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Kirstie Alley chews fat about new series

There probably aren't many Hollywood stars who'd want to play the title role in a show called "Fat Actress." But Kirstie Alley isn't your typical star. She spoke to NBC's Matt Lauer.
Actress Kirstie Alley speaks to Matt Lauer.
Actress Kirstie Alley speaks to Matt Lauer.Dateline NBC

There probably aren't many Hollywood stars who'd want to play the title role in a show called "Fat Actress."

But Kirstie Alley isn't your typical star. She's not only charming but completely disarming, willing to talk about anything. Now, Kirstie Alley believes she's found a way to lose those pounds and make the most of them.

Kirstie Alley: “Here's a closet where we have to be very sweet in here, because my lemur is in here.”

Matt Lauer: “There's a monkey in your closet?”

Lucy, the lemur, is just a hint of the things to come in the very unconventional and larger than life world of Kirstie Alley.

At age 53, Kirstie Alley is out of the closet, and in her blunt style, setting the record straight about everything we've heard, read or seen about her over the past few years. And as anyone who's been in the checkout lines recently knows, there's been a lot of coverage for an actress whose last hit show went off the air more than four years ago.

Lauer: “Give me a sense, what have you been doing since?”

Alley: “Apparently eating.”

She is as irreverent, feisty and funny as ever, a woman outspoken about everything in her life, from those reports that "unhappiness" led to gaining weight, or that she should become the poster child for the overweight, to what this 5'8” beauty thinks about men...

Alley: “American men over 40 are so conservative I want to punch their lights out.”

But these days without a doubt, the hot topic is her weight, which Kirstie says slowly crept up on her and now defines way too much of who people think she is.

Alley: ”This is the story of my now fat life. It's all about elastic. Some of these I had when I was skinny. But the point is, if you have this skirt and you're skinny like this…”

Lauer: “You're a little bit like…”

Alley: “Eeeeeee! I'm going like, ‘Well, as long as my skirt still fits me.’ Well, this would fit anybody. This would fit a hippo.”

And it's pretty much as a hippo that the tabloids have portrayed Kirstie for most of the past year. She's found herself on the cover of the major tabloids at least once a month since March, the object of their intense obsession with her size and shape.

Lauer: “This is today's National Enquirer.”

Alley: “I haven't seen this one... ‘eating disorders, starving stars and over eaters.’”

Lauer: “Lovely pose.”

Alley: “Oh, this is my ass in the yard. This reminds me of my grandmother.”

Kirstie says it's because she didn't start out looking like that overweight grandmother that she now has the paparazzi working overtime, capturing her in the most unforgiving poses imaginable.

Alley: “If someone starts out fat, you don't see them on the cover of rags. It's just like this is who they are, they're a fat person. They're a good actress. if you're a pretty actress, then you're supposed to stay that way.”

Kirstie Alley definitely started out pretty and very thin, first as a 115-pound lieutenant in a “Star Trek” movie, then as the snobby, sexy Rebecca Howe of the 80s television hit “Cheers.” During the 90s, she was the comedic star of the “Look Who's Talking” trilogy alongside her friend, John Travolta, and more recently, a somewhat more zaftig ex-lingerie model in the NBC comedy, “Veronica's Closet.”

Throughout the years as her career grew, so did she.

Alley: “The truth is that I could show you the trail of tears since 19 oh, probably about 1990 or 1992, I've been on the cover of tabloids.”

Lauer: “For your marriage and your breakup?”

Alley: “No, for being fat. The thing is, this is the new fat, the really fat.

Lauer: “Is this revisiting the fat?”

Alley: “Those were the fake fats. This is the real fat, you know?”

Lauer: “What do you weigh right now?”

Alley: “That's a secret!”

Lauer: “No. No. Give me an idea.”

Alley: “Right now I weigh 200 pounds.”

Lauer: “How heavy did you get? Let me tell you the tabloid rumors.”

Alley: “300 and something.”

Lauer: “Right. Was that true?”

Alley: “No. 203. That's the top.”

Lauer: “203 was the heaviest you ever got?”

Alley: “Yeah, but look at what you're looking at. If I've always weighed basically under 130 pounds.”

Lauer: “That's a 70 pound gain.”

Alley: “That's huge. That's like another person.  That's like two children stuck on my ass.”

The divorced mother of two says that in a roundabout way, her children had something to do with her weight gain. She says it started when “Veronica's Closet” went off the air in 2000.

Alley: “It was a weird time. I had just had a breakup and the show ended in the same week.”

Lauer: “Emotionally you were not in a great place.”

Alley: “No. I felt like a big loser, you know?”

Kirstie had already suffered a public divorce in 1997 from actor Parker Stevenson. Now she was breaking up with live-in boyfriend, James Wilder. With the demise of “Veronica's Closet” and rumors that she was difficult to work with, Kirstie faced a period of self-reflection.

Alley: “I just did some real soul searching. And I didn't like myself. I didn't like what I'd become. I'd sort of become something I wasn't. I didn't like the way I was in relationships. I didn't like who I was choosing. I was making a lot of mistakes. So what I decided was to really prioritize my life into what was important to me and what I wanted to be known for by myself.”

Lauer: “And what was on that list of priorities?”

Alley: “The first thing on the list was my children.”

Kirstie and Parker Stevenson had adopted two children during their marriage, William True, now 12, and Lilly, 10.

Lauer: “So you threw yourself back into being a mother, and the version I read from time to time is that included spending times in the kitchen. And you like to cook and you like to bake. And I guess you like to eat.

Alley: “Yeah.”

Lauer: “Is that too simplified a version of why you gained weight?”

Alley: “It's not too simplified. But it's also the first time in my life since I was 16 years old that I wasn't with a man. Since I was 16.”

Lauer: “So you didn't have to worry about how you looked?”

Alley: “So I got the attitude a little bit like, screw it. You know, I don't have to get up and look good for you. I don't have to. This is going to be for me."

Four years later and still single, she seems genuinely surprised that not looking after her looks caught up with her. It happened partially, she says, because she rarely gets on a scale.

Alley: “The thing about gaining weight is it doesn't happen, you know you don't gain 70 pounds in two weeks.”

Lauer: “But how do you get to 200 pounds from 130-something and not know you're getting too much heavier?”

Alley: “I don't think you pay much attention to yourself.”

Lauer: “How about when you get dressed in the morning? What about when you step out of the shower?”

Alley: “First of all, when I step out of the shower, there's no mirrors so it doesn't make any difference. But what you don't know about me is I usually wear pajamas, skinny or fat. “

Lauer: “How about when you're bending down to pick something up and it's hard?”

Alley: “Well, I haven't hit that yet. I'm not saying I'm not stupid about it. I think people can actually be sort of dumb and I think I'm serious. I'd sit in an airplane. I'd go, look at it. They're really screwing us in first class. This seat is smaller than a coach seat. And I'm sort of Duh." do you know?

But no matter how unflattering the tabloid photos. It was something completely different that finally forced her to confront the issue of her weight.

Alley: “One day I was sitting there and I thought, okay, I might like a boyfriend again. Or a husband or whatever. It doesn't really matter. And I thought, oh my God, you're just too fat. You're too fat for that. I sort of had it categorized, you're not too fat for this, this and this, but you're too fat for that."

Lauer: “You said in an interview recently that you hadn't had --”

Alley: “Sex.”

Lauer: “--sex in four and a half years because you didn't want to have fat sex. You just didn't want anybody to see you having sex…”

Alley: “You know, there are some people that I think are heavier and they're actually happy with their heaviness. They like the way the look, or they're happy with themselves. I don't like the way I look.”

Lauer: “So you had envisioned that moment where it would get to that point and the covers would come down and they guy would say, yuck?"

Alley: “The guy wouldn’t speak. The guy would just go [facial expression].”

Kirstie says that earlier this year she had a revelation about her life, the result of a therapy session with a fellow Scientologist, taking responsibility for gaining weight would have to be the first step to losing it.

Alley: “I went, okay, okay, take resp-- who fed you all this food? I did. I took full responsibility for it. And I thought this isn't like the 12 pound loss that you know, two weeks, 12 pounds. This is going to take me six months. So am I going to stop working for six months? What am I going to do? But after I came out of that session, I went, I know exactly what I’m going to do.”

What she came up with was inspired. She created a television show in which a she could star. It's about a fat middle-aged actress, trying to resurrect her career in weight-obsessed Hollywood. And the best part of it is that she's lifting her material straight from real life, while poking fun at herself and Hollywood.

Now she's using the tabloids for material and free promotion. And those reports of her secret binging? She's laughing all the way to the bank and turning, as she says, her fat into gold.

Alley: “As soon as Showtime bought the show, I was really like, bring it. I mean, I was walking down the street praying for paparazzi, walking around and like, yoohoo."

Lauer: “So that explains maybe this. So is that why you walk down the street now and instead of ducking your head, you flip them the bird?”

Alley: “Exactly. Exactly.”

Lauer: “Is this good publicity?”

Alley: “Yes. I think it is.”

Lauer: "There's no part of you that just goes... [wince].”

Alley: “No, because I'm not hiding. I wasn't ever hiding in my room eating, but I was introverted. I was like, my God, are people thinking I’m too fat? Are they looking at me like that? Are they.... I was very introverted, and the second I started creating with it, the introversion went away, you know? It just went away.”

With motherhood and her professional life in good shape, Kirstie says she's now ready to pay attention to her body. She's says she's already lost a little weight from her high of 203 pounds. Her goal is to get back to 140 pounds, a feat she thinks she can accomplish by next summer.

Alley: “I lose weight very quickly. I do lose weight very quickly. And it will be in a healthy way and a good way, but a profitable way.”

Lauer: “Is it so cynical and crazy to say this may be one of the great Hollywood gimmicks of all times, here's somebody who ate to her heart's content, got heavy and then decided on a way that she was not only going to get a show out of it, become a household name again because of it, and then she's gonna get skinny and Hollywood's gonna be there to welcome her back to the role she used to have?”

Alley: “I don't want the roles I used to have. I'm not 30 years old. I want the roles that I have now, that I create now. I wanna do this show and when I get skinny, even within this show, I want to show funny scenarios about women's insecurities.”

Lauer: “What about men then? So are you gonna wait till you get to be 140 pounds and then it's open season on men again?”

Alley: “Total.”

Lauer: “Who's your type? Who would you call first?”

Alley: “I've tried to sort of change my type a little bit, all right, so here's my new type, that I've never been with. I love artists. So want somebody who's a true artist. They don't have to be an actor. They could be a sculptor, they could be a painter, they could be a musician. They could be anything.”

And like so many things in her life these days, the hunt for a new man has made its way into her new show. But Kirstie says, all joking aside, these days really are a celebration of life and her ability to take control of her family, her career, and finally now, her weight.

Alley: “It's like a kid with candy. Is the kid that's in the candy store eating all the candy happy? Yes. I do think they are. But can they do that everyday, and isn't that a little irresponsible if that's all you are doing? I think that I've been in the candy store too long.”

Lauer: “But you're on your way out.”

Alley: “I'm on my way out.”