following is an interview where Mahaffey described her original
casting for the role:
"'Well, you have to play opposite Adam
Arkin, do you think you can be really, really mean?"' Mahaffey
recalled. "I yelled at him real good and I guess he thought
I was funny. That's how it went. Apparently, they had been looking
for [an actress to play] this girl for a long time. Later, I was
told there was this big search. Originally, she was supposed to
be Jewish. They changed their minds I guess."
pleased by her work as Eve. "I got a letter from a friend of
mine who I hadn't seen in years. I went to school with him and he's
now a doctor. He wrote to me and said, 'I just wanted to let you
know you're frightening. You're so much like my hypochondriac patients.
You're great.' It was the most wonderful letter from somebody I
knew. I just gave him the chills, you know?"
sure about the character at first. "I didn't know what to do
with it. There wasn't any initial, 'Oh, yes, this is how to do this,'
but as soon as I got it and I realized what a great person she is,
what isn't there to be attracted to? She's very sure that she's
right, and that's great to play -- somebody who's sure of themselves."
Part of her
problem may have been a lack of context. Mahaffey hadn't seen Northern
Exposure before her role there. "I kept hearing about it,
but this acting class was on Monday nights, so I never saw the show.
I became a fan after working on it. This is wonderfully written.
It's very real, but very funny and quirky and poignant, like life."
She sees a
little of herself in Cicely's hypochondriac. "There's a bit
of bossiness about Eve that apparently is true of me when I'm playing
a game. I'm very bossy that everybody follow the rules. There's
something about her that's like me. I'm not obnoxious, at least
as obnoxious as her. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, but I do always
seem to have something wrong with me so I can relate. She looks
a lot like me," she jokes.
didn't initially know how long Eve's stay in Cicely might be. "Apparently,
Adam was possibly going to be recurring, and he knew that. I didn't.
I just thought it was going to be a guest part. Very soon afterwards,
my agent said, 'Well, it looks like she's supposed to come back
at least a couple times this season.' Which is exactly what happened."
She felt more
comfortable when she did return. "I felt more at home. I thought
oh, I sort of belong here when I went back the second time. It had
been so much fun the first time. That sense of belonging makes you
a little more relaxed. My work process is always the same, whether
it's a guest part or a regular part.
if I was doing a scene opposite Rob, who I find very real, I would
just look at him like, 'Is that a good one?' and he'd tell me yes
or no. The director would too, but because I can see Rob's work
all the time, I really trust his judgement. He's very professional
and very too himself which I don't mind. We became friends after
a while, after he had gotten to trust me.
a lot of fun, especially with Adam there. We were kind of an unholy
triumvirate because Adam can't look at me without laughing and Rob
can't look at Adam without laughing. When the three of us are in
a scene, the producers get very mad because one or the other of
us breaks up. Adam said it was because he could see something in
me that I get what he's doing. Who knows why Rob can't look at Adam?
I was a good girl. The last time we broke up the boys were just
going. It was my close-up and I was hanging on and one of the producers
chided the boys, said, 'It's not fair to the crew and it's not fair
to Valerie.' Then he walked off and the two of them went [mocking],
'It's not fair to Valerie,' just like two second-grade boys. Then
we pulled it together and it was okay. The editor later, when he
saw that scene, just said, 'What was going on? You don't have one
complete take of this scene.' But I don't think they're really mad
at us. We only held them up for twenty minutes."
uncontrolled hilarity breaks or perhaps because of them, Mahaffey
and Adam Arkin developed a rapport. "Adam and I hit it off right
away. He's so much fun it's unbelievable. It's just a gas to work
with him. He's a very funny guy, very smart, and very talented.
We've become friends. He can't look at me [without laughing] --
he can't do the scene. I said to him, 'Adam, would it better if
you acted to space, just if I wasn't here.' He said, 'You know what,
could you? Could you go away?' So he did the scene to thin air."
She also likes
the on-screen relationship between Adam and Eve. "I think they
really love each other, but I think they're like a lot of couples
who have been together for a long time, it's not usually the lovey-dovey
stuff you see on TV," Mahaffey noted. "But I think there's
this thing where he's allowed to say whatever he wants about her,
but if anybody else says anything bad about Eve, he jumps in to
her defense. I don't think she'd do the same for him, though."
she enjoys her time filming in Roslyn, but can concede that the
show probably gets in the way. "I think that they thought it
would be neat to have a television show there, but we hold up traffic
and it's kind of a nuisance."
feels that Northern Exposure's "real, but weird," and that's
what draws the viewers. "I think people enjoy that. There are
so many times that I'll see a situation happen in life and I'll
think that nobody would believe this, but it happens in life --
the strange things people do or say or that they believe. Some of
the [episodes] have gotten pretty spiritual and I think people tune
in to that."
Her work on
the series has made a dramatic change on her life and career. "This
is amazing -- I'm a guest on a show that I don't know anything about
and suddenly everybody knows me. They don't know what the hell my
name is yet, everybody knows my face. I just got off the plane and
the stewardess said, 'I'm sorry to bother you, but what was it?
Was it Cheers? I said, 'Yes, I was on Cheers.' Then my husband whispered
to me, 'Northern Exposure.'