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Martin Mull, Amy Halloran, Lana Parrilla, Kristin Chenoweth

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 26, 2005

Notes from the NBC stars' party Monday:

-- It was good to talk to Martin Mull, who is co-starring in the NBC comedy '"Thick and Thin,'' because his upbringing in Northeast Ohio has made him a fierce Indians and Browns fans. He considers Bernie Kosar a friend, and has suited up for practice with the Browns. (He's a placekicker, proudly noting that when he was 50 he still managed a 50-yard field goal.)

He catches just about every Indians game on his satellite dish, and when we talked Monday, he had his TiVo recording the Indians-Oakland game then in progress. With the Browns, he said, ''I am not one of these guys who sits there and has three drinks and whoops and hollers with other people. When I'm watching a football game, I am as deadly serious as when I'm watching the verdict in a murder trial. ... I get quite crazy.''

And what about the Cavaliers? "'I don't follow basketball,'' he said. ''I have to give my wife some time.''

Mull and I talked about other things, including his increasing devotion to painting, and I suspect I'll have a story about him in the Beacon Journal in the coming days.

-- There's a lot of curiosity about ''The West Wing'' this year, and co-star Kristin Chenoweth says that curiosity includes the cast.

''We're doing the election all fall,'' said Chenoweth, who is signed for at least nine episodes. ''I think everybody ... is anxious to find out who we're going to be working for.'' Executive producer John Wells may know the winner, but no one in the cast does, she said. ''We're very excited to read the (scripts) ... every week.''

She loves ''West Wing,'' so much that she is commuting between the show in Hollywood and a film location in Canada, where she is shooting a comedy with Robin Williams. She also has several other movies in the can, including ''Running With Scissors'' where she plays Annette Bening's lesbian lover.

That may surprise some of her fans. But, she said, ''I'm a Christian and I believe that if you're gay, it doesn't matter. I don't think you're going to hell. ... I want to be a Christian that makes people go, 'Oh, they're not all crazy!' ''

Then there's a film biography of Dusty Springfield in the works, with Chenoweth as Dusty. Chenoweth is a big singer, like the early Dusty, but said she grew up singing in the lower, huskier style of Springfield's later work. (And if you don't have ''Dusty in Memphis,'' then you need to get it right now. Immediately. I'll wait until you're back.)

(All right, so I couldn't wait.) ''I will be really excited to play this woman who was so tortured about her religion -- good Catholic girl -- and struggled with her sexuality,'' Chenoweth said. ''She had a lot of issues. ... She's the Judy Garland of London, really.''

And it's going to take a lot of preparation. ''I'm a little tired of her right now. I've been listening to her constantly!'' Chenoweth said.

But she's still fond of ''West Wing,'' especially the range it gives her.

''It's great for someone like me, with my height (4'11''), with my looks, with my voice, to play somebody smart,'' she said. ''People don't take me seriously. Then, when they find out I have a brain, it's a shock. And it's the same thing on 'West Wing,' as far as the character goes. She's one of the smartest people in the room, and it's been really fun to play that.''

-- ''Thick and Thin's'' cast includes Martin Mull, Sharon Gless and Jessica Capshaw, but the one to watch for is Amy Halloran, who plays Capshaw's sister (and the daughter of Gless and Mull). She's the one who has Future Sitcom Star written all over her.

The show focuses on Capshaw, as a woman who has gotten thin while her family members remain comfortable in their old, heavier bodies. Halloran has fought the weight-perception issue in Hollywood, and is glad to be in a show that respects different body sizes.

''Most of my first guest stars (roles) were playing the chubby girl who's set up on a date, and then he finds out she's chubby. The real stereotypical, boring scenarios,'' she said.

Asked if she now turns down those roles, she said, ''Yeah. I reached that part when I got cast in an episode of 'Still Standing.' It was just too much, it was too mean, it was too cruel. I felt like I was sending the exact opposite message that I want to send. Fortunately, the stars of the show have the position to stand up for me -- and folded the episode. ...

''I talked to them about it 'cause I knew it wasn't my place as a guest star to jump up in the producers' face. But, you know, they realized that I was uncomfortable. They were uncomfortable with the material. We talked about it, and they were just brave enough to take a stand,'' she said.

The episode was rewritten, and Halloran lost her part in the process. ''But you know, I still got paid,'' she said with a laugh.

-- ''Boomtown's'' Lana Parrilla, who plays the wife of  Mansfield native Luke Perry on the NBC mid-season series ''Windfall,'' admits to a considerable crush on Perry during his ''Beverly Hills, 90210'' period. How serious? She once almost called him Dylan, after his ''90210'' character, Dylan McKay. She stopped herself but if she had, she figures he would have laughed. ''He has a wonderful sense of humor,'' she said.

I may file more from NBC later. But, since a group of reporters just wandered through the press room singing the Carpenters' ''Close to You,'' it's a little late. And time, then, to say good night.

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