Linney tells own tales of The City

Laura Linney can’t help wax nostalgic at the moment. She’s got San Francisco — and Mary Ann Singleton, the character she played in Armistead Maupin’s seminal ’90s teleflick “Tales of the City” — on her mind.

“Oh, it was just the best of jobs … it changed my life — that experience,” Linney reflects of the Peabody Award-winning miniseries.

“I met some of my best friends and confidences on that show,” she adds. “I didn’t train for [TV]. It just scared me. But I met Armistead and other people who really had a deep influence on my life. I just loved it, and now it’s so sweet, I look at it, and The City. We all look like baby Muppets — we were so young, so cute!”

There’s a perfectly good reason why Linney is walking down Memory — let’s say, Barbary — Lane. She’s tackling one of the biggest issues of her life — cancer. But only on TV.

Watch the Emmy-winner morph into a dying melanoma patient forced to reflect on, well, everything, in Showtime’s new outing, “The Big C,” which debuts today. It’s one of the best new shows of the year; a dark comedy that isn’t afraid to show its heart.

Better still, it seems to be giving Linney a surprisingly new outlook on the past — and the present.

“What hit me the most [about the show] was the theme of time and … the choices that we make, how we spend our time, and the fact that we all have a limited amount and that it’s a privilege to grow old,” she says. “And that’s something that I think a lot of people have forgotten in this very fast-paced world where youth is overly celebrated. [The show’s concept] was meaningful to me.”

But Linney, like Maupin, is valuable to The City, too. “Tales,” that masterful coming-of-age opus — the fifth book was actually serialized in The Examiner — remains iconic in the hearts and minds of locals. (A stage version makes its world debut here next fall.) The actress is revered for taking on roles, like Mary Ann, that others can relate to.

Especially “The Big C”’s Cathy, who’s been given one year to live.

“Oddly, sort of weirdly, we started the show, and then this enormous research came out about a new treatment for melanoma,” Linney says. “So, I don’t know what’s going to happen, and we’ll see. But I find the fullness of the time that Cathy has so wonderful. As long as [the show] is honest, I’m sort of game for whatever happens.”

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