Cloris Leachman on Working With Ed Asner and Florence Henderson on ‘The Eleventh’
Cloris Leachman my have just turned 90, but you’d never know it; she continues to have the energy and spirit of people a third of her age. This includes a full schedule of work, including both dramas and comedies. You can even find her starring in a streaming series, on Hallmark’s service Feeln. The Eleventh is a five-episode series where Leachman plays Margaret, a woman who is reunited with her estranged granddaughter (Ren Harris), and has to face hard truths about her recently-deceased daughter as a result.
The series has a multi-generational bent that appeals to fans of classic TV — Florence Henderson plays Margaret’s younger sister Regina, and Ed Asner plays the owner of the restaurant Margaret frequents — as well as Gen Xers (Christopher Atkins and Tracy Nelson also star).
TV Insider e-mailed Leachman a few questions about the series, which is streaming now on Feeln. She also talks about what working with vets like Henderson and her old Mary Tyler Moore co-star Asner is like.
What was your initial reaction to the script when you first got it?
I was interested in the direction the script went. Family can often be messy, but I was intrigued by the way you get to watch the character’s path towards forgiveness. You get to see a very strong female character develop in the series. Plus, when they told me who they wanted to cast for the rest of the parts, how could I say no!
It’s been a while since you’ve done drama; a lot of your roles lately have been similar to what you did on Raising Hope. How did it feel getting back to doing dramatic work?
Actually I’ve never stopped doing dramatic work. I just look for great roles. In the last year I’ve shot three dramatic films including So B. It which had its premier last week at the Los Angeles Film Festival and I just finished shooting a very exciting new dramatic series for Starz called American Gods.
Which kind of work do you find more challenging, comedy or drama?
It’s a different mindset for each. One isn’t necessarily more challenging than the other.
How did you connect with Margaret, especially with the issues she’s facing with regards to aging?
Margaret faces issues a lot people must face somewhere down the line, but Margaret has a strong personality like I do.
How do you maintain a youthful outlook?
People keep telling me I’m 90, but I sure don’t feel it! Ha!
What do pros like Florence and Ed bring to a scene that helps you as an actor the most? You worked with Ed on The Mary Tyler Moore show; was working with him here like four decades hadn’t passed?
When you’ve been in the business as long as we have, you’ve already learned through trial and error. We are all pros at this point! Ed and I already had chemistry from MTM, so we know how to work together. Working with Ed is always fun! We had a great time reliving those moments again. He is the same great guy, just with less hair.
What audience do you think would enjoy a show like The Eleventh? It speaks to multiple generations, especially given the casting (you, Florence, Ed, Tracey Nelson, Chris Atkins).
You don’t see a lot of shows dig into some of the topics we do. The overriding message of forgiveness is universal; we watch as a family tries to bring closure to the past through truth, forgiveness, and ultimately, love. I think it appeals to every generation- the cast is just the icing on the cake.
How many “seasons” of the show are you committed to doing? Are you willing to do more than this initial five episodes?
I’m open to see where this road take me. You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out!
The Eleventh, Season 1, Available for streaming on Feeln.