"I think of myself as a chubby character actress--that's always been my mental image," explains the very un-chubby, very curvaceous Leslie Easterbrook. "I didn't have a waistline till I was 25. And this chest . . . it was embarrassing when I was a kid. But then, I was fat all over. I'm almost 5-foot-9, real big bones, broad shoulders. And I have a big voice that really carries. I mean, I'd walk into a room and people would leave."
"The characters I've played in film (Lt. Callahan in the "Police Academy" series) and television (Rhonda Lee in "Laverne & Shirley") do tend to be sexpot characters," says the actress, who is appearing opposite Terry Lester in the California Music Theatre revival of Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate" at the Pasadena Civic through May 7. "But I've never had any problem with the casting couch; I've always wondered where they were."
She may have been too busy to notice.
From her native Nebraska, Easterbrook came to Los Angeles in the '70s and performed at the Ahmanson (opposite Charlton Heston in "Macbeth" and Richard Chamberlain in "Cyrano de Bergerac") and the Dorothy Chandler, in such Civic Light fare as "The King and I," "Oliver!" and "Camelot." Then it was off to New York for "California Suite," back here for "On the Twentieth Century" and back again to New York for two years on "Ryan's Hope."
"I'm the original gypsy," says the opera-trained actress. "Someone says, 'Here's a job,' offers me a living wage, and I'm there with a smile on my face."
That includes the popular, though critically lambasted "Police Academy" series, in which Easterbrook has appeared in all but the second.
"They're so stupid, you know," she says, laughing. "But the people who do them are so wonderful. We know we're doing silly stuff--but we have such a great time with each other. Still, it's hard work. I do my own stunts. They're always putting me in a scene where I beat up five guys. Then I sit in a deck chair all day waiting for a car to crash. It's tiring! "