Co-stars had some fears about taking the parts

September 13, 1990|By Susan White | Susan White,Knight Ridder

Imagine, for a moment, standing in front of 130 strangers and answering questions about your weight.

"Would each of you ladies tell me which particular euphemism -- be it 'overweight' or 'pleasantly plump' -- that you prefer when talking about your weight?" asked a man in the rear.

The three women on the stage looked at one another. Then they looked at the crowd.

"I like the word 'obese,'" actress Wendie Jo Sperber said with a grin that made everyone laugh.

LTC "I like the word 'overweight,'" chimed in Lesley Boone from beneath her orange, brimmed hat.

Finally, the third woman, Susan Peretz, spoke, deadpan. She was wearing a long, purple blouse designed to hide well-padded curves.

"I try not to think about those words at all."

Again everyone laughed. But it was an uncomfortable laugh that faded away into uncharted territory.

The Los Angeles press conference was part of the Fox Broadcasting Co.'s publicity campaign for "Babes," a new comedy series about three overweight sisters.

TV programs rarely discuss our girth directly. On the rare occasions when the subject of weight does pop up on TV, as it did on a "Designing Women" episode last season, it attracts almost as much attention as TV's treatment of sex.

If it hadn't been for the presence of the three actresses, speaking with dignity about giving overweight people a place in the thin-bodied world of TV, Fox would have found itself being trounced for going too far.

Away from the crowd of reporters, each of the three actresses acknowledged having had some fears about working on "Babes."

Sperber: "It was really hard for me to take this job. At first I said no. But then I realized that it wasn't the material or anything, but it was because it was like opening myself up, like hitting home. It was like asking an alcoholic to do a movie about alcoholism."

Peretz: "I didn't want to go in for the audition. In most of the work I've done, I've tried to avoid characters that are based on fat jokes."

Boone: "I thought, here I am going out for a show that I would be a regular on, and it has to do with my weight. In the public eye, I'm exposing myself to all of this."

In the end, though, the lure of the project won out.

Sperber, whose roles on "Private Benjamin" and "BosoBuddies" make her the most recognizable of the three, said that working on "Babes" had been a positive and a negative experience.

"It's hard, doing all these press things about fat," she said slowly. "I've never been asked these questions before. Like, 'You're really overweight?' And I say, 'Yeah . . .'"

On the positive side, she thinks "Babes" will hit home with everyone who worries about weight.

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