In their continued effort to replicate the success of AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, tonight at 9PM sees the CW Network taking the wraps off a new reality based competition series. From the brains behind the BIGGEST LOSER, SHEDDING FOR THE WEDDING is a new series that pits nine overweight couples against one another to see who can loss the most weight and win the wedding of their dreams in the process. And while we wouldn’t normally cover anything on the CW that is even tangentially linked to the cancelation of quality scripted dramas (cough*LIFE UNEXPECTED*cough), the new series has one thing going for it: A universally likeable host in the form of LESS THAN PERFECT star Sara Rue, who we had the pleasure of catching up with last week to preview the series, what it’s like crushing contestant’s dreams on live television and when we can expect her to return to RULES OF ENGAGEMENT.
As a working actor, was there any apprehension when it came to signing on to a reality based competition series — one that is part of a genre that over the course of the past decade has quietly contributed to the cancelation of countless scripted dramas and comedies?
Sara Rue: I’m such a big fan of reality TV. I know people will sort of roll their eyes over it, but I just am. I love THE BIGGEST LOSER, I love THE BACHELOR, and I love all those SAY YES TO THE DRESS wedding planning style shows. I just do, I can’t help it! As an actor, I know I shouldn’t because it takes away jobs from working actors, but here’s the thing: People watch reality TV, there’s nothing we can do about it, so if you cant’ beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em.
Was saying yes to this opportunity an easy one as a result of your association with Jenny Craig and your recent very public, not to mention very successful weight loss?
To be totally honest with you, when the CW and executive producer Dave Broome first called me to talk about the show, my first instinct was to say no. I love reality TV but I didn’t want to be on it. But then, the more I kind of thought about it, the more I sort of felt like I needed to do it because it kind of felt like a pay it forward situation for me. I’ve been so lucky to have been involved with the Jenny Craig people, who have really helped me and supported me with everything I have gone through over last year and half on my own weight loss journey. What’s more, I found it really inspiring and really exciting for me when people would come up to me and say, “You inspire me, or reading your blog or watching your stuff really helped me get through a tough time in my life.” To the point that all of a sudden being involved with something like SHEDDING became more important than being the lead of any TV show, feeling as though I was making a difference in people’s lives or helping them through a rough time was so inspiring to me and such a gift. Now I get to be a part of someone else’s journey and stand on the sidelines and cheer “You can do it!” and really mean it.
Unfortunately, one of the downside to almost any reality based competition series is having to say goodbye to contestants along the way. After getting to know the contestants and seeing their struggles up close and personal just how difficult was it to say goodbye?
That is the bummer element of any one of these types of shows where you have to say goodbye to people and you know that they want to be there. But, at the same time, because our show doesn’t involve a voting off element, where it’s like “America has decided that you suck more than you,” and it was never a popularity contest on SHEDDING it made it easier for me. At the end of the day, the fate is in the hands of the contestants, it always came down to a competition where the people with the lowest weight loss have to face off in a final battle, which I thought was cool. Never being a popular kid, feeling like I was always picked last for everything, I don’t know if I would have handled a voting off element very well!
Moving on for a moment to another project of yours, when can we expect you back on RULES OF ENGAGEMENT?
Playing Brenda the surrogate, who’s also a lesbian is such a fun character and I’m happy to report that I’m actually doing a bunch more. I just shot an episode last week and I’m going back in two more weeks to shoot another one. I’m going to be carrying Jeff and Audrey’s child and I’m really excited about it.
Obviously RULES is a comedy and is played for laughs, but is there a bit of extra responsibility in playing a role like Brenda, particularly with the political climate in the United States.
Definitely. I talk to the writers anytime there is anything where I’m like, “This makes me uncomfortable,” or “How will people react to this?” Like you said, it’s a comedy and you don’t want to be that person who takes away humor from a sitcom, but at the same time, I have so many friends in the gay community that I feel an added sense of responsibility. So it’s a fine line, but I hope that my representation is respectful, funny and non-stereotypical and non offensive. God that would be the last thing that I would ever want to do.
SHEDDING FOR THE WEDDING premieres on Wednesday February 23, 2011 following AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL at 9PM on the CW. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT returns Thursday February 24, 2011 at 8:30PM on the CBS