On the Spot: Holland Taylor

December 29, 2011

Holland Taylor can be funny (as Evelyn Harper on “Two and a Half Men”), a little racy (as Judge Roberta Kittleson on “The Practice,” a woman who has sex even though she’s — gasp! — in her 50s) and intimidating (as a scary law professor in “Legally Blonde”). The versatile actress is in D.C. playing late Texas governor Ann Richards in “Ann,” a one-woman show Taylor also wrote and produced. Six weeks before “Ann” opened here on Dec. 17, she talked to Express about producing, preparation and Meryl Streep.

Did you always intend to play Ann?
Never, ever. It wasn’t like I had to create a part for myself so I could get work. I wanted to write a play about this person whose importance to me I discovered when she died [in 2006]. And, more importantly, her importance to America.

What made her so different?
She’s pretty much a one-off. The unique combination of her cold, narrowed eye assessing things and her enormous warmth — it’s just an unbeatable combination. She was scathingly smart and very fair, and she really saw people.

How do you prepare to play someone so many people remember?
I’ve had to be in charge of so many aspects of the production, my performance has gotten short shrift. I’ve only performed it 24 times. So it’s in the performance that you discover the performance.

What are some of the concerns you had about playing her?
I am a Yankee. I was never in Texas for any length of time. So the dialect work has gotten the least attention. I’m not a good mimic or imitator. I’m no Meryl Streep. I mean, Meryl is just uncanny in her ability to seem like another character. That’s an amazing talent. A freakish gift.

Do you wish you had that?
I have long since stopped wishing for things that I am not.

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; $54-$95, through Jan. 15; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom)
Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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