by Matt Webb Mitovich
C.J., you know we love ya, but there's a shiny new spin doctor in the White House, and she's being played by Ever Carradine on ABC's Commander in Chief (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET, but preempted tonight). As Kelly Ludlow, she puts the best possible face on Mackenzie Allen's scrutinized presidency, all the while fielding furtive glances from the first son and lending her ear to the first gentleman. Carradine, whose previous long-term series gig was as the girl-toy of Sela Ward's ex-husband on Once and Again, chatted with TVGuide.com about life in TV's "other" West Wing.
TVGuide.com: I totally remember you as Once and Again's Tiffany. She was such a sad little... what's the word I'm looking for?
Ever Carradine: A sad little clown. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Actually, I was looking to alliterate by calling her a "sad strumpet," until I realized that a strumpet "does it for money."
Carradine: Oh, no. Tiffany had a little heart of gold, the sweet thing.
TVGuide.com: It was always so cute/pathetic when she tried to win over Sela Ward's kids.
Carradine: I know, so pathetic. [Laughs] But that was the best time. You know, I was only supposed to do one episode, maybe two, and then I ended up doing three years, so....
TVGuide.com: That show had such a great cast, and such quality.
Carradine: Well, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick are two of the best producers in the business. It was great.
TVGuide.com: Here you are once and again butting heads with Sela, who's on a rival Tuesdays-at-9 series!
Carradine: She's on House, right?! I can't seem to shake her! [Laughs] But that's all right.
TVGuide.com: When this plum Commander in Chief opportunity came up, did you make a beeline for it?
Carradine: I was sent a ton of pilot scripts, and Commander in Chief was one of them. I saw that it was written by Rod Lurie, whom I had worked for before on Line of Fire and I really respected his work, so I put it at the bottom of the pile and saved it for last — kind of like "dessert." I read the nine or ten on top of it, then read Commander in Chief, and I was like, "This is the one for me." I would have done anything to get the part.
TVGuide.com: Were you a fan of The West Wing or, like, the film The American President, going in?
Carradine: You know, I was a fan of Rod's movie The Contender, with Joan Allen, and yeah, I was a big West Wing fan.
TVGuide.com: What steps did you take to differentiate Kelly from C.J.?
Carradine: I think I am so different from C.J. just as an actress — [Allison Janney and I] don't go up for the same roles — that I wasn't too worried. The only thing that crossed my mind is that people are pretty used to seeing her play the press secretary; I simply hoped that they'd be open to seeing me do the same job.
TVGuide.com: Have you gotten any feedback from actual political circles?
Carradine: Yeah, I've gotten some positive feedback from a few of them.
TVGuide.com: Is anyone saying that Kelly is too young and perky?
Carradine: I don't think so. We shot in D.C. for a few days and there were lots of pretty little girls in smart suits walking around. The show is about Washington's best and brightest coming together in the White House, and Kelly, although she is a bit younger than we're used to, is about the same age that Dee Dee Myers was when she was Clinton's press secretary, so it's not totally farfetched.
TVGuide.com: Are you liking Kelly's smart suits?
Carradine: Yeah, they have me looking pretty good. I like a smart suit!
TVGuide.com: If Geena Davis ran for president, would she get your vote?
Carradine: Yes, of course!
TVGuide.com: Do you find that you're more attuned to real-world politics and White House spin-doctoring since taking the role?
Carradine: Yes, definitely. I watch press conferences with a little bit of a different eye. Not that I know what goes on behind the scenes, but I'm definitely interested in different aspects of it now that I'm trying to play it day after day. I think the job of a press secretary to is to always be on your toes, and that definitely is the case for Kelly.
TVGuide.com: What was the mood on the Chief set during the Rod Lurie-Steven Bochco show-runner transition?
Carradine: We all thought that the network was only trying to protect the product and make sure everything turned out the best it could. Were all just happy to have Bochco there, and Rod Lurie is still on as executive producer, so hopefully we're stronger than ever now.
TVGuide.com: What is the dynamic between Kelly and Richard "Dickie" McDonald, the media consultant being played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar starting Nov. 29?
Carradine: There's some tension. He sort of comes in and ruffles everybody's feathers a bit.
TVGuide.com: Does he step on Kelly's toes?
Carradine: He steps on my toes, calls me on some stuff.... It should make for interesting television!
TVGuide.com: An episode or two have hinted at a growing closeness between Kelly and first gentleman Rod Calloway, played by Kyle Secor. We're not going there, are we?!
Carradine: [Chuckles] We're not really going to go there. I either get asked if I'm going to go there with the first gentleman or the first son, and I think that neither of them will actually happen!
TVGuide.com: Do you get a kick out of the fact that on the show, Kelly is rumored to be dating George Clooney?
Carradine: I do! The perverse part of me sort of enjoys that.
TVGuide.com: What has been your most memorable filmmaking experience?
Carradine: Oh, gosh... I did a horror movie a year or so ago that....
TVGuide.com: Are you talking about Dead & Breakfast?
Carradine: Have you seen it? It's a rental, I know — it's at Blockbuster now. I have memories from that of it being four in the morning, me being freezing cold and covered in blood while pretending to fight off zombies. Those are pretty vivid memories!