Marissa Jaret Winokur admits she might have gone a little too Method for the season finale of her TV Land series Retired at 35. Laughs the bubbly Tony winner (for 2002’s Hairspray) and former Dancing With the Stars contender, “I took more time picking out that wedding dress than my own!” Starting Tuesday night, the two-week season closer event follows her character Amy down the aisle, where she may or may not marry fiancé Jared (John Ross Bowie). The complication? Her brother’s best friend Brandon (Josh McDermitt) “really is in love with [Amy],” she says, “and there’s definitely a triangle going on for a little while.”
Winokur admits the season-long tug-of-war between the two guys was even tough for her. “I actually didn’t even know as an actress who I wanted Amy to be with,” she says. “Every week when I’d get a script, I’d wonder which way it was going to go — ‘Is this the week that says [she’s] with Brandon, or is the one that says [she’s] with Jared?’ … One week, I’d be super-close with Josh and be like, ‘Oh, I hope we’re going to get together this week!’ [Then again] John and I have such great chemistry, too. So even I was wishy-washy with who [Amy] should be with.”
Ambivalence over her beau was just one source of stress for Winokur, who had to test run the bridal fashions well before filming the finale. “You get completely crazy. Even though it’s a costume, and it’s not real, I was at the wedding store like, ‘I want to do this and wear my hair like this…’ You get so wrapped up in it,” she laughs. “It was literally like, ‘Do I say yes the to dress?'” Amy’s pre-wedding prep was a 180 from her 2006 wedding to writer Judah Miller, which she says was “so low-key. I wore a dress in my closet. We had it in my backyard.” One perk of the job: “I felt like this time around I could try on all the big wedding dresses and the Cinderella dresses because I never did that.”
The filming itself was not so glamorous, as she had to wear sky-high heels for the entire shoot and could rarely eat because her dress was ultra-fitted. Still, the actress — who admits she carries around a Snooki-inspired, feather-topped “Party’s here!” pen — had her own tricks to loosen things up: “I wore underwear that said ‘I <3 Dorks' on it because Brandon and Jared are such dorks. I was running around showing everyone my underwear. I'd be pulling up my wedding dress like, 'Look at my tush!'"
These kind of antics barely prompt a batted eyelash on a set that includes such stars as Arrested Development vet Jessica Walter and former Friends star George Segal. “I’m surrounded by comedic geniuses, making me more and more the straight woman on the show, which is just hilarious to me,” giggles Winokur. Walter and Segal are also Broadway pros, so there’s always a chance of an impromptu on-set singalong. The biggest offender? “George constantly wants to put on a number,” says Winokur. “He sends me videos over e-mail of Eartha Kitt or old performers doing these old numbers…like, ‘This is what you should be doing [on the show]’…. He always has his banjo on set.” I think we have the makings of a Very Special Episode in season 3.
Retired at 35‘s two-week season finale begins Wednesday night at 11 p.m. ET.