March 20, 2019

Lindsay Sloane got a personal bid for role in new CBS comedy

Lindsay Sloane made her acting debut in a TV commercial when she was 8. Her mother had struck up a conversation at a shopping mall with a woman who turned out to be a talent agent, and one thing led to another. “It was a commercial for the Church of the Latter Day Saints,” Sloane said, laughing at the irony of casting “a nice Jewish girl” in the role. But what really stayed with her was one simple truth: “OK, this is what acting is,” she realized. “You get to pretend you’re someone that you’re not.”

Sloane is still happily pretending 30 years later. She has carved out a successful career in films such as “The In-Laws,” “Horrible Bosses” and “She’s Out of My League,” as well as dozens of television shows, both with recurring and guest roles — “Weeds,” “Grosse Pointe” and “The Wonder Years” among them. Her latest role is in CBS’ new version of “The Odd Couple,” playing a new character named Emily, neighbor to mismatched roommates Oscar Madison and Felix Unger and a love interest for the latter. 

Neil Simon’s 1965 Broadway hit about slovenly Oscar and fastidious Felix became a movie with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon and a ’70s TV series starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. This time around, Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon have stepped into the roles, and Sloane, who guest starred on Perry’s “Mr. Sunshine” in 2011, received a personal invitation to join them.

“It was so flattering,” she said. “Matthew said, ‘I’m doing this reboot, and I want you to be a part of it. I’m going to send you the pilot I wrote, but I want you to create this character with us.’ I didn’t have to audition. That’s always a lovely way to get a job.”

Emily’s religion has not been established yet, “But at this point, with anything I play, she always is, unless there’s a reason for her not to be. In my mind I never want to fight against my natural instincts,” said Sloane.

Born Lindsay Sloane Leikin on Long Island to New York-native parents, Sloane grew up in Tarzana in what she describes as a “very East Coast” Reform Jewish home. “I went to Sunday school, I was bat mitzvah, and I was confirmed. We went to Temple Judea. But for me it was about the tradition and culture of Judaism, and the neuroses and angst — those things that are inherent, whether we want them to be or not.”

Following her childhood agent’s advice to drop her last name is something she now regrets. “She told my mom that Leikin was ‘too Jewish.’ The older I get, the more [I’m] upset about it. It equated being a Jew with something I should hide. I don’t blame my mom, because she didn’t know enough to say no. But I felt that I was forced into denying my family’s heritage,” Sloane said.

For the last 10 years, she’s been married to Dar Rollins, a partner at ICM she’d met 14 years ago. “He was my agent’s assistant when we met. Now he’s a big macher!” she said. “It’s been really nice to watch him grow into who he is.”

Sloane put off having children until three years ago, when her daughter Maxwell was born. “We were young and just wanted to be married and not have that responsibility. And I’m so happy that I did. I would not have been ready before. Physically, I wish I were younger, because I’m so tired, but I think I did it at the right time.”

Sloane lives in Encino, chosen for its good public schools; her parents live nearby and attend every “Odd Couple” taping. She calls the sitcom’s work schedule “a great gift” for a mom, adding that Maxwell often visits her at the Studio City set. “Everything about it has been a dream come true,” she declared, confiding that she’d wanted to be on TV for as long as she can remember. “I had a neighbor that did it, and I thought that was so cool.”

She has no regrets about beginning her career so young. “I didn’t work consistently enough when I was a kid that I missed out on anything. It was the perfect balance. My grades always went up when I was working, because I had a private tutor on set. So it was nothing but a bonus. All upside, no downside.”

Reflecting on her career so far, Sloane named “The In-Laws” as one of her favorite experiences. “I filmed in Canada for 2 1/2 months, with Albert Brooks playing my dad. I learned comedy by watching this man’s movies, and then I got to act with him; he’s so kind and so wonderful. I was also really proud of ‘Grosse Pointe.’ It was so smart and such a great part to play. It was spoofing ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ but was on a bit too soon.”

Asked how she envisions her future career, Sloane said she remains “open to being surprised by whatever comes. There are so many directors out there that I would love to work with. I’ve been able to cross a lot of people off my list. I did work with Diane Keaton, but it was such a small part that I would love to do anything with her again. I want to do small, cool indie films like what the Duplass brothers are making, or Damien Chazelle, who directed ‘Whiplash.’ I think the young generation of filmmakers’ voices are so cool and dynamic and interesting.”

She also wants to visit Israel. “I’m bummed that I never did a Birthright trip,” she said. She thinks about taking piano lessons again, something she discontinued, along with dance and gymnastics, to pursue acting seriously. “Now that I have a daughter, I want to encourage her to commit to things, have follow-through, and it’s making me want to put my money where my mouth is,” she said. 

“Maybe we’ll take mother-daughter piano lessons.”

“The Odd Couple” premieres Feb. 19 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.