Inside Mayim Bialik’s ‘Call Me Kat’: Breaking the Fourth Wall, Cat Continuity & More
Mayim Bialik didn’t know she was being offered a job back in 2019 when Jim Parsons, her friend and costar on The Big Bang Theory, asked for her take on the uproarious British sitcom Miranda, which he was then adapting.
“I thought he was just asking my opinion. I had no idea he wanted me to capture this character for an American audience!” says Bialik, now the star and executive producer (with her former TV husband) of that project, Fox’s Call Me Kat.
Using Miranda Hart’s 2009–15 BBC sitcom as a blueprint, the series revolves around Katharine “Kat” Silver (Bialik), a 39-year-old single math professor who, after her dad dies, quits her job and opens Kat’s Cat Café in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Bialik, 45, says signing on to the role was easy: “She’s the closest thing to me that I’ve ever played.”
Kat is contentedly unattached — though open to meeting Mr. Right — and loving her dream job of serving coffee in a cozy place where feline pals roam around (more on them later). “Despite not ‘having it all,’ Kat feels happy and fulfilled and is determined to enjoy her life,” says executive producer Darlene Hunt (The Big C). Unfortunately, her upper-crust mother, Sheila (Swoosie Kurtz), doesn’t share her daughter’s outlook. “Sheila’s one goal in life has become to find a man for Kat, even though she has traditionally made very, very bad choices for Kat in dating,” Kurtz explains.
Sheila’s meddling isn’t fully to blame for Kat’s single status, though: Kat acknowledges she’s not good at relationships. “They sort of peter out,” she states — but she’s got a solid circle of fellow singles to lean on, her friends (and employees): saucy Randi Hamilton (Kyla Pratt, Recovery Road) and newly dumped senior Phil Crumpler (Leslie Jordan, Will & Grace).
Then she bumps into dreamy college friend — and crush — Max Kingbird (American Horror Story‘s Cheyenne Jackson), who’s returned to Louisville after a breakup and is mixing cocktails at the piano bar next door to the café. If only she can keep her emotions in check! “Kat has some social anxiety, which we see play out with Max,” Hunt teases. Cue the stumbles and nervous lies about her romantic status when they first catch up.
Harmless fibs aside, the two immediately pick up where they left off, with Kat’s crush still intact. “He’s not just a pretty face,” Bialik says. “He gets Kat, and that ultimately is the most attractive thing about him.”
The pair also hold their own on the piano bar’s stage, where they duet in Episode 2 on ’70s and ’80s classics like Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited,” with Bialik tickling the ivories. “I felt very nervous to sing around someone who’s literally been in six Broadway shows!” she says of Jackson. Kurtz and Bialik take on “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof, and more musical moments dot the first season. Hunt calls it a “fun nod” to the original series, since Miranda frequently sang.
Another quirk of the comedy is when Kat talks directly to the camera. Producers aren’t breaking the fourth wall just to be different — the hope is that these moments will draw the character and the viewers closer. “The audience is a person for her,” Bialik explains. “They get to share in her amusement and awkwardness. Having [that connection] is a way to have people feel more familiarity with her.”
Also central to the cast are the dozen or so felines rotating through the café scenes. “I’m very excited when I have cat action,” says Bialik, a cat lover herself (she has three at home!). The animals have free rein during filming. “If they’re in one place during a scene and then they magically move to another place, it’s just going to be something fun to talk about on Twitter,” jokes Hunt, who suggests a drinking game too. “We’re not going to worry about cat continuity.”
One worry Bialik does have is leading a new show after nine years of being a supporting player on Big Bang. “I’m feeling the tremendous weight of it,” she admits. “It’s really hard to know what your next thing after that big thing should be.”
One bonus has been reuniting with Parsons, though due to COVID, he’s been in New York City while the show films in Los Angeles. (He texts her his feedback.) “I pictured Jim at run-throughs, talking face to face and celebrating this together,” the actress says. “But it is really beautiful to work with him, even in this capacity.”
With a track record like Bialik’s — before taking a 12-year break from full-time acting to get a Ph.D. in neuroscience at UCLA and have two sons, Miles and Frederick, she starred in 1990–95’s Blossom — another hit seems inevitable. “This show is celebrating a very unusual woman, a very quirky woman,” Bialik says. “It’s designed to show that life really is what you make of it.” Sounds like the cat’s meow!
Call Me Kat, Series Premiere, Sunday, January 3, 8/7c, Fox; Timeslot Premiere, Thursday, January 7, 9/8c, Fox