Meredith Palmer has become the 'fall-gal' (literally) on "The Office". After getting hit by cars, footballs, and bats (the flying kind) she has survived 6 seasons of the hit sit-com and become a fan-favorite. The hilarious, vivacious, no-nonsense Kate Flannery hit pay dirt when she was cast in the role, but it was a long journey to get there.
Kate began her career here in Chicago. After graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia she moved here and began studying at the Second City Training Center and performed with the Second City National Touring Company. She was a founding member of the Annoyance Theater where she helped create and star in such classics as "Manson the Musical", "The Miss Vagina Contest" and "The Real Live Brady Bunch". After 20 years of plugging away at acting, she finally got her big break when she was cast as Meredith. Knowing the uncertainty of the business well, she did not quit her job waiting tables all through the first season of the show -- just in case it was not picked up for a second season by NBC. The rest is history.
She's back in Chicago to perform her "fake" lounge act, "The Lampshades". She plays Kassie Chew, an aging lounge singer in a red jump suit who could pass for a drag queen after an all-nighter partying at Roscoe's. She chatted with me about the show, her career and her TV alter-ego, Meredith.DV:
Meredith has become a fan favorite. She is not one of the leading characters, but everyone knows of Meredith's antics. Can you list all of the crazy things Meredith has done?KF:
I will give you some highlights... I took my top off at the Christmas party, I had a bat in my hair, I was hit by the boss's car, I got a football in the face, I caught my hair on fire, and got dragged kicking and screaming into rehab, I got caught topless on the booze cruise with the ship's captain. I smoked my cigar outside of Jim and Pam's wedding. I got to dance the robot in a dance off with Andy before he tour his scrotum. I stole Pam's breast pump and used it in the bathroom during office hours. I got caught with no underwear in a very short dress on Casual Friday.DV:
Off-screen, has Meredith ever hooked up with anyone in the office? If so, who with?KF:
Creed is the only confirmed off-screen in office hook up.DV:
Will Meredith ever fall in love again? What do you she her doing 10 years from now?KF:
Meredith is in love with a guy named Jack. Jack Daniels. Actually more like Smirnoff. I don't know if Meredith will evolve into a real relationship. She seems to be having a good time. Meredith in 10 years? Do you want the whole list of health problems that come from all that booze??DV:
It's no secret Meredith likes to booze it up. You've spent your whole life preparing for this role since you practically grew up in a bar. What was it like with your dad as a neighborhood saloon owner and what experiences at the bar have stuck with you?KF:
We went to the bar on Sundays when it was closed to hang out, clean up, run around the big square bar, eat Slim Jims, dance on the sill of the window with stage like curtains while playing the jukebox. My dad owned the apartments above the bar so some of the guys would come in for a drink. Real characters! There was one woman. She was in her forties and very Meredith-ish. Some of the guys were happy to see us and some just wanted to drink. My dad would hold court with his jokes. Behind the bar was his stage! He is still hilarious.DV:
After college you came to Chicago to launch your acting career. Where did you work in Chicago and how did it lead you to where you are today?KF:
I took classes at the Second City training center and Improv Olympic while I worked at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba on Halsted and about a year-and-half later I got asked to fill-in for an actress in the show "That Darned Anti Christ" at the Annoyance Theater. I had one day to learn the part. I was pretty freaked out, but it went well and they asked me to take over the part. Then I did non-Brady roles in the "Real Live Brady Bunch," filling-in for Jane Lynch as Mrs. Brady and eventually playing Alice regularly. I did a bunch of shows there like "Manson the Musical," the "Miss Vagina Pageant, Coed Prison Sluts." And then I got hired by Second City in the National Touring Company as an understudy. I filled-in for a few different companies and I still got to work at the Annoyance. The relationships I made in those places continued in NYC and LA and still do to this day. (Steve Carell was the first Greg Brady in the "Real Live Brady Bunch!") Chicago is a club! We have a bond that will not be broken. There is an unspoken support for each other.DV:
You also developed "The Lamphades" here in Chicago nearly 20 years ago with Chicago-native, Scot Robinson. How would you describe the show? What inspired the show?KF:
It's a dying lounge act with interesting musical arrangements sung by a male/female duo who's relationship unravels on stage. Scot and I were at the Green Mill laughing at some singers who were talking themselves way too seriously. We new we worked well together so we just gave it a shot.DV:
You play Kassie Chew in "The Lampshades." She couldn't be more different than Meredith look and personality-wise. Was Kassie based on anyone you know?KF:
Kassie represents my love/hate relationship with singing. She is the combo platter of every annoying singer I love. Judy, Barbara, Edie Gormet, Cher, Liza, Lena...DV:
Like Cher and Liza and Barbra, gay men love Kassie. Why?KF:
Go big or go home! Gay men have the compassion and the appreciation for the gutsy show gals. Maybe there is a little Kassie Chew in all of us.
"The Lampshades", Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26, 8pm (doors open at 7pm), Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave. (at Wayne), Chicago (Rogers Park). Tickets: Box Office: 773-381-4554 www.maynestage.com