By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press
Her helium-filled voice is unmistakable - especially when she's hurling insults.
That's Karen Walker, the martini-drinking, wealthy socialite-turned-office assistant on NBC's hit sitcom Will & Grace (9 p.m. today, Channels 5, 22).
Actress-singer Megan Mullally doesn't sound anything like the character she plays opposite Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes. (Ms. Mullally won an Emmy in 2000 and a Screen Actors Guild award last year for her role as the shrill, hilarious Walker.)
"My way of speaking is more laconic, not farcical," she says. "Karen's voice has this weird edge that helps you talk loud, which is what we do on Will & Grace. Most rich women like Karen probably would have that fixed."
Ms. Mullally showcases her own deep, gentle voice on the new album Big as a Berry, recorded with her band, the Los Angeles-based Supreme Music Program.
The album is a mix of standards, rock, country and blues, including "Bathroom Window" (John Lennon-Paul McCartney), "Take It With Me" (Tom Waits-Kathleen Brennan), "Real Emotional Girl" (Randy Newman) and "Ode to Billie Joe" (Bobbie Gentry).
Ms. Mullally says she's been singing as long as she can remember, and her love affair with music started when she listened to her parents' stereo at home. She studied ballet while growing up in Oklahoma City, but switched to musical theater while attending Northwestern University, and later appeared on Broadway in the musicals Grease and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Supreme Music Program came together about five years ago.
"We've been together since before Will & Grace. We do it because we love doing it. It's not like we're trying to be some big act," the 44-year-old says.
Big as a Berry is her second CD. Only 2,500 copies of her first release, Sweetheart, were produced.
"It sold out," Ms. Mullally says.
Question: What's your routine before going to work on the "Will & Grace" set?
Answer: I'm not a morning person. I get out of bed at the last possible second. I don't know what it means when someone says, `I've had a really great morning before work.' I don't do anything before work except put on clothes and a little makeup.
Q: What kind of music do you listen to?
A: I don't listen to Top 40, but I like every other kind of music. Top 40 music is overproduced. The songs don't speak to my imagination at all.
Q: Is "Big as a Berry" getting attention - including your appearance on the "Late Show" with David Letterman - because you're a well-known actress?
A: I have no idea. It seems like there wouldn't be a request to be on David Letterman without Will & Grace. But I never saw Billy Bob Thornton on Letterman and he did an album.
Q: Will Karen Walker sing on "Will & Grace"?
A: I'm not looking for Karen to sing, but I've done musicals and I might want to go back to New York and do something there. I just don't know what or when.
Q: Is Megan Mullally as funny as Karen Walker?
A: People expect me to be screaming funny. I'm not. I still think I'm funny, but in a much more quiet way.
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