Fans of the espionage drama “24” know Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe, the rubber-faced computer geek who can’t stop helping Jack Bauer.
But the Trenton native and her TV persona could not be more different — well, except for her countenance. The “Chloe face,” as some viewers delightfully call it, is the vinegary visage that Rajskub (pronounced RICE-cub) has perfected and pulls out when her character doesn’t want to complete a task or thinks a superior is unintelligent.
“Chloe takes herself really seriously,” says Rajskub, 34, from her home in Southern California, adding that she wonders if her standup comedy roots are revealing themselves.
“I’m not trying to be funny,” she coyly deadpans. “People say I look better than I do on the show when they see me other places, and that’s sweet, but Chloe is a woman in her own world, and I approached it with my interpretation of how that character would look and react.”
Rajskub first learned to deconstruct characters as a teenager acting in plays at Trenton High School. A chronic overachiever, Rajskub managed to play Frenchy in the school’s production of “Grease” and still compete on the swim team.
“She was that good,” says Bill Rapin, an art teacher at Trenton High School for 33 years, who remembers Rajskub well.
“What a funny and creative girl,” Rapin says. “I remember the first time I had her in class, she stayed after everyone else, and she asked if I thought a person could really make it in the arts. I told her ‘yes.’ I guess she found out.”
Honing her love for Sanders hot fudge and Vernors — separately of course — Rajskub, affectionately known as “Mare,” graduated from Trenton High in 1989. She attended Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, majoring in painting.
At CCS, Rajskub made an impression on art professor Todd Erickson.
“She had this look, and if you didn’t know her, you would think she had a bad attitude,” Erickson recalls. “It would alarm me and then she would follow up with a joke and disarm me. That was a lot of fun, but you had to get to know her to appreciate her sense of humor.”
From CCS, Rajskub transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute. Realizing she didn’t want to deal with the possible rejection of selling her art, she moved to Los Angeles and cut her teeth in standup. She eventually landed a recurring spot on “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” an HBO sketch comedy series, where she worked with her then-boyfriend and show co-creator, David Cross.
Before landing “24” a couple of seasons ago, she appeared in movies such as “Road Trip” in 2000 and “Punch-Drunk Love” in 2002.
These days, Rajskub, the proud owner of a poodle named Claire, says she doesn’t paint as much as she would like because of her hectic work schedule. In addition to “24,” Rajskub still does standup and some small tours.
“When I start, I have to paint at least two times a week, and there’s not enough time in the day to do everything,” she concedes. Her romantic life is in a similar state, says Rajskub, a self-described recovering serial monogamist.
“I’m not married and I don’t think that’s going to work out for me. I’m not even bitter, I’m just exhausted.”
As for “24,” Rajskub is just hoping Chloe lives to see another season, adding that her role in the “24” video game isn’t a guarantee.
“I haven’t been told I wasn’t returning,” she says. “But I can’t make any promises.”