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The Middle One on ‘Sisters’ Shows All the Symptoms

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Georgie Reed Whitsig is the eye of a hurricane that whirls around the four Reed sisters, a.k.a. “Sisters,” the NBC Saturday night drama.

“She’s the middle child, very adaptive, the earthiest of them all,” said Patricia Kalember, the actress who plays Georgie. “She will volunteer help to the exclusion of herself.”

Julianne Phillips’ Frankie is a career-obsessed marketing executive on the show. Sela Ward plays Teddy, a recovering alcoholic said to be “the family screw-up.” And Swoosie Kurtz is Alex Reed Halsey, the oldest sister, married to a plastic surgeon.

Kalember spent three years on “thirtysomething” as Susannah Hart before coming to “Sisters” in the spring of 1991.

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“They sent me the script and asked me if I wanted to read,” she said. “I said no, but went in and met them. I said I would read for Teddy, but they asked me to read for Georgie to see the possibilities. Then Swoosie came on aboard and I was in. It slowly came together, and by the third or fourth audition I was calling my agent to see if I had the job.”

There’s quite a contrast with her “thirtysomething” role: Kalember’s character on “Sisters” is married, a mother, a part-time real estate saleswoman and a stable person. On “thirtysomething,” she played an explosive personality.

“Susannah was perceived as bitter,” she said, “but I saw her as someone who was just profoundly shy. She constantly offended people without knowing why. She had no social skills. People thought she was rude. She was brought in to grate on the other characters.”

Kalember previously starred in the series “Kay O’Brien,” in which she played a surgeon, and “Just in Time,” a half-hour comedy that lasted only a few weeks in 1988.

“ ‘Just in Time’ was a mid-season show with Tim Matheson,” she said. “I was brought in to replace Annette Bening. Can you believe it?”

Kalember was dropped from the ABC soap opera “Loving” while working in New York.

“I was in the original cast, and I lasted about five months,” she said. “I was very naughty. I cut my hair off. I didn’t want to do the part. I was very young. I wasn’t old enough to protect myself. I thought I was hurting my acting.

“To be successful on a soap opera, you have to act in a certain way. You create drama by crying your way through. It can become habit-forming. You’re trying to be real, but it doesn’t mean being accurate.”

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“Sisters” airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.


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