Mary Lynn Raskjub, the actress who until weeks ago played geeky, loyal, expressive Chloe on the hit show 24, is breathlessly walking through the parking lot of a Hollywood Staples while keeping up a stream of consciousness monologue about the latest turn in her career. "If you want to have a career in acting, you have to invest in it and be prepared to constantly reinvent yourself," she explains. And that's what she has done: She is currently starring in a one-woman show about her experiences in pregnancy and early motherhood at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, directed by Amit Itelman. The show's name -- Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs -- makes it clear that this is not a serious meditation on the joys of bringing a baby into the world.
Raskjub, who says she has never abandoned her stand-up comedy roots -- even while starring in 24 -- is funny even when she doesn't intend to be. "My first three months of motherhood weren't pretty," she confesses. "I just needed five hours of sleep in a row. I remember my son waking me up in the middle of the night and thinking that I should just call the police." That thought caused her to laugh out loud and was the seed of what has become her solo show. Son Valentine is about to celebrate his second birthday and Mary Lynn clearly has decades of new material ahead of her. That's a good thing since she is hoping to take the show on the road and eventually to New York. Reviews have been mostly glowing, though of course she ruminates on the one that wasn't. Most of the reviews use words such as "profane, hilarious, honest and offbeat" to describe the show.
This might seem an unlikely career path for a girl who grew up in Michigan with a tongue-twisting last name and who majored in fine arts/painting in college. And the trajectory of her career is, to put it nicely, odd. She has appeared in Weezer and Beck videos, participated in comedy festivals, had memorable roles in films such as Sunshine Cleaning and Little Miss Sunshine. And then, of course, there is 24 which, she says, "established me as a dramatic actress." She also says wryly, "The first season I felt like such a fraud and kept expecting to get fired. Even some of the show's executives said to me, 'We didn't think you could do this.' But after a while, I realized I was a working actress."
She is embarrassed to admit that these days she is often recognized, even in Staples. And she finds it funny that fans of 24 are already mourning the loss of the show only weeks after it went off the air. "People are either very passionate about 24, or else they never saw it." Even for those who never saw it, Mary Lynn's face is familiar from one of her many roles, though her name may not be.
Despite some of the negative depictions of new motherhood in her show, it is clear that Mary Lynn Raskjub loves being a mother, and she talks already about how quickly time passes. She and her personal trainer husband, Matthew Rolph, are also hoping to give Valentine a sibling. "I'm a late bloomer," she says. "Right now I'm pretty short-sighted because of my creative pursuits. But once I had a child, I began looking at the whole wide world instead of just my place in it."
Part of that process involves opening up her life to people onstage. "I am taking myself more seriously, and delving into things I was afraid to talk about," she says. "I love getting a reaction from the audience - both the laughter and tears. The show is bawdy, but it's real issues I'm grappling with and most people can relate."
And if Mary Lynn Raskjub woke up tomorrow and was unable to find work in Hollywood? "I would probably work at Starbucks and do my painting. I would feed off people who are smart and creative. I might not be totally happy, but I would be fine."