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Peri Gilpin on ugly sweaters, holiday treats and her ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

Peri Gilpin will play Doris Walker in “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Pasadena Playhouse.
(Theo & Juliet )

Peri Gilpin may be best known as sarcastic radio producer Roz Doyle on NBC’s “Frasier,” but this month she’ll bring a little bit of unfettered, feel-good magic to the Pasadena Playhouse. Gilpin will play Doris Walker in a production of the 1947 radio play of “Miracle on 34th Street,” directed by Cameron Watson and co-starring Alfred Molina as Kris Kringle.

It’s a production that epitomizes the magic of the holiday season, Gilpin says in this edited conversation, which also reveals her deepest, still-unfulfilled holiday wish: hot chocolate by the fire.

Doris is a far cry from Roz. What drew you to this show?

I love the Pasadena Playhouse. Cam Watson, the director, is an old friend. And I’ve always found “Miracle on 34th Street” to be very unusual. It’s not your run-of-the-mill Christmas story; it has an edge, it’s very honest.

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I watched it when I was a teenager. It came on regular network TV. Turner Classic Movies plays it a lot over the holidays, and over the years I’ve caught it several times. It’s very nostalgic but very modern too — dealing with Christmas as an over-commercialized thing. But then juxtaposing it with Kris Kringle. They’re showing a cold world and then putting Santa Claus or Kris Kringle in the middle of it and you see people change, attitudes change. It’s sort of like capitalism be dammed.

How do you normally celebrate the holidays?

When I was a kid [in Texas], my mom and dad tried to drag us all over the place and go see every relative. I remember the first year my parents said, “I think we’re gonna stay home and just have Christmas,” it was such a relief.

So we don’t do a lot of traveling over the holidays. I have 13-year-old twins, and we kind of hang out here, do stuff around L.A. As my kids have gotten older, I realize it can just be sitting around the table and playing a game. Though every year I think I’m gonna have hot chocolate by the fire, and there’s just never time to have hot chocolate by the fire!

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Does your family have a traditional Christmas dish?

My husband makes beef bourguignon. [Then in an exaggerated French accent]: Beef Bourguignaahhn. Beef stew. But he makes it really, really good. And people will drop by all Christmas Day and have a little bowl of that.

Ugly sweaters — is there one in your closet?

Oh, I’m sure there is. There has to be. Don’t we all have one of those?

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What are you watching now?

I really love “Broad City.” My kids have been binging “Friends,” which I never saw back in the day. It’s really good! We love “Homeland,” “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black.” Also, “Stranger Things” — OMG, I think we binged that in a day.

If you could be cast on one show?

“Grace and Frankie.” “Veep.”

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Christmas wish list?

There are so many political gifts I would ask for, so many things I’d ask be made right. Just that we all are able to try and see eye-to-eye more. It does feel like there’s a polarity going on that maybe somebody from the North Pole can bring together.

Doris is so pragmatic. Do you believe in miracles?

Yes, I do.

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Sun or snow?

Sun.

Favorite Christmas song?

“All I want for Christmas,” Mariah Carey.

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Favorite Christmas movie?

“Love, Actually.”

Holiday goals?

Hot chocolate by the fire. Maybe one day it’ll happen!

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♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Miracle on 34th Street’

Where: Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.

When: Dec. 14-23

Tickets: Starting at $25

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Info: pasadenaplayhouse.org

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin


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