She’s also wrapped a couple of independent films, including Tonight at Noon, based on a Jonathan Lethem story, and Starting Out in the Evening, about a graduate student who attempts to coax an underappreciated novelist (Frank Langella) out of retirement. Her most curious move, though, was shooting a pilot for an old-fashioned sitcom that Fox picked up for mid-season, The Return of Jezebel James (a working title, thank goodness), written by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and co-starring Parker Posey. (Curiosity No. 2: Parker Posey is doing a sitcom.) Ambrose plays “this hippie disaster living in grungy, like … I’d say the East Village, but that’s not really grungy … whatever the new grungy neighborhood is now,” who agrees to move in with her type A sister and act as her surrogate. Why a sitcom? Credit Orson again. It shoots in Astoria. “To work where I live, isn’t that the whole idea?”
With so many projects about to descend upon the world, it’s easy to see how Ambrose has become paranoid about protecting the sanctity of her daily minutiae from the evil, cannibalizing celebrity press. Six Feet Under was perhaps the best-loved series among “snooty intellectuals on the coasts” in the past ten years, but she’s still able to ride the subway. (Snooty intellectuals, after all, don’t approach TV stars.) Little Orson, though, makes her instant paparazzi bait. Suddenly, celeb weeklies that didn’t think she qualified as a celebrity have sent out their packs to hunt down her and Orson and Sam. Well, this happened once and it really freaked her out.
And if Juliet isn’t enough to wreck her celebrity-on-the-down-low lifestyle, says Ambrose, “I think the sitcom will do me in.” So, in many ways, this summer seems like the calm before the storm. This week, previews begin in Central Park, where she will slosh around onstage in water she’s nicknamed, variously, the Hypothermia Pool, the Hepatitis Pool, and the West Nile Pool. On occasion, she’ll likely have to shoo a raccoon from her dressing room, or act in pouring rain or around turtle eggs. (Turtles often make their nests in the Delacorte, and theater employees could be jailed for touching them.) But mostly she gets five blissful weeks of alternating between being a mom and being Juliet. Though, she adds, “arguably, now that I’ve had the baby, I could play the Nurse.”