Sterling Knight as Zander and Taylor Spreitler as Lennox Scanlon on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” (Image courtesy of ABC FAMILY)
Actor Sterling Knight is known for his Disney Channel role, starring alongside Demi Lovato in “Sonny with a Chance” (2009-2011)and also on the show “So Random!” (2011-2012), as a talented singer/guitarist, he showing his musical talent in the 2010 Disney Channel film “StarStruck”.
And now, Sterling Knight has joined the cast of ABC Family’s sitcom “Melissa & Joey” as the character Zander, a good friend of Lennox Scanlon (portrayed by Taylor Spreitler).
To promote the current season of “Melissa & Joey”, Sterling too part in a media Q&A.
Here is a transcript from the media Q&A:
Moderator How did you meet Demi Lovato?
Sterling I actually met Demi at the audition for the pilot of Sonny with a Chance, which is interesting given the fact that we’re both from Texas; she’s from Dallas, I’m from Houston. But we actually met in the audition in front of all of the producers and writers and all the scary people in suits. I think, actually, our first meeting or second meeting is online on YouTube in my audition video.
Moderator Do you hang out with the cast of Sonny with a Chance and So Random?
Sterling We do, we all try and get together every once in a while. It’s been a couple years now — everybody’s pretty busy on other things, but we do try and make time and hang out with each other. It’s a good little family that we all started out with, and it’s always fun to get the gang back together.
Moderator Could you describe your character on Melissa & Joey?
Sterling Zander is the nicest lovable idiot, I think. He’s not the brightest bulb in the batch. He constantly puts his foot in his mouth, but he’s very well intentioned and he wants good things for people. He just kind of ends up messing things up every once in a while and can’t really get his foot out of his mouth. He’s been really fun to play.
Moderator What is it like working with Taylor Spreitler?
Sterling Well it’s helpful playing against Taylor’s character, because her character’s humor is so dry and witty, it makes my job a lot easier to sell the dummy a little bit. But I’ve known Taylor for years; I think we’ve been friends for, gosh, seven years, eight years now. So it’s been really exciting to finally get to work with somebody that I’ve known for so long.
We have a really great relationship, both personally and professionally. We hang out outside of work, and it’s always nice to go into your job and have a friend there and hang out. We usually make each other laugh when we’re not making each other angry [laughs].
Moderator What would you tell those readers who haven’t yet watched Melissa & Joey?
Sterling I think the writing on Melissa & Joey is probably one of the better sitcom writings I’ve watched, and especially these later seasons. Obviously because I’m there, I think the writing’s gotten a lot better [laughs]. But every show it takes them a while to kind of find their groove, and I think this show has really found it. I think it explores the ABC Family tagline. It does explore a modern take on the household, and especially the banter between Melissa and Joey is kind of priceless. I’m a big fan of the show!
Moderator Will you and Joey Lawrence ever work on some music together?
Sterling Actually a couple weeks ago I brought my guitar to set, just because I wasn’t very heavy in one of the episodes so there’s a lot of downtime. So I was messing around with the guitar, and Joey came in and we had a little jam session. I mean that was fun, but I don’t know if that will ever happen professionally. He may not want to work with me; he’s a lot more talented, especially as a dancer, than I am [laughs].
Moderator What is it like to film in front of a live studio audience?
Sterling I love it! I grew up in theater, so the multi-camera sitcom with a live audience is about as close to putting on a play as you can get while still not having to rehearse for 19 weeks and then do eight shows a week, which is always kind of nice. But I really think that it makes something special out of a weird, awkward situation. As soon as the audience is there it kind of freshens everything up; all the jokes that you’ve been hearing and rehearsing all week get new energy and new life, and I know that the entire cast responds really well with a good high-energy audience. It’s really fun to hear people screaming at you while you’re trying to take directions.
Moderator How hard is it to keep a straight face while filming?
Sterling Impossible. I’m really bad at it, which is awful. I’ll go ahead and I’ll throw myself under the bus here, I actually practice keeping a straight face sometimes. So I’ll watch really funny standup comedy routines or something like that and try to not laugh while watching it. Which essentially makes watching the stand up comedy not enjoyable, because I don’t get to laugh. But it’s really difficult; that’s something that I have trouble with. I don’t know, everybody on that show is capable of making me laugh, so it’s hard.
Moderator Who is the funniest on set?
Sterling Everybody’s funny in different ways. Melissa has out-of-context quotes that are just so left field and they’re hilarious, but Joey has better rant comedy. If he gets really worked up about something he’ll take a good two minutes and just kind of let loose on a topic, and that’s hilarious. Everybody has their own kind of style, but I don’t know, Joey probably makes me laugh more than anybody.
Moderator What’s your most and least favorite thing about your character, Zander?
Sterling Probably my most favorite thing about Zander is sort of his likeability. He’s just a good guy and he’s trying, which is pretty different from the Chad Dillon Cooper on Sonny with a Chance and So Random, who was the likeable jerk, or at least I tried to make him likeable. So I think my favorite part is Zander is just a genuinely good person and it’s hard to get mad at him or dislike him in any way.
My least favorite part is probably that he’s an artist, simply because I can’t draw a stick figure very well but I have to pretend I’m making these amazing sketches and photos. I have to hold the pencil like an artist would, and I feel useless every time. Every time they hand me the sketchpad I’m like, “I don’t know what to do.”
Moderator What is your favorite character you’ve gotten to play in your career?”
Sterling Character wise was probably either Chad Dillon Cooper from Sonny with a Chance or Alex from 17 Again. Just because the Chad character was so ridiculous and very not like myself. And then the Alex character from 17 Again — I used to be that kid, and so it was nice getting back in that socially awkward position, like you don’t enjoy going to high school. So I know not to take for granted that progress I’ve made socially.
Moderator What other TV shows beside Melissa & Joey are you watching?
Sterling Well, I mean I just got done with Breaking Bad, and that was quite epic, obviously, because it’s Breaking Bad. I’m actually kind of behind on a lot of the shows. So I’m in season two or season three of Nip/Tuck, so I’m catching up on a lot of the really good television shows from a couple years ago.
But the ones that are currently on, obviously I’m anticipating the next season of Game of Thrones, like everybody. And, oh goodness, Shameless is like my guilty pleasure, because I hate admitting that I watch it because the characters are just such bad people [laughs]. But the acting and the writing on it are phenomenal, and I just can’t get enough of it. So that’s probably my guilty pleasure right now.
Moderator If you could pick someone to work with, either past or present, who would it be and why?
Sterling Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s probably too quick of a response, but I’ve always really liked his work and his choices. Oddly enough, I don’t see it, but a lot of people say I remind them of a young Leo. I don’t see it, but I’ll take the compliment.
He started out in a sitcom like I did, you know he started out with Growing Pains, and I think that the choices he’s made as an actor creatively and professionally navigating those uncharted waters, just trying to figure everything out, I think he’s done a really good job of it. He’s gone all across the board with the characters and the movies that he’s done, and I find that really respectful. That’s probably the guy I would want to work with just to sit him down and pick his brain a little bit.
Moderator Can you compare working with ABC Family and Disney Channel?
Sterling Well, they’re in the same building, but on different floors. That’s fun; I know exactly where I’m going when I have a meeting. But I think they’re pretty similar; they run a tight ship in regards to how they do their shows and the network’s interest level in the production. But, obviously, we get to say a little more on ABC Family, which is always exciting. But I think it’s fairly similar, other than the sexy jokes and some of the content’s a little different.
But I think it’s a nice step for me personally. I think Melissa & Joey’s been great. I love working there, and it is a natural progression for my fans. But they’re getting older, it’s been a couple years since the Disney stuff, and I think the content is age appropriate for that late teen, early 20s demographic. Yes, it’s been great.
Moderator If Disney Channel would bring back So Random or Sonny with a Chance would you go for a reunion?
Sterling Yes, I’d love to do a reunion show, get the whole gang back together and go make some laughs. I think that would be really fun. So, yes, I’m down!
Moderator How familiar were you with Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence as actors on notable shows in the 80’s and 90’s?
Sterling It was actually pretty funny. I’m usually not very star struck or get nervous or anything like that, but I grew up on Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Drive Me Crazy. And then Joey’s stuff, I watched Brotherly Love religiously, which was his show with Matt and Andy on the Disney Channel, and all those Disney movies that all the Lawrence brothers did.
So I was actually very nervous to be on set, you know I grew up watching these guys. They couldn’t be nicer people and nicer co-stars. They’re very welcoming and very professional. Obviously they both know what they’re doing, been doing it for long enough. So it’s been a real blessing to work with them. They’re just good people.
Moderator Can you recall the very first moment that you went on set and filmed a scene with them?
Sterling Absolutely. I just remember it was so nice having Taylor there, because I could pull her aside and go, “Ah, oh my God, that’s, oh it’s Melissa Joan Hart.” And she’s like, “Calm down” so Taylor was a really helpful friend to have there to calm me down as we’re rehearsing and I’m getting to know everybody. It’s tricky when you’re a recurring character coming in for the first time; you’re a guest in their house, and you have to navigate those waters carefully. But they’re fantastic, so my nerves were for nothing.
Moderator How do you feel about Mel and Joe dating on the show?
Sterling I love it! I especially love it because I know that they’re not attracted to each other at all on camera, so it’s kind of funny to have to watch them go, “I don’t want to kiss you. Uh. Okay” [laughs].
I know a lot of the times with these shows where it’s two people that you really want to get together – when they finally do a lot that magic and tension is gone, but I think that both Melissa and Joey have done a really great job keeping that chemistry there. That banter keeps everyone interested. I think that’s the best part of the show, their banter together.
Moderator What is it like on set since you’ve done both television and film?
Sterling I’m going to go ahead and say a multi-camera sitcom is pretty much the best job in the entertainment industry; it’s as close to 9-to-5 as you can get, it’s Monday through Friday, and you can have a social life outside of work, which is nice. And movies is shooting six days a week, sometimes fourteen hours, sixteen hours a day, and I love that.
So they’re both very different and they’re both challenging for different reasons. I’m just weird enough to enjoy being covered in my own blood and mud and climbing through the swamps of Louisiana for sixteen hours a day, and put me in a nice, cushy soundstage for a couple hours to rehearse. I’m good either way!
Moderator Which country would you like to visit?
Sterling A couple years ago I went to Australia and New Zealand and I had the time of my life, so I would love to go back there again. But places that I haven’t been — probably Japan or England, and England would probably be easier to navigate seeing as we speak close to the same language.
Moderator What is your favorite food?
Sterling My favorite food is actually escargot, as weird as that sounds, and that’s only because I never get to have it. That’s always just a nice, special thing that I get to have every once in a while.
But my favorite food that I actually get to eat more often than not is just a good steak. I’m a Texas boy, so you get me a good steak and some veggies, and I’m good.
Images: (ABC FAMILY/Bruce Birmelin)
TAYLOR SPREITLER, STERLING KNIGHT, MELISSA JOAN HART
Q&A media session with Melissa Joan Hart: ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” (May 2012) (J!-ENT Interviews & Articles)
Melissa Joan Hart plays the character of Melissa Burke on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” (Image courtesy of ABC FAMILY)
Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence make their return in the third season of ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey”!
For many of us who grew up watching Nickelodeon the early ’90s, actress Melissa Joan Hart was an actress that captured the attention of many viewers as the blonde, blue-eyed crafty Clarissa Darling. And when the series ended, needless to say, for many guys or fans of Melissa, many would go through “Clarissa withdrawal”.
But fortunately, in the mid-’90s, Melissa Joan Hart would return with a few “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” movies and it would eventually lead to the multi-award winning ABC comedy series “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” which lasted from 1996-2003.
And as many viewers have grown up watching Melissa Joan Hart on television, many can now watch her on the hit ABC Family comedy series “Melissa & Joey”, a series which Melissa also stars alongside another actor which many have grown up watching on television, Joey Lawrence.
“Melissa & Joey” features Melissa Joan Hart as the character Melissa Burke. Melissa Burke was a former wild child that came from a political family and now, having matured, she now has aspirations to become a politician. But a scandal hits the family when her sister ends up in prison and her brother-in-law flees. So now, Melissa is forced to take care of her teenage niece Lennox and her nephew Ryder.
And its difficult enough to focus on politics and taking care of two teenagers, so in desperate need of help, she hires Joey (played by Joey Lawrence), who moves in with the family to become the family’s nanny… or “manny”.
And now the third season of “Melissa & Joey” is set to premiere on Wednesday, May 30th and recently a Q&A media session was held with Melissa Joan Hart who talks about the third season of the ABC Family show and also directing episodes for this new season.
Here is a transcript from the media Q&A:
Moderator In addition to being the star of the show, your Heartbreak Films also produces Melissa & Joey. Could you tell us about your creative vision for this season?
M. J. Hart That’s up to the writers. We have a writing team, the executive producers/show runners, which is Bob and David, David Kendall and Bob Young, and they are, along with a team of really great writers, they sort of plot out the season along with the network.
This second season, it was just—you know what was nice about it—I think we started off really strong. I think our first season, which consisted of 30 episodes, but I think our first few even just out of the gate were great.
I think that we had a really great crew. We had really great writing staff. We had a great cast. It was able to all gel really well together, and I think that’s kind of rare. If you watch a lot of shows, it takes a while to get the ball rolling.
But that being said, I think we came out of the gate pretty strong. But at the same time the second season just gets better, and I think that happens with every show. As the oil in the machine starts to really warm up, you just get the ball rolling and you get these stronger episodes. So in the second season we just have funnier, more solid episodes.
Moderator Is there anything you can tell us about any surprises we can look forward to this summer?
M. J. Hart There are some surprises. I don’t know how far I’m allowed to say. Last season, season one, ended with a bathtub falling through the roof. So the beginning of the show starts off with a few episodes about the construction and the family living on top of each other.
Mel has a little fling with the cabinetmaker, played by Bren Foster, but then there is some stuff that happens at the end where Joey falls in love with a Russian colleague and there’s quite a little romance that goes on there, and that’s an arc. We have that for a few episodes. So Mel has to put up with this Russian chick in her house.
But in between that, there are really just a lot of fun, standalone story lines that happen and some great guest stars. This season it was really about keeping it light. Not having that very special episode. We don’t like to do those. We just want to make people laugh.
Moderator Could you tease us some of the other guest stars we’ll be seeing this season?
M. J. Hart Yes. Bren Foster, I think he’s Australian and he’s in one of the episodes; one of the first few episodes, one of the one’s that will air next week. Who else do we have? All the 45 episodes we’ve done kind of run together. So I’m having trouble remembering what people have seen and what they haven’t.
Who else do we have? Christine Lakin comes back for a really funny episode. She played my friend in one of the episodes last season. This season she is looking for a sperm donor and happens to want some of Joey’s stuff. That’s one of my favorite episodes; that is my favorite episode of this season coming up, the sperm donor episode.
But yes, that’s all I can think of right now. But Debi Mazar plays a great character. She’s like my—I’m thinking about reelection and she is my coach, my reelection campaign manager. So she is—it’s an episode called “The Knockout” and it’s pretty funny.
There’s a guy in a movie theater who starts picking a fight with Ryder, my nephew, and I stand up to him after telling Joey not to. I knock him out and it gets on video and it goes viral. And then the whole campaign is around whether or not I should be promoting the fact that I knock him out kind of thing, whether or not that’s a good example for the kids. It’s a really fun episode, and Debi Mazar does a great job in it.
And she and I met on the set of Dancing with the Stars. I really like bringing in a lot of these people that I’ve worked with before. That’s one of the fun parts about being Executive Producer is finding talented people all over the place and being able to work with them.
Moderator What is it about being a part of Twitter that really helps you with the promotion and connecting with people who are fans of the show?
M. J. Hart Well within two seconds I can correspond with 200,000 people, which is pretty incredible; across the world. And what I really like about it is just seeing the immediate response of things.
Like the other night, “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” the first movie, the Showtime movie was on. I don’t know what it was one, but it aired and my timeline was filled with people just talking about it. Being shocked that Ryan Reynolds was in that movie. It was just funny to see how many people were watching it.
I think it was actually maybe airing in the U.K. or the U.K. just got Netflix. So they can now watch Melissa & Joey in the U.K., which they’re all very excited about because it’s not airing yet there on a network and they’re all mad at me about that. But it’s fun. It’s like that instant response to of like, you know, just driving people to try products that I like or to know a little something about my family or something that I find funny.
I try to be careful not to over use it too much, but to also give everyone like a flavor of everything. Like what it’s like for me being a mom. What it’s like for me being an actress. What it’s like for me being a wife, you know. So like little tidbits of what my inside life is like.
But of course it’s an amazing tool to use. To be able to reach fans and get the audience to move, whether it’s for a certain charity reason or to watch the show, that kind of thing. It’s really amazing too to see how many shows this season got picked up because there was a buzz even though the ratings weren’t there. So you know that it can be used to help push different projects through.
Moderator Both you and Joey Lawrence are directing this season. How does that affect the way you prepare for the episode?
M. J. Hart It’s just a lot more work. It’s a lot of work. I’m trying to remember what my episode was even about. I’m having such a hard time with this season; getting it so confused with the other season. It’s just so much prep because you’re involved in every step of it along the way, even more so than just being an executive producer.
You have the production meeting with the entire crew where you decide what prop will get used for this scene and what effect might be used for this scene or what camera might be used for this scene. And then you’re working with the camera coordinator or DP on lightening and this and that staging. And then you’ve got to get the actors to listen to you, which in this case is really difficult.
We all help each other out all the time anyways. It’s a very collaborative effort always, but when you’re the director you get so nervous. It’s like, “What if Joey doesn’t want to listen to me? What if Taylor won’t go where I tell her to? What if they don’t like my ideas? What if they think I’m terrible? What if I annoy them? What if I don’t say enough?”
So it’s always hard being an actor and talking to other actors, but I think that other actors kind of respect an actor’s director more so than a camera director because you’ll get help with your acting. You’ll get attention paid to your actual performance as opposed to just, “Go here. Go there. Stay in your light. Get on camera,” because you have different kinds of directors. You have ones that just care about the camera and the lighting and then you have ones that also care about the performance.
As an actor I’ve seen that, and it’s difficult sometimes to not have someone paying attention to your performance when you really want that guidance. So luckily we all take great notes and we adjust and we’re very collaborative. So it’s a really fun process, but you just get nervous like, “What if they don’t like my ideas.” So it’s a lot of work.
And then you’ve got to do the editing once that episode is done. When you’re acting, it’s Monday to Friday. When you’re directing it’s like a three to four week process.
Moderator Having a background as a teen actor, do you think that’s given you a better insight into working with Taylor and Nick on the show?
M. J. Hart It’s funny. Joey and I both—they both respect us a lot, which is really nice. Teenagers, you never know if they’re going to totally rebel or be willing to learn, and they’re both really willing to learn. They really want to be in this business for a long time and they see what we’ve been able to do and they have shown that they really respect us. So it’s nice because we feel free to be able to tell them, “When you do this or you do that be careful,” or, “Watch out on social networks.”
They come to us sometimes with advice too, “What should we do with our career this way or that way?” And Taylor and I have become very, very close. She turns to me sometimes for boy advice and she baby-sits for me once in a while, which is really nice. So it is, it’s a great little working relationship.
Joey and I are constantly rolling our eyes and having flashbacks to our own years on sitcoms when we had aunts and uncles and parents on the show, and now here we are basically the aunt and uncle of these teenagers. On Sabrina I had two aunts. So now I’m the aunt. It’s weird. I hear myself saying things that they would say to me like, “You need to wear a bra.” I hear myself say it and I go, “Gosh, I remember rolling my eyes at Caroline Rhea when she said that to me.”
It’s funny; the tables have turned a bit. But we’re really lucky that we have good kids that are willing to listen, learn and be a part of the cast, really be an active part.
Moderator Have you guys ever shot a scene where you couldn’t stop laughing? Like you just kept doing bloopers?
M. J. Hart Yes. We’ve had a few of those. There have been a few. We use iPhones on the set and sometimes we snap pictures with the iPhones. And then other times we have to be pretending we’re looking at the phone and kind of turning it to each other and saying, “See look. See the message,” or whatever, but there’ll be a stupid picture on the phone and it just makes us giggle and it’s always hard to pull it back.
I think there was an episode coming up where Nick had to eat a lot of junk food, junk food from the vending machines at school as a school project for Taylor to write about in her blog. There were snowballs and all this stuff on the set. He was trying to eat but he was just so disgusted by all the food he had to eat. There was a lot spit takes in that one.
Moderator What challenges will Mel be facing with the kids this season?
M.J. Hart Well they’re getting older. There’s an episode where Taylor tries to befriend the new girl that she sees at school because she was the new girl last year. So she’s trying to be the good person by bringing this girl into her circle and trying to befriend her, but realizes that not everybody wants to be popular or liked or taken under someone’s wing.
There are a few episodes about relationships. Nick has a little girlfriend who we adore on the show. She’s been back and forth a little bit, Holly. She pretty much tortures him. So there are a few episodes with her involved.
And Taylor has a few episodes where she’s got a romantic guy with her. The one I directed with her and—what was the actor’s name? Anyway we’ve got these great little teen actors on the show and one of them plays her boyfriend for—for a few episodes—and there’s a nice little story line that happens with her and that relationship and us giving her relationship advice and stuff like that.
So the typical teen stuff, but they are getting older and they’re starting to teach us a few things as well.
Moderator What do you admire most about Mel?
M.J. Hart She’s really determined. She sets her heart to something. She thinks she’s got the—when she thinks she’s on the right path or she thinks there’s a mission to accomplish she will get to it. She will finish that mission. She is one of those women that is determined and has her convictions and sees things through, but she does it in a really silly, funny way.
Moderator We know last season ended when you kissed Joe when you left his apartment and then you guys kind of didn’t really address it through the rest of the episode and then he moved back in. Is that going to be something that is addresses this season? I know you mentioned you guys both are going to have different love interests.
M. J. Hart No, once we moved back in together I think the whole idea was that we realized we can’t have a working relationship and—I think the idea behind that was that when we were thinking about living separate lives we could maybe date, but the fact that we’re under the same roof kind of trying to raise these kids together, again, doesn’t leave much room for romance. So that got left behind in season one.
So season two will pick up sort of the same way season one did, which is just that constant, “Is he the right guy for me?” “Is she the right girl for me?” “Am I missing the person that’s right under my nose,” and then that whole, “No, I don’t want to be with that person.” So it’s that cat and dog, that constant flirting but never really getting together moonlighting kind of thing.
Moderator It’s a fun story line to watch. So I hope it kind of continues to weave in and out.
M. J. Hart We both believe, and I think the network and the writers are behind us on it, we’re fine with hinting at it once in a while and winking at the audience a little bit like we know we should be together but it’s not going to happen. But we don’t think that that relationship, unless we can come up with a really interesting new twist, the Ross/Rachel sort of thing.
When you get these characters together a lot of time it sort of kills the drive of the show. It kills the funny. And part of the funny part of this show is that they’re idiots that they’re not getting together, but at the same time it works for them.
So I think that maybe we’ll do a season finale at some point or do a show finale where they get together, but I don’t think—I’d rather them have a baby together than get together. Have like a one-night fling kind of thing. I think that would cause a lot more—you want that sexual tension, I think. It really drives the show.
Moderator Is there a particular scene that you had with Joey, as you think back over the past few episodes that really stand out as one of your favorite highlights since working on the show?
M. J. Hart There have been a few. I mean the season ender in season one was pretty great. There’s a scene in his apartment and we’re eating Chinese food and there’s that moment where we could kiss. We might not kiss. We’re sharing Chinese. It’s dark. There was that—that was a nice moment.
But the ones we really like are the ones where we’re just bickering endlessly, and it’s that fast paced, quick, cutting humor. There are a few scenes I can remember in the kitchen around the island, in the season coming up, where it’s just—I think one of the ones I’m thinking of is the sperm donor episode where we just are tearing into each other. I’m picking on him. He realizes he was wrong or vice versa a lot of the time, where one of us is just kind of poking at the other one.
And it’s that fun, fast comedy that you don’t really see that often anymore. You see a lot of it in old movies like “His Girl Friday,” where it’s that fast paced humor going on, and we like to do that. Those are the ones when we have a hard time not cracking up at each other. But one of the more sentimental moments was definitely the end of season one.
Moderator Another episode that our listeners at the radio station really love is the interaction between you and your kids, and one of them would be you going out with Lennox to a concert and getting kicked out of the club. How much of those particular episodes or how many of those moments do you actually get input on? Is any of that based on true to life experiences of Melissa or Joey?
M. J. Hart The structure of it’s always there from the writers, but then we like to tweak it within itself, like the episode with climbing out the window and stuff like that.
I like to constantly remind the writers, not that they need a lot of reminding, that I don’t know what I’m doing here, that I don’t want to know what I’m doing. I want to make mistakes, as a parent. That’s where a lot of the humor comes from, and that’s true to life, I think, too. We’ve been thrown these teenagers. It’s not like we raised them from scratch. There’s a lot of room for error.
What I really like to do is go look at my natural parenting instincts and do the opposite. So a lot of the time if I feel like there’s something that can be the opposite or there’s an episode where we’re kind of lecturing the kids too much we’ll go sit down with the writers and say, “We think it’d be really funny if the kids actually lectured us on this,” or if Lennox and I are both sneaking into the house late at night and have to shush each other because we don’t want to wake up Joey. Both of us don’t want to get in trouble, inappropriate behavior as adults really.
Moderator It seems like there are a lot of chances for improvisational on set with your cast.
M. J. Hart We do. That’s what’s great about doing the live show too. We shoot live on Friday nights, which I’ve never really done before, but it does really help because you get to try out different jokes in front of the audience. You do three or four takes and you try out a few different jokes and see which one gets the biggest laugh and then hopefully the editor will use that one.
It’s fun to be able to sort of improve that stuff. And sometimes one thing will happen that’s totally authentic and natural and they’ll use it in the episode, which is wonderful.
Moderator You were a child actress on Nickelodeon on the first series with a female lead. And back then we all know the network had some doubts about whether teens would actually tune in. So now that you’re on a network kind of known for this genre is that something that attracted you to ABC Family?
M. J. Hart ABC Family has been doing great things for years now. Well they had Sabrina on the air for many, many, many years and they also did my wedding as a reality show way back when, nine years ago. They’re just one of those networks that has gotten stronger over the years. They’re backed by Disney and Disney’s principals, but at the same time they’re much more grown up. They’re able to take more risks probably even than ABC proper just because it is cable.
But yes, it’s female driven and I think that they’ve realized that females are the consumers. Females are the ones that are watching more TV while the men are tuned into ESPN, yet another Disney channel. The women and girls are watching ABC Family.
I love that they took a risk with this show, especially Melissa & Joey, just being that they don’t really have adult humor on the channel. They don’t really have comedy. So now they’re starting to build these comedy blocks and they’re realizing that they’re actually drawing in men with our show as well, I think.
I noticed a lot of men, a lot of men, coming up to me and saying, “I love your show. My wife made me watch it and now I’m hooked.” And a lot more men are being drawn, I think, to the network now because of our show, which is great to hear. It’s just fun because I think it’s really a kind of comedy men can get behind.
I think people these days, the audience is really searching for shows like this because there’s just not that much left on network. There are great shows on cable and whatnot, but I also think a lot of those are big time commitment. They’re these shows that are episodic. So if you miss one week you’ve missed a lot. I’ve missed the last few weeks of House. So I feel like I’m totally lost.
But then with a comedy there’s not really that many like Friends, like The Cosby Show shows on the air. And that’s what we really wanted to do was put that back out there. I think they’re finding that it’s a real draw and that when people are finding it they’re really sticking with it.
Moderator From your experience with ABC Family thus far, what kind of character crossovers maybe from other ABC Family shows would you potentially like to see in some of the upcoming Melissa & Joey episodes?
M. J. Hart The fact that they don’t really have any comedies it makes it tough for a crossover with our show. But last season we had a guy play my love interest for three episodes who was from Greek. So that was fun. He had so many fans on the network of course that tuned in to see him on our show that we got new fans because of that.
But hopefully they’ll bring—they have these new comedies coming out, and hopefully we’ll be able to get some really great actors to kind of come in and cross over a little bit, but as of right now we haven’t really had that discussion yet.
Moderator What would your dream casting be for Mel’s very infamous sister and brother-in-law? Have you ever thought about that? Who you’d like to play them?
M. J. Hart We’ve actually already seen the brother-in-law in a Halloween episode last year. This season you meet her mom. And Chris Rich plays my dad in a few episodes, which he’s fantastic, so much fun. We love having him on. He’s just kooky funny. He fits right in with us.
We have not seen my sister yet though. But it’s funny. I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I just don’t know. It would be so tricky because she has to be a little bit older than me. She has to look like the family. She has to look like the kids because they’re her kids. So it would be really tricky.
We have actually thought of someone that we thought looked like Taylor older, but now I can’t think of who it was. But there are so many phenomenal actors out there. I think it would be fantastic to even go out and to a casting and find a new talent. Not just stunt cast it, but to find someone really funny who could really fit in and become a part of the continuing guest cast and come back and do a recurring possibly.
But I don’t know. I’ll have to give that more thought. Sorry I can’t give you a name right now.
Moderator You have been a successful teen/child actor with Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. And you made the transition to being an adult actress, which a lot of teen stars find difficult. What has been the secret to your success with that?
M. J. Hart I’m actually in the process of possibly writing a book about that because I don’t really know what that recipe is. I think that a lot of the balance and success in my life comes from my family. It comes from my mom and my dad and my siblings growing up, and now from my husband and my children and putting that always as a priority. Having that as my balance, as my sort of gage of where to go with my life.
But as far as my career, I think it’s just been that at a young age growing up on the East Coast in this business I did a lot of auditioning. It was pretty cut throat. There was a lot of competition, and if you weren’t the best one for the job there was someone right behind you to do it. So you had to work really hard. You had to know your lines. You had to hit your mark. You had to have the biggest smile and think those Fruit Loops were the best thing ever.
And I think that I learned that if I want longevity I’ve just got to stick it out. I’ve got to work hard, and that’s—I’ve never given up. No matter—this career, in this business you just go up and you go down. There’s no finding that soaring star to hitch onto and carry you off into the galaxy. It’s constant work to reinvent and figure out the next role and keep working upward.
I’ve just learned that if I want to stick with it that’s what I’ve got to do. If I want a career in this business and I don’t want to transition and do something else, then I need to stick with it. Keep auditioning. Keep meeting people. Keep reinventing myself, finding great characters to play.
And that’s where producing comes in as well. I started producing at the age of 17 because I wanted to have some control over the projects I was putting out there and the characters I was playing. So producing has definitely helped.
And then also transitioning to directing because I got a little bit bored with the acting. I wanted to be more creative and found directing. So that’s been a great outlet for me as well just to keep me in the business. I just love being on a set. I don’t necessarily always need to act. I just love being on a set.
Moderator Is there an aspect or a quality about your character on this show that you enjoy playing the most?
M. J. Hart I love that she’s a mess. She’s a big hot mess and I love that because every other show I’ve played the characters have sort of been really put together and, you know, they’ve been careful with their choices and sort of always been the grounded centered ones of the show. And this one I like that my character gets to be an absolute disaster and has to get her way out of—It’s kind of like I Love Lucy. She’s constantly getting herself in a mess and having to figure it out, and I love that.
I love being able to be selfish and silly and just a little exaggerated. I love being able to wear really high heels and not be able to walk in them very well and use physical humor as well as the words on the page to make people laugh.
Moderator If you could create any new kind of TV show that you’ve wanted what would it be like?
M. J. Hart You know it’s about reinventing the wheel, but I would like to just go back to old family comedy, kind of like what we’re doing. I miss shows like The Cosby Show and Family Ties. These shows that we grew up on that kind of gave us an outlet, a place to be entertained. A place to also feel like we were represented on television as far as kids or teenagers or seeing parents misbehave. Knowing that if Bill Cosby does that then my dad’s not so weird I guess.
Comedy is just lacking on television right now, and I miss having shows to go to where you can just laugh and forget your troubles for a half an hour. And if you miss one you didn’t miss the—you can skip season to season and still be entertained. So that’s what I would want to see come back on—and I’ve been, myself, trying to develop a few different sitcoms as well to try and get something out there.
But I’ve been working in the race world for a little while. I love racecar driving, and I’ve been out pitching an idea for a racecar driving sitcom that I think would be really funny. Kind of in the vein of “Taxi” as an adult comedy, but I don’t know. Everybody is so afraid of the racing world so I don’t know if it’s going to happen.
Moderator When you watch TV with your husband or with your kids can you tell us any sort of shows that you like to watch together?
M. J. Hart My husband and I like to go through seasons these days of shows. We did Friday Night Lights together last summer, and it just was amazing for our marriage and for us at night to put the kids to bed and just stay up watching episode after episode of Friday Night Lights in order. We watched them all in about three weeks and it just—it was such a nice escape for us.
But now we’ve just gone through all the seasons of How I Met Your Mother and we’re currently trying to figure out what our next series is going to be. I would like it to be Dexter, but I think he wants to do another comedy. So we’ll see who wins that battle for the next one.
But with the kids, they’re really growing up quick right now. They’re into Transformers and Avengers and all these shows that are on The Hub right now, but we still try to keep them tuned to Disney Channel and do things like Little Einsteins.
We’re trying to keep them young because I’m so sick of the blowing up things in the house and play fighting and that kind of thing. So I’m trying to really keep them tuned into the baby shows, especially since we have a new baby coming. I want to keep it soft and quiet around here.
Moderator How do you balance your career and your family?
M. J. Hart Well that’s the trick. That’s what everyone, I think, is striving for these days. I work in L.A. but we live on the East Coast. We live in Connecticut. So during the season when the show’s going on I travel back and forth. This last season for these 15 episodes we shot these 15 in 18 weeks and I came home almost every weekend. I didn’t go more than ten days without seeing my kids this time around.
But the first season was tough because I went sometimes 16 days without seeing my kids, which was really difficult on me. You can see that in the first season, as I gained a lot of weight in the first season, as the season progressed. I think because of a little bit of depression being away from my family and having to do both, work and try to be a full-time mom.
I’m really lucky and blessed that I have a wonderful husband who also has a career like mine where he can do his music at home or at his studio and have time to be at the kids’ hockey games or bath time. He makes them breakfast every day. He’s very hands on and I’m really lucky. Without him I couldn’t do it.
We also have a great nanny who is always with the kids. So I know we have someone we can count to sort of fill my shoes a little bit when I’m gone. But it is—it’s a constant, everyday battle of what’s the schedule? Who can get whom for which activity?
But I made sure that this year I was home—my son left for kindergarten and the show gave me the week off to be with him for his first week of kindergarten. So I try to schedule in important dates like that and be around for them for those things.
But it’s nice. My boys are very well adjusted, luckily, and they don’t have a problem with me leaving. They don’t like it, but they’ve really adjusted well to it and their teachers have all kept a close on them to make sure that—if they have any issues, we’ll all move back to California if we have to. But I really like that they’re here sleeping in their beds with their friends and neighbors and school teachers and having a normal life.
And so I come home—I’m home this whole year. Especially because I’m pregnant now we can’t go back to work on the show anytime soon. So I get 2012 to just be a mom. So I’m really blessed in a way that I get to be a full-time actress and a full-time mom. Where this fall basically I was an actress and now I’m a full-time mom.
And like I said, without my husband here all fall I couldn’t have done it. I couldn’t have gone back and forth. I would’ve had to bring my kids with me and enrolled them in school out there and tried to figure out our lives out there, but I was lucky enough to leave them here at home.
Moderator If your kids showed an interest in the entertainment industry, would you encourage them to follow in your footsteps?
M. J. Hart Mason, the oldest one, he’s starting to. But first of all, I don’t have the time to be taking them to auditions and get photos done and get them a manager, all that nonsense that goes along with it, but if they should show an interest in it, absolutely. I’ll put them in music classes. I’ll send them to acting camp in the summer.
Catch “Melissa & Joey” on Wednesday nights (8/7c) on ABC Family! Second Season premiere is on May 30th!
ABC FAMILY’S ORIGINAL COMEDY SERIES “MELISSA & JOEY” RETURNS FOR SERIES’ SECOND SEASON BEGINNING WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2012 WITH BACK-TO-BACK EPISODES
Burbank, CA (March 12, 2012) – ABC Family kicks off the summer with the second season premiere of “Melissa & Joey,” on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, with back-to-back episodes at 8:00PM and 8:30PM.
Starring Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence, season two of “Melissa & Joey” picks up with Mel’s (Hart) house in disarray after the bathtub crashed through the living room in the season one finale. Joe (Lawrence) continues to help Mel raise her teenage niece (Taylor Spreitler) and nephew (Nick Robinson), while she pursues her career in local politics. The second season features such guest stars as Debi Mazar (“Entourage”), Cody Linley (“Dancing with the Stars, “Hannah Montana”), Gregg Sulkin (“Wizards of Waverly Place”) and comedienne Rita Rudner.
“Melissa & Joey” ranks as ABC Family’s number one comedy of all time in Total Viewers, Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, and Persons 12-34. During its most recent season, “Melissa & Joey” also ranked as the #1 cable program on Wednesdays at 8 o’clock among key demographics Adults 18-34, Women 18-34, Women 18-49, Viewers 12-34 and Females 12-34. “Melissa & Joey” is a half-hour multi-cam comedy executive-produced by Bob Young & David Kendall, Paula Hart, Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence. Melissa Joan Hart, Joey Lawrence, Taylor Spreitler and Nick Robinson star.
Part of the Disney/ABC Television Group, ABC Family is distributed in over 97 million homes. ABC Family features programming reflecting today’s families, entertaining and connecting with adults through relatable programming about today’s relationships – told with a mix of diversity, passion, humor and heart. ABC Family’s programming is a combination of network defining original series and original movies, quality acquired series and blockbuster theatricals. Emmy® Award-winning ABCFamily.com provides a variety of interactive entertainment and community features, from rich, fan-centric programming – including blogs, viewing parties, webisodes, full episodes of the network’s hit programming, along with sneak peek exclusive previews and behind-the-scenes clips. ABC Family is also the destination for annual Holiday events with “13 Nights of Halloween” and “25 Days of Christmas.” ABC Family. A New Kind of Family.
Joey Lawrence plays the character of Joe Longo on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” (Image courtesy of ABC FAMILY)
Millions of Americans grew up with actor Joey Lawrence as he was a familiar face as a child actor in popular ’80s shows such as “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Silver Spoons”.
But for the most part, he is one of the few actors who have worked in popular TV series that aired for three decades.
Most notably for the TV series “Gimme a Break!” (1983-1987), “Blossom” (1990-1995), Lawrence would also star in “Brotherly Love” (1995-1997), “American Dreams” (2002-2003), “Run of the House” (2003-2004), “Half & Half” (2005-2006) and “CSI:NY” (2007).
The multi-talented star who also had a music career (and is still involved in music along with acting) has continued to keep busy with TV films, voice acting for animated series and most recently starring in a new TV series for ABC Family titled “Melissa & Joey” with actress Melissa Joan Hart.
In the half-hour comedy series, Melissa Burke (played by Melissa Joan Hart) is a former wild child of a political family and now, having grown up, she has aspirations to become a politician.
But a scandal hits the family when her sister ends up in prison and her brother-in-law flees. So now, Melissa must take care of her teenage niece Lennox and her nephew Ryder.
And its difficult enough to focus on politics and taking care of two teenagers and desperately needing help, she hires Joe Longo (played by Joey Lawrence), who moves in with the family to become the family’s nanny… or “manny”.
Now, the second season of “Melissa & Joey” is set to premiere on Wednesday, June 29th and recently a Q&A media session was held with Joey Lawrence who talked about the second season, life, family, cooking and much more!
Here is a transcript from the media Q&A:
Moderator What is it about the show that you think keeps people tuning in to Melissa & Joey?
J. Lawrence Well, I don’t know—we just tried to come up with a half-hour comedy that people could relate to, about two young people that are just trying to make life work under unique circumstances and I think that, sort of, basing it in a time of relevance as to what people are going through as of today. We just try to make it lighthearted and funny and let people kind of tune in and escape for a half hour and kick back and laugh. Hopefully if we keep doing our job, people will keep tuning in.
Moderator You’ve had quite the life – have you ever thought of writing a memoir?
J. Lawrence You know, that’s something that I would love to do like in my eighties, if I’m lucky enough to get there.
Moderator How do you think the relationship between Melissa and Joey has evolved since episode one?
J. Lawrence Well I think that where we find them now is that they’re sort of getting into a groove of living together and kind of working together in this cohabitating type of relationship that they have. I think that they’ve developed a real affinity toward each other. There may be a little sexual tension there but I think that they both try to deny that and fight that. I think that that sort of underlying sexual tension is sort of what keeps the show going. Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to further explore that and see how things progress.
Moderator I was reading in a future episode you speak Japanese. How much did you really know and how much was memorized?
J. Lawrence Well I knew none but I had to learn a lot – in about four days. You know, I got to a point where—you know, I mean I guess my teacher said that I picked up the inflection of the language very well, actually, which is hard to do because Japanese is pretty specific; it’s nothing like—it isn’t like speaking Spanish or anything like that. It’s very unique unto itself, and it’s quite difficult to do, but I had like full scenes with four, five pages of dialogue in Japanese, so it took a lot of studying and listening to tapes over the course of three or four days in order to get that.
Moderator Melissa mentioned in a recent call that you each did one shout-out, I guess you could say, to your former characters and shows. She said yours was one word – that was her phrasing. So, of course, any fan of yours knows what it will be. Is that something you still get asked to do a lot by fans? Like for me any time I hear it from anyone, your face and voice are the ones that come to mind.
J. Lawrence Right. Yes, you know – I do, and it’s something that I actually look back on fondly, you know? It was a great period of time in my life and I get asked every single day. I mean it’s pretty amazing when you do something like that and it just transcends time and generations – and we did it as a joke. I mean it was one night, the line that they had written wasn’t working and they told me to kind of make up something in place of it to hopefully get a laugh, and I don’t know where that came from. I just came up with it and they—the audience laughed their rear ends off and all of a sudden, like overnight, it just exploded. It’s kind of crazy.
Moderator Yes, and it’s been so many years now that everybody knows. Everybody still knows it and knows you.
J. Lawrence I know. I know. I had not said it on network television in about—well since ’97, so 13 years, and there was an opportunity in the script where it sort of made sense without doing it—the character doesn’t do it on purpose like that, it just sort of comes out of just a reaction.
J. Lawrence And it just made sense, so I did it and of course you know that’s the one they use in all the promos and stuff because ABC’s not stupid. But yes, it’s—you know, look – I think that things that we do in our past that are successful are the reasons why we are where we are today, so to say—you know I don’t ever get these people that do things that are successful, and then when they go on and do better things they don’t want to talk about the things that got them to where they are. That seems sort of crazy to me. So, for me it was a fun, amazing time of my life and I have no problem that people still want to talk about it. It’s kind of cool.
Moderator Well, that’s great. My follow-up isn’t really a question but more of a statement. I have a 13-year-old son, so he wasn’t alive, of course, when I was watching Blossom, but it’s nice to be able to sit down with him and have him see you in this role because it’s a show that the whole family can watch, and I just absolutely love that. I think it’s great.
J. Lawrence Oh, cool! Well thank you very much. That’s kind of what we wanted to do. We sort of set out to make something that obviously is for the adults. I mean, the humor is for the adults; it’s not for the kids. But it’s something that your kids—if they’re in the room or they want to tune in as well it’s not going to be crazy offensive or anything that’s completely inappropriate for them to watch. And that was sort of the goal of kind of what we wanted to do, kind of bring back that, just have a romantic comedy that doesn’t offend, just kind of fun.
Moderator So word has it that your brothers, Matt and Andy, will be making an appearance in this upcoming season. How was it to work, again, with them?
J. Lawrence They will. It was great. It was something that we wanted to do, that I purposely wanted to do. We’ve been getting a lot of Twitter response and stuff saying, “You gotta have your brothers on. You gotta have your brothers on.” So it’s definitely something that we wanted to do and we found kind of a unique way, an interesting way, to sort of bring them both into the show in different episodes, and I think it worked out great. So I’m very excited about it.
Moderator You’ve been involved in a ton of different projects over the years. What would you say you’ve learned and taken away from this show, in particular?
J. Lawrence Every project you do is an opportunity for growth. I think that you should get better with every project that you do, and that’s something that I try to do. This project, I’m wearing a couple of different hats as executive producer and stuff. I was able to write the theme song for it, which was kind of cool. Because I got a brand new record coming out this summer as well, and actually my first single will be available on ABC Family.com June 29th, this Wednesday exclusively just for a week. I’m going to give it away to all the fans that want to download it. And it’ll be up on iTunes and everywhere else for the rest of the world July 6th.
But I think it just gives an opportunity to just kind of wear a bunch of different hats and continue improving, which is what we need to do as actors. I mean every job that we do we should get better. That’s kind of what it’s all about.
Moderator In just about every episode you are cooking a good meal in the kitchen. Do you think it’s important to portray healthy eating on TV?
J. Lawrence Well sure. I’m a big fan of healthy eating. I make sure that my daughters eat healthy. You know I think that it’s not hard to cook healthy. Not that kids shouldn’t have Mickey D’s every now and then, and ice cream, and—you know they’re kids. And you know what, I’m guilty of having those things as well every now and then, but I think the majority of the time, sure we’ve got to try to eat good. That’s what it’s all about. I make it a point on the show for Joe to be cooking good food, not for it to be fast food or anything like that, and so far, so good.
Moderator Melissa was saying that you really have an interest in cooking, that you don’t just kind of play with the props but you kind of plan it out. Can you tell me more about that?
J. Lawrence Well I love to cook, personally. It allows me the opportunity to sort of talk to the food chefs about it and we make sure that we always prepare something that sounds real tasty.
Moderator Well it’s fun to watch and definitely tempts us all to get cooking.
J. Lawrence Sweet. It is too—I mean it actually tastes good too because we have these chefs that come in and really cook the food, and then I just prepare it in the scene, but it smells great. It smells great, so—
Moderator Megan Hilty plays your ex-wife, and both of you are talented musicians. Can we expect any collaboration in the future?
J. Lawrence Well I don’t know about that, but I’ve got a brand new record coming out in August and my first single in 11 years that I co-wrote with Matthew Gerrard, who’s a big time music pop guy; worked with everybody from Justin Timberlake to Kelly Clarkson. He and I collaborated on my whole record. And the first single will be available exclusively on ABC Family.com for the first week, and then it will be up everywhere on iTunes and TuneCore and all that stuff for the rest of the world. But music is something that I’ve always loved. I know that she does too. You never know about a collaboration, but certainly for me I’m really excited about getting a single out there for the first time in a long time, and also to have my full record coming out in August. And I hope people like it. It’s going to be great.
Moderator Do you have a guilty pleasure favorite TV show that you wouldn’t mind telling us about?
J. Lawrence A guilty pleasure? Well I don’t know if it’s guilty. I mean I’m a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm – I love that show and I’m so excited for the new season to get started. I don’t really have any guilty pleasures. Every now and then—you know my wife is obsessed with the Kardashian stuff so that’s on TV and I have to sit through it every now and then. But no, for me it’s like Curb Your Enthusiasm and then news and then sports, you know? That’s about it.
Moderator How do you manage to stay so grounded and positive while being a child actor?
J. Lawrence Well you know, I’ve got a great life. Look, I’ve had to work my rear end off for everything that I’ve ever gotten, but for me it’s always been about the work and about continuing to be able to work and continuing to be able to do what I love in an industry that that’s sometimes very difficult to do. So I am excited just about the opportunity to continue to do what I love to do. That’s really what it’s all about and hopefully I’ll be able to do it for many, many more years, you know?
Moderator Now that you do have daughters are you considering doing more Disney movies?
J. Lawrence We’re actually talking the animated side of things – the feature side and the animation department, trying to see what makes sense. But, sure – I mean Disney’s a great company to work for and there are several opportunities there that we’re kind of talking about. But doing something that my little girls can go see would be great, you know? Actually, I did one of the very first animated movies that Disney did back in this new generation, back in ’89, when Katzenberg first took over; it was called Oliver & Company and I was the voice of Oliver. But that’s really the last thing that I’ve done on the feature side for them. We just had a big meeting about hopefully changing that soon.
Moderator Sounds wonderful, and I remember that movie. What was it about this character that made you want to take on the role?
J. Lawrence Well it was a character that I sort of came up with. This is sort of a guy that I wanted to play on TV, in the half hour comedy world anyway. He’s sort of a guy’s guy. I think he can be brutally honest at times, but I sort of loved that about him. He shouldn’t be able to get away with some of the things that he says, but he does because there’s nothing under it other than just him being straightforward and honest. And that’s a guy that you sort of want to hate, but you can’t help but like him, you know? I mean he really is the kind of guy that if … came up to him and said, “Does this dress make me look fat?” He would probably say, “Well it doesn’t make you look thin.” You know? And initially you’d go, Oh my God, that was so rude! But at the end of the day you go, it’s kind of refreshing that he was being honest. He wasn’t being mean. He was like, look, you’re an attractive lady and I’ve seen you wear things that look hotter on you. You’d almost kind of want that, weirdly enough. Instead of stuff like, “Oh no, baby. You look amazing. You look incredible. Everything you wear is incredible.” You know?
J. Lawrence I love the fact that he’s a financial wizard and that he’s sort of a fiscally conservative guy. This is a character that doesn’t exist on TV and it’s sort of fun for me to portray him a little bit. He’s a little Bruce Willis; he’s a little Alex P. Keaton; he’s a little—he’s like all those things, and that guy isn’t really on TV right now and that’s kind of why I sort of wanted to play him.
Moderator What are any similarities or differences that you have with your character?
J. Lawrence We’re both a little OCD. We both love to cook. He’s a big sports guy; so am I. I’m not a financial wizard but I enjoy making money, so we share that in common. There are things. I think as an actor you always try to bring as much personal experience to the role. That’s kind of important.
Moderator That’s great. Thank you. I can’t wait to see the show.
J. Lawrence Oh yes, check it out. Also check out the new single, too, my first single coming out in like 12 years. It’ll be available on ABCFamily.com exclusively for the first week. It’s called “Rolled” and then it’ll be up on iTunes, and then the whole record comes out in August. But it’s really a great pop record so check it out, alright?
Moderator I’ve been a fan since Gimme a Break.
J. Lawrence Wow. Sweet.
Moderator What made you decide to grow your hair back?
J. Lawrence Yes, so that was it, honestly just I like to change it up every now and then. I had long hair, shaved it all off, worked a lot, and then after a while people were—I got a lot of tweets about will I ever grow it back and stuff, and then I said, “Oh I can grow it back a little bit.” So, you know, I decided to grow it back. It’s as simple as that.
Moderator On your new album, are any of the songs dedicated to your little girls?
J. Lawrence You know, they’re not, because it’s not about that. I write them songs all the time and I perform at home and they’re just for them … and that’s what it’s about. I don’t need to do that on a record. The record thing is kind of its own life. Honestly, the record’s for my fans because it was fan driven. The last year and half they’ve been tweeting me every day, all day long, about doing it and teamed up with Matthew Gerrard and we actually wrote the theme song to the show and from that developed this great relationship and we started to write, and tune after tune started turning out great and then he said, “Man, you’ve got to release this.” So that’s what we’re doing. The first single’s called “Rolled” and it’s available exclusively at ABCFamily.com for a week; I’m going to give it away to everybody. And then it’s up on iTunes after that and the whole record will be out in August, and we’re going to tour next year and it’s going to be great. I’m really excited about it. It’s a really good record.
Moderator What was it like to work with Melissa Joan Hart again?
J. Lawrence Oh, it was great. It was great. You know we have a really good sort of working relationship and a rapport, and I think that’s sort of what got us excited about working together again, sort of in a larger capacity on a TV show. So, that’s what we did and we put together something and developed it, and it turned out great. We had a big vote of confidence from the network who picked us up for 30 episodes, which is, like unheard of in a first season, and here we are.
Moderator Since you like to cook, what is one of your favorite things to cook?
J. Lawrence What is one of my favorite things to cook? I cook a lot of Italian stuff, but I’m good at fish, too. But I do like—I do a baked manicotti and the stuffed shells, and I do a vegetable lasagna. I do lemon Dijon chicken with sort of this risotto that’s really good. A lot of different stuff, you know?
Moderator Do you have a favorite scene in an upcoming episode that you might be able to tell us a little about?
J. Lawrence Favorite scene, well, I’ve got a couple of favorite scenes. I’ve got a great scene with my brother, Matthew, coming up that I’m excited about, where we get into this fight; it’s really funny. I’ve got a great scene with Andrew coming up where we get into a—he plays a teacher on the show and he’s an incredible guitar player and a musician, but he’s a teacher that my character does not like at all so we get into this heated conversation and he starts to play me this song that he wrote, and it’s really funny. I’ve got a great scene with Melissa coming up where Joe gets an opportunity where he may or may not move out of the house, and they have this real kind of heart-to-heart moment, which is sort of neat. And another great scene I have is with Lennox coming up where she’s going to her first like overnight kind of sleepover-party type thing, and we have this real sort of like older brother moment with me and her in the car and it’s just sort of one of those scenes that I really liked a lot.
Moderator Is there anyone who hasn’t yet been scheduled that you’d really love to work with as a guest star on the show?
J. Lawrence There’s been talk about us trying to get Danny DeVito on there, because his daughter, Lucy DeVito is one of our supporting cast, who does a fantastic job for us. So that would be awesome; I’m a huge fan of Danny DeVito. Who else? I don’t know – the list is large. But Danny, I think, is probably at the top of it. I think it’d be a lot of fun to have him on.
Moderator Your character had a great business career until the rug was pulled out from him by the underhanded, the “illegal dealings of one man.” That was his wording. Over the last few years, the country has had to deal with hard economic times, coupled with similar situations to Joe Longo’s. Do you think that people being able to identify with your character in that respect is part of what’s making the show so successful?
J. Lawrence I think so. I mean that’s what we wanted to do is come up with something—get these characters into it in a timely fashion, somehow get them involved in the show, let them feel like these characters are sort of where everyone else is, because we’re all going through tough times. I mean that’s what it’s all about. So yes, I think that that’s part of it, for sure. For sure I do. And that was sort of an on purpose type of thing that we wanted to do.
Moderator Twitter seems to be an important part of your relationship with your fans. Can you talk a little bit more about how you got into that and what your favorite parts are and all that?
J. Lawrence Well, you know it’s just one of those things. It’s part of kind of what we do now, it truly is. Part of the landscape of being an entertainer is having that one-on-one sort of relationship with your fans, and you’ve either got to get on the train or it’s going to leave the station without you. So, we’ve opened up a whole social media wing to the company, which is me, and it’s been working out great. For instance, you know I’ve got my brand new single coming out for the first time in 11 years, it’s called “Rolled,” it will be off my brand new record coming out in August, and we’re making it available exclusively at ABCFamily.com for the first week coming up here starting Wednesday and then it’ll be up on iTunes and everywhere on July 6. I tweeted that; it was driven by the fans, every day thousands of tweets about the music, and I tweeted that it’s coming out and literally my Twitter account’s been—it’s 1,200 an hour have been tweeting about this day and the countdown to it and how they’re so excited about it. So right there is a perfect example of how you can reach them instantly, and that’s what it’s all about – it’s about getting the products to the fans to see if they like it, because that’s what we do this for.
Moderator Well I enjoy following you on Twitter and see you tweet all the time, and I think it’s great. I love when actors do that; it just makes you seem like you really care about your fans, which I think is a great thing.
J. Lawrence You know, that’s really what it’s all about. We work for them. Our commodity is us and we work for them and you’ve got to have an understanding about that. The product that you’re selling is yourself, and the product that you want to sell, you’ve got to get to them. And that’s the best way to get it to them. And if it wasn’t for them, as cliché as it is, 30 years later I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. It just would not happen.
Moderator We are going to have your new single, “Rolled” on our Website on Wednesday. So can you just tell us a little bit about the single, and how you came up with the song and the title and the lyrics and that?
J. Lawrence Yes. It’s sort of an expression that me and my friends used to throw around a lot in our mid-20’s, because honestly, I know it’s tough to—believe me, it’s tough find good guys that are out there, but it’s also tough to find good ladies that are out there, too, especially in this town. And one of the things, especially if you’re a successful guy, it’s sort of tough to figure out whether they’re in it for the right reasons or whether they’re in it because they think you can buy them a big house and a big diamond ring and the whole thing. So there’s an expression that we sort of came up with and it’s called rolled and it’s like, “Dude, did that girl just roll you?” Which means that basically she used you for what she needed to, and then as soon as there was a better offer or something, a more successful guy on the table, she dumped you like yesterday’s trash and you got rolled. Do you know what I mean?
So this thing took off for us and it became sort of this saying, so I wrote a song about that. And that’s kind of what the song’s about. It’s about a guy that is into this girl that sort of rolled him, and all of his friends were telling him that that’s not what he should have done and he knows now that he should have listened but he couldn’t help it because she was just so hot. And it’s sort of a fun take on that, but it’s sort of a mid-tempo pop tune and the whole record is sort of a feel good record. This one’s sort of one of the edgier songs, but I really love the way it turned out. That’s why I wanted to lead with it.
Moderator Are you influenced by any other music genres and types? Or do you have any favorite songs?
J. Lawrence Well musically I’m influenced from everybody from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, George Michael, Prince, Dave Matthews. I have a very eclectic sort of music taste, but I’m a big fan of Michael, and Prince, and then George Michael. So it’s definitely in that vein.
Moderator I saw the screener of the new episode and they used more of your theme song, which I love. I was wondering, whose decision was it to give it more air time?
J. Lawrence It was a network decision, but it was definitely something that I championed over there because I just didn’t like the trend of these shows that had like three seconds of opening and then they went right into the show. It just felt weird to me, so I was championing hard for them to put it full—kind of opening title, sort of like—you know like they have on Friends or anything else, and finally they thought it would be a good idea, too. We had always had a full length version of the song, but they only were using like three seconds of it, so now I feel like at least people can hear a good 25-30 seconds of it. It’s actually a really good tune, it’s got a bridge and everything to it. It’s actually what—sort of my relationship working with Matthew Gerrard, who I collaborated on that song with, is what led to my record sort of happening. And that’s why they’re releasing the first single too on ABCFamily.com, exclusively this coming Wednesday; it’s called “Rolled” – it’s really good.
Moderator Well I’m really looking forward to it. I love your music.
J. Lawrence Oh, sweet. Well you’ve definitely got to check this new tune out. The full record will be out in August and then we’re going to tour next year. But it’s a really cool tune if you like pop music.
Moderator Are you considering coming out with a cookbook?
J. Lawrence I have not like really thought about that a lot but it’s something that I certainly could do. And you know if the opportunity presents itself, I just might. It certainly is a passion of mine; that’s why I sort of made the character do it on the show. And I’m good at it, you know? People like my food, so I might. I might.
Moderator We saw Mark Ballas guest star earlier in the season. Are we going to see Edyta guest star at any point?
J. Lawrence I don’t know about on the show. Edyta might be in one of my music videos, though. We’re sort of working on that with her. But I don’t know about the show. Maybe. But definitely in one of my music videos coming up, so that’ll be fun.
Moderator As part of the Disney Family, a voice actor, and a fan of the Disney parks, do you have a particular attraction that you and your family enjoy riding?
J. Lawrence Let’s see, well, it’s sort of hard to say because I like so many and for different reasons, but Pirates has always just been such a juggernaut for so many years. It’s a classic. It never disappoints. I’m sort of old school; I like the Peter Pan rides because that’s one of my favorite movies. I know it’s like 30 seconds long, but I just love it. And then I sort of like what they did with Space Mountain, and I like Big Thunder Mountain for something a little bit quicker. So there’s different reasons why you like different attractions, you know? I could name the whole park for you but then it’d just be like, “Well I like the whole park.” But it’s a blast. I mean, I got married in Disney World.
Moderator Oh, wow. That’s cool. Now having said that, obviously with your association with Oliver & Company and doing the voiceovers and such, if Disney were to redo an animated classic movie to a live action movie, is there a particular character that you could see yourself portraying?
J. Lawrence That’s a good question. One of the ones that I’d love to see them redo – I don’t know whether there’d really be a role in it for me unless I played like the mean knight that sort of took advantage of young Arthur, but that would be Sword and the Stone. I loved that movie. I loved that film. I think it’s a great animated movie, with Merlin and the whole thing. It’s fantastic. But there’s the knight of the King or whatever—the guy that young Arthur works for, he’s sort of like, whatever he is, the Duke and his Knight, he just keeps calling him Wart. He’s a really, kind of mean character. And at the end of the movie when he becomes large and he becomes King and pulls the sword from the stone there, it—I don’t know, it’s just a great film. I think it’d lend itself to a fantastic live action movie.
Moderator Can you tell us about a time in your career where maybe things weren’t progressing or maybe you were losing confidence, or maybe things were just slow, and what that was like?
J. Lawrence This whole career is—I mean being an entertainer is about up and down, that’s what the whole thing’s about. So there are going to be tons of moments when things are not going the way you want. I mean I’m still not where I want to be, you know? I think after doing this for 30 years and being my age now it’s—I’m excited because I feel like the guys that I look up to like Bruce Willis and George Clooney, they didn’t even get started really until they were 35. George Clooney got ER at 36, so this is really just the beginning; even though I’ve been doing this for 30 years. But feature film is where I want to go and those opportunities are starting to present themselves and it’s kind of exciting.
But I’ve always been positive, because you sort asked a two part question there. But I’ve always been positive, always. Where there’s a will there’s a way. That’s my motto. I don’t take no for an answer because if there is three or four dead ends I’ll find the one road that gets me there. But there’s been a lot of ups and downs; that’s what it’s all about so you better have real thick skin and try not to take anything personally, because you won’t get most of the things that you want to get. It’s about celebrating the 400 no’s on that journey to find the one yes.
Moderator Do you do voices to your daughters?
J. Lawrence Sure. Sure, yes. I do a lot of the Sesame Street ones and I’m good at those. And I can certainly make any of the voices from the characters that they really like, so, yes, we have a lot of fun doing that stuff. As a matter of fact, I just took my daughter to see Cars 2 for the second time this weekend because she’s obsessed, and she was playing Holley Shiftwell and I was playing Finn McMissile who is Michael Caine; we were doing that all day yesterday. As a matter of fact, I had to wear all grey to be Finn and she had to wear all purple to be Holley – so there you have it.
Moderator Question about the set: Do your daughters play with Melissa Joan Hart’s sons?
J. Lawrence They do every now and then, yes. When it makes sense they do.
Moderator Do they watch the show? Or do they watch any of your old work?
J. Lawrence Not really. I mean Charli does. She’s starting to get into it a little bit. She’s come to a couple tapings and she sits through it. She’s an amazing little girl. But my 14-month-old, no; not yet.
J. Lawrence Tweet me at Joey Lawrence. Alright?
Catch “Melissa & Joey” on Wednesday nights (8/7c) on ABC Family! Second Season premiere is on June 29th!
Q&A media session with Melissa Joan Hart: ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” (J!-ENT Interviews & Articles)
Melissa Joan Hart plays the character of Melissa Burke on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” (Image courtesy of ABC FAMILY)
For many of us who grew up watching Nickelodeon the early ’90s, actress Melissa Joan Hart was an actress that captured our attention as the blonde, blue-eyed crafty Clarissa Darling. And when the series ended, needless to say, for many guys or fans of Hart, many would go through “Clarissa withdrawal”.
But fortunately, in the mid-’90s, Melissa Joan Hart would return with a few “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” movies and would eventually lead to the multi-award winning comedy series “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” which lasted from 1996-2003.
Needless to say, many Americans grew up watching Melissa Joan Hart play the lead of these two popular high school teenage characters and one wondered if we would ever see Melissa Joan Hart back on television again?
In 2010, Hart returned in the ABC Family comedy series “Melissa & Joey” playing the lead character Melissa Burke alongside actor Joey Lawrence.
In the half-hour comedy series, Melissa Burke is a former wild child of a political family and now, having grown up, she has aspirations to become a politician.
But a scandal hits the family when her sister ends up in prison and her brother-in-law flees. So now, Melissa must take care of her teenage niece Lennox and her nephew Ryder.
And its difficult enough to focus on politics and taking care of two teenagers and desperately needing help, she hires Joey (played by Joey Lawrence), who moves in with the family to become the family’s nanny… or “manny”.
Now, the second season of “Melissa & Joey” is set to premiere on Wednesday, June 29th and recently a Q&A media session was held with Melissa Joan Hart who talks about the second season and playing a grown-up role.
Here is a transcript from the media Q&A:
Moderator At the end of the Halloween episode we saw a reference to Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I was wondering will we see more of those as well as Blossom references in the future.
M. Hart Not really. I mean, we play towards it to let you know we know where we came from and what the audience knows of us. There will be one word out of Joey’s mouth that will remind everybody of Blossom. But other than that, no, we just each made a little play towards our previous character and that’s it.
Moderator How will the appearance with Joey’s ex-wife alter the dynamic between Mel and Joe.
M. Hart In every episode, pretty much, Joey and I are always dating. There’s a lot of—I date a younger man. I’ve got Michael Foster from Greek to play my younger boyfriend and his ex-wife comes back. We fight over my trainer—whether not she’s going just train me or date him. There’s a lot of that in almost every episode and you’ll see a lot of each of us getting jealous of the other with whoever they’re dating at the time, but we question, should I be dating him or should I be dating her? But I think each time they realize that they have a relationship already in place sense and they can tread there.
So, you’ll see a little bit of that flirtation and a little bit of that curiosity that I think you get when you’re single and have a person in your life of the opposite sex that’s close to you. You always kind of question is this the right person for me, so you’ll see a lot of that. But we don’t really want to—we want to stay away from that, all of us I think, the network, the writers, Joey and I because unless we can do it in a really smart way, I think it’s toxic to a show to actually get the lead characters together.
Moderator What was it about this character that interested you in portraying her?
M. Hart I got to basically help the writers develop the character. I told them exactly what I wanted to play. After doing Sabrina—well, Clarissa was like a really strong girl who was finding her way the world, and a nonconformist and quintessential, whereas, Sabrina was very much like she had special powers, but the character or Sabrina was always in the middle of the story trying to make everything right. She’s sort of the kid acting as an adult, so I really wanted to play an adult acting as a kid.
My first real sitcom adult role—I just wanted it to be something fun and cool and not to prove that I didn’t have to be the straight man in order to be the lead of a show. I wanted to be able to be silly and wacky. I really admired Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character on Old Christine. That was sort of a character that I wanted to watch, so that’s sort of where it came from. With Jamie and I—my mother and I produced the show and when we cast Joey in that role and then Joey and I were cast together and came on board we all just realized it was a good chemistry all around that we wanted to keep it going. So we got a chance to do the show.
So really, with us kind of creating the show, in a sense, with ABC Family, wecame with the idea that they wanted a show about a manny and the writers came in and sat with Joey and I, each separately and we each got to play what character we wanted to be. My big thing is I wanted a girl who was very silly and she thinks she has it all worked out, but she’s just falling apart. And that’s really what I wanted to play, so it’s something that I get to do.
Moderator Are there any other projects you have that you’re currently working on right now that you are the can tell us about?
M. Hart I’m actually pitching shows all over the town right now. I have a network show, a cable show and an internet show that I’m pitching right now. What I’m doing, while I’m in LA, is also pitching an internet talk show with my siblings. So … and it … be a super fun little show, but it’ll just be for the internet right now kind of in a talk show sort of format. So, it’ll be really fun. I don’t know if you know, but our company Hartbreak Films, we did our first independent film last year—it came out on DVD—called Nine Dead. That’s a role that I played that was really different. If people want to see me in a whole different light doing more drama in a sort of thriller, a psychological thriller. So that’s something that I’m pretty proud of.
Moderator On Melissa & Joey, there’s often a healthy and delicious meal being cooked or eaten in the kitchen. How important do you think it is to portray healthy eating habits on TV?
M. Hart Well, that’s interesting that you noticed that because that’s actually a big thing for Joey. He is a cook. He likes to cook. I’m lucky enough that my husband is from the south and a great cook and I don’t cook that often. I think that’s part of growing up on the set. There’s certain things I never learned for myself was how to dress myself, how to do my own hair, makeup, or how to cook. Those were done, I came to set showered, in my pajamas, pretty much and someone would make me look good and someone would feed me.
So those are the things that I never really learned, but Joey somehow has a real knack for it and he loves to make sure that when he’s doing on the show he’s always got a full meal worked out. He spends a lot of time with the prop people on the meals that they make and it’s really nice to see. I think it is nice. I think it is interesting that you caught that because, obviously, it’s not really something we meant for the audience to notice. It’s more meant for Joey to have an easy time with it when we’re shooting so he doesn’t have to mess with the prop too much.
But yes, it is great. I think it’s great to show that on television. It’s a difficult time right now.
Also been working with Kellogg’s on their Share Your Breakfast program because there’s a big problem in the country right now where one in four children are waking up hungry and that’s unacceptable in this country right now. But then you’ve also got, of course, is the child obesity rate. So on the one hand, you’ve got that and on the other hand, you’ve got the highest poverty level in children since The Depression. So a lot of these kids are waking up with empty bellies and it’s kind of mind-boggling to think one in four children in our country is waking up hungry. So it’s a really nice thing to focus on doing food right.
It’s always amazing to me. Like I can go and get a salad at the commissary at our work and I’ll get a salad and I’ll go get a bottle of water and out of the whole thing it’s $6, but $4 of that is my bottle of water. So it can be reasonable to eat healthy. It can be economical and if you go to the Farmer’s Market and whatnot. So I think it is good to show that sort of side of things as well. However, it’s not the main focus of the show. Obviously, it’s just sort of a side thing and that would actually be a really good question for Joey, I would say too what he thinks really thinks about that stuff.
Moderator So do you guys eat what he cooks?
M. Hart A lot of times were afraid of prop food because sometimes it’s just sitting there all day.
Moderator Speaking of healthy living, How do you stay in such great shape?
M. Hart Oh gosh. I’ve been having a hard time with it recently, to be honest. During the show you might see me put on a few. Also, my children and I think I went through a little bout of depression while I was working on the show just because I wasn’t with my kids as much as I wanted to be. And I try getting up and going to the gym although I would try as hard as I could its tough. But I also ride my bike to work and stuff like that. I try to stay active. I get very bored, so I’m really trying to mix it up.
So, right now, this summer I’ve been on a goalie program—since we’re done with were done with show and I kind of have my time to myself, I’ve been mixing it up with spinning, yoga, zumba and then some weights and gym time with my husband and friends. So it’s been a nice little summer so far. I’ve gotten in really good shape in the last few weeks.
But while I was in the show it was really, really difficult to balance being away from my family and working. Whenever my family was around, I didn’t want to be going to the gym and whenever they weren’t around was just too tired to leave the house so it was work. So you’ll see that a little bit on the show, I think.
Moderator I understand you opened up your own sweet shop named SweetHarts as a lifelong dream. What is your favorite item to have on the menu?
M. Hart We have some really fantastic treats. My kids love to do that. They learned a little trick where they will make themselves a big frozen yogurt, lots of candy on top. We have these things called chocolate rocks that you can put on the ice cream. They look like little tumbled rocks, but they’re like chocolate and they love to do that.
Then once they’ve eaten the candy off the top and they’ll say, “Mommy, I don’t really like this. Can I go get a lollipop or a rain pop or—?” And then they’ll be like, “Mmm,” they’ll eat half of that and go, “I don’t really like this. Can I get a pucker powder?” Which is like a pixy stick that you can make yourself. Then they’ll go, “Mmm. I don’t really like this. Can I get—” And I realize that after a few times of this happening that this is their trick to get everything in the store.
But my favorite , I love the—we have the red velvet cookies that are to die for. I think we still have cake balls. Although, I think we’re changing up our vendor. There’s a lot, so if you’re feeling like you want to be a little bit healthy that you want a little bit of a nutty treat, I like the lemon drip gelato. It depends on my mood.
Moderator What is your favorite attraction at Disneyland or Walt Disney World?
M. Hart Oh gosh, again, it depends on the mood. Probably, my heart will always be Space Mountain. Although, I have to say, the new Toy Story ride, that’s getting to be my favorite too. Honestly, I am just like waiting—I’m on pins and needles waiting for that Cars ride to open at Disneyland.
Moderator So being a parent, how is it to take on a role of a legal guardian totally thrown into a sink or swim situation? Is it strange to leave the mom instinct behind?
M. Hart Oh well, what I do is I take my mom instincts that I’ve learned from being a parent—the hard thing about the show or what’s interesting about the show is that these people are not parents. They’re not even like—anyone that has a baby, adopts a baby, or whatever, they usually come into it at a very young age and they learn as the children grow. They learn each stage as it goes. Whereas, these people are being thrown into raising teenagers, which is the whole other world and … having a relationship with these kids being the aunt has a hard time with separating aunt and parental figure now.
So it’s kind of interesting, though, because I take everything I know as being a mom of little ones and I turn it around. If we’re on the show and something like eating healthy comes up, I’ll just go against that and go, “Oh, here’s some—here have some chocolate milk for breakfast. You’re good.” So we take everything we know as parents and just sort of do the opposite.
We really like playing with that too and reminding the writers every once in a while that—every time we have a line that sounds a little too parental we’re like, “We’re not the parents. Let’s change this, let’s make this a little bit more inappropriate.” So it’s really fun. It’s where, I think, a lot of this humor comes in. A lot of the humor comes from me and Joey fighting, but then a lot of other humor comes from us not knowing a thing about being parents.
Moderator Filming in front of a live audience, working with someone you know so well like Joey and then also having the rest of the cast that you’ve grown to know now, how do you keep composure? How do you not laugh when you’re filming?
M. Hart I just think that comes with experience and practice—rehearsal because we’ve rehearsed it so many times and we have people laughing at us all week, we always have a small crew on the floor with us when we’re rehearsing—the director, the AB’s, the script advisor and the prop people. They’re always there giggling with us. So you get used to hearing it. You’re also kind of in your own head a little bit when you’re in the show and the whole idea of acting is selling something, like really believing—your emotions manipulating it.
That’s what we’re doing when we’re out there is we’re constantly trying to manipulate it so that it is authentic to us. So we are in this conversation. We are standing in the living room talking about whether or not Lennox can have a fake ID to go to a concert. So we leave breaks for the audience. The audience is almost like another character in it where we leave room for them, but sometimes it’s fun too , to play along like if they laugh one of us will laugh with them and it kind of works, if it works for the scene then it’s great. But we do have a lot of bloopers. You can see on the DVD—there’s a lot of bloopers on the DVD that’s out right now and we’ve got a lot more coming, but we’ve been having a blast and I think that comes across too.
Moderator Are there any other actors you would like to have his guest stars with you on Melissa & Joey?
M. Hart Yes. There’s a ton, but we’re making a campaign to try to get Danny DeVito on because his beloved little girl, Lucy, is on there playing Stephanie. We’d love to have Danny come on at some point.
I would love to see some athletes like Michael Strahan who’s proved himself on comedy numerous of times and I think is a great guy and he’s a good friend. I would love to have him on. I think I’ve promised Curtis Granderson, one of the Yankees, a role, so I’ve got a make that happen.
I’d love to have some of my girlfriends on like Soleil Moon Frye and Kellie Martin—show some of their acting chops, some of their comedy. Then, of course, some really big names would be great to come on if we could get some good ratings and prove ourselves as a little show that could.
Moderator Is there any hilarious story lines that you would love for your character to be involved in?
M. Hart I’m waiting for the moment when Lennox and I are walking down the hall with each of us is sneaking in late from a date and kind of both of us going “Shh” …. That’s sort of a moment I’m waiting for, but we have a few of those similarities but not quite that scene yet but that’s something I’d like.
Actually, back to your other question. A friend of mine that I would love to have on the show but I don’t know if he would ever do it is Bill Murray. I would absolutely love to have Bill Murray on the show.
Moderator You’ve mentioned before that there was a really great to crew camaraderie on Sabrina. Everybody did things together, you guys hung out off the set. I was wondering if that is developing on Melissa & Joey?
M. Hart It is, it absolutely is. My sister’s graduating high school today and at the graduation our script supervisor will be there, one of our grips will be there. I’m actually going to his wedding later on this year. We are hanging out outside of work and we are becoming quick friends. It’s great. The difference is when I started Sabrina was in my early 20s, a lot of the crew was kind of in their 20s, early 30s. Everyone was pretty much single. We all got married on that show. We all started having babies on that show. So we had a lot in common. It was almost like college, times three.
But now, on this show, everybody seems to be a bit older, everyone’s got their own family. So it’s a lot of like “Hey, do you want to go out tonight?” “Oh, I can’t. The kids have blah, blah, blah in the morning. My wife blah, blah,” you know that kind of thing. So there’s a lot of people with families now so it’s a little bit more difficult.
But we hope to—if we keep going with the show, I think absolutely, our families will become friends. We actually have a softball team. I think we kicked butt pretty well this year on the softball team. And they wouldn’t let me play, but this year I’m definitely playing. I don’t care if I get a ball for the face. I’m playing softball.
Moderator What advice would you give to teen stars on Nickelodeon today that you wish you would had when you were playing Clarissa?
M. Hart Well, I think things have changed so dramatically that I don’t think I could give them any advice from what I learned. One of the things that I do try to tell Nick, who plays Ryder, and Taylor—Taylor is like the most grown-up girl I’ve ever met. She’s really got her head together and she’s a great girl. And Nick is an amazing boy, but he’s kind of new to the business as well.
One of things he and his family is struggling with, which I had a similar situation is that he lives in a different part of the country as well as his large family and he’s working here and having to put up with school and traveling and missing his family. So I had a lot of that when I was doing Clarissa. I was down in Orlando. My family was in New York and I had a big family and I was the oldest, so it’s the exactly same thing he’s got going on.
One of the hardest things for him that I see happening that it’s really hard to deal with is school, trying to figure out—he has his school and he has his friends up in Seattle, but then when he comes here to work which is most of the year now and what does he do? Where does he go? Is his school going to suffer? That’s what—I had a lot of trouble with that. I was a great student. I loved learning. I was very involved with all of my studies and once I started doing Clarissa that just went down the toilet. My GPA suffered, my SAT scores were terrible, so that was difficult for me. I didn’t like that, but it was also too hard to memorize 50 pages a week plus trying to do school as being tutored.
So I was trying to encourage him to enroll in school down here in California just so he can at least have a school atmosphere, have some peers his own age in this area, keep in with things like art class, gym and music—all the things that you don’t get when you get tutored. All you get when you you’re getting tutored is the basics of Math, English, French—there’s like five subjects and that’s it. So that’s something I’m really trying to push for him and his family is to figure out a way to spend good time together but also for him to make sure he gets his education the way he needs it.
Moderator You were always a role model to young girls. Do you take that into account when you take your roles?
M. Hart Yes. Of course I do. I take it into account with every little thing that I do, whether on a broad scale like picking a role, or a script, or on a smaller scale like am I going to put a cigarette in my mouth just for this movie, that kind of thing. I think it comes, mainly, though from me being an older sibling, having seven younger siblings. Growing up, I always felt very responsible for them and if they see me doing something I wouldn’t want them to see me doing in real life then why would I do it on screen for other kids to see as well. So I’ve always taken that pretty seriously.
But then again that being said, I also want to have a good long career and be proud of it and feel fulfilled in it. So I also want to choose roles and just produce things and whatnot that I feel have some value whether the story needs to be told or it’s just an interesting way to tell the story or there’s a certain goal I have in mind for each different role. For example, this movie Nine Dead is not exactly the kind of movie you would see on ABC Family. I play a pretty dark role and in a pretty dark twisted movie. And what was great for me was that at the time, I just had my second son and I felt like I really wanted to show some emotion on camera. Quite often I’m being silly and whatever, but I wanted to show a little bit of my dramatic side, a little bit of my dark side and I really got to do that with this Nine Dead movie.
It was also really interesting to shoot because my son was only four months old. So it was very difficult. I was still breast-feeding, so it was very difficult to go back to work at the time. But what was great about the show was that the movie started with—we actually shot it in sequence, which is just unheard of. We shot it from the beginning to the end, pretty much. And it’s one outfit—I wore one outfit for pretty much the whole movie and we were all handcuffed, nine people in the room handcuffed to a pole, so there was no …. It was very simple when it came to rehearsing, so I could spend a lot of time with my children on the side and spend time with my son specially breast-feeding and stuff.
So was really interesting to do that, but that was a role that I took to show my dramatic side and just also to have a little freedom. But it’s not exactly something that is—she was a terrible person, so it’s not exactly a role model type role.
Moderator I know we’ve mentioned this a little bit before, but do you think there’s a chance of your Clarissa cast coming in to guest star?
M. Hart Oh, no. We wouldn’t do like a reunion episode. We would do just like maybe some of the cast from Sabrina would come pop in here—like Soleil maybe or Alicia Donovan, I don’t know. Like maybe, if there was a role right for them and they were around and available probably they would pop in and do a little piece, but it wouldn’t be like as their roles that they played on Sabrina. We would want to reinvent it, completely.
Joey’s brothers come on the show but they’re different characters. One of them plays his brother but the other one is a schoolteacher for Ryder. So to do something like that would be really fun.
I always love—one of the benefits of producing is bringing in people you think are talented to help enhance your project and also just to have fun playing at work. I think it would be great. I actually have Leslie Grossman on the show, one of our last episodes of this season coming up. I ran into her in auditions. We have friends in common. We had dinner and she was fantastic and I was like, “She’s got to be on the show.” So when this role came up that I knew she’d be right for, I called her in and was like, “You’ve got to do this with me.” and we had a blast. So stuff like is always fun just to have familiar faces around—the people that you trust that you think are talented.
Moderator I just wanted to know a little bit about what we can expect from this season as far as the development of the relationship between Melissa and Joey and the kids and you guys. Can you talk a little bit about that?
M. Hart Yes. I mean the thing with any show—if you watch Friends or Seinfeld, Cheers—any of these shows, at the beginning, they take a little while to get going. While the writers are figuring it out and the actors are figuring it out and the whole show is getting the wheels greased. Of course, by the end of the first season beginning of the second season usually you have it down. If you’re going to have a hit usually that’s when you start to see it.
I really think in the beginning—we had the first 12, we were very, very lucky. I think with Joey and I having the experience that we have, and also having done the movie, and having chemistry, and just being able to click like we did. The crew and everything could fall into place, the rest of the cast could kind of fall into place around us. So we had it pretty smooth in the beginning, but now the next 18 that are coming up are, of course, we really got the ball rolling by then and we got into a great groove and we’ve got some really excellent episodes out there that you’ll see where the characters are really coming into their own. You see more of the kids and of their struggles and you’ll learn more.
I think the more you learn—like one of the great things about Friends, I’m such a big Friends fan. One of the great things is in the beginning they have these stereotypes. Jennifer Aniston was the rich bride, was going to be a bride, so her storyline always centered around the fact that she was the spoiled brat that with bride. Courtney Cox with the ex—used to be overweight that didn’t like Jennifer Aniston. So you see these things and the start off as these little nuggets of characters, but then grow as you get to know them and you get to know more of their background and you get to love them. You see them really flower and that’s what I hope you’ll see here is that these characters are really growing.
Joey and I—our storylines get interesting because we do sort of a flirt but also avoid each other and have our bickering moments, constantly. You’ll see the relationship develop with our kids and then with each other and them and their high school. The show really comes into its own in the second half of the season.
Moderator It’s been fun so far. I really do love what I’m seeing. I especially like—and I want to thank you for providing a family show that I can sit down in the evening with my kids. That’s kind of rare these days.
M. Hart Your comment about the family show, what’s interesting is we did that with Sabrina. We really wanted Sabrina to be something that everyone could sit down with the kids of all ages and watch. This one I feel is a little bit older, it is a little bit older more towards my peer group, I feel like, women in their 30s or men in their 30s, but I think it also resonates with high school or college kids.
Right now, we don’t have so much of the teen fan base right now, but I really feel like it could be. However, I’m always a little skeptical of people say their six-year-old is going to watch it. I’m afraid the language can be a little rough. So I do try to warn against that a little bit that people don’t necessarily think just because I was Sabrina that they should watch this with her little, little kids.
Moderator Are there any similar qualities or characteristics to you?
M. Hart I think that Mel is an exaggerated version of lots of little parts of my personality. I think I’m a very adventurous girl. I’m very—let’s see, how would I explain this. I’m silly. I love to have a good time. I’m an event girl. I always call myself an event girl. I like going and making the most of something. If I’m going to a football game, I am going to go to a football game! I’m going to have face paint and pom poms and all the gear and be ready to go. I’m a planner. I like to have things scheduled out, but I also like to get really into things. I think that’s a lot like Mel. She doesn’t do anything half way. She goes all the way with something even if it’s not right.
But I think that there’s also other sides. I know my family always calls me scattered brain and silly and that I have a big heart, and stuff like that. I think that a lot of that is sort of similar in Mel. But, of course, she’s kind of a glamour girl. She wants to look the best and be sassy and very flirtatious and she’s very boy crazy, which I used to be before I got married. So there’s definitely some similarities there, but they’re very exaggerated from me.
Moderator In Clarissa Explains it All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch you played a teenager. I know you’ve grown up and you’ve gotten married and have children. So what has your experience in life and playing an adult in Melissa & Joey?
M. Hart Well it’s my first time playing an adult on a sitcom, but you’ve got to remember I’ve been playing an adult in other things for a long time. Like in My Fake Fiancé for ABC Family. I did Holiday in Handcuffs for ABC Family. I did this movie Nine Dead. I directed a lot. When I was pregnant with my son, I directed a short film called Mute that went to a lot of festivals.
So it’s so funny because on Sabrina I started that show when I was 20. So I was never a teenager when the show was going on, so I was always an adult. So playing a teenager just kind of came naturally to me because I’d done it on Clarissa so I could kind of keep that same tone to it, in a sense—like keep those same frustrations, those same problems. But meanwhile, as soon as the camera starts rolling I was in my 20s.
So getting to actually be on screen as more of myself like in a sense not trying to fit into some kind of teenage persona, I find it more comfortable. It’s more fun. It’s more freeing, but I don’t know, when you get into a role like that where you have a long running series like this one or Sabrina or any of them you get into a groove with the character.
Actually the challenge really is keeping it fresh and keeping it interesting and not just like kind of walking through. I feel like towards the end of Sabrina. I was having such fun on the set and there is such amazing people and I loved the experience of it, but I got a little—I was walking through it with the character. I was just kind of like I learned my lines every night and I was very diligent about my work and I just have a pretty strong work ethic. But as far as the acting portion of it went, I just sort of walked through it and trusted other people to help me find a joke if I was missing it and whatnot. But it wasn’t the kind of character where I really had to think hard work hard at it.
With this one, with Mel, I’m trying to keep it so that I’m working hard at it so that every day, every joke I’m finding things that are funny. I’m leafing through my brain and everything I’ve ever seen on television, in movies and every piece of comedy that I’ve ever watched or read or even said it in a witty joke at a bar one night. I try to pull back on all of those experiences and try to find something to make every page of Mel and Joey work really well. Make sure everyone’s really laughing every few minutes.
Moderator I’m interested in finding out what it’s like for you on the set. How long does it usually take for you to complete an episode of Melissa & Joey?
M. Hart As with most sitcoms, we work a five day week. We do a 5-day episode. We put on Mondays with a table read where we all get together and read it with the network and everybody sitting there so they can all hear it out loud. Then the writers will go and rewrite it while we go and rehearse and we’ll do our wardrobe fittings usually that day so we can figure out what we’re going to wear for the week.
Then Tuesdays, we come in and we rehearse with the new script. We’ll rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and we’ll put the show on. We’ll do the whole show once through, called the run through for the producers. We’ll do the producers run through. So the writers and producers will come down and watch a run through and then they’ll go back and that night they’ll work on their changes.
Wednesday, we do the same exact thing where we work the new script through all the way. Then we put on a network run through where the network comes and listens to it and they see it. Then they make their notes on it and the writers go away again and rewrite it.
Thursday, we come in and we block the whole show for the cameras. Thursday’s we, basically, go through the whole show scene-by-scene so the cameras can figure out where they go, where we go. We tape it—we put tape on the floor and we literally mark every piece of blocking we have and the cameras do the same. Then we get in hair and makeup and shoot a few scenes. We’ll shoot a few scenes that the audience needs to see for the next day. They’re usually on swing sets, so they’re somewhere where the audience can’t see them or their like big costume changes or something like that, so we can knock those out of the way.
Then Friday, we come in again and do the camera blocking as well in the morning and then we get ready for live show. We eat dinner altogether at three o’clock, four o’clock we’re in hair and makeup doing the speed through of the script with the cast while we’re getting our hair and makeup touched up. Then five o’clock we go live on the show and we usually wrap—by 9 p.m., we’re usually across the street having a drink. So we’re actually really lucky because a lot of shows until like 11 or midnight, 2 and a lot of episodics, as you may know, they shoot 9 day weeks and they don’t have any rehearsal time or anything.
We actually, in television, this is the best schedule it could possibly be. A lot of people on episodics—like I was just hanging out with—I was in Monte Carlo at the Television Festival and Owain Yeoman from The Mentalist was there. We were comparing schedules and he was like I want to be on the comedy, because they work 12 to 15 hour days every day, which is what we did in Sabrina a lot because we did it sort of single camera with no audience.
With an audience, I have to say—the audience puts a lot of pressure on you, but it’s fabulous. You get the show done in three or four hours and all week you kind of have this nice easy schedule where you’re sort of hanging out in jeans and T-shirt. Thursdays and Fridays are our big days. Monday, we work maybe three hours. Tuesday with five and gets more and more every day. Friday’s end up being about a 12 hour days, but that’s not bad at all in this business. I could say having a family and having been in this business for 31 years, it’s kind of nice to have that schedule.
Moderator The banter between you and Joey just seems so natural and it’s so funny. Do you guys ad lib much?
M. Hart No. We’re both by the book kind of people. We take what’s on the page. We try to make it work. If it doesn’t, we’ll talk to the writers and say, “You know what this joke isn’t working for me. Can we rearrange this and this?” But really, what we say is pretty much there on the page.
The great thing about doing the audience show—and Danny DeVito just wrote about this in … Magazine the other day. He said he came to our set to visit his daughter and he was very nostalgic about his Taxi days of having a live audience show because it is kind of magical. You have a script set in stone Friday morning. You have a script and Thursday night I will memorize the crap out of that script. I’ll stay up two or three hours at night just trying to memorize that script. Then we get to do it in front of a live audience but the second you do it, the writers are all side of the stage talking and whispering and the network will come in once in a while with their notes and we change it. We change it right there and then.
We’ll do one take for the audience the way it’s written and then they’ll all come running in and they’ll give us all different changes. They’ll change 3, 4, 5 lines in the scene and we’ll do it again. Then they’ll come back with three or four changes, we’ll do it again with those changes. So we have to keep our brains locked down but also leave space for these little alterations they bring in, constantly. We call them alts, they bring in their alts. After one take then it’s like the alts start flying in and it gets complicated, but also makes it silly as you’re playing and you can see which one the audience reacts to the best.
Then to watch the show back it’s always kind of exciting, I think especially for the audience because they may have seen it one-way but you don’t know which way it’s going to end up. You may have your favorite picked out in your head which one you want it to be. For example, there was an episode that already aired in the fall that I did a spit take and in the preview—ABC Family ran the preview where I did spit take. I actually spit the wine across the room, but then in the show, they didn’t use that clip. They just did it where I just kind of choked on my wine. So it’s interesting. They have all these different versions and it’s interesting which ones they pick.
M. Hart: Also, I just wanted to add my Twitter name @MellyJHart. I’m fascinated with Twitter, so I’m all over it.
Catch “Melissa & Joey” on Wednesday nights (8/7c) on ABC Family! Second Season premiere is on June 29th!