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Not With My Underbelly, You Don't

July 19, 2006 6:29 PM

Jennifer Westfeldt has no desire to get too close to her character's experience on the ABC comedy "Notes From the Underbelly."

Westfeldt plays a young married woman who finds out she's pregnant. At the "Underbelly" press tour session Wednesday morning, one critic reminded the producers and Westfeldt, who is not pregnant in real life, that in many cases actresses who become expectant during series have been asked to hide their underbellies for the sake of their characters. But in this case, being an actress and actually getting pregnant might work to the show's advantage.

Westfeldt stopped the critic right there.

"I'm not taking that question," she said. "I have a dog. It's a lot of responsibility."

In one scene in the "Underbelly" pilot, a very prominent picture is displayed of actors Sunkrish Bala and Melanie Paxson, who play another expectant couple. Shot Vanity Fair-style, a shirtless, meditative Bala rests his head on what appears to be a very pregnant Paxson's belly.

"That was my first day on the job," Bala said.

"And it wasn't my belly," Paxson said, noting they had a real woman heavy with child stand in for her. Some creative Photoshopping placed Paxson's head on top of the body.

"I have a huge picture of it at home," Paxson said.

"Did you get a picture?" Bala asked incredulously, adding to the argument that press tour is as revelatory for the participants as it is for reporters.

Paxson, who can teach the likes of Katie Couric and Rachael Ray a few things about being perky, was asked by a critic if she still gets recognized for her series of plastic bag commercials from a few years back, where she appeared with an eclectic array of B-listers, including former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.

Turns out she does, especially when people hear her distinctive voice.

But brand marketing executives, take note:

"People say 'you did those Hefty commercials,'" she said. "And I say 'no, Glad.'"

Westeldt was asked if she ever considered making her hit indie film "Kissing Jessica Stein" into a TV show.

"I felt it was a film and one story," she said, before adding she didn't know any movies that had been "converted to successful series."

That created a few "huh?" faces among the assembled critics. While the Sapphic-themed "Kissing" was definitely a closed-ended story, Westfeldt might want to rent DVDs of the TV series "M*A*S*H," "Alice" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," to name just a few, and acquaint herself to some examples of film-to-TV successes.

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