Actress Annie Potts, 59, became a television favorite in the sitcom “Designing Women,” but before that, she had appeared on the big screen in “Ghostbusters.” She recently starred in ABC’s “GCB,” which was canceled. She grew up in Kentucky and studied theater at Stephens College in Missouri. She has been married four times and is the mother of three sons. She stars in the Hallmark Channel original movie “The Music Teacher” with Richard Thomas. It airs Saturday at 9 p.m.
Q: In the Hallmark movie, you play a music teacher, and I understand in real life, you are doing some teaching.
I have taught some master classes and things at my alma mater and sometimes at my kids’ school. I will go in and talk to the theater students. I wouldn’t really call myself a teacher. …
I love it. I remember from being in school how great it was for people to come in. It was nice if they had an attachment to my school, people from there who had made it. … I had great parents who said, “Go for it.” They never made me feel I couldn’t do it. I think they underestimated a little bit my ambition. …
My parents didn’t have any idea about the entertainment business. Because I have a little too much information, I think I have made it more difficult for my own children. You know, sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Q: Why don’t networks give shows like “GCB” more of a chance to catch on?
I think it’s just numbers for them. Although I think our numbers were good, they (programmers) were hoping that we would instantly have some kind of, you know, “Desperate Housewives” numbers. I sure am sad that it didn’t go forward because I was having a wonderful time, and gosh, that was a great character for me.
Q: Doing movies for television, you eliminate the worry of wondering if it will be picked up for another season.
Well, I love steady employment. (laughing) … I like doing a series. I like to work nine months of the year. You know, school kind of puts you on a track. You work nine months of the year, and you have a couple of months off. I like that schedule (laughing). But, so few can have it. I love series television because it’s so much fun to have that much opportunity to paint the character.
Q: So when you do a character for a long time, like on “Designing Women,” do parts of that character start to blend with your own?
Somebody said there is a rule of thumb: The most successful TV characters are those who are most closely aligned with the people who are playing them. If you think about it, there really aren’t many successes that don’t have that: Ray Romano is kind of that guy. Jerry Seinfeld is kind of that guy. The character I played on “Designing Women” was a lot like me. The woman on “Any Day Now,” a lot like me. Gigi (from GCB) (laughing), you know there are parts of me that are like her. You have the most success then, I think. For me, it was fun to put on the wig and all that paint.
Q: What is it like to age in the business and go from young, single girl to playing the mother?
Well, I became a mother myself at 28, so I’m always comfortable being the mother. I guess the implication is once you become the mother, then you are no longer the viable sexual whatever. The ingenue roles aren’t all that fulfilling. There is much more texture, depth, wisdom, humor, etc., the older you get. So I never thought that it was a bad thing.
I have always sort of been a character actor. I have always counted on the fact that it would be in my favor as I aged. There are always roles for me. The work that I have done hasn’t been based on an extraordinary beauty that would be mourned if it weathered. (laughing). Mine is a passable attractiveness that is just fine at 60.
Q: So are you aiming for a Betty White-style, long-term career?
You bet! She is totally my hero. And you know, she always seems like she is having a fantastic time, doesn’t she? I think she is.