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Profile : No Absence of Malick : ALL THE MEDIUMS ARE A STAGE FOR ‘DREAM ON’ PLAYER

TIMES STAFF WRITER

You couldn’t exactly call Wendie Malick a slacker. She’s currently swirling in three mediums: shooting her sexy HBO comedy series “Dream On,” Rob Reiner’s feature film “The American President” and starring on stage locally in Oliver Hailey’s acclaimed “Round Trip.”

“This year has been so nuts, but in a good way,” Malick acknowledges from her ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. “It’s the biggest challenge of my life right now, juggling family, friends, dogs, cats and bird. I figure if I take care and eat right, it should be OK,” she jokes.

You might have caught Malick in a series of guest appearances on such other high-profile shows as “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld,” along with recurring roles on “Baywatch” and “NYPD Blue.” And, of course, there are those edited-for-prime time “Dream On” episodes now airing on Fox, the network that not long ago aired the Madonna biopic in which Malick played the Blonde One’s first business manager.

As “Dream On’s” Judith Tupper Stone, Malick has earned three CableACE awards for best actress in a comedy series. With the show about to enter its sixth season in July, she’s fine-tuned the role of the elegant, high-strung wife, ex-wife, girlfriend and love interest.

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“I think what makes her so appealing is she’s so transparent,” Malick says. “She has this immediate image of having it all together, which is such a charade. There’s a thin veneer on this woman. She goes from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds. I’m much calmer than she is, but she gets a lot done,” Malick says with a laugh.

“Dream On,” she observes, “started out as a secret little cult show and the audience got bigger and bigger, and now with Fox, people who stop us on the street actually know where we’re from.”

Malick’s character, she says, “began as the straight man to Martin (Brian Benben), and that wasn’t nearly as much fun until the end of the first season. And after they saw I could do a great meltdown, they’re getting more into her neuroses and incredible vulnerability. She really sets herself up for a fall, with her holier-than-thou-attitude.”

It’s certainly not an attitute shared by Malick, who not only lives on a ranch with her partner of five years, house renovator Richard Erickson, but is a rancher . She wakes up each morning to shovel horse manure and run her dogs: “I am awakened each morning by three little, wet, black noses” belonging to her three black Labs.

Things weren’t always so bucolic for Malick, who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. Although she had acting aspirations early on, the self-proclaimed liberal Democrat took her fine arts degree to Washington after graduation. “I went to work for Jack Kemp,” she says, despite opposing views with the Republican, who was then a congressman from Buffalo.

“I was a radical,” she says simply, “and wanted to see what it would be like to work in Washington.”

After six months, Malick opted out of politics. She moved to Manhattan where the 5-foot-10 theater actress/waitress was discovered by the Wilhelmina modeling agency. For five years she put acting aside, traveling to the Far East and Africa and lived in Paris. “It was a good time. I love to travel. I basically got paid to see the world. It was all kind of silly and fun.”

But by 1980, Malick, fueled by a desire “to leave modeling before it was decided it was time for me to go,” went back to the Big Apple and the lights of Broadway.

She got her first role as a series regular on the now-defunct soap “Love of Life.” “I played Nurse Jones,” she says. “I never had a first name. I wore that uniform every day and did nothing but basically regurgitate what happened the day before. I thought I would kill myself, I just hated it. It was the worst job, but it got my foot in the door.”

Guest roles on television, including a recurring role on “Anything but Love,” as well as feature film roles, followed.

Malick, whose social activism started when she began working with illiterate adults in New York, was a founder of the West Los Angeles-based Adopt a Family program. She met Erickson five years ago in Mexico, where, as Homeless Task Force members, they worked with Mexico Work Camp to build homes. Later this month, she’ll help host the local “Hoedown for the Homeless.”

She’ll have fun with Judith this season, which Malick says may be the show’s last. “We’ve had such a good run.

“She may seem like a snootie patootie, but she’s just festering under there. Fortunately doing a lot of comedy doesn’t hold me to just tough, bitchy roles.”

Malick loves the role she plays in “Round Trip,” which offers up a play within a play. “I get to play a neurotic actress who bares no resemblance to me,” she says with a laugh, “and a sweet naive girl from West Texas.”

And Malick will share this much with “Dream On” fans: “For those who have been looking forward to seeing them get back together, you’re not going to be disappointed, but it’s sure not going to be easy.”

“Dream On” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on HBO. Edited repeats air Sundays at 9:30 p.m. on Fox. “Round Trip” runs through April 16, Thursday-Saturdays, at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Ventura Court Theatre in Studio City. For tickets, call (213) 660-TKTS.


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