FROM HOOTERVILLE TO HOLLYWOOD
THE KINKIEST CHARACTER ON TV MAY be Carly, the fantasy-fulfilling call girl on NBC’s John Larroquette Show. The role is a career coup for Gigi Rice, 28. But it’s created some heat back in Westerville, Ohio, where she grew up. “I call it Hooterville, U.S.A.,” she says, laughing. “It’s the cutest little town you ever saw. A portion of it still has cobblestone streets. And the town is dry—no bars, no alcohol in the stores.”
There has certainly been a sober reaction to Rice’s notoriety. One woman called her father at work (Colonel Rice is the top ranking officer in the Ohio Highway Patrol) to complain. “She had read that he was proud of his daughter,” says Gigi. “And she was very concerned that he would be proud of a daughter who was portraying a prostitute.”
Gigi’s steep ascent in showbiz has skirted some of the great supermarket tabloid tempests of our times. Right out of Ohio State, she signed on with the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Dinner Theatre in Florida where she met her husband-to-be, toothy TV veteran Ted McGinley. Of the Burt-Loni divorce circus, Rice says, “They were so kind and generous to me and to my husband. It’s made us very sad and torn because we met them as a couple.”
Rice’s first major TV role was in 1991’s Hairy and the Hendersons, a show that began to fall apart when Kevin Peter Hall, the 7’2″ actor inside the Sasquatch suit, died suddenly.
Then it was on to last year’s big bomb, Delta, in which Gigi was cast as Delta Burke’s sweet Southern cousin. “It was very rocky,” she recalls. “There were a lot of power struggles going on between the producers and Delta. We didn’t know if we were filming from one week to the next.”
Larroquette is a much happier experience, despite the fact that it has meant putting off having children. “If Delta had gone on, we were planning to start a family. But now I play a prostitute, and it would be hard to work that into the scripts,” she says, adding impishly, “although I think it would be interesting.” Probably not to the folks back in Hooterville, Gigi.