And by the way, hello to all her friends at Bob’s Big Boy out on Rockville Pike. There are reasons, of course, to like “Over My Dead Body” to Angela Lansbury’s “Murder, She Wrote.” They’re on the same network, both have mystery producer William Link involved, and both build their stories around writers of a certain age who find themselves each week hip-deep in crime-solving.”Body,” which debuts Friday at 9, teams Lundy with Woodward, of recent “Equalizer” fame. But before the season’s out, she’s the one who may give new meaning to the word spunk. He plays Maxwell Beckett, dignified crime novelist (“That’s Maxwell, not Max!”) who’s teetering on burnout, shadowed by a vague Scotland Yard background. Indeed, he could be the Equalizer retired to a typewriter on the West Coast.Lundy plays a writer too, Nicki Page, who does obituaries for a San Francisco newspaper. She’s eager to move off the obit desk. He’s in need of fresh fodder for his fading novels. Presto! A symbiotic odd couple is formed. The success of the series will likely turn on two things: the quality of the mysteries the duo tackles each week and the appeal of the relationship. Woodward by now is well known to TV audiences. The British actor first appeared on American radar screens as “Breaker Morant” and in 1985 became a television fixture as “The Equalizer,” an urban Paladin with a murky past who came to the rescue of people in trouble.
Lundy is the TV-unknown who brings fresh air to the show and a flair for comedy that’s not overbearing but definitely sneaks up on you. The key to the series’ success, she said, is to maintain a balance between good mystery story-telling and keeping the relationship between Nicki and Max interesting. After taping four episodes, she felt the show was still on track.
“It’s a good blend of mystery, with the way in which it’s solved having to do with the personalities of our characters,” she said. “I don’t think we ever forsake one for the other. That’s what makes our show different. We’d lose a lot of the humor if we relied only on one and not the other.”Lundy’s resume’ leaves a reader wondering where her flair for comedy came from. Her father is a surgeon and cancer researcher, her mother a housewife “with a healthy sense of humor.” So much for the comedy pedigree.
Jessica Lundy was born in San Diego, and when she was 2, her family headed east. A number of moves were prompted by her father’s medical career; eventually, Avon, Conn., became home. “We were there for nine years, and that’s where I grew up,” she said. On to college at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. There were roles in Sam Shepard’s “Mad Dog Blues,” “Uncommon Women and Others” and work with actor John Rubinstein and playwright John Guare.
But there was also work with The Drama Club, a comedy improv group; and with fellow student Alec Mapa she wrote and appeared in a number of cabaret shows. That may have been the beginning of comedy work, but the seeds had been planted years before. And it began where she is now — on television.”I watched ‘I Love Lucy,’ ‘Laugh-In,’ ‘Carol Burnett,’ the original ‘Saturday Night Live,'” recalled Lundy. “I would sit about an inch away from the TV set when I was in high school. I watched a lot of TVs — my eyes are crossed now, but otherwise, it didn’t hurt me.”
In the movies, Lundy appeared in “Bright Lights, Big City, her debut film, and played Jackie Mason’s daughter in “Caddyshack II.” And there’s “Madhouse.” “It’s out on video, with John Larroquette,” she said. “That’s what I’d consider a comedy for me — playing a 35-year-old housewife from New Jersey, and they let me do a lot of improvisation.
You can expect to see a lot of her on “Over My Dead Body. Co-star Woodward, who suffered a heart attack during the run of The Equalizer, is back, looking fit. He’s dropped his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I miss it every single day of my life, said Woodward. It’s been three years now.”It should also help that Woodward’s workload on the hour-long show will be limited to four or five days a week, and the filming will be done in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “The Equalizer” was shot in New York.