[15 June 2010]
It seems appropriate that Valerie Bertinelli should be co-starring with Betty White in “Hot in Cleveland,” TV Land’s first original sitcom, which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT.
Just like the former “Golden Girl,” Bertinelli — who first gained fame as a teen in the long-running comedy “One Day at a Time” — is hot again, and not just in “Cleveland.” There’s also her gig as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, her talk show pilot and her recent engagement to businessman Tom Vitale. If that’s not enough, in April she completed the Boston Marathon in five hours and 14 minutes, and in October she’ll do her first triathlon.
Bertinelli recently chatted by phone from Los Angeles with Daniel Bubbeo about how her life is beginning all over again at 50.
Q. Did you ever imagine turning 50 would be like this for you?
A. Oh, hell no. Not even a little bit. I thought I’d be living in the mountains somewhere, weighing about 100 pounds more than I do with about 40 cats. I was going to be retired. This is how I would have loved to imagine it, but I never could have. But dreams come true.
Q. Do you feel a little pressure for “Hot in Cleveland” to succeed, since it’s the first sitcom TV Land has ever done?
A. Oddly enough, I don’t feel pressure. My whole feeling is if we can get people aware of the show, and they tune in for the first one, they’ll definitely come back for the second one because I just believe the pilot is that good, and the second one is that good.
Q. What was it like working with Betty White?
A. She’s an amazing woman. She’s 88 1/2 years old, and she’s just on top of it. You go, “Wow!” You just keep yourself together and take care of yourself, and you may have a shot at being someone like Betty White. ... She’s the kindest, sweetest, most giving person. I just want to eat her up.
Q. You don’t see a lot of shows on TV that deal so heavily with women’s relationships.
A. Not anymore. It used to be that way back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s gotten much more man-centric, and I don’t know how that happened because you usually think of women as ruling the dial. We’ve gotten away from women’s stories on TV, but I believe that’s coming back.
Q. How different has it been for you doing a sitcom today versus doing “One Day at a Time” back in the ‘70s?
A. Really, I feel like I’m home again. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 30 years since I was on “One Day at a Time.”
Q. When you started with Jenny Craig, did you think, “I’m never going to be able to lose all of this weight,” or were you really determined?
A. I think a little bit of all that because I’ve been doing it forever — losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight. I thought this time I want it to be different. And it really was different. There are different tools with Jenny that do make it easier. ... My consultant is a dream. She’s become a friend of mine. And that was the one thing I didn’t want to do with the diet when they first told me about it. I said, “I don’t need a consultant, I know how to diet. I’ve been dieting all my life.” But where did that get me? And it really did work.
Q. It sounds like you’ve been on a really strict diet and exercise regimen since then.
A. I’ve really relaxed into it. I was on a really strict exercise regimen for the marathon, but yesterday was the first day I exercised in three weeks since the marathon. I was just wiped out. I think I ran a couple of miles a week after the marathon and maybe a couple more times, and then I didn’t do anything for a couple weeks. I finally got on the treadmill for an hour and a half yesterday and I thought, OK, this feels good. You kind of start to miss it after a while.
Q. Have you started training yet for the triathlon?
A. I believe that one is in October. I just need to start swimming more. I’ve already been biking and running. I’ve got those two down, but the swimming ... well, we’ll see how that goes. I’m not much of a swimmer. I’m more of a lying about on a pool pad kind of girl.
Q. After “Hot in Cleveland,” what’s next for you?
A. I’ve got this talk show that I’ve been wanting to do for three years now, and we’ve finally put a pilot together. I’m really excited about it, but I’m also holding my breath. You just never know with those kinds of things. Daytime is a very odd place to try and fit something in. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Q. Is this a celebrity-interview type of show?
A. It’s more topical about what’s going on in the world today, what people across America are talking about, and they can actually talk to us. It’s live. They can tweet in, they can e-mail in and iChat in. It’s one-on-one, and three-on-three. Everyone talking to one another, everyone has a voice, not just the two hosts.
Q. You haven’t branched out into film as much as a lot of other TV actors. How come?
A. I never really made an effort to, unfortunately — or fortunately. For a while I just really pulled out of the business and was a stay-at-home mom, and that was my joy, and still is. So I became a part-time actress and a full-time mom. And that was just fine with me.
Q. Was there any one role you really wanted but it didn’t work out?
A. Oh, plenty. I was up for “Footloose.” I was up to be in “Amadeus,” or at least read for it. I just know even reading for “Amadeus,” I seriously doubt they would have cast me, but I got the interview. I never went. And there were plenty of TV shows, too, that I read for and didn’t get, or was offered and didn’t do. And they went on to be huge hits, but that doesn’t matter. They weren’t meant for me, and they might not have been huge hits had I been in them because it might have changed the whole dynamic of the show. So I don’t regret anything.
Q. Looking at your career right now, it’s kind of parallel to Betty White’s in that all of a sudden you have these new projects and it’s like a whole second phase to your career.
A. I never, ever pictured this, that my life would be as happy and fulfilled as it is now. I don’t know what kinds of seeds I sowed a long time ago, but I’m hoping they were good because I don’t want anything to change.
Q. Let’s look ahead another 25 years — when you’re 75, where do you see yourself?
A. Hopefully, doing what Betty’s doing. She’s my idol.