Although the Fox animated series King of the Hill is set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, the show has roots in San Diego.
At least that's how it sounds to Kathy Najimy, who plays the show's matriarch, substitute Spanish teacher Peggy Hill. Najimy says she based the character's voice-and Spanish accent-on people she knew while growing up in San Diego.
"San Diego provided a good source of inspiration because there's a lot of good Mexican food and a lot of people who can't speak Spanish,'' says Najimy, who attended Crawford High School and participated in the local theater scene before heading north to Hollywood in the late 1980s.
Najimy first hit it big as Sister Mary Patrick in the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy Sister Act and has been a working actor ever since.
And she feels a special connection to Peggy because, she points out, "it's rare that an actress gets to develop a character over a long period of time and even rarer for the scripts to maintain the high quality that we have on King of the Hill."
The show begins its 10th season on Sept. 18 and will feature the newest cast member, Tom Petty, as the boyfriend of Peggy's niece, Luanne.
Najimy believes the show's lengthy run is a product of its universal appeal.
"I know it's set in Texas, but it's popular in places as far as Australia, and I think it's because there are people like those in Arlen everywhere. In fact, I remember seeing people straight out of Arlen at a Pacific Beach bar called the Nite Owl."
Najimy plans to keep voicing Peggy as long as the show is on the air, but, sadly, it looks like the end will come sooner than she'd like. "I don't know if you know this, but we've been canceled. After this season ends, the network has only ordered five additional shows and that's it.''
She doesn't want the show to end under those circumstances, so she's asking fans of the show in her hometown, and everywhere else, to lobby the Fox network to renew the show for additional seasons "as long as the quality remains high."It may seem like dire straits, but Najimy points out that "the fans of Family Guy were able to save that show, so maybe there's hope."