Dialogue with LIFE+DOG: Mary Lynn Rajskub
All Photos at the W Los Angeles-Westwood
Photos by Brett Chisholm
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Actress Mary Lynn Rajskub is one of the most diverse and popular character actors of our time. She is a comedienne, a dramatic actress and, of course, a dog lover! You may recognize her from her roles in popular films like Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde 2, both of which she stars opposite Reese Witherspoon, stealing scenes with her unique comic flair, but it’s her role as agent Chloe O’Brian on FOX’s hit series 24 that made Mary Lynn a household name and solidified her stardom! Born in Trenton Michigan, to a pipe-fitter father and pharmacist’s assistant mother, Mary Lynn grew up in a normal, all-American household. As a child she developed a life-long love of painting, so much so in fact that she began to paint daily and would often be found creating in her room before school or before playing outside. Expressing herself on canvas soon led to her expression through acting. Inspired by the hit show Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, she was bitten by the acting bug and accepted her first role as an Oompa-Loompa in community theater. Her first starring role as Raggedy Ann soon followed and by the time she was in high school she was starring in school productions, most notably as the sassy and spunky Rizzo in Grease.
Mary Lynn followed her passion for painting and, following high school, headed west to San Francisco to attend the San Francisco Art Institute! “I went to school for painting because I didn't want to go to college and I didn't want to get a job,” she says. While at school she fell into her love of stand-up while dabbling in performance art. “I did serious performance art pieces and people laughed. That's how I knew I was funny,” she told US Weekly. Rajskub soon adjusted her act to become a parody of performance art, and audiences clamored for her fresh take on comedy. It wasn't long until Hollywood came calling and she was asked to join the cast of an HBO comedy series called Mr. Show. After about a year on the show, Mary Lynn was recruited by comic legend Gary Shandling to join HBO’s Larry Sanders Show and she has been acting nonstop ever since. She has appeared in more than 17 movies, more than 18 television shows and numerous stand-up gigs, while continuing to pursue her passion for painting. In 2003 she joined the show 24, becoming an instant fan favorite. Playing the quirky Chloe O'Brian, an analyst at CTU Los Angeles (and later New York), she became lead character Jack Bauer's most trusted colleague; and Rajskub became a series regular appearing in 125 episodes of 24, more than any other actor except the star Kiefer Sutherland, who appeared in all 192 episodes. The character Chloe was so popular that Project CHLOE, a Department of Homeland Security surveillance technology development program aimed at protecting airliners from terrorist missiles, was named after Chloe O'Brian, because 24 is former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's favorite show.
In 2008 she added another role to her resume, that of a devoted mother to her son Valentine, and in 2009, wife to husband Matthew Rolph. She initially struggled with her experiences with becoming a mother so she returned to her stand-up comedy roots and created the one-woman show, Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs,” using humor to highlight her challenges and experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood. “I thought, ‘I can’t be the only one who is having a miserable time,’ so I took some notes and made comedy out of it,” she told HollywoodLife.com. “I ended up starting from a place of all the conflicts that happen when you love your baby. I don’t think anyone is ever really ready for it, and I don’t think you can ever really plan for it, no matter which point you’re at in your life, so I wanted to talk about it.” She quickly adjusted to her maternal mantle and continued to share her unique experiences to help other mothers through Nickelodeon's Parents Connect website.
Throughout her life and her career, Mary Lynn has also had a love of all things dog, specifically her two current canine companions, Emmy a 5 year-old Cockapoo and Ginger, her 3 year-old Briard. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the day with Mary Lynn and her personable pups at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, where we shared sentimental and silly stories about how dogs impact our lives! Emmy and Ginger are two pretty amazing animals. They are incredibly friendly and sublimely sweet, just like their celebrity caretaker. While they will warm up to anyone, it’s no doubt that their mom is their preferred person. In fact, the three seem to have a language all their own which was obvious as they ventured throughout the hotel for photos, never leaving her side, always attentive and always perfectly behaved. They are clearly a big part of the actress’s life and she of theirs. We wanted to get to know all about Mary Lynn, her pups, and her upcoming projects so we settled down to a cozy chat in the swank hotel suite at the W in Westwood. In moments it was as if we had known them all forever and we couldn’t wait to hear more about Mary Lynn’s LIFE and her devoted DOGS!
Mary Lynn Rajskub on LIFE:
LIFE+DOG: What was life like growing up in Michigan?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I grew up in Trenton which is a suburb of Detroit. It was very safe and pleasant. Very insulated from the rest of the world.
L+D: Did you always want to be an entertainer?
MLR: I did children's theatre and acting in high school but when it was time to go to college, I didn't want to be around actors and I didn't want to do heavy academics or get a job, so I went to school for painting. I didn't think it was possible to be an entertainer. By the time I was in college, I was doing performance art and was compelled to perform above all other things. I moved to Los Angeles to do live shows with a group of comedians I met, including David Cross, Kathy Griffin, and Jack Black. It was a very fertile time creatively. I started to get auditions and that's when I thought maybe it was something I could do for a living. It wasn't until the third or fourth year of being on the series 24 that I began to consider myself a professional actor.
L+D: How did you get into stand-up comedy?
MLR: I got into stand-up comedy from doing performance art in college. People would laugh at my performances and I thought it would be nice to try to get laughs on purpose. It is always exciting to stand up in front of a crowd and make them laugh and I continue to look for those opportunities as often as I can.
L+D: What has been your favorite role to date?
MLR: My favorite role to date has been playing Chloe O'Brian on 24. The character started as a small part and ended up being the right-hand lady of the main character, Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland. It was incredible to get to grow with the character as she developed.