However many seasons Lisa Kudrow's (search) new HBO series, "The Comeback (search)," lasts -- "I'm happy if this [season] is all we're gonna do," she says -- she will be forever remembered as the loopy, lovable Phoebe from "Friends.
And that's a good thing. "Thanks to 'Friends' (search) I don't need to work to pay the mortgage, so I can do independent films," she says in a voice so familiar you half expect to spill out a "Duh, Monica" in the middle of a conversion.
But of course she doesn't.
This is the 40-year-old Lisa Kudrow who graduated Vassar with a degree in biology, who's been married for 10 years and has a 7-year-old son.
It's the indie Kudrow who's part of a talented ensemble cast in the thoughtful comic drama "Happy Endings," from filmmaker Don Roos, who worked with Kudrow in his "The Opposite of Sex."
In "Happy Endings (search)," Kudrow is Mamie, who works as an abortion counselor and gave up the baby she had as a teen with her gay British stepbrother.
Out of the blue comes a blackmailing young filmmaker telling Mamie he knows her son and will reveal him to her if she agrees to let him film the reunion. But her Mexican masseuse boyfriend convinces the filmmaker to make a documentary about him instead.
And that's just her part of the film. There's also lesbian intrigue and a gold-digging chanteuesse -- most of whom find happy ending themselves.
But the film begins with a crash -- literally -- as Kudrow's Mamie, running from something down a sururban street, is hit by a car.
Q: Was that you or a stunt person who got hit by the car.
A: That was a stunt person. And she did it in one take. I ran for six hours (her voice rising in mock exasperation). And it was sprinting.
Q: Well, it keeps you in shape, right?
A: No, it hurt my muscles.
Q: For those who aren't familiar with the expression happy ending, how would you explain it?
A: I think I'd start off being a little cagey and just say the different meaning of happy ending. You know, the end of a massage, full release -- see if any of those work.
Q: Phoebe was a masseuse, too. Have you gotten professional massages?
A: [I first got them] in my 20s, maybe as a gift or everyone would go with a girlfriend for a birthday. It would hurt and the masseuse would always say, "Yeah, your muscles are in crisis, and they will be in crisis for a while." Crisis, agony -- it's a fine line.
Q: On "Friends" you gave birth to your brother's triplets. In "Happy Endings," you and your stepbrother have a baby. Do you have any brothers?
A: Well, yeah. Uh huh, I have a brother.
Q: How is your relationship?
A: He was very much the big brother. He taught me how to walk, and swim and ride a bike. He really took care of me.
Q: What does he do for a living?
A: He's a neurologist. A very talented neurologist.
Q: There's a line in the movie where Nicky the extortionist filmmaker says to Mamie, who's in his film, too: "I am so glad you're not a dog. All things being equal, people like looking at good-looking people -- I can make you look better with lighting." But you can see your wrinkles on the screen, no soft focus or anything. Does that bother you?
A: You're absolutely right. And the same is true in "The Comeback," because that's who these women are. They haven't had plastic surgery or removed wrinkles or laser. And that's what real women look like, I think.
Q: Would you ever consider plastic surgery?
A: Well, I've had my nose done, when I was 16.
Q: How come?
A: It was too big. I think I scar really poorly. I think there's a real small percentage of people that can handle plastic surgery and heal well and look OK with it. But I think most people don't look OK. I don't think I would look OK. I think I'd look like someone who's got plastic surgery
Q: Then you'd look like everyone else in Hollywood.
A: You make a good point (laughs).
Q: Phoebe was a sort of interesting singer/songwriter. Do you play the guitar?
A: No, I mean I learned three chords for the show.
Q: You could play Ramones songs.
A: If I could remember the three chords.
Q: Do fans come up to you and ask you to sing "Smelly Cat?"
A: Sometimes, yeah. I don't do it. But they can ask, they're entitled.
Q: You became a brunette for the movie. What was the reaction at home?
A: My husband loved it. But he was very upset before I did it. He liked me blonde and he was really nervous. Really, really nervous. Then he saw it and he said, "Oh, you look good. OK. Phew."
Then we went to France (where he's from) and his family said: "Oh no, I prefer you blond. No, no, no, no. This is not good. This is not good. You need to be blonde again."
They're very direct.
Q: And your son's reaction?
A: He said, "You're not in our family any more."
Q: Did you explain to him it was just pretend?
A: Well, it wasn't, because my hair is naturally dark. I'm not really a blonde. It was closer to my original color.
Q: Did your husband know that when you married him?
A: Yeah, yeah. He knew
Q: That would be a big secret.
A: (Laughs) That would be a big secret. I don't keep secrets. I don't think it's healthy, big secrets.
Listening to: Books on tape, "The Plot Against America (search)" by Philip Roth. Favorite musical artist: Elvis Costello, Morrissey, the Smiths
Son's favorite TV show: Just about anything on Cartoon Network.
Breakfast this morning: Bacon and eggs with mozzarella cheese and green onions. It was delicious.
Favorite sports team: I don't watch sports.