From Olympian to 'Kidding' Actress: Tara Lipinski on Landing "Surreal" Multi-Episode Guest Arc

Kidding-Publicity Still-H 2019
Erica Parise/SHOWTIME

The 36-year-old plays a naughtier version of herself on the Showtime series fronted by Jim Carrey: "I felt like I could really let go and play this sort of off-the-wall character."

On Showtime's Kidding, as TV star and puppeteer Mr. Pickles (Jim Carrey) begins to unravel from the effects of suppressed grief, his family and colleagues devise a plan to keep their beloved children's brand running without him. In steps Tara Lipinski to save the day.

The gold medal-winning ice skater and NBC Sports commentator plays herself — albeit, a version who chain smokes, has a rivalry with her younger sister and a pet bird named Tarakeet — through several episodes of the comedy's first season. She teams with Carrey's character for a big-budget touring show called Pickles on Ice, even donning a giant head in the likeness of Mr. Pickles.

The 36-year-old Lipinski, who has acted on shows before (including Are You Afraid of the Dark?, 7th Heaven and Malcolm in the Middle), spoke to THR about why working with Carrey and director Michel Gondry was "one of the best experiences of my life" and how her iconic image as a teenage Olympian with her own Barbie doll made her a perfect fit for this role.

You've acted before. How is this different from the other roles you've played?

Acting isn't my day job. Obviously, I think of myself as a performer and have been a part of this world for so long that I felt comfortable. But still, every day on set, sitting across from Jim Carrey, was a very surreal experience. I felt like I could really let go and play this sort of off-the-wall character and a different version of myself. For me, if it was just playing the straightforward version of myself, it would not have been nearly as much fun.

Why is Tara Lipinski the perfect figure skater for this role?

I differ from my character a lot. I was a horrible person [on the show]. I forget what episode I started smoking in, and it's like, I've never picked up a cigarette in my entire life. Shooting that scene — the next day I couldn't speak. Obviously they were herbal cigarettes, [but] my athlete lungs were like, "What is this?" I think winning the Olympics at 15, I was a teenager, and [had] so much innocence in that time. It was lifetimes ago, but I think a lot of people remember that. After that, I was [in ads for] Campbell's Soup and Barbie and all these very American-type sweetheart, quintessential ice skater moments. I feel like [my Kidding role] was a fun spin on that.

What was it like working with Carrey and the rest of the cast?

"Surreal" is the perfect word. I remember the very first day, [I was] sitting in hair and makeup and then in walks Jim Carrey, and he introduces himself and [is] like, "OK, I'll see you in 10 minutes. We're just going to do a scene together." That just doesn't happen every day. It was great, though, because he was so welcoming and so warm. I was not shy that first day about asking him — and then every other day — a million questions and learning about the process, how I could be better and just picking up these little tips. I've always been a fan of [Gondry], but my husband [Todd Kapostasy] is a director so he was like, "Oh my goodness, this is the coolest thing you're ever going to do."

What was the best part about filming your scenes?

I really loved when we were in the dressing room with the bird [in episode six]. We had a real bird in there, the parakeet. I had a lot of fun with that scene, and I love the way it turned out — but obviously it was memorable being hooked up and gushing blood [in episode nine; her character's throat gets slashed by her sister's ice skate]. I used to skate for a living. Now I guess I'm on TV talking about skating, but being out there [on the ice], sort of in my element, but in this weird, bizarre world of puppets floating and skating around me and then getting slashed in the throat — it was a great memory.

Now that you've seen the entire season, what's your favorite part?

Obviously, the writing is wonderful, that sort of dark comedy and drama. But I think the show is also really real.

Tara Lipinski did not die in season one. Will Tara Lipinski make an appearance in future seasons, and what's next for you in general?

Well, we'll have to see about that. I mean, I definitely didn't die, so I'm still alive. I think that's what I can say.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.