Paul Smith photo
Richmond-born actress Jennifer Aspen gets a kick out of playing Kendra Giardi, her character on Fox's smash hit Glee — a woman who delights in dishing out twisted advice like, "Dishonesty is food to a marriage. It will die without it," to her sister, Terri, who faked a pregnancy in a doomed attempt to hang on to her husband, dreamy glee-club director Will Schuester. Aspen's other credits include her stint as comedian Rodney Carrington's wife for two seasons on the ABC comedy Rodney and her role as Daphne Jablonsky (a stripper who has a baby with Charlie — played by Lost 's Matthew Fox) on Party of Five . Offscreen, Aspen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor David O'Donnell, and their five pets — cats Hero, Maggio and Kaia and dogs Luca and Frankie.
Q: Where were you born in Richmond?
A: St. Mary's. I have pictures of me as a toddler walking barefoot down our sidewalk. My parents left Richmond when I was 2 and moved to Prescott, Ariz. When they divorced, my mom moved to Santa Cruz, Calif. My parents were not Southerners, but I am absolutely positive I am.
Q: When did you start acting?
A: As a kid, I was always performing and creating characters. I would dress up and go out on the street and say I was my twin sister Julie and swear that I was. I didn't realize I was acting.
Q: What motivated you to be an actress?
A: When I was in high school in Santa Cruz, I was in detention and heard a song. The kids were rehearsing a monologue [for How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying ]. A friend walked me through a part and I got the lead. When I was on stage, it was like a light illuminated from within. It was so special, like falling in love.
Q: Any great anecdotes from your guest-starring roles?
A: When I was doing Friends , Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were together. I was getting ready to do my first scene where I have to come into the coffeehouse crying. I am preparing to do the scene, and they call action. I look over my shoulder, and Brad Pitt is 15 feet from me. I froze. I went into shock — the kind where you feel nothing. I had to make something happen, so I did. We had to do the scene again, and I had to recuperate.
Q: How does being a series regular and guest-starring differ?
A: It's harder when you guest-star. When you are on a series, the set becomes a family. You spend an enormous amount of time together. As a guest star, when you walk in, you are walking into a family. You have to mind your manners and not overstep.
Q: How much did you enjoy starring on Rodney ?
A: I loved that show. When that was over, I cried so hard. Rodney and I are still great friends. We felt like we were cut loose too soon — like we had so much more to do.
Q: What went through your mind when you read the script for Glee ?
A: When I read the pilot, I said they are going to shoot this pilot, and they are going to pick it up right away and premiere it after American Idol . I knew it would be a huge hit and win a lot of awards. I was looking for a script that was new and different with a lot of life in it. I said, "Yes, this is what I was looking for."
Q: How do you like playing Kendra?
A: The character is so great. She is a completely different person than me. I love it because it's so crazy and you have so much freedom. You can say and do anything, and because it's Kendra, anything goes.
Q: What do you think about Kendra's wardrobe of cowl-neck sweaters and stirrup pants?
A: It's unbelievable. Talk about swallowing your pride. Once I put the wardrobe on, I became Kendra. I walk different. I talk differently.
Q: Will we be seeing more of Kendra in the upcoming season?
A: Yes. Terri is living with Kendra now. There are some hijinks that are definitely about to occur.
Q: What do you think of the talent on that show?
A: It's like exquisite talent. It's crazy. Shows like Glee , So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol are getting people back into the arts, which weren't popular for a while.
Q: What was it like when Glee won the Golden Globe for best TV musical or comedy this year?
A: We freaked out. We were at the Golden Globe viewing party. When none of the acting awards won I started to go maybe it's not going to win. We were sitting next to the folks from Modern Family, who were s—t-talking us, saying, "You are going down." I thought, "Oh, my God, this is going to be embarrassing." When the category came up, we stood on top of our seats holding hands. We went crazy when they announced Glee . It was a great feeling.
Q: What's your favorite Kendra line?
A: "You gave me too much Pitocin, and it made me have creepy ginger kids."