Press Tour 2012: Lily Tomlin, Reba McEntire talk ageism, ‘Malibu Country’

Reba McEntire is returning to network TV with a new ABC sitcom, “Malibu Country,” which follows an aging country star as she tries to resuscitate her career after leaving her cheating husband. For McEntire, her character’s struggle to remain relevant in the music world after 40 (McEntire is 57) rang true. “I think [ageism] is a problem and it is hard to stay on the radio… the regime has changed drastically in this last year.” Ironically, she’s turning to the notoriously ageist arena of Hollywood for help. She’s “doing the television show, staying out there in front of the audience, keep the fans coming from music to TV” to remain in the spotlight.

Lily Tomlin, who plays McEntire’s free-spirited, medical marijuana-imbibing mom, is more focused on having fun. “I thought this character would be an opportunity… Lillie Mae’s part was to be audacious, outrageous, to say it like it was. She’s willing to experiment and try anything, where Reba is kind of shut down. Lillie Mae’s anything but. I hope she’ll even be a bad influence on the kids. I can see her getting involved in anything in the world.”

Though the 72-year-old admits age is a factor for her, it’s clearly in a different way than it is for McEntire. “This will probably be my last project before I go to the Motion Picture Home. And I think it’s appropriate.”

Sarah Rue’s ditzy Malibu housewife Kim, who lives next door to Reba’s character (also named Reba), seems immune to thought of any weighty issues like aging. Rue says that was entirely by design. “I watched countless episodes of ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County,” she said. “That’s what I based it on.”