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North Texas actress gets big break — with a capital B — in ‘Partners’


• 8 and 8:30 p.m. Monday

• FX

Posted 11:01pm on Saturday, Aug. 02, 2014

This might be the first time anyone has used the “B” word to describe McKaley Miller.

Her character in Partners, FX’s new Kelsey Grammer-Martin Lawrence sitcom, is “a bratty girl.”

Maybe you were expecting some other noun.

Miller, an 18-year-old North Texas native, plays Grammer’s very spoiled, very sarcastic stepdaughter in a comedy about mismatched Chicago lawyers.

“Lizzie is so different from any role I’ve ever played,” she says. “Typically, when I audition for the mean girl, everyone is like, ‘Oh, but you’re so nice. Are you sure you can pull this off?’ 

Of course, she can pull it off. Just because Miller is one of those showbiz teens who stays out of trouble and avoids TMZ coverage for bad behavior off camera, it doesn’t mean she can’t convincingly pretend to be that kind of girl. “It’s fun to do something so far out of my comfort zone,” she says of the role.

Partners premieres with double episodes at 8 and 8:30 p.m. Monday on FX.

The show pairs Grammer (as an unscrupulous, self-serving legal eagle) with Martin (who cares deeply about ethics and public service) as unlikely law-firm partners.

If Partners brings in strong-enough ratings during its five-week, 10-episode introductory run, the network will green-light production for 90 additional episodes.

If that happens, it will mean a major lifestyle change for Miller, who has been living and going to school full-time in Flower Mound while racking up frequent-flier miles when acting gigs (like her recurring role in the CW dramedy Hart of Dixie) beckon in Los Angeles.

“It’s been back and forth, Texas to L.A., for about five years,” she says. “I don’t even have an apartment in L.A. But I graduated from high school in May, which definitely changes things.

“The plan is to get an apartment at the end of summer and to establish residency so I will be able to go to college in California. That might change if FX decides to pick us up for 90 more episodes.

“If that happens, I will have to be creative with my college experience. But I’m definitely going to college in the future.”

Partners is stylistically very different than Hart of Dixie — in which she plays outsider Rose Hattenbarger — and The Iceman, a 2012 movie in which she played the daughter of a Mafia hit man.

“This is my first time to be a series regular doing straight-up comedy on a multi-camera sitcom,” she says. “We shoot the show so quickly. One episode for us takes three days, which is crazy fast. But I love it. Every day, it’s so much fun to go to work.

“We have brilliant comedians, so everything that happens is absolutely hilarious.”

At first, Miller admits, she was intimidated by the thought of doing comedy alongside veteran sitcom stars Grammer (formerly of Cheers and Frasier) and Lawrence ( Martin).

“But they are two of the nicest people I have ever met,” Miller says. “They make everybody feel so comfortable and they’re constantly helping me with my scenes, showing me how to be funnier. They’re so talented and they have such different comedic styles. It’s a great learning experience.

“The moment I walked on set, all my fears went away and I was like, ‘Let’s do this. We’re going to have fun.’ 

There have been a few glitches along the way. For starters, Miller has had the darnedest time closing the set’s office door behind her without wrecking a scene.

“For some reason, I have so many issues with that door,” she says. “Lizzie being Lizzie, with everything being always about her, she has to make a big show of it every time she enters the room.

“So I have to storm into the room. But every time I do, the door shuts with a bang that ruins the take and we have to start over.”

These are the kinds of acting challenges that a TV viewer rarely thinks about.

“If we get the 90,” Miller says, “I promise I will figure out how to make that door shut quietly!”

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