One Smart Cookie: Jean Smart
Emmy-winning actress Jean Smart – best known for her roles on Designing Women, 24, and Samantha Who? – would love to do more voiceover work.
“People constantly tell me, ‘I recognized your voice before I recognized your face.’ I’m thinking, ‘Okay, voiceover agents, do you hear that?’” Smart – whose voiceover credits include Kim Possible – said with a laugh during a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles. She is married to Richard Gilliland. Together, they have two children: Connor, 21, and Bonnie, 3, who was adopted from China in 2009.
“She is just adorable. She is a pistol. She’s tall like her mommy. She’s turned our life around,” gushed Smart.
Currently, Smart has a recurring role as district attorney Roseanna Remick on Harry’s Law, the legal drama created by David E. Kelley – the mastermind behind The Practice and Ally McBeal, among other shows – starring Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates as lawyer Harry Korn.
“I’m the district attorney you love to hate. I’ve always wanted to work for David Kelley… I always wanted to speak his words. I was ecstatic about (this role),” said Smart. “She’s so outrageously ruthless in a way that’s almost kind of funny. She will obviously say and do just about literally anything to win, which is fascinating. She’s the Richard III of modern district attorneys. It’s interesting on television the attorneys that are the sympathetic ones – the ones that you’re rooting for – are the defense attorneys. In real life, it’s the prosecutors, and we think defense attorneys are scumbags.”
She continued, “Roseanna would say, ‘I don’t understand this. I’m trying to put away the bad guys. What’s the deal here?’ Obviously, she does it in very unethical ways. She does have a rather twisted sense of humor, which I adore. She says to Harry at one point, ‘I find it interesting that you’ve defended all these murderers and drug-dealers, and you save all of your disdain for me.’ I think that’s how she sees it. For whatever those reasons, I think she feels like she’s on some kind of a crusade. She’s enjoying it. She also sees it as a game – it’s a big game… Harry doesn’t quite see it that way; she’s a little bit purer. Kathy’s character is an anti-hero in the sense that she’s such a curmudgeon, she smokes dope, and isn’t always sympathetic – which I think is fantastic for a lead character on a show like this – but along comes Roseanna who makes Harry look nicer.”
Her portrayal of mentally unstable First Lady Martha Logan on 24 in the 5th season earned Smart critical accolades and an Emmy nomination. Martha appeared in the 6th season, where she stabbed her estranged husband President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin), in the neck. That was the last time Martha appeared. However, in a later episode her name was mentioned and although her fate was left ambiguous, it was implied things ended badly for Martha. Smart has her own theory on her character’s fate.
“They made it sound like she jumped out a window or something. I half-jokingly picture her with a shaved head in a rubber room somewhere, babbling in Russian. Who knows? Poor Martha,” she said.
What wasn’t ambiguous was the fate of Smart’s recurring character, Gov. Pat Jameson, on the first season finale of the new Hawaii 5-0.
“I went down in a mini-hail of bullets. I say that because it was 2-3 bullets,” said Smart, who really enjoyed this role. “You get to play the governor of Hawaii, you get to shoot in Hawaii, you get to be part of a remake of a classic TV show. I thought how fun could that be?”
Earlier this year, Smart jumped at the chance to portray Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and wife of Prince Charles in the tele-film, William & Catherine: A Royal Romance, which chronicled the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton – now the Duchess of Cambridge – who were married earlier this year.
“I just couldn’t say no. It was just one of those things that sounded like so much fun,” she said. “I was nervous because there is almost no video footage of her speaking. I Googled and YouTubed until I was blue in the face. My husband found an audiotape of her addressing a group of journalists. That helped me get down the quality of her voice – she has a very posh accent and a very deep voice.”
She continued, “I thought it was great fun. When I heard that Jane Alexander and Victor Garber were starring, I knew it would have wonderful acting in it. I read the script and thought it was really enchanted. I totally got sucked in by the love story – it doesn’t matter how much of it was fictionalized – I found myself rooting for this young couple… It made me cry and I just loved it.”
Asked if she heard from the real Camilla, Smart laughed and responded, “I doubt if she watched it. I’m sure their reaction was: ‘Oh, please, another movie about this family? Really? Okay, fine, thank you.’”
Smart enjoyed filming Youth in Revolt in Michigan in 2009. She and her son drove through downtown Detroit and dined at Coach Insignia, which is located on top of the Renaissance Center.
“We ate at one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in – bar none – my entire life. The food, the view, the service was phenomenal,” complimented Smart. “It was amazing! Detroit has always been an incredible city: the history, the things Detroit gave to our culture. I wish Detroit the best.”