STEELE INTERVIEWS: Hamish Linklater [The New Adventures of Old Christine]

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINEHamish Linklater plays Matthew, the somewhat goofy, co-dependent brother of Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on The New Adventures of Old Christine. If you haven’t seen the show, Matthew is endearing and sweet, an uber-geek and devoted to his sister. (Of his character, Linklater told me by phone: “I like that he dresses in clothes I like to wear too. He’s fun. They give me a lot of fun stuff to do. The writers are really generous with me.”) Their relationship borders on absurd and almost too close at times, but is always hysterical to watch. Christine struggles with personal and professional challenges while dealing with those around her: Matthew, her tween son Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon), her ex-husband Richard (Clark Gregg), and her best friend Barb (Wanda Sykes). Certainly the appeal of The New Adventures of Old Christine rests on Louis-Dreyfus, who holds a special place in our hearts as Elaine Benes of <em>Seinfeld</em>.

“I’ve learned about a fraction of her vast encyclopedic store of comic knowledge,” Linklater admitted. “I’m in the preface section of Julia’s book of comedy wisdom.”

Kari Lizer created The New Adventures of Old Christine and she also writes a majority of the episodes, which is rare in Hollywood. The New Adventures of Old Christine is female-centric: the show focuses on a Prius-driving divorced sexy mother lacking self-editing skills. She plays by her own rules. Christine competes with younger and richer women. She’s making different mistakes than she did in her twenties and she’s imperfect and unapologetic. Christine is someone you can relate to, empathize with, and root for from week to week. I’m 40-years-old and single. I’ve never been married, nor have (or plan to have) children and I adore the show.

“It is necessary for the voice and sensibility of show that we have [Kari] and even if her name isn’t on a script, every line is going through her. She’s the voice of her show. You have to have one set of ears and one voice that’s setting the tone. And having Julia as our lead, is like being in a kingdom with two queens,” Linklater enthused. “It’s amazing that we’ve been going for five years for this long. They just work so clock-worky. We don’t have any Diva nonsense or ego nonsense.”

Louis-Dreyfus has been Emmy-nominated for the past four seasons for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She broke the Seinfeld “curse” by helming a successful television series. Going into the fifth season, The New Adventures of Old Christine  should be fantastic as the same cast has worked together for so long.

“It feels like we’re just starting to reach our stride,” Linklater told me. “It’s kind of exciting, like being on an exceptional basketball team, it’s like we’re getting to that place where you know other people’s moves and know their sweet spots and are getting better at making comedy.”

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINETHE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRLinklater has been acting in plays since childhood. His mother, Kristin Linklater, is a professor of acting at Columbia University and founded Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. He lived at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s summer home) until he was 12-years-old. He recalls sleeping in Teddy Wharton’s bedroom and seeing ghosts. The series Ghosthunters featured The Mount in an episode and Linklater told me that the show barely touched on the spookiness of the mansion.

“It was a wicked haunted place,” Linklater said.

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