While we have loved Tammy Lynn Michaels ever since she played bitchy Nicole Julien on Popular (not to mention her turn as a stalker on The L Word), many people know her solely as Mrs. Melissa Etheridge. Well, thats changing. After taking several months to be a fulltime mom to their kids, Michaels is back, playing yet another killer quirky role: Tess on the NBC comedy Committed. Tess, who lives across the hall from one of the main characters, plays the kind of nanny that would make Mary Poppins toss her tea and crumpets. We chatted with Michaels to get the details on the show, about being out, and about how Melissa is doing.
So how did this all come about? Last I heard, you were happy being a mom!
I am, I amI was so happy taking care of my family. And then I had an agent who looked at me and said, Youre too talented, thats a waste. And then I said, Well, you know what, give me a year. Start sending me out again, but right now I want to be home doing all the chores and be a housewife. And she didnt listen to me and she sent me a script a couple weeks later and said, You can do this in your sleep. And I read it and I laughed out loud.
Were you nervous auditioning, given that at this point, everyone knew you were gay?
You want to know what I was thinking? Right before the screen testa screen test is when 20 suits are sitting on desks, looking you overI was sweating. I was getting ready for the audition walking up and down the NBC corridor and their walls are filled with Will & Grace, Will & Grace, Will & Grace. And I thought, NBC, dont you put the Will and the Grace on the air and then not hire somebody out. And I didnt say it but I thought, Lets see what happens. Lets see. Everybody said, and all the warnings I got said, Dont come out. I guess it didnt affect the two women who hired me. And Im sort of like riding the wave and going like, Whoa, what happened? I thought I wanted to take a year off!
You tend to play women with an edgeor on the edge. Are you attracted to these roles or are these roles attracted to you?
We find each other. I dont think Ive had a lot of low-key, mellow, or normal women in my life. Ive had a lot of colorful souls, right? So the more colorful characters are what attract me.
Its funny I remember interviewing you for Out maybe five years ago. I dont know if its because of Melissa or maturity or coming out, but youre very eloquent, comfortable with yourself. You seem very different.
Life is different when you accept everything and everyone. Life is different when you stop hiding. But you know, I was kind of fractured. I was very compartmentalized: Who knows the truth? Who knows half the truth? And who knows none of the truth? And I found that the longer I was with Melissa and out, the more life fit me. Life wasnt too big anymore, not too overwhelming. My experience was that when I came out, all the darkness went away.
And I see that.
I have to tell you, when you find that person you are dying to run home to after years and years and years, thats what matters. Nothings ever changed between Melissa and me. Weve never gotten bored, we dont spend too much time together; we dont spend enough time together, you know?
Hows she doing? [Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year.]
Shes doing good. Shes doing great. Shes done with chemo, and she will be doing home radiation. Then were back to where we were before we got knocked off.
Before, she was on the road and you were home with the kids a lot. Is she home with the kids more now since youre busy? Or do you bring them to set?
I have. Ive brought them to work a couple of times and they think its fascinating. I think its really, really healthy for them to see women working. I think its really great that they have two great moms that work and are great role models, and I say bring them to every job so they can see. And I dont just say, Hey, watch what I do. Memorizing the lines is the best! I go, Hey, that womans name is Lowie. Shes craft servicesshes in charge of food. You might want to do that Everybodys got a job so you just want the kids to see everybodys job. Am I boring you?
No, not at all, are you kidding? Its so funny to hear you speak so lovingly about the kids, and then to watch you play Tess. But I realize that deep down, despite her bizarre methods of child rearing, she really does love the kids.
Exactly. I look at every adult as if they are a culmination of their experiences. You can look at my character, Tess, and assume that as a child she didnt have anybody appropriate around her, so how are you supposed to know whats appropriate unless you learn? So Tess is a good girl, shes got a good heart, but she likes drinking and gambling and shes not sure how to handle children, but she means well.