By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 22, 2001 at 5:32 AM

The best live action sitcom on television right now is Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle." Though it's consistently hilarious partly because of brilliant writing, the talented cast brings the show to life and deserves a lot of the credit. And one of our own is part of that great cast.

Milwaukee native Jane Kaczmarek plays Lois Wilkerson, mother to Francis, Reese, Malcolm and Dewey and wife of Hal. The slightly eccentric yet loving Lois is the heart of the show and generates most of its laughs thanks to her creative parenting methods. The outstanding Kaczmarek was generous enough to answer a few of our questions. Since you've been playing Lois, what -- if anything -- have you learned about parenting?

Kaczmarek: Don't be afraid to say no and stick to it. I read an article that made so much sense. It was talking about not ending sentences with "OK?' When there are things you want a child to do, don't say, 'It's time to go to bed, OK?' No. It's time to go to bed. Take control of your role as the adult in that family. I think children thrive in boundaries. And I think they're looking for you to protect them within those boundaries, so they can go bananas in those boundaries. I've really gained a lot of confidence in that. "Malcolm in the Middle" is fiction of course, but I like to see parents who take control of their family and their situations and know that those are the children and they're the adults and that they know better. I think one of the wisest things anyone's ever said is, 'Because I'm the mother, that's why.'

OMC: Is Lois a good mom? Why or why not?

JK: She's a great mother. She works. They can't afford any help so she manages to take care of those kids along with working. They have dinner together every night. Those kids don't get away with anything. I think the reason their mischief is so much fun to watch is because they're under such scrutiny by that mother. In order to get away with it, they have to be really clever, which is why it's fun to watch what they're up to. I think if those parents were lax or more liberal in their leanings about child raising, those kids would do things much more out in the open. And once you're trying to get away with things out in the open, they don't make a TV series about it.

OMC: Reese causes a lot of problems for you and Hal, and you two have to constantly come up with ways to punish him. Do you ever talk out your own ideas?

JK: Not as much as my children are so small at this point. We have wonderful writers who've all had wonderful, colorful childhoods and they come up with all this stuff. It's almost taken from all of their childhood experiences one way or the other.

OMC: Would you ever use any of them in real life?

JK: Without a doubt. I hope I don't have to. I think having four boys is a much, much different situation than I have right now. But I think abuse can be physical or verbal. I mean as long as the punishment isn't physically hurting the kid or verbally damaging the kid, anything goes.

OMC: Favorite childhood memory of growing up in Wisconsin?

JK: The first thing that comes to mind is Leon's. We grew up around Pulaski High School, so going to Leon's for frozen custard. And then there was this drop forge that my father used to take us to. All those wonderful factories on the south side. We used to sit there on summer nights and it was deafening. There was some huge drop forge and the steel would be red-hot, and something was pouring into something and something was being slammed. And you'd just sit there eating your custard on a warm summer night with your dad and it was just heaven.

This interview was done in conjunction with FOX 6 anchor Joyce Garbaciak. Tune in to "6 to Watch," Sun., April 22, at 9 p.m., for more with Jane Kaczmarek and her husband Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing"). Only on FOX 6.