Empty Nest is now on Laff TV! To celebrat
Tony award-winner Dinah Manoff played the endearingly neurotic Carol Weston. In this interview, Dinah discusses her favorite episodes, what it was like to direct the show, where she thinks Carol would be today...and confirms once and for all that Bea Arthur was not a fan of chewing gum!
Empty Nest Online: You had a history with Witt Thomas Harris Productions, and Richard Mulligan, having worked on Soap years earlier. Did that impact your involvement in Empty Nest?
Dinah: Yes. At first, they were nervous about casting me in the part. They weren't sure I would be able to sustain what could and did turn out to be a seven-year run. Jay Sandrich, the director, had a talk with me after my audition, before testing for the network. He wanted to be sure that I understood the discipline and commitment it would take. They had worked with me when I was much younger, and I had a tendency to be confrontational. Jay was also concerned that I would get bored or frustrated with the material once Susan Harris was no longer writing the show. I reassured him and producers Paul Witt and Tony Thomas that I would be at all times professional, that I had grown up and was ready to settle into a series.
ENO: I always thought Carol, perhaps more than any other character, had a rich evolution over the course of the series. How would you describe her, and what was it like to play her?
Dinah: I loved Carol. She was so deliciously and comically screwed up. She had all my insecurities times 100, and I could mine my own neurosis in a creative instead of destructive way. Carol was relatable to any woman who had been the best friend of the pretty girl. In this case, the sister of the pretty girl. Carol's unattractiveness was all in her head. She saw herself as fat and ugly even though she was adorable. It made her a perfect victim for Charley's barbs, because she was so sensitive. Carol really came out of Susan Harris's own insecurities. I would disagree with you, though, about an evolution during the series. I think she became far less dimensional in the last couple of years.
ENO: Tell me about working with the cast, especially Richard Mulligan and Kristy McNichol. You and Kristy had such great chemistry. I've heard you say in other interviews that, when she left, half your act left.
Dinah: Kristy's and my characters were developed to play off one another. Barbara was confident; Carol insecure. Barbara got the hot guys. Carol picked losers. There was great comedy in our competition for our father's attention, in our irritations with one another. We were like the odd couple. It was never the same after she left. I loved acting with Kris. We were first-rate sparring partners, and we genuinely loved and respected one another's talent.
Richard was the maypole around which we and all the characters revolved. He was immeasurably talented and gracious. And though he was wickedly funny, acting with Richard was serious business. He expected a very high standard of professionalism on and off the set. I miss him.
David Leisure and I always had a blast working together. One of my fondest memories is of the episode where Charley and Carol sleep together. We are still great friends.
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