The 13th season of Fox's long-running animated series "King of the Hill" kicked off a few weeks ago and, like another Fox animated series, there seems to be no end in sight for The Hill family and their weekly adventures in Arlen, Texas. In fact, this spring will mark the series' 250th episode, making it the second longest running animation series after "The Simpsons." Kathy Najimy has voiced matriarch Peggy Hill since the series began in 1997 and talked with Jim Halterman about what easily ranks as the longest job she's ever had.
"I've been on 'King of the Hill' longer than I've been a mother," Najimy laughed from "another studio lot" in Los Angeles. She recalled how the series came along just as she was going through a major event in her life. "I was 7 months pregnant when I got the call and went to the studio and it was the creator of 'Beavis and Butthead!" Mike Judge, who created the infamous MTV cartoon as well as "King of the Hill," had a unique style to having actors audition for their roles. Najimy explained, "I auditioned for Peggy by improvising and I just started talking and the producers looked at the wall and not at me while I improvised. They wanted to hear my voice so they could picture me as Peggy. I had no idea what was happening at the time but I got the part."
The new season has plenty of new twists and turns for the Hill family as well as a multitude of guest stars showing up to add to the lunacy. One event coming up in January is the Hill family expanding with the first Hill grandchild. "That's what the first couple of shows are about � Luanne is going to have her baby." However, Najimy shared that the birth of Luanne's baby is going to bring out an interesting side of her character. "Peggy has a huge ego as a mother and I think Peggy is sure it's her baby. There's an episode coming up where Kate Walsh - you know from 'Private Practice' - guests and she and Peggy talk about raising children and Peggy talks as if it's her kid."
Najimy marveled at the number of stars that now want to voice characters on cartoons and often turn up on "King of the Hill." "It's an interesting form that 'The Simpsons' and 'King of the Hill' kind of started," she said. "All these people are fans and it's an easy gig."
Besides Walsh, fitness expert Jake Steinfeld appeared on the season premiere and Najimy teased that there are many more to come. Najimy said that musician Tom Petty would return to his recurring role as Luanne's husband, Lucky, a role he's played for years. Najimy also became a little giddy when talking about one veteran actor who is featured this season. "William Devane from 'Knots Landing' is on, too and, I've got to tell you, he's sexy as ever." Najimy let her familiar laugh ring again as she swooned over Devane.
The actress, who also voiced a character in this summer's Disney hit "Wall-E," added that it's easy to be a little star struck since the regulars don't always know who is going to show up to voice characters. "They always surprise us and one day I went into work and Kelly Clarkson was sitting there." However, she was quick to point out that it's not always the current mega-stars that get the most attention from the cast and crew. "You should have seen the green room when ZZ Top was there," Najimy said. "It was amazing how everyone just had to see them and meet them."
When talking about the other, more buzz worthy series like "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," Najimy couldn't help but say, "Sure, I wish we were a little more out there but after all this time, it's great that we're out there at all."
With a Southern sense of humor being a large part of the series, Najimy, who was raised in Southern Calfornia, can still relate to much that occurs on the series and feels audiences have the same reference point. "There are some of those country/western bars in the world and you go in and it's almost like a time capsule. The music and the dress and the way people are acting are so not of the city that these places are in." The differences that she's witnessed in the southern setting, though, are not there to be made fun of, she believes. "I believe Mike Judge is from Texas and his intention was not to make fun of them but he wanted to reflect the people of Texas without making fun of them. I'm all for that. The challenge is to do real comedy about real life without being disrespectful."
Though she has a long career behind her, Najimy mentioned that there is not one project she's most known for but, instead, several depending on the audience as well as one other factor. "It really depends on what was just on TV," she said. "If they do reruns on the Disney Channel of 'Hocus Pocus' then I get stopped for that. Depending on who it is, I get a lot for 'Sister Act' while the more theater savvy people know me from 'Kathy and Mo.'" Being a mother of an eleven-year old, Najimy guested recently on "an episode of Disney's 'The Suite Life of Zack and Cody' � that one made me pretty cool with the kids." Then, I did a season of 'Numbers' and there's a specific audience for that." Many times, she revealed, "You can see someone coming towards you and know what they'll be a fan of before they say a word." Asked about her supporting role on the cult favorite "Soapdish" and Najimy said that she had a blast filming that movie and "Sally Field is the best person to work with."
An advocate supporting many causes, Najimy also has many other hidden talents including winning $100,000 on "Celebrity Poker Showdown." Her winnings went to the V-day (violence against women) organization. She also won the final championship last summer's Game Show Marathon on CBS. She also won $100,000 and gave the winnings to Girls Best Friend benefiting in-need teenage girls.
With many projects and causes to occupy her time, Najimy is happy that she has a stable job in her life. She went so far as to sum up her experience on "King of the Hill" by saying "It's the best job I ever had." Then, with a laugh, she added, "It's the best job in the world except for maybe Marge Simpson."
"King of the Hill" airs every Sunday night at 8:30/7:30c on Fox.