MARYANN'S LUSH LIFE
CHRISTINE BARANSKI OF 'CYBILL'
Some sitcom sidekicks are so indelible, so fully defined, that another star’s stage can barely contain them: Maude, Rhoda, Frasier. They are the stuff that spin-offs are made of. This season, the woman most deserving of her own half hour is Maryann, the dastardly Beverly Hills divorcee of Cybill. A lush in Lacroix with a taste for vengeance and good champagne, she’s suave when she’s sloshed, and she has a way with girl talk: ”Who would you rather sleep with?” Maryann casually inquires of Cybill (Shepherd), the ostensible star of the show. ”Ross Perot or one of those devil monkeys from The Wizard of Oz?” Fabulous? Absolutely. But also warm, and kind of sad, thanks to the finesse of two-time Tony winner Christine Baranski, 42, the actress behind the larger- than-life character. ”She doesn’t have a husband, she’s reinventing her life,” says Baranski of Maryann, ”and she can actually spend three hours fluffing and buffing and show up looking devastating. Most of us don’t have that time. I certainly don’t.” Baranski, who’s more clean white T-shirt than Chanel suit off the set, has been one of the best-kept secrets of the New York theater, despite her Tonys for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing and Neil Simon’s Rumors. Occasional movie roles have come her way (The Ref, Addams Family Values), but she passed up Hollywood sitcom opportunities to stay near her home in Litchfield County, Conn., to which she still commutes monthly to be with her two daughters, ages 7 and 10, and husband, actor Matthew Cowles (All My Children). What made Cybill worth flying for? ”There was this great line in the pilot,” explains Baranski. ”Cybill says to me, ‘You know what’s amazing, Maryann?’ and I say, ‘They make vodka from wheat.’ How could I turn down a script that has that line?” Baranski, with a smile as grand and gorgeous as the Beverly Hills Barneys, calls Maryann ”a sophisticated drunk…. But I’d love to do an episode where I pass out, just pass out of the frame.” Absolutely? Fabulous.