Always laugh every day, dress for the occasion, and never go to bed angry. Mantras and maxims of Wendie Malick’s grandmother, Helen Gucker, an opera singer who trained at the New England Conservatory of Music, Malick shares how she looked up to her grandmother, “one of the colorful characters in my life,” she says.
The award-winning actress and activist grew up in Buffalo, New York with a love for both observing and entertaining people. Malick’s parents and teachers supported and encouraged her career aspirations, helping to prepare Malick for her eventual learning experiences at Ohio Wesleyan and life after college. She looked at several Ohio schools before deciding on OWU.
“I immediately liked the vibe at OWU. In 1968, it was straddling tradition and anarchy. It was a perfect fit,” says Malick, who majored in fine arts and minored in theatre. She and her college friends remain close and still get together regularly to this day. But it was her professors, people like Bo Rabby whom she calls a “brilliant and tough acting teacher and director,” and Ebb Haycock, who inspired the fine artist leanings in her, who remain in Malick’s memory as her guideposts and mentors. After graduating from OWU, Malick worked for awhile as a Wilhelmina model, following that with her work for Buffalo’s Congressman Jack Kemp. But the theatre beckoned, and Malick moved on to secure the role of Judith Tupper Stone in the HBO comedy, “Dream On,” winning four Cable Ace Awards as Best Actress in a Comedy Series.
“It was my comedic breakthrough, for which I will be forever grateful,” Malick says, adding that she then was freed to be more of a character actor.
“There’s a fine line between drama and comedy,” she explains. “I see the humor in dark situations, perhaps as a coping mechanism. The loveliest compliments I receive are from people thanking me for making them laugh before they go to sleep at night.” Anyone who has watched Malick’s performance as fashion editor Nina Van Horn, the elegant but neurotic ex-model co-starring in the sitcom, “Just Shoot Me,” saw her comedic talents. She won a Golden Globe and two Emmy Award nominations as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Currently shooting the fourth season of “Hot in Cleveland,” with co-stars Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli, and Betty White, Malick continues with additional work in theatre and film, including “The American President,” “Adventureland,” and recently, “50-Nothing.” Malick’s love for the theatre draws her to New York to see new plays, whenever possible. “I do worry about the future of theatre,” she says, and believes we have to reinfuse theatre by bringing more young actors to the stage.
As for TV favorites, Malick is drawn to HBO’s “The Newsroom,” which she likes because of the writing, acting, and relevance. Other favorites include the PBS series “Downtown Abbey,” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Sandwiched between her work, a medical complex in the Congo that she and husband Richard Erickson support, and taking care of their numerous horses, donkeys, and dogs, Malick has marched for women’s rights to make life choices and is the spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States. She is particularly interested in the preservation of our country’s wild horses and their struggle for survival.
“I have a strong connection with animals,” shares Malick. “We communicate without words…they’re my soulmates,” says Malick. Also important to Malick is the need to be intentional in her life. Each day, she writes about three things for which she is grateful. And though not quite the same as her Grandmother Gucker’s maxims, these seem also to work well for Malick: Be extravagantly kind, don’t ever be afraid to laugh, and go outside and play.”