BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Kathy Bates calls herself "an old lion."
The actress says she also plays one in the big-screen comedy "Tammy," in theaters now. Bates portrays Lenore, a successful entrepreneur who figuratively slaps sense into the film's lovable loser of a titular character (Melissa McCarthy).
The 66-year-old "Misery" Oscar winner tells us more:
Q: I must admit I'm surprised to find you in this movie. You've done a few light comedies, such as Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy." But we're used to seeing you in dramas.
A: I'd heard they (the creative team of McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone) wanted me for a part. I didn't know what part. I told my agent, "I will play a giraffe with green spots, whatever they say." (Laughs.)
Q: What was the appeal of McCarthy?
A: Even when she gets outrageous, when she gets on the most ridiculous jaunts and puts a bag on her head and all of that, you go with it, because it's real. It's grounded in reality. You almost believe, "Hey! I'd do that, too."
Q: As Tammy and her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) careen out of control on their road trip, and in life, Lenore sets them both straight. She's a role model.
A: I think of Lenore as an old lion. It's taken her many years to create her business, to have a life for herself and (partner) Susanne (Sandra Oh). They met in college and I think they came out when it was very difficult for lesbians to be accepted.
Q: (The gay-cinema historian) Vito Russo would have loved that Lenore is incidentally gay. Her sexuality isn't the point of the character.
A: What I love about the way we are portrayed in the film is that Susanne and Lenore are a normal, healthy couple, which says, "You can't legislate who you love."
Q: What are the ties that bind you to Lenore?
A: I am an old lion, too. I'm nipping at the cubs quite a bit these days. When I get a young director who wants to do all these fancy shots and use all these wide lenses from a low angle, he'll get nipped. (Laughs.) I have spent 50 years of my life learning about this craft. And I'm about to turn it over to the kids that are coming up, which I will do, willingly.
Q: But you're by no means retiring. You couldn't be much busier.
A: I can't believe it. Let's face it. When (her TV series) "Harry's Law" got canceled and right after that I found out I had breast cancer and I had a double mastectomy that summer, I was pretty low. And I felt like I'd been kicked to the curb. And I didn't know if I would ever work again. And then, a year later, along came Melissa and ("American Horror Story" producer) Ryan Murphy. I'm just grateful for all that. A few months ago, I made the choice not to have (breast) reconstruction, because it occurred to me, "I don't want to go back to bed. I don't want to be on (the painkiller) Oxycodone for two months. I'm having too much fun."
Q: Ryan cast you in "American Horror Story: Coven," and has said that you'll appear in some capacity in the upcoming "American Horror Story: Freak Show."
A: I know I'm part of the "Freak Show." We live in Jupiter, Florida. And it's the 1950s. I know it's going to be out there -- a good place for an old lion to be.