TV legend Cloris Leachman, who died Tuesday at the age of 94, won the last of his 22 Emmy nominations for his role as the larger-than-life Maw Maw in Greg Garcia’s family comedy in 2010. Raise hope.
Originally intended as a guest lead role, Leachman’s Maw Maw, Hope’s unpredictable, sometimes lucid and often confused great-great-grandmother, was an instant fan favorite, and Leachman had moved on to a series. regular in Season 2. She was a leading cast member of the praised Fox comedy for three seasons in her last regular role on the series. (She went on to star in Garcia’s follow-up series, CBS ‘ The millers.)
Garcia had a memorable first encounter with Leachman on the stage of the 2006 Emmy Awards where the eight-time Emmy-winning actress introduced him to the comedy writing Emmy for her NBC series. My name is Earl. As she has done her entire career, Leachman stole the stage and Garcia shared the video on Twitter following the news of her death today. He also tweeted a tribute, along with a photo of Leachman licking his neck (you see that and the Emmy Awards video below the post).
Cloris Leachman’s Career – A Photo Gallery
Below, Garcia recalls how he pitched Leachman Raise hope, her hijinks on set, including the story behind that neck licking pic, and his last meeting with her.
When I wrote the pilot for the show Raising Hope, there was a character named Maw Maw, who had no lines. The character was simply walking around the house in a bra, eating pickles from a jar. Almost as a joke, I said, “I wonder if we could get Cloris Leachman to do it.” I didn’t know her, except for having briefly met her onstage at the Emmys a few years ago, so we submitted the script through her agent. The next thing I knew was that she was calling me on the phone to tell me that she was gone.
I couldn’t believe it. I promised to write real dialogue for the character, but she told me not to touch anything. She thought it was funny like that.
We shot the pilot and she stole the show. As we were producing the first season, instead of waiting in her trailer for her scenes, she would make a habit of sitting next to me at the monitors. She would tell me hilarious stories that I can’t repeat, give me unsolicited script notes, ask me why the hell the director was wearing shorts, and constantly sneak up behind me and lick my neck. Yes, lick my neck. In fact, one day I sprayed something called Bitter Apple on my neck as a joke to see if she would notice. (Bitter Apple is a smelly-tasting spray that you put on your furniture to deter dogs from chewing it.) I saw Cloris sneak up behind me and as she licked my neck she quickly pulled my head backward. I turned to see that she had a sour look on her face. I asked her if everything was okay and she just replied, “You are having a little afternoon.” I confessed what I had done and as a punishment she started to lick the rest as I screamed.
With all of her on-set antics (which I loved), it would be easy to think of Cloris like a nut. And she was a little crazy, most of the grown-ups are. However, beyond that she was brilliant and as much as she made me laugh, I learned from her as well. She was always looking for ways to make things more interesting, fun and original. So when Cloris had a suggestion, I would always stop what I was doing and listen. She would also be open to my crazy ideas. During the second season, I had the idea to change his credit to “And the introduction of Cloris Leachman”. Always ready to laugh, she loved it.
Last Christmas I was lucky enough to spend time with her. She grabbed me by the hand and we picked up where we left off. With her saying hilarious things and me loving every minute.
May we all live to be ninety-four and live the incredible kind of life that Cloris had. Surrounded by friends and a loving family. She was one of a kind. A true legend. I loved her and will miss her dearly.
Very sad to hear that we have lost an absolute legend today, Cloris Leachman. I can’t sneak in a tweet all the fun time I had with this woman and how much I loved her, so I’m just going to say she will be missed. She was the definition of a unique genre. pic.twitter.com/xmOCTHYeBh
– Greg Garcia (@whoisgreggarcia) January 27, 2021