Jane Kaczmarek

Patricia Sheridan from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke with Jane back in September.

This is the audio version or click ‘more’ to read the cut down text version.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Q: Just curious: Have you ever had any run-ins with the law?

A: [Laughs.] Well, not the law so much, but I had a run-in with jury duty. It was the last week of Christmas vacation, and I had had jury duty suspended over and over because I was nursing a baby. My doctor said, “You know what? When you finish nursing you’ve got to do jury duty.” It kind of surprised me. Someone told me that if you really shoot your mouth off about being an actress or if you just get really loud and obnoxious you’ll get off because they don’t want those people on a jury. So when she asked me my occupation, I said I played the loud-mouthed mother on “Malcolm in the Middle” and I played Judge Harm on “The Simpsons.” You know, I was really thinking she would say you are released. She asked me if I had been the victim of crime, and I had been. I lived in New York City in the 1980s. I had been held up by knifepoint and gunpoint. The next thing I knew she swore me in. You know, she really wanted to teach me a lesson, and she did.

Q: Did you ever have to reconcile your Midwest value system and your acting career?

A: Hmmm, are you getting at something in particular? You know, I would pass on stuff that I thought was really vulgar. I don’t really watch television, which I’ve always felt I make a living at it but I don’t particularly … I mean, I watch some stuff. We have one TV in our house, and the kids can’t watch it during the week. I don’t know. I think maybe Midwest values just give you a kind of drive to work hard and take responsibility for yourself. I love doing dishes, and I love doing laundry. [Laughs.] I love ironing, love ironing.

Q: Did you have any guilt being a working mother?

A: Not guilt, because the people I have found to take care of them have been extraordinary. It did get to a point where it didn’t matter. I want to be taking care of them. I didn’t want somebody else, no matter how good they are. They are my kids. My last one was born a month before I turned 47, so I waited a long time to have those kids. You know, when “Malcolm” ended I turned everything down because I just wanted to be home.

Q: Do you think having children later in life, as you did, keeps you young or does it wear you out?

A: Both. It definitely keeps you younger because you are hanging around with all these women in their 30s. I think the great thing about being older is you are so much more aware that your days are numbered, this is such a gift. I am so grateful for everything in my life at this point. It doesn’t get any better than this, and you realize this is all going to end one day. Not to really bring you down. I never was so aware of that until I was 50 and likewise so grateful.

Q: You once said just because you are free doesn’t mean you are available. Were you always protective of your personal time?

A: No, you have to learn these lessons. When “Malcolm” started I felt this huge responsibility to participate in every charity that asked me and show up for their fundraisers and show up for whatever they needed. You get burned out. I have my own children to take care of, and I need to refuel. I still send a check, but I probably won’t show up to the event.

Q: Was there a specific moment that triggered the idea for your charity “Clothes off Our Back”?

A: Yes. It was the first year I was nominated for an Emmy, and I was in Beverly Hills coming out of Neiman Marcus. I was looking for the perfect shade of an evening bag. I saw this homeless woman sitting on the sidewalk knitting. She had a birthmark over the side of her face that was exactly the color purple I was looking for in this evening bag. I stopped and thought, what the heck am I doing? There are homeless people living on the streets, and I’m dashing around looking for just the right evening bag. It really shook me to the core. I come from a family that doesn’t waste anything. At UNICEF a dollar immunized a child against measles, which could save their life. So if we sell Jennifer Aniston’s dress for $50,000, which we did the first year, that’s 50,000 children! It became a really tangible thing to do with all this stuff that would make a difference in children’s lives.

Q: Your children are being raised by two famous parents, so how do you keep them grounded?

A: As I said, we have one TV that’s usually never on. I drive a hybrid Honda Civic. Brad drives a Honda. We do something with their birthdays. We write in lieu of gifts please bring a check for whatever amount and we will choose the Smile Train or the Children’s Defense Fund or some children’s charity. Something else we’ve done when we’re in New York is we go to FAO Schwarz and tell them this is the most famous toy museum in the world and nothing here is for sale. They believed it until about a year ago. It was great. They would go ohh and ahh and never ask for anything [laughs].