The Real Chloe O'Brian
The Mercury Interviews 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub
BY WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
MARY LYNN RAJSKUB is best known as the hilarious, socially awkward CTU computer genius Chloe O'Brian on the hit show 24, which is returning for its slam-bang sixth season, this Sunday, January 14 at 8 pm on Fox. (See this week's I Love Television™ on pg. 39 for more details.) Her role on the show may be small, but it's critical—not only does she add comic relief with her eye-rolling, withering remarks directed toward less intelligent coworkers, she is also constantly pulling super-agent Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) fat out of the fire with her technical wizardry. However, did you know that in real life Mary Lynn is so technically ******** that she can't even turn on her own television? And did you know she also does standup comedy? And that she was a regular on the cult comedy favorite Mr. Show with Bob and David? And that she is a skilled guitarist who toured as half of the comic duo the Girls Guitar Club? Well... now you do. And you're about to learn a bunch of other stuff—especially about her role on 24—when you start reading this interview... like, now.
MERCURY: Your last name is pronounced "Rice-Cub," right?
MARY LYNN RAJSKUB: Very good! I'm impressed already.
I'm kind of an idiot savant when it comes to unpronounceable last names. Hey, did you know that in my TV column I proclaimed a scene you did on 24 as the "Best TV Performance of the Year."
Are you serious? I love that!
Guess which scene.
Was it Edgar and the nerve gas?
Was it the Taser scene?
Nooooo... but, that was a good one!
Was it when I picked up that machine gun and blew the face off that terrorist?
YES! That was so awesome!
That was a good scene, wasn't it? And fun, too! On the night we were shooting that scene, the regular director had gallstones, so we got a substitute director. But we totally clicked, and we were so excited about shooting that terrorist. He did a fantastic job.
You were totally like Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn... BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
That's been such a dream of mine... to be more like Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn.
I think Homeland Security should show that scene in airports... to discourage terrorism. So do you think Chloe hates everybody, or just her coworkers?
No, it's more like she does her job really well, and doesn't have any patience. She doesn't live in the same world as everybody else. The only thing she really knows is her job. Early on, I thought Chloe was going to be fired for being so *****y—but after time, people started to see her as being on Jack's side, and they accepted her more. That's when the role started becoming more interesting.
So in this coming season, will you be rescuing Jack from the Red Chinese (who kidnapped him at the end of last season)?
Absolutely. The Red Chinese are TOTAL jerks.
I KNOW. Do you watch a lot of TV?
No, I don't actually... I don't know what happened. Wait. Yes, I do. I was watching a lot of Being Bobby Brown, and finally I just said, "I can't watch TV anymore!"
You said, "Hell to the NO!"
That and the fact I can't turn on my TV—that takes all the fun out of it for me. I just can't seem to figure it out. I tried for three minutes to turn my television on, and finally was like, "I don't have time for this! I gotta go!"
You know that admission totally ruins Chloe's character for me, right? How did you get started in standup comedy?
In art school I was doing performance art—and for some reason everyone started laughing at me. So I just started going for the laughs. My style has always been making myself and the audience uncomfortable. Once at a comedy club, I pretended I was too scared to come out on stage, which I thought was hilarious—but everybody in the audience really thought I was too scared to come out. I was like, "That's the joke—GET IT? Why would I be here if I didn't want to go out on stage?"
I know you don't watch TV, but on Inside the Actors Studio, [host] James Lipton always asks the same questions at the end of his interviews. And since you'll probably be on the show one day, I should ask you those questions, too—just so you'll be prepared.
First question: What's your favorite color?
I'm ashamed to say I'm going with pink.
Second question: What's your favorite curse word?
Ummm... no. He won't think that's very original.
Well, I'm not going to play his dumb little game, then.
Okay! Okay! Last question: When you go to heaven, what is the first thing you're going to ask for?
Ummm... a face massage. Maybe a steak sandwich. With some fries. And then another face massage.