Preview ’95 : Nancy Travis Is ‘Almost Perfect’--What’s Missing?


Nancy Travis flashes her killer smile.

And just as quickly the star of CBS’ new screwball comedy “Almost Perfect” furrows her brow slightly, opens her eyes wide and asks a bit self-mockingly, “Where are you going?”

“I’ve probably said that in every feature I’ve been in,” she recalls with a shrug. “I’ve been repeatedly defined as the girlfriend or wife.” Make that the supportive girlfriend or wife (“Greedy,” “Three Men and a Baby,” “Married to the Mob”).

This time around, her character calls the shots.

As “Almost Perfect’s” Kim Cooper, Travis plays a manic TV cop-show executive producer trying to balance her rising career with her personal life. When Kim hooks up with Mike Ryan (Kevin Kilner), a young district attorney also on the rise, the two begin their own balancing act.


“The comedy really comes out of reality,” says Travis. “Kim’s a real throwback to Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell, whom I’ve admired.” And Travis, as it turns out, is someone that “Almost Perfect” creators and executive producers Robin Schiff, Ken Levine and David Isaacs also admired. When told that she was their only choice for Kim, Travis flashes that smile again.

“Oh!” she says with a chuckle, curling her legs under her in her dressing-room armchair, “they like to say that now ! We’ll see what they say midseason!”

“Nancy was the first and only person we met with and we were so lucky to get her,” Schiff recounts in a separate interview. When Paramount executive Dan Fauci, a former acting teacher of Travis’ read it, he knew she was right for Kim. “Dan slipped her the script, she came in, read and, I swear, I got goose bumps,” Schiff says. “Nancy was perfect for the part.”

It’s no coincidence that Kim is a TV producer, Schiff says, acknowledging that the part is based on her own life (Schiff’s worked as a producer and writer on “Working Girl,” “Princesses,” “Delta”). Tired of watching women relegated to TV roles where they play either strong women without a social life or family women without a career, Schiff was determined to create a funny show about the melding of the two.

“ ‘I want to do a show about a woman who’s juggling a career with a relationship,’ ” she told Levine and Isaacs. “How can you do both without feeling guilty about the other? It’s a situation ripe with humor.”

Levine and Isaacs, who had worked on “Cheers,” “MASH” and “Frasier” together, agreed. Travis, Schiff adds, “fits the character like a glove. She’s so bright, has such a sense of fun.” The quartet made a deal at their first meeting. “And this was before the show was picked up.”

The actress, fresh from yet two more secondary roles--this summer’s HBO movie “Body Language” and the feature film “Fluke”--recalls why she embraced the show immediately.


“It was the writing that did it,” says Travis, who’d been looking for a TV series for two years but didn’t find anything she liked. “Almost Perfect” was “really smart,” she says.

Television is “quite a change of pace for me,” acknowledges the actress, who has some 15 features to her credit and voices Bernice on USA’s “Duckman.” “I thought it was going to be an ideal schedule, like a 9-to-5 kind of job. But the time’s compressed and so you work a lot harder and a lot faster.”

Born in New York and raised in Baltimore, Travis was “brought up to have it all. My mother often told me the world was my oyster. My grandparents were immigrants. And our generation is a whole generation of women with great educations who are trying to have it all and no one’s told us how to do it.”

“Almost Perfect,” she says, “taps into that kind of predicament. We’re all trying to figure out, ‘How do I work in a man’s world and still remain a woman and not lose my sense of self? How do I find a man who can deal with the fact I’ve got all this stuff on my plate?’ ”

Travis wrings her hands. “There’s a whole generation of people out there dealing with that. That’s where the humor is too. They’ll think, ‘Oh my God! I’ve been in that position!’ ”

Married to Savoy Pictures President Rob Fried, Travis notes that the couple deal with the same issues “Almost Perfect” tackles. “We’re always trying to figure out how we can balance our time together so we both get what we want from each other and our chosen careers--those compromises you’ve got to make and who’s going to make those.”


Travis smiles and affects a Bostonian accent (she readily hops in and out of accents). “It’s the source of our joy and our pain.”

Although Travis, 33, hopes to “flip-flop” between “Almost Perfect” and films--she appears in the upcoming feature “Bogus” opposite Whoopi Goldberg--she’s reluctant to pin herself down. She might not look for a movie that fits in during the show’s spring hiatus, she intimates. “I might want to have a baby! Who knows?”

And then there’s another flash of that smile.

“Almost Perfect” premieres Sept. 17 and airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.