Every episode of the Lifetime Original Series, Drop Dead Diva, could begin with the director shouting, “Diva On Set!” because the show features Broadway star Brooke Elliott as Jane Bingum, a plus-sized 32-year-old lawyer. Brooke D'Orsay was a beautiful young model who died suddenly after a car wreck, and then woke up in the unfamiliar body of Jane.
The comedy entered its fourth season this summer and per usual fans should expect surprise guest appearances from celebrities as varied as pop singer Brandy Norwood, Helen Keller actress Patty Duke, talk show hostess Rosie O'Donnell, fashionista Kim Kardashian, singer and “X Factor” star Paula Abdul, Joan Rivers, and tennis champion and superstar Serena Williams.
Jane is a charming defense lawyer who loves doughnuts and volunteering her time to help the needy. Deb Dobkins is an aspiring model, skinny as a twig, who loves flirting and dancing more than anything else. At first, Deb could not feel more different in the cumbersome and large body she occupies, but as time goes on and she becomes more familiar with Jane’s life, she gets the hang of winning cases and as a bonus, she gets to work in close proximity to her almost fiancé (in her past life) Grayson. The cases get more and more challenging as Deb uses Jane’s wit, as well as her own smarts, confidence and long, dark hair to sway jurors and win cases!
Of course, all of us here at Dish wish that we could interview every single guest star who ever appeared on Drop Dead Diva, but we’re delighted that we've been able to speak with two of the most fascinating, Brandy (yes, that Brandy, and Patty Duke (yes, that Patty Duke)!
Most people recognize Brandy Norwood by her stage name, the plain and simple Brandy, as the R&B singer who brought us the hits “The Boy Is Mine” and “What About Us?”. Her TV career began in the 1990’s with her hit show “Moesha” and has recently appeared in VH1’s “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business”, “Dancing With The Stars”, the new incarnation of “90210”, and soon Tyler Perry’s film “The Marriage Counselor”.
On Drop Dead Diva, Brandy plays Elise Shayne, an ex-girlfriend of Jane’s boss, Jay Parker (played by Josh Stamburg). In five suspenseful episodes, Brandy’s character Elisa reveals that she has hidden her love child from Jay, for 13 years!
Dish: How do you feel about your role as Elisa Shayne?
Brandy: “Well, I just like Elisa’s drive and the fact that she wants to really dedicate her life to helping people. She is a nurse, and I love the love that she has for her son. So to see her go after what she wants, as well as take care of her son, is amazing to me. I am a little bit inspired by her, and the things that she’s doing are things that I would do for my own daughter. I am a mother. I became a mother at a very young age, 23, so in the show, Elisa’s son is about the same age as my daughter. So in that way I’ve been able to relate and pull from my own experiences.
Dish: Would you like to sing on Drop Dead Diva?
Brandy: I have not been asked to sing, I don’t think Elisa can sing.
Dish: How do you juggle your acting career and her music career?
Brandy: I am pretty good at keeping my music and my acting separate. It really hasn’t been a problem. I also have a lot of people that help me with keeping things organized.
Dish: I read online that you and Brooke Elliott are quite chummy behind the scenes and that in between sets, you two like to make up and sing songs. Is there a chance that Brooke might be featured on one of the songs on your new album?
Brandy: You know, I’ve never thought of that! That’s a good idea! You know what? I should cut Brooke a deal! I should say, ‘hey I’ll let you sing a song with me on my album, if you let me sing on Drop Dead Diva! That’s fair!’ You know, they do little segments on the show that feature singing, so I was surprised when they didn’t ask me to join in on that.
Dish: I just have one more quick question. What is the name of your new album?
Brandy: The name of the new album is called 2-11, because that’s the day that I was born, and every year I grow and I evolve and I become a different person. Every year you celebrate the day you were born and you try to make yourself better and better. It’s also the day that I lost my idol, Whitney Houston. Of course, she’s with me as an angel, but you know, I lost her in the physical sense, so that day has always been special to me. I try to dedicate my life to live my purpose by doing what I am supposed to do.
Next, we spoke to the legend of film and television, Patty Duke, who became famous around the world thanks to her awesome portrayal of Helen Keller in the Broadway play, The Miracle Worker, and winning an Academy Award for her film portrayal of the beloved legend. On Drop Dead Diva, Patty Duke plays Rita O’Riley, a senior citizen greeter who is fired after tackling a shoplifter at the store OneStop, and seeks Jane’s assistance in a wrongful termination case. Here’s what Duke had to say about Drop Dead Diva.
Dish: How did you get the role on “Drop Dead Diva”?
Patty Duke: You know, in my world you never know how the hell you get a role. This one came to me as an offer, which makes you feel good because you’re not auditioning and after 55 years of doing this, I’m still auditioning mostly. But I didn’t have to for Diva and I’m telling you, I had a ball. It was like a vacation.
Dish: What are you thoughts about your “Diva” co-star Brooke Elliott?
Patty: I knew that I admired Brooke Elliott - but my god, the first day---it was all I could do to concentrate on my part because she was so fascinating. And she had to memorize, I don’t know, there must have been 15 pages of monologue. Anyway, she’s brilliant - I expect to see a lot of production done by her, not necessarily of acting, but producing.
Dish: What are you thought about your role as Rita Curtis?
Patty: It was a hard role because I was discovering things about the role as we went along. This makes it far more interesting than to just say 'OK, this is what it is and that’s that' and let’s just say the jokes and get out of here. It was a wonderful part. There was not a person on that set who was not gracious and kind with great senses of humor, led of course by Brooke.
Dish: What are your thoughts about shoplifting?
Patty: Bottom line, I’m a chicken. I wanted to speak up and say ‘oh, that person’s doing something wrong’, but the part of me that says ‘you’re 65 years old now, shut up and get out of the way’ seems to come to the fore more often.
Dish: How do you compare your part as Rita on Drop Dead Diva to Helen Keller in the Miracle Worker?
Patty: Well again, you now know that laughter is crucial to me. To find that line between making you believe what I’m doing and the humor, is a very delicate kind of job. I find comedy much harder than drama, but I’ll do both.
Dish: What do you prefer, Theater vs. TV acting?
Patty: I have to tell you …..theater. I find joy in some TV or movies and all that, but the bottom line is - theater is where I want to be most of the time.
Dish: What are your views on acting at age 65?
Patty: It really doesn’t matter as long as I’m invited to the party. I mean, you must get the gist. I just like to work. I don’t care where, I don’t care why. I just want to work.
Don’t miss Drop Dead Diva every Sunday, at 9pm/8c on Lifetime. You never know who you’ll get to see!