If you’re a fan of country music legend Reba McEntire, then you’re in luck because she’s returning to primetime TV in a new ABC sitcom beginning this Friday night. Malibu Country follows Reba Gallagher as she moves her family from Nashville to Malibu and tries to make a fresh start after announcing she’s separating from her cheating husband.

Reba spoke with BuddyTV about Malibu Country, how it compares to her previous sitcom, Reba, what it’s like working with Lily Tomlin and how music will be incorporated into the show. Below is our exclusive interview.

As we all know, you’re starring on a new ABC sitcom called Malibu Country. Can you tell us a little of what the show is about?

It’s about me playing a country singer, married to a country singer. And he’s more popular than I am because after my second album, I decided to stay home and raise two children named June and Cash. And so he becomes very popular. And I find out that he’s been cheating on me with his backup singer. So we get a divorce — or in the midst of getting a divorce.

And so I find in the divorce proceedings that he has purchased a party pad out in Malibu, California. So I decide to take the kids and my mother, played by Lily Tomlin, out to California to kind of start over, get the kids away from all the gossiping people here in Nashville and to┬ájump-start┬ámy career. I’ve got, I think, an album left on my recording contract, so I’m going out there to restart my career.

Even though they’re in the process of separating and you’ve moved away from Nashville, now in Malibu, will we still see her husband pop up on the show at all after the premiere?

Definitely. It’s very important to have him there for the children, to have him in there. Jeffrey Nordling is a wonderful actor. Yes, we’d definitely love that.

I’m sure people are going to be comparing this show with your previous sitcom, Reba. How do you feel this is different than your last one?

I think that’s wonderful that they do compare the two together because I feel that they’re both great shows. They’re great entertainment for the family. But the thing that’s different is our characters. We’ve got Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue as — Lily plays my mom and Sara Rue plays my next-door neighbor. And the children are older. And then I’m in the music business, and so I’ve got Jai Rodriguez playing the assistant to my record label executive. So it’s different in the parts where I’m a career mom, where I was a soccer mom in the Reba show. And basically, it’s the characters that will drive the difference. But overall, they’re both very entertaining shows.

And as we’ve mentioned, you’re working with Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue, your mother and your neighbor. Have you ever worked with them before?

No. I’ve just met Sara Rue at the beginning of this project. But I’ve known Lily for quite a while, maybe 10 years. She and I knew each other, her being on Broadway, me being on Broadway, and just seeing each other every once in a while. Jane Fonda was honored some place out here in L.A., and I came to speak for her. And Lily was there, so we got to see each other there again. So she’s just a delight to get to work with, fun to hang out with. Her and Jane [Wagner], her partner, are just wonderful people. They’ve been over to the house for dinner, and just two talented women that I just think the world of.

What’s it like working all together on this sitcom? Do you find yourself cracking up during takes?

Oh, definitely. Sometimes you think Lily’s through, but she’s not through. She’ll ad-lib. And everyone will stop laughing, and then she’ll say something else — here comes the roar again. She’s a show dog. She loves to have that live audience as I do. And so does Sara Rue. I think everybody in the cast loves it. Somebody had said after the pilot that our cast acted like a second season cast instead of just a two week cast.

There was that chemistry; you really bonded well.

It did, didn’t it?

Since your character is a singer here, there’s a song featured in the premiere. Are we going to look forward to many more songs to come in future episodes?

Yes, there’ll be more songs in future episodes. And the song in the pilot, Dave Stewart and I wrote it along with my husband, Narvel Blackstock, called “New Me.” But yeah, there’ll be songs incorporated into it. It’s a family show with a little bit of music. So I wanted to do that for my fans because they’ve been so good to follow me through all the different things that I’ve been in business with, like with television, concerts, Broadway, books, movies. They’ve always followed me and been very faithful.

Any of these songs — maybe it’ll be too early to tell right now — will they be all new songs or are we going to have your previous hits on there?

Mixed. We’re kind of playing it by ear. Since this is the first season, we’ve talked about doing both. Whether that stays or not, I’m not for sure.

It’s also a great way to put out new music as well.

Oh, definitely.

Is there any singer that you would love to see as a guest star?

Oh, tons. I’ve already asked Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson. Martina McBride already said yes, she’ll do it. Wouldn’t Bette Midler be fun? Putting Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin on the same show. We’d have a blast with that.

That would be fantastic. As we mentioned, your character’s trying to revive a singing career. What do you feel about that situation in real life? Do you believe that there’s that feeling in the music business, or even in country music, where it’s all about the newest and freshest stars?

Well, I don’t know about the newest and freshest. There’s always new people coming on that need to strengthen the industry with new things. There’s also the legends and the superstars who have been molded into superstars over decades. It’s all needed to be substance, and to keep country music strong. It’s all needed. Sometimes, it has felt like one’s pushed away for the other to come in. Luckily, there’s always a place in country music for all genres. I think what they’re portraying in Nashville is a condensed form of it. But yeah, that happens. It does. It just doesn’t happen that strongly.

It seems like nowadays more and more we’re seeing other genres, like pop and rock, being incorporated into country. Do you think that’s a good thing for country music?

I think anything’s good for country music when it broadens the audience is good. Country music today is pretty much the ’70s rock. It evolves. I always try to say, why don’t we just have one category: good. And the other category that we want to stay away from is bad. So what I always try to do — they say, is that a little pop or isn’t that a little this or that? I say, no, it’s just a good song, is the only way I can see it.

I heard that you will not be hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards next year, is that so?

That’s true.

Would you still like to be involved somehow, if not next year, then maybe in future award shows?

Oh, I always love to be involved in award shows. I think that’s fun. Just like Tim Allen and I will be presenting Thursday night at the CMA award show. I love to be there because it’s like a family reunion to me. I was just over there a while ago — all the artists were in doing interviews for the CMAs. And I got to stay and visit with Faith and Lady A, and to see some of the new acts, too. So much fun to make that contact because basically that’s the only time we ever get to see each other is at award shows, unless we tour together.

To bring it back to your show again, Malibu Country, besides being on camera, you’re also an executive producer. And so what’s that like to be a producer, not just to be in front of the camera but to have that influence behind the scenes?

It makes a big difference for me because I’m not a control freak, but I like to contribute. And I feel like I have great ideas. Narvel and I both work very strongly together, and to make a show better. Narvel’s very good at keeping it grounded, not getting so broad, as sometimes a concept will get real broad and outlandish and it’s not real. So we want it to be funny, practical, maybe a lesson in there, but it’s got to be real and honest. My fans, they love honesty. So that’s the thing that we have to do.

I hear ever pitch to the story. I see the concept as it’s written. I’m in there at table read. It’s just like watching a baby being born, except for some parts. But it’s very important to me. And then after we do a run-through, I’m there for notes. Narvel is, too. And then we give our two cents: what worked? What didn’t work? And we keep working on it until we get through Thursday night for curtain call. We work hard on it until that curtain call.

Malibu Country premieres Friday night at 8:30pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.