The mourning duration was suitable. It"s been an ext than a year due to the fact that beloved White residence secretary Dolores Landingham was laid to rest on ``The West Wing."

Still, we would certainly be ready to resent just around anyone that tried to change Mrs. Landingham. As played by Kathryn Joosten, she to be not just a moral bulwark because that Martin Sheen"s president Bartlet but a actual pistol come boot.Then Lily Tomlin to walk in as Debbie Fiderer and also the world was right again. Smart, gutsy and also eccentric, Fiderer assures to store Bartlet top top his toes. And Tomlin, once again, reminds united state what a endowment she is.

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But don"t shot telling her that. The actress, acclaimed because that her early on ``Laugh-In" comedy, dramatic turns in ``Nashville" and also other films and also her ambitious one-woman plays, is a version of modesty.

She"s additionally a charmingly haphazard storyteller and also the possessor of one of the good celebrity smiles, one impish kid-who-ate-all-the-cookies grin the lights up she face and also puts Julia Roberts come shame.

Over lunch at a Studio City restaurant under the street from she office, Tomlin admits she had daydreamed about a ``West Wing" guest role, perhaps as a tart-tongued pol modeled after former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

``I liked the show immensely. I assumed the writing was simply terrific," she claimed of the NBC collection that received its third consecutive ideal drama Emmy Award last month.

Tomlin, 63, has approached other series she admired, gaining guest roles on ``Homicide: Life on the Street" and a memorable ``The X-Files" illustration in i m sorry she and Ed Asner were paired as mischievous married ghosts.

``I believed it would certainly be quite if I might suggest one idea come "West Wing," but then friend let those points drift because you think, "Well, I can get rejected. Maybe they don"t also want me to it is in on the show.""

The planets aligned because that her casting when Tomlin was showing up in a new York renewal of ``The search for indications of clever Life in the Universe" and also Thomas Schlamme, an executive, management producer of ``The West Wing," was in the audience.

``A girlfriend sat close to Schlamme and heard the say, "Lily would certainly be good on the show,"" Tomlin recalled. ``That really perked me up. Then I obtained on the case."

She didn"t suppose to monitor Joosten - ``She"s such a darling actress and funny" - as height dog secretary but clearly relishes the role. She"s booked to appear in 10 episodes this season.

``The language is very dense, filled with ideas and intelligence and observations and questions. And also everybody"s supposed to be very intelligent and relatively witty," she adds, with a small, self-mocking laugh.

She happy recites a choice bit of dialogue from the season"s opened episode. ``What I lack in storage I much more than comprise for in deductive reasoning," the president speak Fiderer during a rocky task interview.

``Does that come v tights and a cape?" she replies, prompting an uncomfortable Bartlet come declare, ``I think the meeting"s over."

Make that spunky and mysterious. So far, we know that Fiderer to be fired native a previous White House article because she stepped on governmental toes helping Charlie (Dule Hill) get hired together the president"s aide.

Fiderer"s subsequent vibrant job history of gambler and also alpaca farmer have actually been sketched in, in addition to some evidence of political activism, however her an individual life continues to be a cipher.

Tomlin is wake up to reveal any kind of unaired plot points, worried around offending ``West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin. She starts come relate the moment she talked about notoriously secretive Woody Allen throughout production the his ``Shadows and Fog" (1992), then stops.

But that"s component of the Tomlin charm, a stream-of-consciousness approach that echoes her theatre work including ``Intelligent Life," featuring Tomlin as more than a dozen various characters and also written through longtime partner Jane Wagner. (Tomlin returns in the play following spring in Los Angeles.)

On stage, that translates to a circulation of memorable lines including ``I"ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see currently I should have actually been an ext specific." In life, it way Tomlin jumps native describing the backstory she"s created for Fiderer (she plan to short article it top top her internet site) to exactly how she felt choose a social nerd approximately ``Tea with Mussolini" movie co-stars Maggie Smith and Cher come missed job opportunities.

For instance, she sorely want to show up on ``The Lawrence Welk Show" in the guise of lounge singer Bobbi Jeanine and wrote to Britain"s Prince Charles and also Lady Diana in 1981 around another comic transform ego.

``I wanted to have Tommy Velour sing at their wedding," Tomlin said, laugh fondly in ~ the believed of play the cheesy man with the pencil-thin mustache because that royalty.

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