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Wednesday, February 04, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Southwest Snohomish County
By Lynn Thompson
The laugh, high and giddy, is familiar, even if the personable manner is not.
Steven Bailey, an actor and a graduate of Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood, is getting his big television break this winter playing a loutish suitor in the new Fox reality show, "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé."
Until he sat down at his home in Los Angeles on Jan. 26 to watch the show's second episode with friends, Bailey hadn't seen his own performance.
"I loved it," the 32-year-old actor said. "Everyone was laughing so hard, I'm going to have to watch it again."
Bailey said the humor is in good fun and the method more "hidden-camera improv" than reality TV.
On the show, a young schoolteacher, Randi Coy, accepts the challenge of trying to convince her friends and family that she's fallen in love with a man she met on a reality dating show. What she doesn't know is that Bailey is an actor charged with behaving badly at every opportunity and making her job of getting to the altar and winning $1 million more challenging.
In the tradition of big men using physical humor Jackie Gleason and John Belushi were two Bailey plays up his 6-foot-4 height and ample girth.
His backward collapse into a hot tub creates a tsunamilike effect. His big, hairy gut shimmies in front of several mirrors. He spits out sushi while sampling potential wedding-day appetizers and wipes off his tongue on his shirt sleeve as a horrified chef looks on.
But most of the humor comes from Coy's reactions. Coy, 23, registers a series of expressions from disbelief to disgust and distaste, as when Bailey assures her that he's not really attracted to her.
"You're not my type," he says during the second episode. "I like Asian chicks."
Or when the hostess of the show, in tight jeans and a midriff-baring T-shirt, leaves the couple at an outdoor table and Bailey confides: "She's hot. Maybe I'll hook up with her afterwards."
Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, Bailey said: "That's really how we played it. The laugh comes on her response, her look."
Bailey said he and the show's creators planned some scenes and plot developments, and left others unscripted.
He said the show's creators also were aware of the danger of his performance hitting only the one, obnoxious note.
"You'll see as it unfolds," Bailey said. "People will be surprised by the direction the show goes."
Bailey grew up in Edmonds and was active in drama by high school, where, he said, the Meadowdale drama department put on some "pretty good play productions" including "Pippin' " and "Our Town."
After graduating in 1989, he trained at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre and later performed in the Seattle area, for the Driftwood Players and Village Theatre, and in the Bay Area. He's appeared on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Will and Grace" and "Becker," and in national commercials.
Since "Fiancé" debuted Jan. 19, Bailey has done a whirl of publicity appearances in New York and Los Angeles. He was spotlighted in a recent People magazine article and said the interest generated by the show has produced many queries but no new offers.
His parents, Larry and Anita Bailey, still live in Edmonds' Seaview neighborhood.
As she watches her son belch and blubber his way through wedding preparations, Anita Bailey said she feels a little sorry for Coy.
"He's really working her over, but that's his job," she said, adding that the "real Steve" is "fun, sensitive and caring."
In real life, Bailey is married. He said his wife loves the show, particularly because it means her actor husband is working. He said the degree to which his performance as a revolting Romeo differs from his real-life personality can be measured by his friends' reactions.
"They're looking at me, saying, 'Wow. You really created a character.' "
Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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