE: Before you met Nick, you've said that the only men that were attracted to you were gay rock-and-roll-types?
Megan Mullally: My type seemed to be kind of Glee-adrogenious, kind-of rock and roll drummer-ish, muscle-freak, hairless, girlish. And of course Nick doesn't meet any of that criteria. He's a man. And he's hirsute. And I'm thankful for that.
EDGE: Were all those previous relationships mistakes?
Megan Mullally: Oh, no. It is what it is. These were the guys who were attracted to me. I didn't have burly men attracted to me. I seemed to attract these kind-of hairless, British drummer-type who smoked and had body odor. I loved it. Actually, it was only one that smoked and had body odor. This particular person who wore plaid slacks and vintage socks and smoked a lot and had B.O. He was only that one, and I loved it... for a while.
EDGE: Why at this point in your career where you could easily be starring in a big Broadway show or sitcom, are you concentrating on such projects as Nancy and Beth?
Megan Mullally: Well. I like the band. And not only do I like it, but other people like it. The way people respond to this band is different than any other band I've ever been involved in. People just love us. If you're a performer and you're in the service industry that we are in, you like to be able to please your audience. But right now we are so busy that we can't record until the fall. That sort of drives me crazy. But it is good to wait because we can find the right producer and write a little more and play around the country. Right now we have these dates coming up, but then we are out of commission until August or September because of our schedules.
EDGE: What is it about Nancy and Beth that you feel is so special?
Megan Mullally: Well, I think Stephanie and I are very different - 30-year difference in our ages; but we are very similar in a lot of ways. What people are telling is that they see right away this connection you can't put your finger on- this affinity. And I think that translates to the audience. Stephanie has this funny way about her. She's a funny girl. And we blend well together. We've gotten very close. She's a sweet, young woman and very, very talented.
EDGE: So you are busier than ever?
Megan Mullally: Nick and I have never been busier. Sometimes we look at each other and say, 'okay. There has to be a balance.' We have zero social life - we never can get to see our friends or go out to dinner or go to the movies. But we do spend a lot of time together at home with our dogs. We're just too tired to go out.
EDGE: And you are still recognized as Karen Walker?
Megan Mullally: Definitely. We were just in Sydney - I did this concert tour with Seth Rudetsky - and I was just shy of being carried through the streets on a golden litter. The show is so popular in Australia. We had such a blast.
Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt bring Nancy and Beth to the Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St., Boston, MA. At 7pm on Sunday, March 10, 2013. For more information, visit the Wilbur website. Post-Boston, Nancy and Beth travel to Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Sasquatch Festival in Quincy, Washington. For more information about the band and their dates, visit their website.
Watch Nancy and Beth perform and talk on Conan: