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'Sullivan & Son' mom Jodi Long knows all about tough love

| Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Bobby Quillard
Jodi Long

Jodi Long

If ever there was a role that epitomized the sensation of living an unapologetic existence in which nothing and no one is sacred, this one might be it.

As tough-as-nails mom Ok Cha Sullivan on the TBS comedy series, “Sullivan & Son,” Jodi Long enjoys carte blanche in dealing with her sitcom loved ones, although in this scenario, the word “loved” might be a bit too warm and fuzzy to accurately describe her character's essence. In a twist of fate, this is not-so-unfamiliar territory for Long. Her own mother wasn't exactly the sugary type, either, insisting that her multitalented daughter choose a focus, eschewing an existence of being a “jack of all trades.”

Nowadays, Long's main focus might be her acting, but that hasn't prevented her from expanding her story-telling horizons — whether it is on stage, screen or even behind a microphone. Most recently, she added writer and producer to her long list of accolades via the release of “Long Story Short,” a documentary about her parents, Larry and Trudie Long, whose popular husband-and-wife nightclub act captured audiences in the 1940s and 50s ... not to mention, viewers of “The Ed Sullivan Show.” For her, it was a more than just chance to shine the spotlight on them once again; it represented the gift of a lifetime.

“Sullivan & Son” Season 2 premieres June 13 on TBS.

Question: Your character on Sullivan & Son loves to dish it out. Is it good to have that much tough love when it comes to family and friends?

Answer: You don't know Asian mothers! I'm being serious — they don't think it's tough. It's reality — they're giving you the reality check. It's funny ... it's really one of those things that's becoming a stereotype, but it's quite true. It's like really tough love in a way and not the most cuddly thing. It's so not a 21st-century way of parenting. But it's created a lot of good citizens, I suppose.

Q: Is it cathartic to play a character that's lacking any sort of filter?

A: It's a lot of fun ... I don't know if it's cathartic. Maybe it is, because most people do have filters, I suppose, and it's mostly societal. And thank God sometimes, right? It's just so much fun. I mean, how often do you get to do that? And what a good job I have.

Q: Is your mom as tough as your character

A: Everyone says, “I love your mom.” But to me, she's definitely tough — she's always been. So from the outside it looks fine, but the inner mechanism … .

Q: How did your parents react to “Long Story Short?”

A: Part of the movie is showing them what they did 50 years before. It was really quite an amazing experience. It was so great for me to be able to give them that as a gift.

Q: Had they seen their performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” before?

A: My father had bad memories of it as a performer, and he didn't think he did well. And it's very clear that he was incredibly talented and what they did ... it was 7 12 minutes, which on national TV is a lifetime. My mother, who had no recollection, had pushed it right out of her mind. Talk about denial! For her to see it, it was incredibly gratifying for me.

Q: Speaking of gratifying performances, I understand you're also a successful jazz singer?

A: I have a lot of different lives!

Q: Theater, singing, film, television, screen writing … is there anything you don't do?

A: Well, you know — I picked that one a long time ago. I used to do everything, and my mother said one day, “Look, do you want to be jack of all trades and master of nothing? You better figured it out and decide what you want to do.”

I always knew I could control what was coming out of me as an actor… Being an actress has been the most gratifying. And being a comic actress — I love it. I love being a musical actress, a dramatic actress, and when I sing, it's a monologue. I'm infusing it as a monologue. In the end, I'm a storyteller, so that sort of translates into the writing part. I'm telling the human story.

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