Mayim Bialik: the young feminist
In NBC’s new comedy Blossom, 15-year-old Mayim Bialik plays an offbeat, sensitive teenager dealing with such adolescent traumas as her First Period and How to Talk to Boys. Bialik herself is quick to report that she has more important issues on her mind. When a script for a recent episode of the Monday-night series included jokes about Blossom’s flat chest, Bialik immediately called one of the show’s executive producers, Don Reo, and complained.
”I gave him a piece of my feminist mind,” says Bialik, who in her triple-pierced right ear sports a small gold Venus symbol (the universal sign for womanhood). ”Flat-chested jokes are lame-o. It’s important for young women to have positive role models. Blossom is someone who is smart and interested in things other than shopping and boys. She represents how girls are and how they should be.”
During a production break, Bialik slouches in a red-leatherette booth at a Thai restaurant near the Hollywood studio where Blossom is taped. She is dressed in a black wool sailor’s jacket, faded jeans, and black suede cowboy boots, an outfit more subdued than one her flippantly funky character might wear. Yet Bialik is less naïve and more hard-edged than the hip-but-insecure Blossom: ”Excuse my posture,” she says, pausing for effect. ”I’m entitled.”
Well, it has been a busy three years. At 12 Bialik had her first major role, in the movie Beaches, making a splash as the fast-talking, wisecracking, tap-dancing girl who grows up to be Bette Midler. From there, she did guest spots on such shows as Murphy Brown and Doogie Howser, M.D., and then Reo wrote the pilot for Blossom with her in mind. ”Mayim is a comedy savant,” he says. ”She has the subtlety of an adult. I don’t think there’s any question that she’ll be in this business as long as she wants.”
But first, Bialik has some growing up to do. She lives in Los Angeles with her parents, Barry (he teaches drama and English at a performing arts junior high) and Beverly, and her 19-year-old brother, Isaac, a student at UCLA. Bialik’s close family tries to insulate her from the pressures of early success. ”My personal life is my personal life,” says Bialik, who laughingly refuses to state ”on the record” if she has a boyfriend.
Beverly, a slim, blond woman who favors oversize tweed jackets, is always on the Blossom set — and though she and Mayim banter like friends, she pays close attention to what others say in the presence of her daughter. After rehearsing a scene in which Blossom lies to her father about going to her first ”make-out” party, associate director Nancy Sherman tells Bialik, ”I not only want to be here for your Sweet 16, but when you’re 21 — and when you lose your virginity.”
The cast and crew laugh and cheer, but Bialik is uncharacteristically quiet. She smiles self-consciously and looks nervously over Sherman’s shoulder; Mom has heard every word. ”We’re out of here, Mayim,” Beverly says in a voice that indicates she’s only half kidding. ”Would somebody tell Nancy to watch her mouth?”