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Cheryl Hines has many husbands — on screen

She’s played the wife of Larry David, Michael Keaton and Robin Williams
Cheryl Hines
** FILE **Cheryl Hines arrives for the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in this Jan. 29, 2006 file photo in Los Angeles. Hines reprises her wifely role, this time opposite Robin Williams, in the family comedy "RV," which opens Friday, April 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)Kevork Djansezian / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

She's been romantically linked with Larry David, Michael Keaton and Robin Williams — on screen, anyway.

Cheryl Hines, who plays David's put-upon wife on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," has become the de facto first wife of comedy.

She played Keaton's love interest in last year's "Herbie: Fully Loaded," and rides in Friday with another wifely performance in another film vehicle, the family comedy "RV," this time opposite Williams.

Hines says she makes a good wife — on screen anyway — because when she gets mad at each of her wacky husbands "it doesn't seem too harsh. You don't feel like I'm going to leave them, but you feel like I realize what asses they are."

The actress' upcoming projects take her away from matrimonial roles but keep comedy in the mix.

Hines, 40, talked with The Associated Press from her Los Angeles home about her leading men, her comedic roots and her real-life manager-producer husband.

Question: You got your start with L.A.'s comedy and improv troupe The Groundlings. Did that prepare you for the parts you take now?

Hines: Well "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is all improvised. And then working with someone like Robin Williams, who's known for his improvisation, it's been very helpful to have an improv background. So I kind of learn not to plan too much, because when people are improvising, you just have to live in the moment and roll with whatever is thrown at you.

Question: When you're accustomed to improv, is it hard to adhere to a script?

Hines: I think it's refreshing in a way (to rely on the script) because it's nice to be able to prepare for your scene and your work. It's nice to have somebody write your lines and find out what's funny and work on it. During "RV," we got to sit down with (director) Barry Sonnenfeld before we started shooting and go over the script and talk about what was funny, what's working and what's not working. I liked that process.

Question: You've said Sonnenfeld is more neurotic than Larry David. Is that true?

Hines: There was one day on set when I said, `You know Barry, I think you're more neurotic than Larry.' And I thought he was going to cry because he was so overjoyed. He was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.

Question: As the first wife of comedy do you have a favorite "husband"?

Hines: It's really hard to say because they're all so different. Larry is, oh dear, I don't know how to describe him. Working with these guys, they all have a few things in common. They're all really funny, they're all very intelligent and very magnetic. So it's hard to say. I've loved them all.

Question: You keep playing the wife, but does your role change when your husband does?

Hines: Oh yeah, your relationship changes from guy to guy. They're all crazy in their own way so you have to adjust.

Question: Your next few projects have you playing different types of roles: a professor, a party planner. Do they feel like a departure?

Hines: Well this party planner that I play in "Keeping Up With The Steins" is more of a character. I mean, she's a little out there. So that was very fun. That was a departure, because I got to be the kooky one. And the professor, it's also a comedy. But yeah, you know, I've got a thing for one of my students. So yeah, I'm really getting out there and testing my range.

Question: And then there's the Oxygen series, "Campus Ladies."

Hines: We're very excited we're coming back for our second season. It's an improvised show... much in the same fashion as "Curb," and I'm the executive producer on the show. I'm just there watching over it creatively and guiding it, if you will. And I got to direct an episode last season. Hopefully I'll get to direct another episode.

Question: Is this representative of where you're taking your career?

Hines: I don't really have a specific career path that I'm on. I basically take things project by project. I've really enjoyed producing and I really enjoy creating, so I would like to continue doing that. My first passion is acting. I want to do great projects, so it just depends on what comes up.

I've been very fortunate to work with brilliant people, so it's kind of spoiled me. I want to continue doing that. I like to surround myself with smart, funny people.

Question: How does your real-life husband, Paul Young, compare to your on-screen loves?

Hines: My real-life husband, he's very intense but he's not neurotic necessarily. So he's really nice to come home to. He keeps things calm around here. Otherwise I don't know that I could do it.