Tara Lipinski on Pair Skating With Jim Carrey & Playing a 'Warped' Version of Herself on 'Kidding' (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
It's Tara Lipinski like we've never seen before -- and one that she hardly recognizes.
The former Olympic figure skater plays herself on Showtime'sKidding, but she's the first to admit it's a "very warped version." "It's so crazy [to watch]," she recently told ET ahead of her character's return to the comedy. "But I think it's a lot of fun, and you know, I'm just so grateful that this opportunity came around, so why not?"
"It's such a crazy role to play. I don't know if I'll ever have another Tara role like this come up," she added with a laugh. "You gotta take it wherever you can."
On Kidding, Lipinski, renowned for her skating expertise, was seemingly the only viable option to adapt Mr. Pickles -- a children's television show (a la Mister Rogers) starring Jim Carrey as Jeff Pickles -- into Mr. Pickles on Ice. The 1998 Olympic champion remembers getting a call from her agent with a pitch for the role, but before reading the script, she pretty much knew she would say yes.
"It's Michel Gondry directing, Jim Carrey [starring], and it's an amazing show," she raved. "Obviously, in the beginning, it was a little scary, because this isn't my day job. On the very first day, you walk out of your trailer, you sit down and you're just sitting across from Jim Carrey. It's like 'Action!' And it's like, 'OK. Is this a real moment?' You know, growing up loving Jim Carrey, an incredible actor, and here I am, just doing a scene with him."
Carrey, however, couldn't have been more welcoming to the newbie actor.
"Jim made me feel comfortable from the start, and I'm not too shy, so I would be like, 'Jim, tell me everything!' Because I wanted to learn, and I wanted to do a really good job, and I felt like I had my own little personal acting coach on set," she said. Lipinski too ended up teaching Carrey a few things.
"He grew up in Canada, so he loves skating, so we got to bond on that," she shared. "And if we had a few minutes, we would take laps around the rink."
"He's really, really good," Lipinski said of Carrey's skills on the ice. "He played hockey when he was younger. He loves skating. It was great that when we had a few down moments, we would say, 'OK, let's go jump on the ice and race around.' And he was like a kid out there, he loved it. There were fun moments where I tried teaching him a spin or we would do a pairs moment for a lap. So [I have] some really fun memories to look back on."
Mr. Pickles on Ice seemingly went kaput earlier this season, after Lipinski's character was revealed to be "a really horrible human being." She'll be back on Sunday's episode, however, for a scene she teases could only be described as "crazy."
"Filming that was so nuts and just so much fun," she raved. "When I first saw it, I just thought, 'I'm stepping into Michel Gondry's dream world that he's created,' and it was just a surreal feeling. Obviously, I've skated my whole life, and stepping onto the ice and having such a different experience, that was so fantastical."
"It's just one of those moments that you know you'll never get to experience again," she said. "And I think I had a lot of those moments on set during this show."
As for whether there's more acting in Lipinski's future, the 36-year-old is currently focusing on commentating with Johnny Weir for NBC, among other projects.
"For Olympic athletes in general, it's always a hard transition. Obviously, it's such a specific world that you come from, and when competitive life is over, it's definitely a difficult transition to figure out where, what path and road and what career you're going to take on next. I think I was a little lucky that at 15, I was so young when I stopped competitively skating," she shared. "I really got that shot at figuring out what the second half of my life and career would look like."
"But... you realize skating is entertaining in so many ways. It's an easy transition to fall into the entertainment world, whether it's hosting or acting. I did a bunch of different things before I realized I loved commentating and being an analyst, and that's where I think I want to end up for the rest of my next, real career," she added, revealing that there's "a lot of Tara and Johnny things on the horizon."
"I feel extremely grateful that Johnny and I have found this spot in our world, and it gives us opportunities outside of skating, you know, at the Super Bowl, or the Kentucky Derby. So it's good, and it also gives you an open mind... You just go with the flow, I think," Lipinski shared. "But if an acting opportunity comes along again, I would 100 percent take it, leap at it, because this experience was one of the best, and something I'll remember forever."
Kidding airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.