You can’t help but feel great about yourself after talking to Katy Mixon.
The star of ABC’s comedy American Housewife peppers our conversation with “darling,” “pumpkin,” “honey,” and “sweetie.” Not in that fake Hollywood way, but in the genuine, heartfelt way that makes you think, “I really am a sweetie.”
Mixon credits her Pensacola, Fla. childhood and her family’s Louisiana roots for her way of speaking. “It is who I am,” she says. Like her on-screen alter ego, Katie Otto, Mixon says she’s “marched to the beat of my own drum.” She left Florida for Carnegie Mellon University, and soon after graduating from its Conservatory of Drama, she headed out to Los Angeles.
From there, she landed a role on HBO’s Eastbound Down and played Melissa McCarthy’s sister for six seasons on CBS’ Mike Molly. Paste recently had a chance to talk to Mixon about American Housewife, her career, and living in the moment. The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Katy Mixon: I welcomed it. I think that it is such an interesting situation, especially with mommies who have been mommies for years and then all of the sudden they are going back to work. I think that was a huge thing, and I thought that was a really cool way to kind of go in a [new] direction for Katie Otto for Season Three. You can imagine all of the different adventures that are going to take place.
Mixon: Honey, in my own life it’s the wildest situation, because I had two babies back to back and I’ve been pregnant the entire time we’ve been filming the last two seasons. So it’s really wild when you’ve got to go to work and handle what you’ve got to handle and then you’ve got to make sure everything is happening back home. I related to it completely. Katie and I have something in common, balancing the situation of being a mom and doing what I love to do for a living. It’s just unreal what I’ve kind of been in the midst of these last two years, but it’s been quite magical. I have an incredible husband, who has just been an amazing daddy, and I have a team that helps me and it’s all getting handled one way or another.
Mixon: There was a scene in Season One where I had to jump in a pool. It’s all about body positivity, and honey bun, I jumped in a pool. It was 56 degrees. I jumped in that pool and I was five months pregnant. For the third season, it’s really awesome not to feel a foot inside of me while I’m saying a monologue.
Paste: What about Katie Otto appealed to you?
Mixon: It was the kind of situation where I had been playing a variation of Victoria [her Mike Molly character] for years, and I loved every bit of it, but I wanted something different. I was wanting something where she’s all covered up, she’s not showing the cleavage. Really wanting something so entirely different, something grittier. Katie Otto doesn’t care how she looks. She doesn’t care about her wardrobe. I got that from American Housewife. What drew me to the character was she’s imperfect in a perfect town. Everybody kind of relates to insecurity, no matter what background you are. That’s kind of what drove me to it a little bit.
It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done, but I could not be more grateful. I have to shoot out 25-30 scenes in a week. I work about 65 hours a week. It’s one of the most intense schedules. We shoot an episode per week. We have to shoot it out in five days. But I’m doing it. You know what I mean. The big thing I try to do, and it’s quite difficult sometimes, is to be present, and when I’m at work or at home, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Mixon: My background is theater. My very first job was Calpurnia in Julius Caesar at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, so my background is completely theater, classically trained and everything. I know the range that I can do. I know what I’m capable of. What was so special is they saw that in me, too.
Paste: When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
Mixon: I knew it very early, love. I was watching Barbra Streisand do Funny Girl when I was in the fourth grade and I grew up watching Judy Garland and Debbie Reynolds and Barbra Streisand and it was just everything. I loved performing and I loved singing and dancing and acting, and I just knew I wanted to be versatile in everything. I didn’t want to go to a musical theater school. I wanted to go to an acting school and learn Shakespeare and Brecht and Molière, all of it.
Paste: Did you move right to L.A. after graduating from Carnegie Mellon?
Mixon: I did a big showcase in New York and L.A. and I always thought I was going to go to New York because that’s my background, theater. One thing led to another and I got an incredible manager out here and an incredible agency and I just kind of took the ball and we just started rolling with it. It took me a hot second to understand what was going on out here regarding television and I tapped into it. I graduated in 2003 and I’ve been doing it ever since. The big thing is, I got Eastbound Down in 2007, and that was kind of the beginning of everything.
Paste: Katie Otto sometimes struggles with the small town politics of Westport, Conn. Can you relate to that at all?
Mixon: I grew up in a small town, but sweetheart, I’ve really marched to the beat of my own drum. I don’t hold a lot of weight of what people think of me. I had a really incredible situation growing up. I was really blessed, honey. I loved being in a small town and rocked and rolled and did what I did.
Mixon: It’s a real thing as a mommy who just had two babies back to back: Spanx are my favorite friend right now. Good ol’ spanx. It’s a true situation. It’s really about meeting yourself where you’re at right now. There’s power in that I think. This is what it is right now. This isn’t forever. My body isn’t going to be like this forever. I’ve got to power to change it and that goes along with anything. It’s so powerful to live in you and who you are. It’s so incredible that there’s nobody else like you in this world. That’s just magical to me—and powerful. Everybody is not shaped the same size and everybody comes from different walks of life and that’s beautiful and it’s truly about meeting yourself where you’re at and who you are. I have to go on screen and I can’t wear false eyelashes. I have the most minimum make up on. The most random-ass clothes. It’s not pretty. It’s really not pretty. I’m vulnerable. It’s for the character to play something that’s just real. There’s not another way around it.
Paste: Do you feel like a role model?
Mixon: I don’t feel like a role model, but it’s really special to play a person who is on screen saying what everyone thinks. She’s real bawdy and she’s says it like it is and it’s not correct all the time but it’s who she is. There’s freedom in that.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .