Reba McEntire is a legend in music - and for the better part of the last decade, she's also been a staple on our small screens. Six years after the end of her WB/CW sitcom Reba, she's back in ABC's Malibu Country (premiering tonight at 8:30 ET/PT), playing another Reba, who divorces her cheating music-star husband, packs up her mom and two kids, and moves to Malibu for a fresh start. Reba recently took some time to talk about Malibu Country, how it compares to Reba, and how she views her long and acclaimed career.
"I didn't want to leave television when [Reba] got cancelled," she said. "I love everything about television. It's hard work, because you have a revised script every morning, and a lot of concentration to do," she continued, adding that it's all worth it when the cast gets to play together.
As for what drew her specifically to Malibu Country, "When I found this concept I fell in love with it," she explained. "I love the sensibility of it, especially my mother's character, who's played by Lily Tomlin." The show also stars Justin Prentice and Juliette Angulo as Reba's teenaged kids Cash and June, Sara Rue (from ABC's Less Than Perfect) as Reba's bubbly new neighbor Kim, and Jai Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Celebrity Duets) playing Geoffrey, the agent's assistant who tries to help Reba re-start her music career.
The premise of Malibu Country shares some similarities with Reba; where Reba played Reba Hart, a single mother of three who'd been left by her husband for the younger woman he was cheating on her with. "My hair is longer on this show," joked Reba when asked about the differences between the two series. "Both of them are great family shows. We have great stories to tell and the differences are probably minimal - but the casting is different so the stories will be different."
She's not bothered by playing another character with her name, either: "It makes it a lot easier for me, because when they call Reba, I know who they're talking to!"
While she's best known for her TV work, Reba has been an actress for more than two decades, with credits spanning television, film and the stage. In 1996, she was cast as Molly Brown in James Cameron's Titanic, but had to pull out of the role due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Kathy Bates. Her work on Reba earned her a Golden Globe nomination in 2003.
"I've done about eleven movies, but the acting that I'm probably the most proud of is doing Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway," she said, adding that fans newer to her acting work should check out her very first film role, as Heather Gummer in the 1990 horror comedy Tremors opposite Kevin Bacon.
Even as she's working five days a week shooting Malibu Country, Reba is still equally devoted to her music career. She has a handful of more shows scheduled through the end of 2012, and will be making a guest appearance on Blake Shelton's NBC Christmas special, Not So Family Christmas, which airs in December. She previously was Shelton's advisor on the first season of The Voice.
"I did have a blast with Blake when we were doing the Academy of Country Music Awards, hosting it together," she said of Shelton. "He's just a funny person, [with] his witty comments that he would make in between each time we walked out there. To be able to repeat what he says is impossible. That's either a perverted mind or a funny mind."
Reba has found success as both an actress and a recording artist, and doesn't see forgoing either title at any point in the future. "I perceive my career as an entertainer," she said, "because no matter what it is, I love to entertain folks."
You can keep up with Reba on Twitter (@reba). Malibu Country begins tonight at 8:30 PM ET/PT on ABC.