Jeffrey Tambor on 'Transparent': 'It has changed me'

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Jeffrey Tambor hasn't just had one iconic television role -- he hasn't even just had two. He's had three.

With three career-defining roles on "The Larry Sanders Show," "Arrested Development" and "Transparent," Tambor knows that he's been extremely fortunate as an actor. "Few us of get one," he admitted over the phone to me this week.

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What makes the 72-year-old actor's accomplishments on the small screen even more special is the fact that "The Larry Sanders Show" didn't even start until the actor was in his late 40s -- something that a fortune teller actually told Tambor would happen decades ago. Seriously.

I recently caught up with Jeffrey Tambor on the phone from Houston, where he'll attend his first-ever Super Bowl to celebrate his first-ever Super Bowl commercial for Tide, to talk about his incomparable career, the impact of "Transparent" and, yes, what that aforementioned fortune teller told him many years ago about when things "would happen" for him.

See photos of Jeffrey Tambor:

38 PHOTOS
Jeffrey Tambor through the years
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Jeffrey Tambor through the years
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29: Actors Jeffrey Tambor and Kasia Ostlun attend The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. 26592_008 (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 08: Actor Jeffrey Tambor attends the 2017 Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes after party on January 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: Jeffrey Tambor and Kasia Ostlun attends the Amazon Studios Golden Globes Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Actor Jeffrey Tambor speaks onstage during the 6th Annual Sean Penn & Friends HAITI RISING Gala Benefiting J/P Haitian Relief Organizationat Montage Hotel on January 7, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for J/P Haitian Relief Organization )
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 07: Actor Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Kasia Ostlun attend The BAFTA Tea Party at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 12: Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Adam DeVine attend a basketball game between the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - DECEMBER 11: Actor Jeffrey Tambor attends the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Jeffrey Tambor, winner of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for 'Transparent', poses in the press room at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Doris Roberts and Jeffrey Tambor at the 5th Annual Prism Awards at CBS Television City, Los Angeles, Ca. 4/4/01. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
381390 33: Actor Jeffrey Tambor and wife attend the premiere of Dr. Seuss'' 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' November 8, 2000 at Universal City in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Weeks/Liaison)
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 25: Actor Jeffrey tambor of the ABC network show 'That Was Then' attends the ABC Primetime Preview Weekend on August 25, 2002 at Disney's California Park in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JULY 21: Actor Jeffrey Tambor arrives at the opening night of 'Hairspray' on July 21, 2004 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 12: Actor Jeffrey Tambor (L) and his wife Kasia arrive at the 2004 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on September 12, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Actors Portia de Rossi and Jeffrey Tambor attend the FOX 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Gala at Spago September 19, 2004 Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 16: Actor Jeffrey Tambor arrives to the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel January 16, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: (L-R) Presenters Tony Hale, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor and Will Arnett present the Television Episodic Drama award onstage during the 15th Annual Environmental Media Awards held at Ebell Club of Los Angeles on October 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 17: Actor Jeffrey Tambor (L) and wife Kasia Ostlun arrive at Sony Pictures premiere of 'Monster House' held at Mann's Village Theatre on July 17, 2006 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 27: (L-R) Actor John Lithgow, TV Show Host/Model Heidi Klum, and Actor Jeffrey Tambor present the award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series onstage at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on August 27, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 18: Actor Jeffrey Tambor attends Distinctive Assets gift lounge at The HBO Comedy Festival at Caesar's Palace on November 18, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - JULY 24: Actors Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Joe Lo Truglio speak onstage at the 'Paul' panel during Comic-Con 2010 at San Diego Convention Center on July 24, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 14: Actors Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Blythe Danner arrive at the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Paul' held at Grauman's Chinese Theater on March 14, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Jessica Walter attend The 2011 New Yorker Festival: 'Arrested Development' Panel at Acura at SIR Stage37 on October 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New Yorker)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 01: Actor Jeffrey Tambor seen backstage prior to the Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Performance at Madison Square Garden on December 1, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 01: Actor Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Muno perform at the Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Performance at Madison Square Garden on December 1, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Actor Jeffrey Tambor attends the 'Phil Spector' premiere at the Time Warner Center on March 13, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Actor Jeffrey Tambor (C) and Kasia Ostlun (R) pose with their family at Day 1 of AKC 'Meet The Breeds' showcase at Jacob Javits Center on September 28, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for American Kennel Club)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Actor Jeffrey Tambor attends Amazon Studios Premiere Screening for 'Alpha House' on November 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 12: Actor Jeffrey Tambor speaks onstage at the 'Transparent' panel during the Amazon Prime Instant Video portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 12, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actors Jeffrey Tambor (L) and Judith Light attend the Amazon red carpet premiere screening for brand-new dark comedy, 'Transparent,' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on September 15, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Actor Jeffrey Tambor, winner of Best Actor in a Television Series  Musical or Comedy for 'Transparent,' poses in the press room during the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 11: (L-R) Actress Kathryn Hahn, actress Judith Light, show creator/director Jill Soloway, actor Jeffrey Tambor, actress Amy Landecker, and actress Melora Hardin attend the 'Transparent' Cast and Crew Golden Globes Viewing Party at The London West Hollywood on January 11, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: (L-R) Jeffrey Tambor, Jack Black, James Marsden, Andrew Mogel, Russell Posner, Jarrad Paul, and Kathryn Hahn from 'D-Train' wear pins to support #TackleEbola in a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald's McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Actors Jack Black (L) and Jeffrey Tambor from 'D-Train' pose for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald's McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Actor Jeffrey Tambor attends The Point Foundation's Annual Point Honors New York Gala at New York Public Library on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Point Foundation)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 31: Actor Jeffrey Tambor accepts the Best Actor in a Comedy Series award for 'Transparent' onstage at the 5th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 31, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Actor Jeffrey Tambor speaks onstage at the Amazon Original Series 'Transparent' Emmy FYC screening at the Paley Center For Media on May 19, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actors Kasia Ostlun (L) and Jeffrey Tambor attend the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
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Check out my full conversation with Jeffrey Tambor below:

Is this your first Super Bowl commercial?

Yes, it is! It's actually my first Super Bowl -- I'm going on Sunday!

That's awesome! Surely that's a bucket list item for you?

Yeah, it's definitely on there.

But back to your first Super Bowl commercial. How did the opportunity for Tide's "a better way to clean" campaign come about?

I answered my phone, and someone said, "Would you like to do a Tide commercial? We heard that your mother used Tide." And I said, "Yes, she did!" And they said, "Do you know who Rob Gronkowski is?" And I said, "No..." And they said, "Well, do you know who the New England Patriots are?" And I said, "No..." And they said, "Do you know what football is?" And I went, "No!" And they said, "Perfect, come on down!"

So did you have to do your research on Gronk?

I actually am a fan of the New England Patriots, and I do watch football and I respect him as a player. What I did not know was that he's so kind, and he's a terrific comedian. It turned into a really lovely spot.

What was it like working together?

It was really great! He was charming and smart and funny, and we actually got along famously right from the start.

Let's talk a little bit about "Transparent." Your turn as Maura has obviously garnered you a ton of acclaim. Does the praise ever get old?

No! Praise is great. Praise is wonderful -- people's responses to the show has been great. It's a great time, and it's what I thought acting was always going to be. I'm so pleased. We started on our fourth season -- we had our table read yesterday! -- and I love to go to work every single day. Jill Soloway has given me the best role of my career, and it's the biggest responsibility ever.

I actually talked to Kathryn Hahn last week...

She is one of the nicest -- and most talented -- people in the world.

She truly is. And she was talking about how amazing the cast is on the show. Is it like a family at this point?

It always has been -- from the first moment. That's one of the things about Jill; Jill is a true leader, and her whole thing about the feminine gaze and toppling the patriarchy is real. It's just real. That's the safest set that I've ever been on.

You mentioned how big of a responsibility the role is. What have people said to you who have reached out from the LGBTQ community over the past few years?

First of all, my life has totally changed. I had the honor last year -- I don't know if you know, but I teach acting and I've been a teacher for quite some time -- to teach at the LGBTQ center. It was wonderful, and the talent in that room was through the roof.

That's pretty special that you've gotten to see the impact first-hand.

I think that the business has to change. I've gone on record as saying that I think more business opportunities and creative opportunities have to be there for this wonderful pool of talent.

Is there anything in your character, Maura, that you see in yourself?

Well, there is an adage in acting, "You're stuck with the character, and the character is stuck with you." I think it's been an opportunity to be more "Jeffrey" than I've ever been. It's not about being feminine, but it's just about using all of me. And it's wonderful -- I think that it has changed me, and I think that it has changed my whole life! Good things are happening to me. I had my fortune told many years ago, and the person said, "It's going to happen for you, but it's going to happen for you very late." And I guess that has come true. I'm very grateful.

Going off of that, it's pretty rare to have two truly iconic television roles -- people are usually so tied to that initial role that it's hard to garner a second career-defining project -- and you've been able to do that with "Arrested Development," and now "Transparent"...

Can I add one more? I sound like my own agent. [Laughs] But "The Larry Sanders Show."

Of course. But do you recognize how special that is?

I really do. You know, few of us get one. But, I also have to tell you, I'm also the same actor who did "The Love Boat," so let's not get crazy. [Laughs] I love acting -- I love that whole life between "action" and "cut" -- it's a wonderful way to live your life, and I'm very lucky.

What do you hope the lasting impact of "Transparent" is?

I think it's already occurring. I think people are changing their minds, I think the revolution is here and -- no matter what administration or politics [are happening] -- this revolution will not stop.

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