Kathy Kinney is truly a character. The actress, famous for
her role as the indescribable Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show, has now
donned a new dress as Mrs. P., the loveable Irish-ish lady who inspires
children’s love of reading on her website, MrsP.com. We met up with Kathy/Mrs.
P. at the most suitable place for two bookish gals, the New York City Public
Library, to talk about reading, her super cool Be A Famous Writer Contest, and
how life makes you turn a corner to become who you were meant to be all along.
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Let’s talk about how Mrs. P. came to be.
Mrs. P. is a wonderful character to play. She’s this
wonderful woman who loves reading and encourages kids to read. People can visit
mrsp.com to hear me read classic fairy tales. Parents can enjoy this experience
with their kids, who can come home from school and visit Mrs. P. The site is
interactive and one of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve managed to
keep the website free. Oh, did I mention that it’s free?
Yes, you did. [laughs]
Yes, it’s free! We wanted kids to have a safe place to go on
the Internet, where they could read and really use their imaginations. We hope
that it fosters a love of reading in kids.
As Kathy, what were some of your favorite books to read as a
I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Little House on the
Prairie books were my favorites. I always wanted to make the slushy out of
maple syrup and fresh snow, but I don’t know if there’s any fresh snow anymore.
[laughs] But I would read pretty much anything. My mother would take me to the
library, take me in the children’s section, and I would stay there until she
came back from looking at her books. I always had a huge stack, and I would beg
to go to the library. Luckily, my mother loved the library as much as I did.
I remember getting my first library card, and it being such
a big deal. Do you remember getting yours?
I was about six years old. As I grew older, that was the
place I chose to hang out. It felt like home.
And now Mrs. P. is hosting the 4th annual Be A
Famous Writer Contest. Let’s talk about that.
The contest began on September 1st. Kids can enter
their work, from 250-1000 words, and I will read the two grand prize winners’
stories on MrsP.com. We have great judges this year. One of them is Julia
Roberts, which is very exciting. And we found out that teachers are using this
contest in their classrooms. The winners will have their stories illustrated
and can choose to receive either an e-book or an actual book of their work. The
hardest part is choosing the stories because they’re all so incredible. These
kids are like all little Shakespeares!
Could you ever have imagined when you were playing Mimi
Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show that you would now be inspiring kids everywhere to
Any of the things I accomplished in my life I never planned
on. I never planned on being an actor. I told people I was going to New York to
write the Great American Short Story because it seemed too overwhelming to
write the Great American Novel. I wound up living in the 2 places I swore I would
never live—in New York and L.A… The circumstances began rolling and I became
an actor. My good friend Cindy Ratzlaff worked in publishing, but she wanted to
be an actor. And since she never liked doing things alone, I went with her and that’s
how I got into acting. We have husbands who don’t like to travel—or maybe they
don’t like to travel with us, we’re not sure—so I’ve been to some of the most
romantic cities in the world with her. It was after a trip to Prague that we
wrote the book, Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming
Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve. What’s interesting about life is
that life has a way of making you turn the corner.
I love that; it is so true. It has to happen so you continue
Now, two of your most famous characters, Mimi Bobeck and now
Mrs. P., require you to be in a costume. What is it like to be in character
Well, I did that for 9 years in the vivid colors of Mimi, but
what I love most about Mrs. P. is that I
just put the glasses on and she doesn’t require a lot of makeup. But she’s been
an evolution. The first dress we tried for Mrs. P. was an old castoff of Mimi’s.
Then I put on the red glasses and after a bit we decided on the red wig. Now what
would she sound like? Would she sound like me, or like she’s from Minnesota? We finally decided to make her Irish, but with
more ish than Ire.
[laughs] She seems to be a natural extension of you, Kathy.
She is. I love Mrs. P. because my background is in
improvisation. About a month ago, we were Skyping with a school, and I had to
look into a camera, and I thought it was going to last for 20 minutes and an
hour later I was still talking with the kids. I think it was the most fun I’ve had in 30
years. I told the kids I had 1234 pets, give or take a few. Then the kids
started asking me questions and one asked if I had alligators. I said, “Yes I have
three. They live in the basement next to the bowling alley!” They asked me
about where Mrs. P. lived, and I said that she lived in a huge house off the coast
of Wisconsin with her pets and her best friend, the Tooth Fairy. I told them that
she used to date Jack Frost, but he only wanted to nip at her nose! [laughs]
The kids loved it, but I think I enjoyed it more.
Kids are the purest audience, aren’t they?
With children it’s about honesty. When adults come to the Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza which I
do with Drew, they come ready to laugh. With kids, it’s more real and
spontaneous. It’s very exciting.
You’re also on The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
I’m so enjoying that. I’ve been doing it for three years, but
time has no meaning for me. At this point in my life, I’m working for two
groups of people: for kids and women who
are in the middle of their lives. It’s shocking how hard you have to work to
get something good for both of them on the air.
What can people look forward to next with Mrs. P.?
Well, the elves are working all the time. There are so many
things happening right now, and they’re all amazing. We want to continue to
bring quality and a safe place for kids to read on the internet.
I love the fact that it’s actually you reading, as opposed
to a cartoon version of you. There’s something special about having a real
person to look at while you read and listen along.
I completely agree. I tell kids all the time that reading is
cool, and so are they. And to know that we’re inspiring kids to read is a
thrilling thing. I’m honestly having so much fun right now; I couldn’t ask for
a better thing than to be Mrs. P.
To learn more about Mrs. P., including how to enter the Be A Famous Writer Contest, click here.