The New Adventures of Tricia O’Kelley
After years of being what she called a “professional guest star,” (Patricia) Tricia O’Kelley ’90 scored a steady gig when she landed a role in CBS’s hit sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. Featuring ex-Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the title role, Old Christine ran for five seasons before its unexpected cancellation in May.
On the show, O’Kelley played Marly, a snarky neighbor who couldn’t keep her harsh opinions to herself. “Marly [was] so bored, she [had] nothing better to do with her time than to make people feel awful about themselves,” notes O’Kelley. “She [had] no filter.”
O’Kelley milked her scripted insults for maximum laughs, but in real life, she’s a well-mannered actress who happens to be gifted with killer comedy chops. “My feeling is that comedic timing can’t really be taught; you either have it or you don’t,” she says.
Raised in suburban La Grange outside Chicago, O’Kelley practiced audition monologues in front of her bedroom mirror, performed in musicals on weekends, and worked as a teen model in TV commercials. At the UW, she majored in TV and film production. “For our labs, I remember going to Walgreens to buy popcorn and a Diet Coke. Then I’d sit and watch movies and analyze them. I thought, ‘This is fantastic.’ ” As part of her course work, O’Kelley appeared in the student-produced soap opera Campus Affairs. “I played Toni. She was involved in an interracial relationship, which apparently back then was newsworthy enough to have as a storyline,” O’Kelley laughs. “That was the first meaty stuff I did as an actress.”
Returning to Chicago in 1990, O’Kelley waitressed on weekends for six years. During the week, she appeared in local TV commercials and auditioned, via videotape, for Hollywood sitcoms. At age twenty-eight, she moved west and began appearing, mostly as neurotic sidekicks, on Frasier, Suddenly Susan, Everybody Loves Raymond, and other primetime shows.
A perpetual multitasker, O’Kelley keeps busy during the inevitable dry spells. She created a line of greeting cards called HeartSongs, and then, after the short-lived Emeril sitcom went off the air, she launched a house-organizing business. “I’ve always loved going to people’s homes and organizing closets and cupboards, and lives, and stuff like that,” she says.
In 2009, on hiatus from Old Christine, she produced and starred in the indie romantic comedy Weather Girl. “On the side,” she says, “I’ve always had these other interests.”
This past summer, O’Kelley had plenty of interests to keep her occupied. The mother of a two-year-old boy, she and her writer-producer husband, Adam Rosenblatt, had their second child in June. In addition, O’Kelley and her friend Alex Kapp Horner, who played Lindsay on Old Christine, are developing a TV project of their own. “Our dream is to do the Tina Fey thing: write and produce our own show,” O’Kelley says.
Published in the Fall 2010 issue