Jenna Elfman is returning to the network that made her a household name.
Fifteen years after her run on Dharma & Greg, the actress will topline new ABC comedy Imaginary Mary, in which she plays Alice, an independent career woman whose slightly unhinged imaginary childhood friend (voiced by Rachel Dratch) resurfaces when she falls for a man with three kids. How true-to-life is this part? Elfman reveals all in EW’s Pop Culture Personality Quiz.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have an imaginary friend growing up?
JENNA ELFMAN: No I didn’t. I grew up in a cul-de-sac with four boys in the home across the street, and I just played with them.
Rachel Dratch voices your imaginary friend on the show. Who’s your all-time favorite Saturday Night Live alum?
Oh God, that is tough. They’re all legendary. Okay. That’s a tough one. That’s almost brutal. That’s a brutal question. Jim Carrey, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy.
Best imaginary friend in entertainment: Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street or Tyler Durden from Fight Club?
Why am I not even remembering the Fight Club one? I remember the movie. Why do I not remember it? I saw it so long ago, and I don’t even remember that factor. That’s crazy. Probably that, because I just loved that movie. It so impacted me, even though I’m seemingly blank on aspects of that film.
To everyone around her, it appears that Alice is talking to herself. Have you been caught in a similar situation before?
If I did, I didn’t know it, but I don’t really talk to myself, so I’m not thinking that it’s been a problem. I usually have plenty of people in my life to talk to, so I don’t find myself talking to myself, although I observe other people talking to themselves as they’re walking down the street, and I find that highly amusing.
What’s been your weirdest fan interaction?
Oh my God. Jean Reno. I really love him a lot. I was walking down the street and I saw him sitting at an outdoor eatery. This was in 1997 — late ’96 or early 1997. It’s before Dharma & Greg. So there was like an opening where you see him through the path entrance as you walk through a wall. I saw him as I passed by, and I came to a screeching halt like, “Oh my God, my most favorite actor!” I had a huge crush on him. I was like, “Oh my God, I have to say something!” So I backed up and proceeded to interrupt his lunch to tell him how much I admired him and loved him. I really couldn’t shut up, and he was being a total gentleman, but it was supremely awkward, and then I just had to shut myself up, and back up slow and remove myself from the restaurant before it got a million times worse and I sat down at the table or something. He was really nice at first, and then the conversation went on way, way longer than it should have on my end. Then he just started quietly nodding like, “When is this going to end?” and I just sort of backed up and went, “Okay, bye bye.” It was very awkward.
I had another one with Al Pacino when I was 18 at my very first Hollywood party and I was a dancer in TV and film. I was there because I had just danced in a music video and the director had invited me. I had no education in social nuance at Hollywood parties at all. I was just sitting by myself because I didn’t know anybody, and he pulled up a chair next to me and said, “Well, hello, who are you?” And I did not know how to talk to Al Pacino, as an 18-year-old. I proceeded to talk about how I was from the Valley and [in Valley girl voice], “I go to Cal State Northridge, and there’s like so many Valley girls there with white VW Rabbits and pink windshield wipers, and it’s so lame. I can’t wait to get out of the Valley and move to Hollywood so I can really be an artist.” That’s what I said. And he just looked at me like I had an IQ of 10 and nodded, and stood up and walked away.
Have you seen him since?
Yes. So years later he was workshopping a script about Napoleon and he was doing a series of table reads with the writer while he was working it over, working on the script, and he had me read one of the roles and he brought me back like two or three times to read the role. I was actually acting with Al Pacino. It was such a strange turn of events in my life that I was like a nerdy, dorked-out Valley girl when I was 18, making a fool of myself, and then I was like an actress reading opposite him to help him with the script.
Did you bring up your previous meeting?
I did because I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut apparently. He didn’t remember it, so he just kind of nodded blankly again, and patted me on the back and sat down and started working on the script. But he liked my performance, and he kept bringing me back and said I did a good job acting, so at least there was that. I’m just wondering when I’m going to learn how not to make a fool of myself.
If you had to take a guess, where do you think Dharma is now?
Good one. Well, with the explosion of yoga since then, she probably has a chain of yoga studios across the country using Greg’s business savvy to expand her business while still maintaining her philosophy on life, and probably has had a few kids and probably adopted a couple, too.
You began your career as a dancer, and you’ve guest-judged on So You Think You Can Dance before, but if you had to compete on one, would you rather do Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance?
So You Think You Can Dance all the way because that’s what I did, that’s my kind of dancing that I did, so that’s where my heart lies.
You played a stripper angel in Can’t Hardly Wait. What do you remember of shooting that?
It was in El Monte or somewhere in L.A., Inland Empire, at night, and I just remember it was kind of cold. I was pretty tired, and I only saw Ethan Embry when we were filming. He never hung out. He was always in a trailer. I wasn’t socializing with him, which is fine because he was a total stranger in the scene, and it was good because it had that strange, awkward dynamic to it. I just remember feeling really free and having a lot of fun and being cold. My boobies were cold.
What would you say is your favorite teen movie?
Probably it’s a John Hughes tie between Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club. I just love those movies so much.
You played one of Tim Allen’s six wives in The Six Wives of Henry Lefay. If you had to choose six husbands from anyone in TV or movies, who would they be?
Clark Gable, Gene Kelly, Ryan Gosling, yes I’m one of them. George Clooney. I have to say Robert De Niro because I just do. He’s just amazing. He’s still so foxy. Stephen Schneider, my costar in Imaginary Mary. He’s so awesome.
What’s the most embarrassing thing on your DVR?
I don’t even watch TV. I know everybody looks at me like I’m crazy when I say that, but I have two kids. When I’m filming I’m working 15, 16 hours a day, and I’m with my kids and doing my podcast, filming it with my husband and developing projects with him, and I’m so tired by the end of the day, I pass out. So unless I’m doing research for something, I don’t actually for entertainment sit around and watch my DVR. I don’t even know if I have a DVR right now.
Imaginary Mary will premiere on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET before its regular timeslot debut on Tuesday, April 4 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.