Farewell to Dharma hoodoo
After 10 years, Jenna Elfman feels her career is moving on, writes
JENNA Elfman says it’s taken a decade but she has finally broken past Dharma in the new series 1600 Penn.
Elfman says it has taken 10 years to convince Hollywood powerbrokers to see past her portrayal of Dharma Finkelstein Montgomery in the smash hit comedy Dharma and Greg.
She credits her ‘‘breakout’’ roles as being cast in the finale of the US series Shameless and in a recurring role on Damages in 2012.
In 1600 Penn, which debuts on pay TV’s The Comedy Channel this weekend, Elfman is cast as first lady Emily Nash Gilchrest to Bill Pullman’s US President Dale Gilchrest.
Emily is also the stepmother to Dale’s four children.
Elfman, 41, said Dharma and Greg gave her a huge break but there was a downside when the series ended in 2002.
‘‘It’s been a navigational challenge for my career, to find my way through and to be perceived greater than the character (Dharma),’’ Elfman says.
‘‘I had a great role on Shameless and did the fifth season of Damages and that kind of springed (sic) things loose and people saw me in a different way.
‘‘Having to reinvent yourself is all part of the journey. After having all that success, you then realise you have to change course.’’
1600 Penn is set in and around the confines of the White House and the antics of the dysfunctional first family, led by Pullman and Elfman.
The pair may be the biggest names, but they are not the focus of the show.
Eldest son Skip, played by co-creator Josh Gad, has most of the gag lines, while Amara Miller, Benjamin Stockham and Martha MacIsaac play his siblings.
Elfman wanted to bring her own style to the role of First Lady without ridiculing the position entirely.
That’s why you may spot some Michelle Obama mannerisms shining through Elfman’s character.
‘‘It’s a hard area to research when you don’t have a lot of first ladies on your speed dial,’’ Elfman says, laughing.
‘‘I was trying to get a sense of the actualities of their experiences and trying to learn from what I observed of Michelle Obama and what I would love to continue to see about first ladies.’’
1600 Penn: Sundays, 8.30pm, The Comedy Channel.
The cast of 1600 Penn includes Jenna Elfman, front right.