Portia de Rossi: THAT GIRL!


By Shana Naomi Krochmal

Portia de Rossi has always been a lot more than one-half of television’s most powerful gay couple -- and with a new season of the cult hit 'Arrested Development,' she’s back to prove it.

Photography by Kai Z Feng

Styling by Grant Woolhead

When we last saw Lindsay Bluth Fünke, she was rocked by a twin set of shocking truths: The spoiled only daughter of Lucille and George Sr. was not -- at least biologically -- one of the Orange County, Calif., Bluths after all. And somewhere in the sleight of hand that led to her secret adoption, three years had been subtracted from her age, which made her not 37 years old but 40.

If you’ve seen even a few minutes of Arrested Development, you can guess which of those revelations really rocked Lindsay’s worldview. (The biggest upside of being adopted? She could finally pursue her brother Michael -- Jason Bateman -- romantically.)

Portia de Rossi played Lindsay for three seasons with a breezy, if bamboozled, charm, and as far as she or any of the show’s ardent fans knew, that midlife crisis was her swan song. The series was summarily cancelled by FOX in 2006 after limping through a critically lauded but ratings-challenged run, and though rumors of a movie swirled for years, it became one of Hollywood’s most poignant “when pigs fly” punchlines.

Enter Netflix, the on-demand DVD and video streaming service that’s stepping slowly into the shoes of the major studios and networks and shaking up the way we consume TV. In 2011, the company ordered another season of the dry, demented comedy about a selfish brood of 1 percenters (when the show debuted a decade ago, Mitt Romney’s dressage horse and car elevator, located just down the California coast from the fictional Bluths, was but a gleam in jokesters’ eyes).

“It was a bit of a fantasy,” de Rossi says of the show’s second life, which during production grew from 10 episodes to 14, unbound by a strict broadcast 22-minute-episode schedule. “Because it’s on Netflix, we didn’t really feel the presence of a studio or a network. It felt like an independent feature, very creative and loose.” Many days, she showed up without having seen a script: “We could trust the process because we know our characters and we know [creator] Mitch [Hurwitz]. But at the same time, everything was very spontaneous. Some of the funniest stuff I have ever seen in my whole life is in this new season.”

Given another crack at Lindsay, de Rossi -- now 40 herself -- says she’s discovered a surprisingly sympathetic side to the character: “In this reincarnation, she’s doing a little work on herself. She is attempting to... not become a better person exactly, but to find out who she is and what she wants. She isn’t as vapid and selfish as I’ve always thought her to be.”

Where de Rossi is one-half of arguably the most famous gay couple in the world (her wife is Ellen DeGeneres), Lindsay is married to the most obvious -- if oblivious -- gay resident of the dysfunctional Arrested Development village. Tobias Fünke (David Cross) is the butt of approximately 27-percent of the show’s jokes, most of which center around his own megalomaniacal, grandiose attempts at self-improvement and success independent of his wife’s family.

Tags: Television