Mayim Bialik Finds Her Purr-fect Role in the Comedy Series ‘Call Me Kat’

From childhood roles in “Beaches” and “Blossom” to her eight-year, Emmy-nominated portrayal of biologist Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” Mayim Bialik has endeared audiences with her quirky, relatable charm.

Her latest endeavor is the Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat,” in which she portrays Kat Silver, a 39-year-old endearingly klutzy single woman who runs a cat café in Louisville, Ky. while dealing with the high expectations of her mother (Swoosie Kurtz) and the return to town of her high school crush, Max (Cheyenne Jackson). Based on the British series “Miranda,” the series reunites Bialik with “BBT” co-star Jim Parsons, who brought the idea to her. Both serve as executive producers.

Leaning into the lovable eccentricities of the character that sometimes play out in dream fantasy sequences, Kat both breaks the fourth wall to directly speak to viewers and breaks into song, sometimes duetting with Broadway vet Jackson, Kurtz, or her employees (Kyla Pratt and Leslie Jordan).

“What we’ve created is a woman who includes everyone in her world because that’s what makes her world interesting and colorful. And sometimes those are people that exist, and sometimes they are people that don’t exist [or] exist in different ways than they actually exist so that it fits better with her world view,” Bialik said during a Zoom press event. “We are including the audience. They are in on her jokes.  They are in on her experiences because that’s how she views the world.”

“Call Me Kat” cast. Credit: Lisa Rose/Fox

As for Kat’s love life or lack thereof, “She’s uncomfortable with the expectations that have been laid are out for her, and I think that a lot of people will resonate with that,” Bialik continued. “What I love is that this is not a show about a woman trying to find someone. It’s a show about a woman trying to be happy finding herself and seeing what happens along the way. We are showing a very nonconventional female, and I miss seeing women like this on television. I grew up really admiring quirky, multifaceted women and comediennes who weren’t afraid to be silly and sloppy and do pratfalls and things like that. We are showing a woman who is owning all of herself.”

Serving as star and producer, “It is a lot more pressure on me, personally; I’ll say that,” Bialik commented. “But, also, it’s been just such a joy. I mean, I’ve never had a job like this. I can absolutely say that my time on ‘Big Bang Theory’ was fantastic and life‑changing, and my time on ‘Blossom’ was fantastic and life‑changing.  But the way that we get to work and these actors, writers and just this whole team has made this, for me personally, the greatest job I’ve ever had, and even that includes being a mother because, like, that’s really rough most days.”

In an interview with the Journal, Bialik expounded further about the show, her family and her Jewish life as she prepared for Hanukkah. “We are having outdoor six-feet-apart lightings with my mom. We don’t even go inside with her, so we are lucky it’s warm in L.A. in the winter,” she said. “We make latkes as much as we can, and my ex-husband and I also make vegan sufganiyot a few times. Also, it’s my birthday on the third night so that’s fun!”

While at UCLA obtaining B.S. and PhD degrees in neuroscience, Bialik minored in Hebrew and Jewish studies, was a student leader of Shir Bruin at Hillel, and wrote four-part harmonies and conducted music for the Jewish acapella group.

“I taught a rag-tag, delightful group of young singers how to harmonize. I always love conducting music–I was a piano, trumpet, and bass guitar player–and I love singing liturgical melodies and anything Jewish. It was a true delight,” she said. “I am intimately connected to my Jewish history, identity, and all of the things about me that are me because I’m Jewish. Judaism is the lens with which I see the entire world and my place in it,” she said. “I believe in G-d. I am a Shabbat-loving halachic-studying baalabusta of a Jewess!”

“I am intimately connected to my Jewish history, identity, and all of the things about me that are me because I’m Jewish. Judaism is the lens with which I see the entire world and my place in it”—Mayim Bialik

Her new character is also Jewish. “I chose her last name, and we even have a scene with Kat and her mom sitting shiva in one of our first episodes,” Bialik said. There’s also a scene where she and Kurtz sing “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

She finds Kat’s other qualities-and the show’s premise—eminently relatable. “She turns lemons into lemonade on the daily. She is quirky and she is socially anxious and she sometimes lies, but in kind of an adorable way, when she’s nervous. She is a lot more colorful than Amy, for sure,” she compared. “I love how joyful she is and how she really does find the positive in every situation. I think we could all use a little entertainment right now.

“I also love that we are presenting a lead character who is not a size 0 and not even a size 2 or a four! No one asked me to lose weight for this role and my character dresses funky and lives by the philosophy you should wear what you want and be who you want. That’s refreshing for me for sure,” added Bialik, who also stopped straightening her hair, as she did to play Amy.

Like Kat, Bialik loves cats and has three at home, four-year-old Adamantium (Addie) and Nermal and “grumpy old lady” Frances, 13. “The cats that populate the set have several loving trainers who care for them like they are their own babies,” she said. “Our cats are not tethered or drugged, so they can be a little hard to wrangle at the end of a day, but they’re generally the kind of cats who love to just hang out and watch people act.”

Filming during the pandemic is a challenge, she confirmed, “But it’s as safe as we can make it. We are tested on average twice daily and everyone wears masks and shields and it is very important we stay six feet apart with all of our crew. We have a nurse on set full time supervising our procedures. It’s very strict. And obviously I don’t go anywhere at all so that I am the lowest risk possible for my co-workers.”

Her two sons, Miles, 15, and 12-year-old Frederick, who is now preparing for his bar mitzvah, have always been homeschooled. “My ex-husband is an amazing father and he has the boys during my work week. He handles their schooling. “They’re definitely getting a bit bored–my older son more than my younger one–but we started watching more documentaries and my older son discovered Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy, and that’s been awesome for us to bond over,” Bialik said.

Having ventured into publishing with the bestsellers “Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular,” “Boying Up: How to Be Brave, Bold and Brilliant,” the parenting book “Beyond the Sling,” and cookbook, “Mayim’s Vegan Table,” Bialik recently launched a podcast on mental health, “Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown.” In the same vein, her Sad Clown Productions will co-produce “Hope Café,” a sitcom for NBC based on a real Chicago coffee shop where the baristas are trained mental health counselors and the profits go to mental health education. She’s set to make her screenwriting and directorial debut with “As Sick as They Made Us,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Candace Bergen.

“I wrote it after my father passed away as a way to understand my grief. I grew up in a loving, hilarious, artistic and very complicated home and I used that as the basis for writing a story about a family living with mental illness in the home,” said the San Diego native. “I especially wanted to focus on the impact on siblings who have different experiences of growing up in turmoil. It’s a very personal story but also a completely universal one. I can’t wait to direct Dustin and Candace. And Simon Helberg from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is also in the movie. We are hoping to film this coming spring.”

Bialik also hopes to visit Israel, when it’s safe to travel again. “I usually go every other year with my kids,” she said. “The last time we went, my ex-husband and I went with our mothers for our first son’s bar mitzvah trip. I pray we can go next year for our younger son’s bar mitzvah. I miss Israel with all of her complexity and controversy. I miss my cousins and my aunts and uncles and I miss falafel and Ben Yehuda [Street, in Jerusalem] and the Tayelet in Tel Aviv. I miss everything about Israel!”

Reflecting on her long–and in a lot of ways unexpected–career, Bialik noted that she had quit acting to concentrate on her education, teaching neuroscience, and parenting her boys. “I was running out of health insurance, and I went back to acting so that I could literally just get enough insurance to cover my toddler and my infant. I went to this audition, and it was a guest spot, possible recurring [for ‘The Big Bang Theory’]. “I had no idea my life was about to change,” she said. “I love being a scientist and I do a lot of other things in science. But entertaining you seems to be where the universe wants me. It’s like a bloom where you are planted, and I keep getting uprooted and replanted and replanted, and it’s a really blessed place to be.”

“Call Me Kat” premieres Jan. 3 on Fox.

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