‘Tracey Ullman’s Show’: Tracey Takes on Famous and Everyday Brits in New HBO Series

Richard Ansett
Tracey Ullman, late night

Tracey Ullman first unleashed her sidesplitting knack for impersonation on American audiences via 1987’s The Tracey Ullman Show. The sketch-comedy phenom scored herself and the then-fledgling Fox network a truckload of Emmys throughout a four-year run and launched a little lemon-colored cartoon family called The Simpsons into the pop-culture stratosphere. HBO’s Tracey Takes On… followed in 1996, and on October 28, the net will launch Ullman’s recent BBC series Tracey Ullman’s Show, a laugh-out-loud love letter to her homeland and modern life.

The six-episode series sees the now-56-year-old stepping into the skin of everyday Brits and reimagining more famous U.K. faces. There’s Dame Judi Dench as a gleeful thief and vandal (“I’m a national treasure!”); Dame Maggie Smith auditioning for Star Wars and James Bond films (“It’s just 7. Agent 7! Has no one pointed that out?”); German Chancellor Angela Merkel satirically lamenting her “total hottie frau” rep (“It’s all ‘sex bomb, sex bomb, sex bomb’ and no one can concentrate!”).

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“I’m not a stand-up comedienne,” Ullman says. “I’m a character actress, and I get to do these things, but it’s with great affection. I take stock of the world and what’s happening and who’s around and who I want to be.” We asked Ullman for her take on a few of the show’s most memorable souls.

Duchess Camilla, überearthy grandma
“It occurred to me that Prince George must get taken to the different grandmothers, you know? We just imagined that Camilla: Do you want to drown a kitten in a barrel or put your hand up a horse’s uterus?”

Kay, aging “mama’s girl” (yes, Kay’s back!)
“There was actually a [Kay]; she used to work at a bank that I banked at when I was, like, 20 years old. When I moved to Los Angeles, I had to call her once, about my balance. She said, ‘Hel-lo, Miss Ullman! How’s Hollywood?’ I said, ‘Have you ever been here, Kay?’ She said, ‘Oh, no! But my beloved is Joan Crawford!’”

Dominic, app-happy corporate castoff
“My daughter worked for somebody very like him and I just wanted to be that character. Nobody knows it’s me. People say, ‘Why is that guy suddenly in the middle of the show?’”

Tracey Ullman’s Show, Series premiere, Friday, Oct. 28, 11/10c, HBO