LOS ANGELES (AP) — Louie Anderson isn't a mom, but playing one on TV has given him a new appreciation of motherhood.
On FX's "Baskets," the veteran standup co-stars as Christine Baskets, mama to troubled man-child Chip, a reject from French clown school, and his estranged twin brother, Dale (Zach Galifianakis stars as both).
Anderson's portrayal finds its own restrained niche within the dark comedy series. He doesn't overdress, overact or contort his voice as the well-meaning parent with well-developed coping skills.
Instead, Anderson plays the role with restraint and, he says, gratitude at age 63 for an unexpected career gift — which as a bonus allows him to channel aspects of his late mother, Ora Zella Anderson, with touches of the five sisters he grew up with (in a family of 10 siblings in St. Paul, Minnesota.)
Critics have applauded, and Anderson is certain his mom would have been "thrilled" to see a version of herself on screen. The series, now in reruns, has been renewed for a second season.
"She would say this to me: 'You know, I'm not really like that.' But then she would smile ear-to-ear, and she would slip me a pair of her earrings to wear in the show," he said.
As Mother's Day approached, Anderson shared his thoughts about moms in general, his own, and the best gift he ever gave her.
MOM AS MUSE
In portraying Christine, "nuance is what I go for, tiny rather than bigger things. Mom did things with her eyes or her grimace or her disappointed lips — or her passive-aggressiveness," he said, laughing.
About that eye action: "Rolling eyes were big in our family."
His mom and sisters experienced joys and disappointments in their lives that have been distilled in Christine as well, he said.
"I took all that into consideration: 'What would my sister say here, my mom say here?'"
LOOKING THE PART
"When people put lipstick on you — I don't care who you are — you immediately purse your lips and go, 'Hmmm, I look pretty good,'" he said.
The character's style shares a bit of flash with his mother's.
"She was very classy. And the jewelry, I'm always thrilled at the jewelry for Christine because my mom loved costume jewelry," Anderson said. "My mom was always poor but she always looked great.'
IS IT HARD OUT THERE FOR A MOM?
"Oh, God, yeah. I have duties in this show. I've got to plan a party, get myself clean and spruced up, make sure the house looks right," he said. "At the same time, I'm just putting a coat of paint on a situation that's fairly serious sometimes."
When family problems can't be avoided or solved, guilt tends to kicks in.
"I think moms feel incredibly responsible for where their kids are, and that's why they get upset. Their kids aren't where they think is safe or good for them," he said.
BETTER THAN FLOWERS
Bringing his mom along when he performed at the White House for President Ronald Reagan was his top Mother's Day gift to her, Anderson recalled, but his role in "Baskets" would have been a likely No. 2.
"She could bask in the glory of watching with her friends," he said. "Mom had a (news) clipping of me that she carried in case people weren't aware of who I was, even pulling it out when I was in the proximity."
When he protested that it was embarrassing, she was nonchalant.
"Coincidentally, the clipping had a picture of her and me," he said, wryly.