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Camryn Manheim never stops. The actress and activist, who first came to acclaim as Ellenor Frutt on the David E. Kelley legal drama The Practice (for which she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe), has a schedule that makes fellow type A's feel like slackers.
For starters, Manheim is a cast member on the new CBS sitcom Living Biblically (premiering Feb. 26 at 9:30 ET). She also has a recurring role on the six-part miniseries Waco, about the Texas siege, currently airing on Paramount Network; is a single parent and "momager" to 16-year-old Milo (a budding actor); is an in-demand speaker on health care (she’s a three-year breast cancer survivor) and philanthropic issues; is a fierce advocate for human rights and children’s causes; and serves as a mentor to drama students.
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But as she tells it, busy is best. “When I have a day off, I am so confused. I don’t know what to do with myself,” Manheim, 56, says, laughing. “I always say, ‘You can rest when you’re dead.’”
Living Biblically marks Manheim’s first foray into TV sitcoms. Based on A.J. Jacobs' best-selling book The Year of Living Biblically, the show follows film critic Chip Curry’s (Jay R. Ferguson of Mad Men) spiritual awakening after the death of his best friend and the pregnancy of his wife. His mission: to live a more moral life, strictly by the Bible — a not-so-easy task in today’s modern world. Manheim plays Chip’s no-nonsense magazine editor, Ms. Meadows, who is happy to milk Curry’s travails for increased readership.
Typical TV fare it is not, but Manheim is counting on the show’s insightfulness and humorous take on the challenges Curry faces in trying to interpret biblical tenets (do not wear clothes of mixed fibers!) to woo an audience. “I know people seem to be a little bit nervous that we are going to offend people, but there is nothing to offend. This is a comedy,” she says. “I think if you are not religious and watching it, you will like it and go, ‘That is exactly how I feel.’ And if you are religious and watching it, you will be like, ‘That is exactly how I feel.’ I have never seen a show about religion that does it as beautifully and smartly as Living Biblically does.”
Manheim is praying for a hit, for no other reason than to spend more time with her castmates. “In my 30 years that I have been doing this, I have never been more in love with a group of actors than I am on this show,” she says. “When I was younger, I wanted to be on an edgy show and super-hip, cool shows, and I didn’t care if the people I worked with were a--holes. And now, as I get older, I want to be with the best people on the planet, and I finally arrived there.”