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MARSHALL, PAULA: That Old Feeling

She outed Seinfeld and George in a classic Seinfeld, and now the TV comedienne is playing straight man to Bette Midler and Dennis Farina in the big-screen outing, That Old Feeling. But her real ambition is for TV, not movie stardom, as she confides to Paul Fischer.

Paula Marshall sits back at her Sydney hotel clearly bemused that she's been flown halfway across the world to talk about herself. "It's hard to do that when you're not a huge star, when you don't have a substantial body of work behind you and when you're still an unknown commodity."

"I owe a lot to Jerry"

But this beautiful and confident Washington-raised actress is no stranger to American TV viewers. After all, she guest-starred in what remains one of the all-time classic Seinfeld episodes, playing a student journalist who inadvertently 'outs' Jerry and George - not that there's anything wrong with that. "It was an amazing experience, and I owe a lot to Jerry, who was present during my audition, for giving me the opportunity." It was at a time when Seinfeld was really taking off big-time. "I think it was on the real cusp of success. It was one of the most fruitful periods in the history of that show."

"I'm still trying to find a good movie role"

She has done other guest-stints in the likes of The Wonder Years, and last year was lead actress in the short-lived sitcom Chicago Sons. "Even though the material had problems, I have no regrets about doing it, because I came off relatively well, I think." Marshall must have done something right - she has TV networks clambering to create the perfect TV sitcom for her. And she gets paid while she waits. "Yeah, that's Hollywood. Where else do you get paid to hang around while everyone else does the work for you." But that's not the be-all of Paula's existence. "I'm still trying to find a good movie role, and even though I'm not hugely ambitious, I'd like something that's challenging."

"I didn't get the part because I knew anybody or because I slept with anyone"

Despite her TV success, she says she still had to fight to do That Old Feeling "and I didn't get the part because I knew anybody or because I slept with anyone", she adds laughingly. That Old Feeling, directed by veteran Carl Reiner, tells of a divorced couple who basically loathes each other and is reunited at their daughter's wedding to an ambitious politician. After the pair gets stuck into each other, they discover they're still in lust, so on the daughter's honeymoon, they run away, much to the chagrin of their respected families.

"When she finally tells her prissy fiance to basically go fuck himself towards the end, that was more me, not that other chick."

Marshall plays, what she describes, "as the real square in the movie, conservative, moral, knees crossed kind of girl." Playing her was a challenge, "because I'm so her opposite. When she finally tells her prissy fiance to basically go fuck himself towards the end, that was more me, not that other chick." Marshall, who has a sly "but reality-based" sense of humour herself, admits she found it frustrating playing a straight role amidst the barbed humour around her. "I kept on asking Carl Reiner: 'why aren't I funny'? 'Because you're the straight guy.' " It was for that reason that she struggled to even get an audition. "The casting director didn't even want to see me, but once I was there, I had them."

"I want to do the kind of sitcom that is based on reality"

Marshall, who is also an avid photographer, is still searching for that all-elusive film role. "I just finished a small part in an independent film which I hope will go to Sundance, and I'm still looking. It's damn hard work." And there's always television. "I want to do the kind of sitcom that is based on reality, a sort of youthful Mad About You. Imagine Jamie and Paul when they first lived together. Helen Hunt is a genius, my hero. And that's the kind of comedy I'm drawn to."

Australian release date: July 24, 1997

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Paula Marshall on the set of That Old Feeling


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