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Mayim Bialik talks about her faith and her return to acting

by Kona Gallagher, posted Jul 14th 2009 1:00PM
saving grace mayim bialik
I suppose if you want to be cynical, you could say that Mayim Bialik is in the midst of a comeback, with several recent television roles, including guest stints on Bones, Secret Life of the American Teenager, and now, Saving Grace. However, it's not as though the erstwhile star of Blossom has spent the last fifteen years sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. After the series' end, she attended UCLA, got married, had two children, and even earned her PhD last year.

Ms. (er, Dr.) Bialik has indeed been busy, but she is now looking to make her way back into Hollywood. She's guest-starring on Saving Grace tonight as Esther, a Hasidic Jewish mother of seven, whose own mother is found murdered in a field full of dead cows. I spoke with Mayim about Saving Grace, the lasting legacy of Blossom, and how she hopes people see her today.

Bialik, as you probably know if you've seen her recent appearances on What Not To Wear or Chelsey Lately, is involved in Conservative Judaism. I wanted to know if her personal religious identity made playing this role easier or more difficult for her.

"I love my Jewish identity, and the fact that I'm kind of known for that," Bialik says. "I happen to have some Hasidic family members though, so I was worried about how it would be portrayed. I was afraid that it would be written by someone who didn't know anything at all about it, but it was amazing. Holly Hunter is dressed in the traditional clothing, and they got all of the details right. I think there may have been a mezuzah facing the wrong way on one of the walls, but that's about it."

She, of course, couldn't give away too many spoilers about the episode, but she did say that Holly Hunter's character, Grace, questions her faith as she becomes involved in this very insular community.

Bialik goes from playing Esther to donning a push-up bra and some psychological issues for her role as the as she calls her, "sexy psycho" guidance counselor on Secret Life of the American Teenager.

If this seems like a departure from the roles she traditionally plays or her personal life, there's a good reason: "I'm bouncing around, trying to find my place on TV again," she says. "People know me as being on a kid's show, even though we were more of a family show, but it's tough when people see you as a kid. Ideally, I'd play a character like Blossom; instead of a quirky kid, I'd play a quirky adult."

Despite the fact that Blossom aired for seven seasons, it hasn't been in syndication at all. Bialik says that this is due to rights issues with music, as well as the fact that even as a Disney show, it dealt with subject matters too mature for today's standard Disney Channel fare--which brings up an interesting point: Blossom is quite different from a lot of what's on TV now.

It is important to remember that while many people may remember Blossom as Joey Lawrence running around a lot and saying, "Whoa!", it dealt with some serious issues as well. Blossom's mother ran off an abandoned her family to pursue a music career, while her older brother Tony was a drug addict. Many episodes dealt with the family trying to move on without a mother, as well as Tony's ongoing recovery. It's a little different from Hannah Montana running around in a blond wig.

"Shows today are more like a fairy tale; they're more aspirational. I don't know if Blossom would work today," says Bialik.

In the era of Gossip Girl, it's hard to argue her point. While a show about a quirky teen who favors over-sized sweaters and tie skirts may not make it in today's television landscape, the woman who played her is certainly giving it a go.

Bialik says she enjoyed Saving Grace, because playing Esther allows for people to see her in a different way; "I'm not really known for drama," she says. She may not be known for drama, but with her recent foray into television, the erstwhile Blossom, mother of two and PhD, will be known as an actress, which suits her just fine.

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Rachel

Great article - I love her! She has a real life Orthodox Jewish friend and guru who she just made this YouTube video with: http://tinyurl.com/dga66s

July 14 2009 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
abbenormal

Hey, if Doogie Howser can be a star so can can Blossum Russo.

July 14 2009 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ben Watson

My bad:(

July 14 2009 at 2:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ben Watson

I'm surprised you didn't mention her turn on TLC's What Not to Wear. She was the first guest this season. I still don't know if it was good or bad for her to be on that show but she did have a pretty nice "transformation" at the end of the episode. Could be part of the comeback...

July 14 2009 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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