After performing in Hairspray at the Hollywood Bowl last summer and recently appearing on The Talk, Marissa Jaret Winokur is returning to scripted TV in the sitcom, Retired at 35. The Dancing with the Stars alum opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her adorable son Zev and their upcoming Halloween plans: “Zev puts his costume on every day, all day! He literally thinks he’s the UPS man.”
Marissa also shares her hopes to welcome another child. She describes her “different feeling” trying to get pregnant with a surrogate the second time around. Even though Marissa and husband Judah Miller have been “trying for a year” and they’re “still not pregnant,” the actress says it’s made her “even more grateful for Zev.” Continue reading about Marissa’s upcoming clothing line, her new sitcom and her hilarious – and very “imaginative” – 3-year-old son.
CBS: Tell us about your son Zev. What is he into?
MJW: “He’s into driving me up the wall! Honestly, on the one hand I want to laugh, but on the other hand I want to cry! The other night I said to him, ‘Zev I am at my wits’ end with you.’ And he looked up at me and repeated, ‘I’m at my wits’ end with you!’ I was like, ‘Do I laugh or get really mad?’ So I just walked out of the room very slowly.
The thing is, he’s so much like me. I just look at him and I know what he’s thinking at all times. I know what he’s about to do. He’s very independent, but at the same time he’s very clingy. He’s such a typical 3-year-old boy. He’s like, ‘Hi mama, I gotta go poopy, I can do this myself. Don’t come in.’ But then in the middle of the night he’ll be saying, ‘Mama, we need to cuddle. Come into my room and cuddle with me.’ He’s got me wrapped around his little finger.
His favorite thing right now is karate. He just loves it! He is so disciplined at that. I wish he could be like that at home! He knows everything and does everything the instructor says. He doesn’t speak out. But at home, I call him a wild animal! I’ll ask him, ‘Are you being a wild animal? Because if you are, go into your room and be a wild animal.’ But it’s totally our fault for letting him get away with that – I’m aware of that! I’m like, ‘We have to walk away!’ But instead I’ll go and test the wild animal!
He goes to preschool and loves it. He loves gymnastics too. He really wants to do piano lessons but I can’t find anybody that will do piano lessons under age 4. I gave my girlfriend’s 2-year-old a set of drums as an obnoxious gift. It was a ‘Ha, ha, love you’ gift. So for Zev’s birthday, she gave us this huge keyboard. So my son will play that thing and make as much noise as possible. So every day he asks, ‘Is today my piano lesson?’ I’ve been calling around and there’s nobody that will give piano lessons before the age of 4.”
CBS: Maybe you’ve got another performer in the family? Would that be OK with you?
MJW: “After seeing Hairspray at the Bowl a few times, he would sit through it looking very serious like he wasn’t having any fun at all. But later he would reenact the entire thing at home. He said to my husband, ‘Daddy, when I grow up I want mommy and Harvey (Fierstein] to sit in the audience and watch me on the big stage.’ So when he told me, I asked him, ‘Zevvy are you going to sing and dance on the stage?’ And he said, ‘No mommy, I want to tell jokes.’ And I said, ‘Oh like mommy?’ And he said, ‘No, you didn’t tell any jokes.’ So I was like, ‘Oh he didn’t think I was funny at all!’
I pray he doesn’t want to be an actor! I think that when you’re an actor, you know how hard the life is. It’s soul-crushing at times. But I feel like every career is at times as well. I think with every creative job, you feel like you’re not doing enough. Every job is hard, but really I don’t care what he does. He can become anything that he wants to become. But my husband says he has to go to college. I’m not as strict about school. But my husband is very serious about education. I’m really glad I married him because I’m just not as serious about education.”
CBS: Do you celebrate Halloween in your house? If so, what are your plans?
MJW: “Halloween is everyday in our house because my son loves costumes and candy! But this year, at first he wanted to be a policeman so I went out and bought that costume. Then one day we went to the store together and he became completely obsessed with the UPS man. So he asked me to get that costume for him. We went to the store and it was the cheapest costume they had! At first the clerk wasn’t even sure if they had that costume. He said, ‘Nobody wants to be the UPS man!’ But we found it and the only size it came in was Zev’s size.
Zev puts that costume on every day, all day! He literally thinks he’s the UPS man. He collects shoe boxes and goes outside the door, rings the doorbell and says, ‘I’ve got a package!’ And then he says, ‘Open it!’ Or else he’ll make me go into my bedroom and he’ll ring the doorbell and pretend that nobody is home. He’ll leave the package outside the door and he’ll have the whole routine down pat. He’s so imaganitive, but it drives me crazy! He’ll say, ‘Open the door mom, and say “Oh there’s a package here. Who left it?”‘ And then I’ll go outside and say, ‘Oh there’s a package!’ And he’ll say, ‘No, I said say, “Oh there’s a package here. Who left it?”‘ He is up at 5 a.m. and he’s like, ‘Is it morning time? Do we get to play UPS again?'”
CBS: Are you going out trick-or-treating?
MJW: “Yes, and I’ve made a box with a slit in it for him to put the candy inside the box. He wants us to be the packages. So if we can get our act together, my husband and I will do that. Zev said, ‘I want you to be really big packages that I have to deliver.’ I’m going to be sticking my feet through a really big box! Everybody else gets to wear sexy Halloween costumes. I’m going to have a big box around my boobs and belly! I will not be the sexy box! There will be the sexy cat mom and the mom in the sexy tiger costume. But I’ll be in a big box! We live on a cul-de-sac where it’s really easy to go trick-or-treating so it’ll be a lot of fun.”
CBS: Do you and your husband, writer Judah Miller, want to have more kids?
[Marisa underwent a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 27, and welcomed Zev via a surrogate mother. Read more here.]
MJW: “We keep trying! We’ve tried a few times now but it’s not working as easily as we thought it was going to. We’ve been working with another surrogate and it just hasn’t been going easy. But we’re not giving up yet. It’s a weird thing — now I’m even more grateful for Zev! I always knew it was such a miracle to have a child through surrogacy. It’s such a complex, mad-science thing. But when you have a child, you’re like, ‘See, it works and it’s all meant to be,’ and you forget about all the trauma and all the problems that led up to it. But now we’re going through it again and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, we were really lucky!’
I can’t keep boo-hoo’ing though. We found out a couple weeks ago that we’re not pregnant and I was supposed to do a bunch of stuff and all I wanted to do was go and watch my son do karate for 45 minutes, even though I had the babysitter and I didn’t need to be there. I just wanted to go and sit there and watch him and then take him for ice cream and just be grateful. I didn’t really realize how hard it could be. This time around, it’s been much harder. But it’s also easier in a sense because I have my son and it’s not the feeling of desperation I have felt in the past. It’s a different feeling.
When we were trying for Zev, I was inconsolable. I just wanted to be a mom so bad. With Zev it was only 2 tries. This time, it’s been a year and we’re still not pregnant. But then, any time I say that to somebody, I often hear, ‘I had 4 miscarriages before this pregnancy.’ Everyone has a story and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. Even if you’re carrying your own baby, it seems like something else happens. I had a girlfriend who was trying to get pregnant just the good old fashioned way for 2 years.
I believe that in the end, it’s all meant to be. We can’t control it. If we can’t get pregnant through surrogacy this time, we’ll go another route. And most of my friends are older and we’re all trying to have children. So we’re in a different state than our parents were. Most of my friends are late 30’s and early 40’s having their kids. It seems like everybody is going through some sort of difficulty.
It really makes me appreciate Zev! As much as he’s a crazy wild animal right now, he’s such an amazing blessing.”
CBS: Tell us all about your new TV sitcom Retired at 35.
MJW: “I start next week so I actually don’t know much about it! It’s on TV Land and they’ve always talked about the daughter so now they’re bringing the daughter – me – in! I’m so excited because I haven’t been in scripted TV for way too long. Ever since doing Dancing with the Stars I kind of fell out of scripted. I started doing lots of hosting jobs. And this summer I did Hairspray at the Hollywood Bowl. So I asked myself, ‘Wait, why aren’t I doing scripted stuff anymore?’ I really wanted to get back into being an actress and stop being a host.
After Hairspray I really put it out to the universe that I wanted to get back to acting. I kept taking jobs that I didn’t grow up dreaming about. Some women are amazing hosts. Like Ricki Lake is a phenomenal host. But I grew up wanting to be an actress. So after I did Hairspray, I thought to myself, ‘I just want to do a scripted sitcom so bad.’ And this one happened very quickly. And this week I’m working on Hot in Cleveland. I’m having fun and I’m going, ‘Yay, I’m back to being an actress again!’
Retired at 35 is about a character named Jonathan who goes back to his parents’ retirement community. His parents are played by George Segal and Jessica Walter. To me, these are the two dream actors to work with. So Jonathan goes home – he was living in New York – and moved into the retirement community. My character has lived there with them, but you just never saw her. I play his younger sister, a pharmaceutical rep.
It’s a good old fashioned sitcom and it’s exactly what I love to do. I think there will be lots of conflict with my character and Jessica’s character which will be great. And I worked with George Segal years ago on Just Shoot Me. He’s such an amazing actor. And he just emailed me the other day: ‘I’m so excited you’re playing my daughter.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, George Segal just emailed me!’ ”
CBS: Did you enjoy your time on The Talk?
MJW: “I totally did! I did segments with talking to women on the street, not the people that were coming into the studio. As it turned out, there basically wasn’t that much room for it. It was the beginning of the show – they didn’t know yet what they were doing with the show or with me. As the weeks went by, there was less room for me to do anything, I loved when I got to do it, but I was glad we were able to figure out how to move on from there.
I had a great time. I love the group! My favorite part was when we got to travel to places before the show got picked up. I just loved hanging out with everybody!”
CBS: Tell us about your upcoming fashion line.
MJW: “I’m starting to work on it right now, but I’ve been talking about it for years. I just want to make clothes that I wear. It’s not for plus size, it’s just normal clothes for normal women. Clothes that are just genuinely for women — that move with women. But I find that if you’re a size 14 it’s really hard. I’m a 14 and I have a really hard time finding clothes because even though it’s a 14, it’s still cut for a 0. The problem I find with a lot of fashion – which I’m sure a lot of women find – even if it’s your size, it’s not cut for your body. Most clothes aren’t cut for you to have a chest or hips. And the clothes that are plus-size, are not cut for fashion. So I want to find that middle ground. I’m hoping it comes out sooner than later. We’re trying to find the right place for it. Is it a TV outlet, a store outlet? We’re trying to find the best place to launch it.
I know so many tricks! I’ve had to learn how to dress my body for years. Every time I walk on a set, there’s a wardrobe person who doesn’t know how to dress me. I’m like, ‘Wait, just get the right clothes.’ You really don’t have to get anything special, just find jeans that fit and a shirt that buttons. I’m very excited and passionate about it. I’m really excited about both the sitcom and the fashion line!”