I was invited to the set of Disney’s Liv and Maddie to meet Kali Rocha. She plays Karen Rooney, the sometimes wacky, yet always loveable mom of four and high school principal. In real life, Kali and her husband Michael (Krikorian) are busy with their 6 year-old son, Barlow and 3 year-old daughter, Savria. I enjoyed an intimate Q&A on the set of Liv And Maddie with Kali, who’s a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious drama program. I found her to be just as witty and gregarious as her TV role! I also discovered Kali is a talented screenwriter. Look for an episode written by her this season! Here’s what Kali shared about her life and working on the set of Disney’s Liv and Maddie.
How has your experience been working on a Disney show as a working mom?
Kali: My kids come to set all the time. Everybody knows them, and has watched them grow! It’s a dream to integrate the two. And, they love watching the show. The first time they watched the show, and generally I wouldn’t allow my kids to watching “TV” per say. But, the show is really special. My daughter watched one episode where there’s a crazy clown that pops out of a pumpkin. And, in it, I pretend that I didn’t take the clown. And, then I have to pretend that I’m sad that the clown is gone, and I’m sad. My daughter starts crying and is all sad. That was like the only time that I had to make her understand, that, its mommy pretending to be Karen.
In this show, what do you see that you bring to your character?
Obviously, I like funny. I do love Lucille Ball. I love good old fashioned comedy, but also nurturing. And you toe the line of out there, but try to ground it all with acting. Trying to find that blend so that it never goes completely crazy. I do like this character because she’s not a perfect mother. She’s lovely, but she’s definitely still working her stuff out! And, I’m a walking exhibit of that.
When you looked at the possibility of getting this role, what attracted you to it?
The things that were best about this role were not evidently evident. The main thing was that the script was amazing. That was clear to me. I had to pursue it! And the things, I couldn’t have known when I took the job, which are my family is able to be integrated in my daily life. Which is unheard of: It’s amazing to me!
Could you explain how the writing opportunity came about?
My agent knew that I had been writing. He also represents my writing partner Jonathan McClain. So he says, “Let’s spice up the deal with an opportunity to write.” And I said, “Ok.” So, both me and Jonathan were embraced. Once we went into the writing room, there were no egos or anything. Nothing.
Thus far, what’s been your most memorable role?
Wow! I’ve been so lucky. I’ve done so many different wacked-out, crazy, wonderful roles in film, TV and theater – eight years in New York City. There was a play I did called Good Night Children Everywhere by Richard Nelson, and it was about a family in Post WWII England, where the parents had left. It was just three kids living in a house together. It was unbelievable. On film, I loved doing funny things like Meet the Parents and that definitely helped coming out here. I did Gods and Generals, and The Crucible, which we did on an island in Massachusetts. Going back and doing that period piece was tremendous! Those roles have been amazing.
On TV, I’d have to say, this experience here has been deeply creative and satisfying. And then, to actually give you the freedom to write is a whole ‘nother dimension that I’m grateful for!
Have you previously written? Is this something that you’ve always done and are now seriously pursuing with other scripts?
I credit my writing partner, Jonathan. He was the one who first suggested that we should write. We wrote two scripts. We wrote a web series that’s in development with Universal. Then because I was on this show, I brought him on as my writing partner. I have co-written a film that will come out later this year, Space Station 76 for Sony Pictures rated R. The genesis for that is that it was five actors improvising in a friend’s living room.
I just have to say that I was a hard-core Buffy the Vampire (half-jokingly). Can you describe that experience?
I can never spot them (smiles). It was great! That was my first audition. My first job a week into moving into L.A. I came here thinking I would be here for four months. I got this audition for a show I’d never heard of. I was like, “Vampire what?” And the character was a British girl from the 1800’s always in a corset and a hoop skirt. I was like, “Great! I can do that!” Which I did, and then a year later, I got a call back to re-appear as Anya’s demon alter-ego, Halfrek. It was wonderful and so fun.
Now, Kali is happy portraying the zany Karen Rooney on Liv and Maddie.
Season two of Liv and Maddie premieres on September 21 on the Disney Channel.