Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 01/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Tracey Ullman

FREE TO BE YOU AND ME

Actress Tracey Ullman, 36, who won three Emmys for her Fox series The Tracey Ullman Show (1987-90), returns to TV with HBO's Tracey Takes On...beginning Jan. 24. Each of the weekly 30-minute shows revolves around a single topic—royalty, romance, fame, etc.—and allows Ullman' the freedom to be everyone she ever wanted to be, from a Long Island housewife to a male Middle Eastern cabbie. Lately, Ullman has appeared on Broadway (The Big Love) and on screen (Bullets over Broadway), but she's glad to be back on the telly. "I'm not a film snob," says Ullman, who lives in Los Angeles with husband Allan McKeown, 48, a television producer, and their two children, Mabel, 9, and John, 4. "I love TV"

Are you always in character in this show?

The only part you see of me is just me waking up in the morning at the beginning of the show. I thought that was important because then you can see what I look like without the rubber on my face. When people see me they always say, "You're really rather pretty! I thought you were like 70 years old!"

What is your favorite role?

Kay. She's based on somebody who used to work at a bank in England. I love that kind of spinster-virginal martyr mentality. I just think she's very courageous.

What do your kids think of your characters?

They think I'm mad, you know. They say, "Oh, our mommy wears wigs!" Makes people think I'm having chemotherapy. Johnny begs me to be Mrs. Ning Nan Ning, an elderly Asian woman who walks around talking about doughnuts. When people ask Mabel, "Do you want to be an actress like your mommy?" she says, "Heavens not! I want to be something useful, like a nurse!"

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