'Malibu Country's' Lily Tomlin: 'I never got a part from an audition'

People may have initially written off ABC's "Malibu Country" as a predictable sitcom starring Reba McEntire. But consider its not-so-secret weapon: Lily Tomlin.

Since she shot to popularity on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" in 1970 -- as Ernestine, the telephone operator, counting off "one ringy-dingy" as calls went through, and Edith Ann, the terminally congested 5-year-old who gave a Bronx cheer and told the truth -- Tomlin has consistently chosen winning projects.

In between films, TV and Broadway, Tomlin has managed to stay very down to earth. She was out long before Ellen DeGeneres but had not made any announcements.

At a crowded ABC party, where people posed, clinked glasses and got a little loud, Tomlin sat quietly on a couch in an outer tent. She was happy to talk about this role, playing Reba's mom.

"I named the character after my mother," Tomlin tells Zap2it of Lillie Mae. "I liked playing an older woman."

Though the character has gray hair, Tomlin wears a wig because she remains a brunette, which she proves by, unbidden, showing her roots.

Tomlin was interested in the role because of the show's star, McEntire.

"I saw her do 'Annie Get Your Gun' on Broadway, and it was so affirmative," Tomlin says.

She also liked the idea of playing a Southerner because both of her parents were from the South. Despite decades of steady work, Tomlin acknowledges she was never one of those actors who aced auditions.

"I never got a part from an audition," she says.

Rather, friends or directors guided her to parts. She continues to tour. "I still do Edith Ann," Tomlin says. "I do 40 to 50 dates a year."

"I like to do my own stuff," Tomlin says. "Jane (Wagner, her partner) might create. I would love to do something I totally relate to."
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