Great dames: Holland Taylor on Ann Richards

(CBS News) Holland Taylor played the mom for years on the CBS TV series "Two and a Half Men." Now she's on Broadway, playing an outspoken politician whose routes lay deep in the heart of Texas. Holland Taylor recently sat down with Rita Braver for some Questions-and-Answers:


"Some of you probably remember me because of my hair. I notice that most of the men who tease me about my hair, don't have any."

No, that's not tart-tongued Ann Richards, Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995 come back to life, but actress Holland Taylor in a new Broadway show, doing her take on a woman who first captured the nation's attention putting down George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Democratic National Convention ("He was born with a silver foot in his mouth") -- and she argued that women could more than hold their own in the rough-and-tumble world of politics:

"If you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did; she just did it backwards, and in high heels."

"We're all so used to women politicians now, but people forget that in her time, she was unusual," said Braver.

"Oh, it was almost unbelievable that she was elected governor of Texas," said Taylor. "That's why her sheer, sheer nerve and brio and daring was so thrilling to people around her."

But Holland Taylor has her own store of nerve and brio. She's been playing the outrageous mom on "Two and a Half Men" for almost 10 years, yet still managed to write and develop her play about the late Governor Richards, turning a whole room in her Los Angeles home into a Richards shrine.

"I think of her just, like, laughing her ass off, which is what she loved to do," said Taylor.

She had been a Richards fan, moved by her commitment to women and minorities, but met her only once, very briefly, after Richards lost her bid for a second term as governor to George W. Bush.

Taylor and Richards were introduced by New York gossip columnist Liz Smith.

"I was just over the moon," recalled Taylor. "At her core, she was a person who had a strong sense of fair play, and a strong sense of outrage if it was interfered with."

After Richards died in 2006, Taylor found herself strangely sad, and thinking about the metamorphosis Richards underwent, from wife and mother, to an unlikely political powerhouse.

"A woman, a divorced woman, a 10-year sober alcoholic, and a Democrat no less, running for governor of macho, conservative Texas. Well, get back. That is insane!"
Holland Taylor as the former governor of Texas Ann Richards in the Broadway play, "Ann."
CBS News

And so "Ann," the play, was born. "This is the only way I could express myself, and I was obviously led by inner forces that I don't truly understand to this day."

It's the first play Taylor has written - and, she adds, the last.

She grew up in Philadelphia, started out in theater, and in 1980 got her first big TV break, playing Tom Hanks' intimidating boss on "Bosom Buddies."

"I did know he was a very great talent from the beginning," Taylor said. "And also a very accessible person."

"Did you like your character on the show?" Braver asked.

"I loved my character," she replied. And why not, with a chance to display her gift for physical comedy?

She went on to more TV roles, including playing a smoldering Judge on "The Practice," which earned her an Emmy in 1999.

Taylor jokes that her real specialty is playing mothers -- to everyone from Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show," to Tina Fey in "Baby Mama."

Why does she get all these mom roles? "Because I know nothing about it, I guess!" she laughed.

The never-married Taylor is not a mom. "It's interesting, I had absolutely no maternal instinct. I'm much more interested in young people now."

In particular, the two guys she mothered on the CBS series "Two and a Half Men," Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen.