the big time

Malcolm in the Middle'’s Jane Kaczmarek gets real.

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Actress Jane Kaczmarek and her husband, Bradley Whitford, are television’s favorite “it” couple. Both are on hit shows, she playing Lois, the blue-collar mom on Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle, he playing White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on NBC’s The West Wing. Off screen, they are parents to

daughter Frances, 4, and son George, 2. We caught up with Kaczmarek, 46, when she was five months pregnant with the couple’s third child.

Fit Pregnancy: You have recently been nominated for a third Emmy, and you’ll be seven months pregnant at the time of the awards show. What do you plan to wear?

Jane Kaczmarek: Oh, I can’t really pick anything yet; my body’s going to change so much between now and then. But I’ll tell you something I’m not wearing: high heels.

What about sexy undergarments?

I don’t think so. For me, there’s a big difference between having a baby in your 20s and having a baby in your 40s. When you’re pregnant in your 40s, you do not want to wear thongs. I want underpants that are as big and wide and absorbent as possible. Brad calls them my Romanian tumbling briefs.

So how is Brad with your pregnant body? Does he refer to you in terms such as “goddess”?

Uh, no. Mostly we laugh at the massive changes. Like, when I was pregnant with my son three years ago, I weighed 175 pounds and had varicose veins the size of my thumb. Afterward, my hair was coming out in handfuls. But, of course, that was the year I got nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Malcolm. I kept thinking, “Jeez! Now I get the acclaim!” Not

during the years when I was always dieting, wearing my padded bra and my high heels. When I think of all the years in my 30s when I starved myself … but when I got the role of Lois, I stopped thinking about my looks and was just myself.

Both on screen and off.

Exactly. Of course, after my son’s birth, I was nominated for the two awards, which got me to work with a trainer. Awards shows are my greatest inducement to get back into shape. All of a sudden you think, “Uh-oh. Time to drop a few pounds.” Then, the day before the Emmys, I went to Sears and bought a really good girdle. And I’ve worn that thing to every awards show since.

You became a star at middle age. You’re our hero!

I think it helps that it came later in life for both Brad and me, because we had established a life before all this happened. So this kind of success seemed more like, “Huh?” Not, “Yesssss!”

By the way, what are you doing for fitness now?

I’ve gone back to the Pilates class I took when I was pregnant with my daughter. And I walk. Brad is much more of a workout person. He wakes up every morning and does his yoga and can’t go to bed without doing some kind of exercise. I think it’s a pretty good day if I can get through it without lifting a finger.

When do you start filming Malcolm again?

In about two weeks. We take our hiatus around Halloween, and the baby’s due around Thanksgiving. But my son came a month early, and Halloween will be about eight months ...

We see they’re going to write your pregnancy into the show.

Yeah. Last time they didn’t, so they were always having me hold really big frying pans.

This time you’ll be carrying a baby.

Right. Soon Malcolm really will be in the middle.

Are you having food cravings with this pregnancy?

Last week I had a thing for Waldorf salad. I was buying groceries and saw it at the deli counter and got a pint. When I got home, I had a bite or two and thought, “Well, that’s awfully good.” And I ate all of it. But my old standby is Spam. There’s the salt, and it’s just so darned flavorful! I grew up on Spam.

What about nesting? Have you gone nuts decorating the baby’s room?

You know, I really fixed that room up before my daughter was born, which was before Malcolm. I had a lot of time, so I sewed the drapes, and I sewed the valances. It’s sweet, looking back on those days before Malcolm and The West Wing. I remember it was really hot that year, and Brad borrowed a window air conditioner for our bedroom. Now we have central air and life has changed …

... just a tad.

Yep. Just a tad. Anyway, this baby will have his or her own room. And our other two will share a room. We’re all

doubling up for a while.

What are your favorite post-Malcolm luxuries?

I have a bidet now. I live for my bidet. You want to save some time in your life? Get a bidet. This is my favorite thing in the household. You can wash your feet in it. The kids like it because it’s low. So they wash their hands in there. It’s a great invention. I’m serious.

Do you have mood swings?

Only when I read the front page of The New York Times.

Do people confuse Brad with his character?

Oh, yeah. They’ve asked him to run for office. I’ve said, “Oh, right. You can run for office when the kids are in college.”What about you? Do you mind being mistaken for Lois?

No—I love Lois! I’ve never found anything she’s done to be outrageous. The writers always find a way of showing that she cares about those kids. I can’t imagine having four children, three of them at home, that close in age, of the same sex, with no one to help.

Will you and Lois handle pregnancy in a similar way?

Well, I love having kids. But I have the advantage of having a lot of help, a real hands-on husband and small children whom I can easily manipulate. Lois has no cleaning lady, no baby sitter, no nanny, nobody helping to cook, and she’s living on diminished wages. I think if I had her circumstances I would react exactly as Lois does …

... you’d shriek?

Yep. I’d shriek.

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