an Ambassador of Charm"
Wed Mar 6, 2:35 PM ET
By Frazier Moore, AP Television Writer
New York (Associated
Press) - An ocean away on Sept. 11, Arija Bareikis felt terribly
distant from her Manhattan home. And as news of the attacks was
reaching her in England, where she had come to play the title role
in a new Fox TV series, her show became a relic from a lighter time.
"Emma Brody" had been created as a romantic comedy-drama
set in the U.S. Embassy in London, where Emma, fleeing from a bad
relationship and a pushy mother, arrives to take a job as a rookie
During the premiere
episode, filmed a year ago, Emma shares her dreams with a drag queen,
flirts with a lord and gathers wisdom from a young man from Oregon
who strips bare in the embassy lobby. In jaunty voice-overs, she
says things like "There's a direct correlation between temptation,
humiliation and self-doubt."
McBeal (news - Y! TV)" with diplomatic immunity. Then, at the
end of the hour, a car bomb blasts the embassy in leisurely slow
All in all,
"Emma Brody" clashed with the nervous new zeitgeist. "Frankly,
I thought we were gonna get canceled," Bareikis says.
Turns out she
was wrong. Her new show premieres 9 p.m. EST Monday on Fox. But
it has a new name "The American Embassy"
and with its second episode adopts a more serious tone as an issues-oriented
important to not be just another `chick show,'" says the star
(who pronounces her name AH-ree-ah buh-RAH-kus). "I understand
that. I'm all for it. And it takes a lot of the pressure off of
The series is
still very much about Emma Brody. It is still seen through the eyes
of this good girl from Toledo who is determined to escape her put-upon
past and make a bold, new start in the diplomatic corps.
decided to look at the embassy as a whole," says executive
producer James Parriott. "Not as a workplace for a young woman,
but as an outpost of the United States in a world that changed after
And, after much
deliberation, he kept the car-bomb scene. Week two will deal with
the bombing's consequences.
to let the bomb be a metaphor for what the country is going through,"
also created "Matt Waters," a drama series starring Montel
Williams as a high school teacher, has had "The American Embassy"
in the works for several years.
Early on, he
chose Bareikis as his leading lady. No wonder. She boasts a fresh,
scrubbed beauty redolent of wheat fields and box socials. ("That's
what people always think if you have freckles, a round face and
blond hair," she says with a laugh).
She is, by turns,
kittenish and remarkably unguarded. ("Did I just spit on you?"
she interrupts herself to ask her dining companion.)
She has acting
She has performed
both on and off-Broadway, and had a recurring role as the wife of
an inmate on the HBO prison drama "Oz." Her films include
"Snow Falling on Cedars" and the Rob Schneider comedy,
"Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo."
But first she
had to get to New York.
Over lunch in
a diner near her SoHo apartment, Bareikis curls up in the booth
and recalls hitting town from her native Bloomington, Ind.
not knowing anybody, and it was very scary and frustrating,"
she says, sounding a bit like Emma. "Then I began taking dance
classes, an acting class, working as a paralegal. And I started
doing the odd play."
One early production:
the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata" mounted at the ancient
rock club CBGB. "It was fairly out there," she says with
fond understatement. "We had a good time."
She had a good
time filming "Emma Brody," er, "The American Embassy,"
too, despite its frantic transformation from the series she originally
signed to do.
to believe that everything that happens is for the good," she
says. "That's a big part of Emma Brody, too."
just after Thanksgiving. Whether the series goes beyond six episodes
will be decided by Fox no later than May. Production would resume
in late summer. Or not.
"I'm profoundly unemployed as we speak," Bareikis sighs.
"I'm worried that I'll never work again. Do you know anybody
who needs an actress?"
jitters are stoked by publicity beginning to appear for her new
show. She keeps encountering herself in print ads and TV spots.
freaked out," she admits. But with the premiere so close, she
has a plan: "kind of ride that out, let it pass and
have a nice day."
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