Reba with 'Malibu Country' costars Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue (Photo: David Livingston)Fans of Reba McEntire's original, self-titled TV series, which debuted in 2001 and bowed at the end of 2006, no doubt were anxious as to when the country superstar would return to the world of sitcom acting. Unfortunately, they had to hold out for six whole years--but the end result, Reba's new Malibu Country, has proven that the multitalented artist gave everyone something worth the wait.
As it turns out, the singer may seem to have taken a lengthy break from TV, but she actually was on a perpetual hunt for her next project the entire time. "I let everybody know that I was looking for another project, because I do love television so much," she explains. "I love the aspect of getting to be on the same stage every day because that's not what you get in the music business. You're on a different stage every night."
Reba found her ideal project in an unlikely manner. Her son, Brandon Blackstock, happened to be sitting next to Dave Stewart (best-known for his work with '80s music pioneers the Eurythmics). Stewart began chatting about an idea he had for a sitcom, and Blackstock suggested he send the script to Reba.
How did a British musician and producer manage to come up with a show about a Nashville singer moving to Malibu? "I don't know exactly how he came up with the concept, but Dave Stewart is an idea-a-minute man. I mean, he comes up with ideas constantly," Reba smiles. "I fell in love with it."
The show, which focuses on a newly separated country singer trying to rebuild both her personal life and her career, includes a diverse cast including veteran comedian Lily Tomlin and Jai Rodriguez from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy--and, has a script that consistently touches on subjects of a liberal bent. Where Reba wasn't afraid to explore topics of teen pregnancy and marriage, Malibu Country goes further by creating jokes about medical marijuana, spotlighting openly gay characters, and taking a hard look at how women are perceived in the entertainment industry.
Reba isn't concerned that these subjects may offend some of her more conservative viewers. "I'm not worried about the topics that we have in the show at all. I think it's everyday life, it's modern America, it's all the way across the United States," she asserts. "I trust that gut instinct when I do things and projects like this, and I haven't had any complaints from my fans."
Part of the reason her instinct is so right-on undoubtedly has to do with the support of her fellow actors, whom Reba terms "wonderful." The cast gelled immediately upon working together: "People were saying after we did the pilot, 'My gosh, you guys act like a TV family that's been together for two seasons,'" Reba notes with a grin. "They are experienced. They're very professional. They're on time. They know their lines...a lot better than I did, so I had to really jump up and step up my game!"
Reba also reveals that she'd love to have her old sitcom's cast show up as guest stars on Malibu Country. "I love the cast from the Reba show. I mean, we still hang out together--matter of fact, just had dinner with them the other night, and so that's a lot of fun."
She also promises some exciting musical guests to come: Country fans can keep their eyes peeled for her buddies Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, and Martina McBride to possibly appear in future epsiodes. "I'm tickled to pieces," Reba says of her cameo "wish list," but adds that the first season of the show will be mostly devoted to creating the background and voices of the main characters.
Speaking of Shelton, Reba explains that she'll be leaving her longtime hosting duties at the annual Academy of Country Music Awards to him next spring. "I'm ready to really knuckle down and be serious about [my sitcom]," she explains, but adds that she'll definitely attend the awards. "I'll be cheering Blake on!"
Those who are hankering for a new album from Reba will have to wait a bit for that, as she's putting formal releases aside for a while as well. She says there are no plans right now for musical endeavors outside of Malibu Country, as she's getting everything she loves creatively at the moment from her TV show.
"What's so great about Malibu Country is I get to act, I get to sing, I get to record new music and introduce it to the folks and my fans through the TV show and that's what they really want," Reba states. "They want to see all of it, and they want to hear all of it, and they want new music--so that's what we're incorporating right now."