When you star in a television show that is widely renowned for killing off major characters, it may behoove you to flip to the end of each new script to see if your character is still alive.
Mary Lynn Rajskub stopped doing that a long time ago.
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Her show-stealing turn as the socially awkward, truth-screaming Chloe O'Brian on "24" became an almost instant fan favorite when she was introduced in season three of the Emmy Award-winning Fox action drama that was canceled in 2010. The popularity of Chloe was such that when Fox announced the show was returning this year as a miniseries, Rajskub's character was featured as prominently in the promotional material as the show's iconic main character, Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Spoiler alert: Chloe survives the miniseries, too.
Looking back, Rajskub admits she never expected Chloe to make it out alive, let alone become so beloved. Fans of her comedy were probably equally surprised that Rajskub's legacy is the sassy, no-nonsense character she portrayed on the show instead of the whip-smart hilarity she delivers onstage.
Ahead of her cross-country comedy tour that stops at Zanies in Rosemont for three shows Thursday and Friday, Aug. 21-22, Rajskub ruminated on the creation and future of Chloe O'Brian, offered some parenting advice and got a little grossed out by the results of a Google search.
Q. Tell me about the new standup set you're doing on tour.
A. I started working in earnest on this standup before "24: Live Another Day" was announced. I was working on it while we were filming in London. So as soon as we finished shooting, I had my long-form set almost ready. It's still a lot of parenthood stuff, I touch on "24" and a lot of personal stories. The fun thing for me now is I'm getting crowds that only know me from "24" and can't believe I'm onstage.
Q. I'm a new father. I have this fear about saying something wrong about her or posting things on Facebook that will haunt my daughter later. Do you have that fear about using anecdotes about your son in your act?
A. You mean like in 20 years she gets rejected at a job interview because you posted about her pooping on a wall when she was a baby? "I'm sorry, we were going to hire you, but you really need to get your dad to take down that post about you pooping on Facebook." No, but I do know what you mean. I talk about meeting my husband and how he was a rebound, but I got pregnant and then we got married in Vegas. And now it's to the point where we're married and that little thing looks like I'm throwing him under the bus as, "look at this crazy thing I did with my life!" But the time we've been together is superseding that moment and we really pulled this off and there's a real sweetness there. I really like my husband more now than I did when I randomly got together with him. But you've got to talk about real stuff.
Q. What was it like being Chloe O'Brian again?
A. I totally said goodbye to Chloe. It was off the air. I was absolutely shocked when they brought it back, but it was really scary; strange, wonderful, weird and scary.
Q. How much of Chloe was written and how much of her was you choosing the way to portray her?
A. Well, early on it was all me. It was a surprise to everyone, including myself, that she came off that way because up to that point I had only done comedy, so it was definitely scary. I was doing my version and interpretation as if I was that person. And I was really worried she was not going to be liked and I thought, "this is not good," but it kind of ended up working out in my favor. Later on, it became a really fun collaboration with the writers.
Q. Why do you think she resonated so much with fans?
A. I just think it was the old switcharoo that happens. People really didn't like me at first because I stuck out. They would think, "Oh God, that Chloe. I know people in my office that act like that." But making me loyal toward Jack even though I was always the annoying rule-follower who says the wrong things, it was a happy accident that gave me another layer and that's when things got really interesting.
Q. Are you cool with Chloe being your legacy as a performer?
A. I'm forced to be cool with it, and it is great and wonderful. I'm looking forward to doing something else, although I know this is something some people will always see me as.
Q. What did you think of the Freddie Prinze Jr. beef with Kiefer that just came out? (Prinze recently blasted Sutherland in an interview, calling him the "most unprofessional dude in the world.")
A. Oh, you know, boys. What are you going to do? When I was around Freddie he was pretty hilarious and easygoing. I wasn't around for the scenes between the two of them, so I'm not sure what happened.
Q. What roles have you turned down that you regret?
A. What? Turned down? I'm waiting for them. Oh no! Wait! It would be great if I made up some good ones. What's that blue character in the X-Men movies?
Q. Mystique? The character Jennifer Lawrence plays?
A. Yes! Let's put that out there that I turned that down. Let's just say I turned down Mystique.
Q. So, this is weird, but I feel I should bring it up. Do you know that when you search your name in Google, the second auto-finish option that pops up in the search bar is "Mary Lynn Rajskub Feet?" It's not like that for a lot of other female celebrities, but it is for you and (fellow comedian and actress) Sarah Silverman. What do you think that's about?
A. Oh God. You didn't go down that rabbit hole, did you? Well then, I couldn't be prouder. I've worked so hard on my feet and feel so proud people have chosen to do weird things with close-up shots of my toes. But at least I'm in good company.
Q. What's next for you and your feet?
A. We're walking my two dogs right now. One's a French Briard and she's a big girl with big, sexy legs and the other is a little cockapoo. They're named Ginger and Emmy. Beyond this walk though, I'm developing some comedies. A lot of Little League games with my son. And maybe a little more "24." Who knows? I'm not counting on it, but I wouldn't count it out.