A year and a half ago, she was a struggling actress looking for a break. But today, CALISTA FLOCKHART is a superstar, thanks to "Ally McBeal." How is she handling the pressures of "overnight" success? Find out in this interview with ET!
Lisa Canning:This is the second season. You made it through the first one. This time last year no one knew your name and now you're coming back a TV star. What has been the upside for you?
Calista Flockhart: Well, there have been a lot of things. I think primarily it's just really nice that as an actor you spend a lot of your time auditioning and wondering what your next job is going to be, so to have some stability and to know where you're going to be the next day is nice for an actor. It's rare. It certainly didn't happen to me a lot, that's nice.
Lisa: Are you enjoying all of the attention, the magazine covers, the Internet, everything?
Calista: I don't know if enjoying is the right word. I mean, it's exciting but there's something... it doesn't change anything. It's like if you see yourself on a magazine, it's just sort of like, "oh, okay," and you detach yourself. I do anyway, I detach myself from it and really focus on the work part of it.
Lisa: What's it like for you when you walk into a restaurant and everyone's looking at you?
Calista: I don't think everybody looks at me. That doesn't really happen very much. I guess, you do lose a little bit of your anonymity being on television. And, I think, that Ally is a character who tells you what she's thinking in her head and she's sometimes very intimate with the audience and it makes people think that they know her. Also, on television -- you know this -- you're in people's bedrooms, you're in their homes once a week,sopeople do recognize you. But people are really cool, if they like the show, they just say nice things and if they don't, they just don't say anything.
Lisa: But they all think you're Ally.
Calista: Well, actually, I thought that would happen and surprisingly enough many, many people say, 'Calista,' and I'm shocked because nobody's ever been able to pronounce my name before. So, that's nice that people say Calista instead of Ally. Some people say Ally.
Lisa: What's been the downside?
Calista: I'd be hard-pressed to find a real big downside. I would say at the risk of being earnest, I'd say the rumors, the gossip and talk that people suddenly speculate and there's all this conjecture and stuff like that. You just have to get a tough skin and not worry about it but sometimes it's sort of hurtful, a bit.
Lisa: Have you toughened up?
Calista: Yeah, I'm sure I have. Maybe.
Lisa: When did you first realize how big this show actually is?
Calista: I don't think I've even realized it yet. Honestly, it always takes me by surprise when I go somewhere in middle America and somebody says, "Oh, I watch your show." I go, "You do? They have televisions out here?" It just shocks me. Every day it shocks me.
Lisa: One big thing everyone talks about is your skirt, the length. Is it going to be shorter this season? Is there going to be a slit maybe on the side?
Calista: Are you looking for a skirt? There's no skirt, not today, this is Calista. Who knows. For me the skirt issue is really whatever I want. Sometimes I'll feel like wearing them long, sometimes I feel like wearing them short. I'm sure it will just fluctuate and change.
Lisa: Greg Germann [Calista's co-star who plays Richard Fish] says he's for shorter.
Calista: Well Greg, you know Greg.
Lisa: Does it crack you up about all the discussion about your skirt length?
Calista: Yeah, I'm surprised that people got so obsessed with it. I think that it was just by chance, I thought, "Oh, that looks better on my legs so just make it short like that." I was surprised that some people were outraged and said a lawyer would never do that and I said, "Oh, but it's a TV show." Ally does crazy, crazy things all the time that real people would never do probably. Some people might. So, the idea that people were upset because of the short skirts is interesting.
Lisa: Do you think that Ally will ever find an ideal guy?
Calista: I don't know. You would have to ask David Kelley. Good question.
Lisa: Who would you like to see Ally end up with? Is there any actor out there, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise?
Calista: You know, I'm just going to leave that all up to David Kelley and the casting department.
Calista: Yeah. Damn straight, I'm chicken.
Lisa: What has been a big challenge for you with this whole experience?
Calista: Working with Greg Germann, is a big challenge. He's very difficult and sardonic and sarcastic and every day I have to brace myself for it.
Lisa: Actually, I've been told the entire cast is sarcastic.
Calista: I was actually being sarcastic. Maybe I'm the one who's sarcastic. Yeah, everybody has a sort of biting sense of humor, and I think that if one came in as a stranger, they might worry about us or they might cry. We might hurt somebody's feelings. But it's all very fun. I think we all really like each other, except for Greg, you know he's hard. Now I'm being sarcastic.
Lisa: I know, I know, because he was about you too.
Calista: What did he say about me?
Lisa: Oh, all sorts of things. I also talked to everyone about the unisex bathroom. Do you have a story about that bathroom?
Calista: I have no story about that bathroom.
Lisa: How do you feel about the bathroom?
Calista: I would never ever in a million years use a unisex bathroom. Would you?
Calista: No way! It's ridiculous. The idea of a unisex bathroom is ridiculous. But it does make an interesting place to play a scene, I think.
Lisa: Everyone seems to have fun in that bathroom.
Calista: Well, we don't have to go. It's just a set. So, we use the real bathrooms. Fake toilets, no plumbing in that bathroom so it's okay, but if we had to go in there, it wouldn't work for me.
Lisa: So, Nellie's on board. How does Ally feel about the competitiveness of it?
Calista: Ally or Calista?
Lisa: Well, both.
Calista: Well, Ally doesn't really like her. But I think it's great. I think the character will bring some controversy and some conflict and I think it'll be fun. I think it'll open up a lot of opportunities.
Lisa: Since you've been on the show, have you heard from people you hadn't heard from since you were a kid or that you've never heard of?
Calista: Yeah, I've heard from some old friends that I had forgotten all about. People from kindergarten, people from a long, long time ago which is really kind of neat. It's really fun to get a letter from someone you went to first grade with and I happened to move around a lot, so these aren't people I ended up going to high school with.I would be in first grade with somebody and I haven't seen or heard about them in eighteen years. To get a letter from them is pretty neat, to see what they're doing and they all have babies and are married most of them, it's fun.
--November 2, 1998