The creators of Fox's new comedy "The Loop" wrote the part of Meryl with Rogers in mind.
A high-powered executive for a Chicago-based airline, Meryl has more than professional interest in the company's young new hire, Sam (Bret Harrison). He, though, is busy struggling to balance the demands of his first real job with the still party-heavy lifestyle of his friends and roommates.
Meryl's constant come-ons to sweet stressed-out Sam are clearly not politically correct, but then not much is in this anarchistic look at the conflict between work and play, co-created by Pam Brady and Will Gluck (premiering March 15, 9:30 p.m. EST).
"There's a fine line between tasteless and crass and just out-there, offbeat sensibility," says Rogers, while having tea at a Los Angeles hotel. "This is sophisticated lunacy. ... If you are looking for a very broad silly comedy, it works on that level, but if you are looking for something intellectually subversive that's really there, too."
Brady, also a writer and producer on the cable cartoon "South Park," says that Rogers was right for the part.
"She has this amazing ability to be someone who's in control, very serious, who could be very intimidating, but then could be incredibly playful and weird," says Brady. "She has these dual qualities, both in her life and in her work, which she can kind of slap on and off, and that's just hilarious."
Rogers says that although Meryl is clearly "good at her job and kind of obsessed with work," what really drives the character is the presence of Sam, whom she propositions relentlessly.
"She's just so damn excited to have this cute little puppy coming into this work space," says Brady. "But at the same time, she really appreciates his talent, so there's a kind of mentor slash closest confidante."
Brady also uses a different animal metaphor to describe Meryl's behavior toward Sam. "She's like a momma panther, who just got a pet kitten to spat with."
That suggestion of sleekness seems very apt for Rogers, who believes the outer appearance of a character is a very sharp key to the inner sensibility.
"I usually try to get very involved in the look," she says, describing the suit Meryl wears in the series' first episode.
"On the surface it looks like a business-appropriate suit, but it's a kind of poisonous green with little bits of leather and metal hardware, and it's very, very fitted, so it's kind of vamped up," she explains.
Rogers is married to producer Chris Ciaffa and they have two children. But she's still inundated with questions about her previous husband, Tom Cruise.
She handles them with aplomb.
"Any time anything happens with him I get a call: 'What do you think of Katie? What do think about this?' ... 'Yeah, he's having a kid. Of course I think it's great. What do you want me to say?' 'Do you think he'll be a good father?' 'How do I know any more than I would know what kind of parent you would be,"' she says, explaining her responses to such media prying.
She supposes Nicole Kidman, Cruise's latest ex-wife, gets similar questions. She gently reminds people that, "I'm one ex-wife removed," and that her brief marriage to Cruise ended in 1990.
"I've had two kids since then," she reminds. "I can barely remember my own name let alone be remembering something almost 17 years ago."
But she's resigned to the curiosity. "Will it ever stop? I don't know. I guess not."
Rogers clearly copes, whatever the challenge.
She's worked almost continuously in film and television since 1981 when she nabbed a recurring role as a night-school teacher at the end of the first season of "Hill Street Blues." With Ciaffa, she's produced a number of television movies, including "Harlan County War" and "Charms for the Easy Life." They are now producing "8888," a big-budget Fox feature film.
Her supporting roles in recent theatrical movies range from the broad comedy "Dumb & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" to the emotional drama "The Door in the Floor." Upcoming is the independent feature "Penny Dreadful," a psychological horror film in which she plays a therapist.
She can also eat a crumbly tea scone without looking awkward and handle a "Where-are-you-mommy?" mid-interview phone call from her daughter with the reassuring response that she'll be home very soon to help with homework.
She seems untroubled by the ageism barriers than can limit actresses' careers.
"There is a certain awareness on my part that when it comes to leads, I'm not the actress they are going to look at, because I'm way too old ... but I guess having family; that kind of kills your ambition. I don't really care about being a big movie star."