Is it any wonder Nancy Travis is beaming from broadcast, cable and streaming?
Sure, she seems like one of the nicest women in Hollywood.
But don't let her ever-present smile and bubbly roles fool you. nobody gets major parts in three current series — ABC's Last Man Standing, Netflix's The Kominsky Method and the Audience Network's Mr. Mercedes — by being Ms. Nice Gal.
"You could say I'm pretty greedy," Nancy Travis says with a laugh. "Seriously, though, even with three shows, I still can't help but call my agent and ask, 'Is there anything else for me? Maybe a play or something?' In this business, especially at this point in my career, you kind of feel the end is near and ask yourself, 'If this gets canceled, how long before my next job, or is there even going to be one?'"
She needn't worry. Ever since the blockbuster Three Men and a Baby in 1987, Travis has been busy, starring in movies like So I Married an Axe Murderer and series like Almost Perfect, Becker and The Bill Engvall Show. Her colleagues aren't surprised that she's still in such demand.
"She has this overwhelming niceness, and that's truly who she has been and remains," says Kevin Abbott, executive producer and showrunner of Last Man Standing. "There's this naturally empathetic quality about her that you just enjoy having around."
Adds Kominsky creator–executive producer Chuck Lorre, "Nancy is capable of making almost any moment work onscreen — comedic, poignant or heartbreaking. Which is a gift when you're developing new characters and relationships."
A wife and mom on Last Man Standing, a divorcee who's dating again on Kominsky, a detective's ex-wife on Mr. Mercedes — her characters are "all women who are supporting leading men," Travis points out.
Though not the focus, she is "trying to express their points of view. Every actress wants to be in charge and be the lead, but I see these as women who are trying to find their place and their footing with these men."
Despite the similarities among her current characters, it's the differences between the shows that energize this mother of two (she's married to film producer Rob Fried).
"I love Last Man Standing because I have a lot to learn in terms of comedy from Tim Allen," Travis says. "I love the single-camera format of Kominsky Method because there's this intimacy of being able to talk to somebody and perform the scene as if we're the only people in the room. And with Mr. Mercedes, it was just nice to do something that wasn't comedic for a change, to work with this whole different genre."
Comedy has been her go-to ever since she was a kid in "a big Italian family" in Framingham, Massachusetts. She recalls "always being the jokester, the entertainment for any gathering," which continued when she studied acting in high school and then at New York University.
After a handful of TV and stage roles, she landed Three Men and a Baby despite one major obstacle: her character was British. "I really fought for the part, but for years after that, I'd meet people and they'd say, 'Oh my God! I thought you were British.'"
Travis is anything but cocky about her current success. "Talk to me in six months," she says. "The nature of this business is that you never can tell. What I hope is that I have a reputation for bringing the goods and playing nicely with others."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2019