Jennifer Convertible


By Jeffrey Epstein

We have always loved Jennifer Tilly. And now we get to watch her every week as Crystal, Henry Winkler's delightfully ditsy receptionist/girlfriend on the series Out of Practice.

Your relationship with the gays goes back a long time.
Yes, it does. The first time I played a lesbian was on Dream On. But I didn't play the femme, I played the butch. And I had to really fight for that because obviously everybody wants me to be the femme. They offered me the part of the girly one and I said, 'I want to play the other one because she says mean things and wears pants.' So they had me come in to read and I was as mean as I could be, and they gave me the part.

Do you think Crystal may ever explore her sexuality?
There was a line on the show where someone was talking about a girl who swings both ways and they said, 'She loves sex and her sexual preference is people.' They weren't talking about Crystal, but that kind of explains Crystal. We were thinking it would be really great if there was a scene where she went to a gay bar with Regina [the show's lesbian character] and she's sitting at the bar and someone hits on her, and she thinks maybe she's a lesbian. OK, I pitched that story.

Many people shy away from gay roles. You want to keep adding them to your resum'!
I was upset because I was in Saint Ralph playing a lesbian, and they cut the lesbian part and I was like, 'Darn, there goes my chance for a one-page profile in Out magazine!'

Never! So what's it like being with the Fonz?
When I was a kid, I used to watch TV and there were all these girls around the Fonz. They had their arms around him and were kissing him, and I said, 'I want to be one of those girls!' I found out later they're called 'extras.' That was my big ambition! I wanted to go to Hollywood and kiss the Fonz. Now I kiss him in almost every episode! It's very bizarre how things come true but not exactly the way you plan. He's really a lovely man and we have a great time on set. But he's retired the leather jacket. Now he's a mild-mannered gastroenterologist.

Now you wear the leather.
We actually had a scene where I was wearing a little leather bustier and you gather they have a really kinky sex life. But it's CBS so it's all off-screen. It's funny because in the last episode I had a scene where I was in the bathroom the entire time. I thought, 'This is very familiar,' because in The Women on Broadway I played a character named Crystal who had an entire scene in a bathtub. So I was reliving it. Except when I was on Broadway I got to stand up and 'display the talent.' Here, they were freaking out, 'The bubbles are melting! The bubbles are melting!' They had to go up to the neck. Even if you caught any part of the breast'less than you would see on Baywatch!'they would run in there with more bubbles. You can only push the envelope so far'about a quarter of an inch!

Another favorite role of mine is Madam Leota in The Haunted Mansion'hilarious!
I sometimes work with just body parts, and that was just my head. It was constricting but it was fun.

Do you find nowadays people just call you for roles, or do you still have to audition?
Most of the parts you see me in, I just get offered. People have a very set idea of who I am, and it's hard to get away from that sometimes. The funnest thing I've done lately is the new Terry Gilliam film [Tideland]. I play the most disgusting junkie bad mom you've ever seen. Some of the reviews said, 'This will cure anyone who has a Jennifer Tilly fetish forever!' I was really impressed that Terry Gilliam just called up and offered it to me. I don't know what he saw that he thought I could play this disgusting, monstrous, cellulite-ridden woman, but he saw the inner me.

Do you have a sense of your gay appeal?
Oh, yeah. The movies the gays love: Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Bound, Relax It's Just Sex' It started with Bullets Over Broadway' and they love Bella Mafia, oddly enough. They appreciate my sense of humor and they appreciate that I really make an effort to look like a drag queen at any given time.