If you ever spot Megan Mullally in a restaurant, don't waste your money
sending over a martini. After catapulting to fame portraying the pill-popping,
brash-talking boozehound Karen Walker on NBC's just-wrapped hit sitcom Will
& Grace, people seem to expect Mullally to indulge in a drink or two
... or five.
Off the set, Mullally is more of a teetotaler. "People do think of me as
quite the lush, but in real life I never drank hard alcohol until a few years
ago ... I just never liked the taste of it," says the 48-year-old actor and
eponymous host of The Megan Mullally Show, which debuts mid-September
in syndication on various networks. Mullally's colorful character made for
"must-see TV" every Thursday night for eight seasons. And while she
says it was a blast to play someone as out of control as Karen, the three-time
Emmy Award winner usually "only drinks water or herbal tea."
Apparently, obsessive Karen fans and talk-show junkies who are expecting the
helium-induced lilt made so famous on Will & Grace are in for a
big surprise this fall. Not only is Mullally breaking away from her sitcom
comfort zone -- launching a show, with nods toward Johnny Carson and Merv
Griffin, that is part-variety, part-talk, featuring skits, a live band, and
correspondents -- she's also playing herself for the first time.
So will the real Megan Mullally please step forward? Her voice is deeper and
raspier than one would expect, and the other differences don't end at happy
hour. Where Karen Walker rebuffed all solid foods, Mullally is an organic-food
fan. "I don't eat a lot of sugar, and eating unprocessed foods makes a big
difference in my weight and energy. As you get older, your body just doesn't
really tolerate outside interference, including alcohol and junk food," she
Mullally's husband -- carpenter and actor Nick Offerman -- is a role model
for her in this regard. "He grew up in a small town where people don't have
the healthiest eating habits, and he has retrained himself to eat healthier and
work out ... he's really self-motivated."
She is relying especially on his healthy influence lately, as she prepares
to take center stage in her latest creative endeavor. "I'm just trying to
get a lot of sleep and eat healthy. I am psychologically gearing myself up for
the change in workload," she says.
To keep from drowning in the competitive talk soup that is daytime
television, The Megan Mullally Show plans to break new ground. But
Mullally thinks she's found the right formula to help her stand out from the
crowd: Her show features an interactive web site, where viewers will be asked
to participate in creative challenges, including decorating a room on a budget,
shooting a documentary about what is weird and quirky about their hometown, or
writing an essay -- in no more than 100 words -- describing where they are in
their life right now.