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Jami Gertz talks ‘Neighbors’

Updated: September 25, 2012 5:25PM

In ABC’s new comedy “The Neighbors,” Jami Gertz plays a woman whose family moves into a gated community in New Jersey only to find their new ’hood is full of aliens.

Disguised as humans, the extraterrestrials all hail from the planet Zabvron.

Gertz, who grew up in Glenview, said her real-life neighbors were a much more heterogeneous bunch. My guess is they were a lot funnier, too. “The Neighbors” is a stinker, despite Gertz giving it her all. It premieres at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on WLS-Channel 7.

“I lived on a very interesting street: Covert Road,” Gertz said. “We had Italian families, Greek families, Irish, German — the immigrant population that came to America. We all respected one another and one another’s beliefs. My Jewish father would dress up as Santa Claus for [the neighbors’] kids.”

Gertz was discovered at the age of 16 in a Chicago talent search. She spent much of her junior and senior years of high school being tutored on the set of her first TV series, the early ’80s comedy “Square Pegs.”

With her acting career launched, Gertz left the Chicago area for good after graduating from Maine East High School in Park Ridge. The 46-year-old actress now lives in California with her husband and three children, ages 20, 17 and 13. Her brother, Michael Gertz, stuck around; he lives in Deerfield with his wife and three kids.

“What I love about the Midwest and Midwestern people is that they’re open and helpful but they’re not intrusive,” Gertz said. “There’s a healthy respect for your neighbors.”

While Gertz remembers Glenview fondly, she admits that her neighborhood, like any, had a few loose screws.

“There were some where it was like, ‘Don’t take the Halloween candy from that one.’ ”

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