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Penny Johnson Jerald as Sherry Palmer

Sunday, October 27, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

An actress familiar to viewers from her roles on "ER," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Penny Johnson Jerald has never played Lady Macbeth on stage.

But after the first season of "24," playing the duplicitous wife of presidential hopeful David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), she's prepared.

"I'm so looking forward to playing the big lady now," she said. "I think I'm ready to play her, absolutely."

After all, Sherry Palmer was nicknamed Lady MacPalmer and Billary MacPalmer (for "black Hillary Clinton") on various Internet sites devoted to the series.

Palmer will return to "24" a few episodes into the new season as the ex-wife of Sen. David Palmer, now president of the United States. How she returns remains shrouded in mystery, but it's a good bet she won't go gentle into that good night.

"I think I am just as ambitious as you are, David. That's why you married me," she told her husband in one of many scoldings last season. Still, Jerald doesn't describe her character as a manipulative witch.

"She's like a mother lion. She is protective of family and she has worked very hard, given up her career to see that her husband gets his due," Jerald said. "She sees signs of weakness on his part and, by gosh, this is our lifelong work. When your lifelong work is on the line, you do what you have to do, and I think that's what Sherry did. She was always ambitious, and when desperation kicks in you're driving off of fear and you'll do anything."

Not that Jerald minded playing the villainess.

"As an actor, I looked at it and said, 'Thank you, thank you, finally an opportunity to have to act on screen,' because everyone else [I've played] is truly an extension of Penny, and Sherry has to be an extension in some ways, but it's not a part of Penny who comes forward in everyday life."

Getting spoilers out of Jerald is unlikely. Even her family is surprised at the plot developments on "24."

"My husband and daughter watch it with me, and my daughter cannot take it. She goes up to her room to watch, and I'll hear her yell, 'Mom! No, you didn't!' " Jerald said. "I'll take a secret to my grave. I'm really good at that."

Sunday, October 27, 2002

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