“We thought it was pretty humiliating at the time,” says Lisa Kudrow, about the first season of her series The Comeback (returning for a second season on HBO on Nov. 9). The show depicted Valerie Cherish, an actress marginalized by Hollywood who took to reality TV for attention, even as the camera’s glare exposed all her weaknesses. “But that was early on, so we didn’t even come close to how humiliating it was going to be.”
Since The Comeback was first aired and first cancelled, in 2005, the world has seen the rise of Bravo’s Real Housewives, a franchise whose myriad degradations made a second season of The Comeback seem well-timed. When The Comeback was first on, it seemed cruel to its protagonist, so vain about her elaborate red hairdo and her dreams of stardom; now, it just seems prophetic.
For her part, Kudrow told TIME she’s “fascinated” by Bravo’s stars, though it’s not necessarily a positive viewing habit: “They felt like a lot of Valerie Cherishes who had their own agendas and their own reasons. I don’t know — for me it’s kind of selling a little bit of yourself. I won’t say dignity — dignity. To sell a brand, cookbooks, restaurants they own or some business, or thinking this way they’ll start a career… for Valerie, it was really just to get back in the spotlight.”
And Kudrow yearned to bring the spotlight back to Valerie; she said she spent lunch dates with friend and Comeback co-creator Michael Patrick King plotting out what the actress would have been doing in the intervening years. And now that HBO’s provided Kudrow a second chance, she’s — ahem — cherishing every moment. “When I put the wig on, it’s full Valerie,” she said. “It’s fantastic how that happens. It’s great to see how other people start treating me!”
As for a potential third season — hard not to wonder about, given how unusual the Comeback comeback was in the first place — Kudrow isn’t making too many plans. “I think it’s worth thinking about, but we are waiting to be invited! That would be embarrassing, to say ‘And the next dinner will be at my house!’ And no one says they wanted it.” Then again, if anyone knows how to make something great out of mortification, it’s Kudrow.
See more of her conversation with TIME above.