As I creep through my 30s, there are times that I have to pinch myself to make sure that I am not dreaming. I'm so fortunate to be presented with the opportunities that I have in the past year or two, like my recent invitation to LA to visit the set of ABC Family's Melissa and Joey as part of the Into the Woods press event!
I've followed the careers of Joey Lawrence and Melissa Joan Hart since I was a teenager watching Blossom and Clarissa Explains it All. To meet these two stars was a dream-I-didn't-know-I-had come true!
As we arrived on the set of Melissa and Joey, we were able to watch as Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence filmed a scene and even got to explore the set a bit on our own in between takes. You can read all about our set visit here. Today I want to share all about our interviews with Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence!
Melissa & Joey is a half-hour comedy that follows Mel, the grown-up former wild child of a political family, who is now a local politician herself. When her sister ends up in prison and her brother-in-law flees after a scandal hits, Mel must take responsibility for her teenaged niece, Lennox, and nephew, Ryder. Help comes in the unlikely form of Joe, who moves in and becomes the family’s manny.
The series stars Melissa Joan Hart as Mel, Joey Lawrence as Joe, Taylor Spreitler as Lennox and Nick Robinson as Ryder.
An Interview with Joey Lawrence
Joey Lawrence: How ya’ doin’?
Us: Good how are you?
Now, we watched a private screening of the winter premiere the evening before, so we knew what was coming up on the next episode...
Us: We had a sneak peek of what happened. Of your honeymoon.
Joey Lawrence: Oh yeah honeymoon! Or not so honeymoon, yeah. Yeah every week it’s been, it’s been a honeymoon week. I swear to God Melissa and I have been in bed every week. It’s been a dream come true for her. Something that they’re even letting us get away with, as I’m sure you’ve heard, you know ABC Family as it’s still called, is working on rebranding of such sorts.
You know that big article that came out where they were talking about possibly, and I’ve been saying this for years right. ABC Ffaammiillllly. You know, they are lettin’ us get away with things this season that we’re so excited about.
I mean on Broadcast Net I don’t think that we would get away with it, you know. I’ll just tell you that there’s one opening to a show that when we read it at the table we thought there’s no way that they’re gonna' let us do this. The Writers put things in that are just so salacious, just to push the buttons of S&P and Standard’s practices.
And we not only shot it, but it’s actually made it to the cut. It’s unbelievable how the show begins. People are gonna' go, “What!” But it’s true. You guys will have to watch to find out what that is, but it’s pretty amazing! But it’s gonna' be a fun season. Lots of sex and arguing and make up sex. It’s called married life, yeah. We all started laughing at this point! Of course, this was a room full of wives and moms, so we know all about those topics!
That’s probably about right, right? ...Alright, come on, we got 12 seconds before one the babies walks in here.
Us: Sounds about right.
Joey Lawrence: Right? That’s about it. I swear at midnight, 12:04 the other night we’re like, “My we got 10 minutes” you know. ‘Cause my 4 year old is a wandering, my 9 year old sleeps. She’ll sleep through everything. Earthquakes as a matter - my 4 year old sleeps till after the light cuts out you know. And then all of a sudden it’s like “I, I tried dad, I tried.”
We all had a good laugh at that. Imagine that, 25 women sitting around chatting with Joey Lawrence about his intimate life - or lack thereof. We could totally relate!
Joey Lawrence: We get no time. So we got like 12 seconds! Is when she decides that she needs to go to the bathroom in our potty. I’m like - you know it’s unbelievable. It’s amazing. Anyway, so you know we have, we have sex like, robbing a supermarket or su’um. It’s like, “Quick hurry up, yeah quick! Hurry up!”
You know with the eyes always looking and darting around you know quick! I said, “Did you hear something?” You know my wife was like, “That was me.” I was like, “Okay good.” Anyway go ahead. I’m trying out my new act, so. I know right. Vegas baby. Alright anyway so you ask questions now. I’ve talked enough.
Joey Lawrence on Singing
Us: We heard you singing during practice. Do you like to sing on the set a lot?
Joey Lawrence: I do. I like to sing period you know, yeah. I’ve been singing for a while, but working actually on some new music for the first time. I did a big band song actually ‘cause Joey’s Angels, which are my Twitter followers which are, which are few, but extremely passionate you know.
I sorta’ did it the old school way. I didn't hire the social media teams like so many people do and, and they’re startin’ to cut down on this a lot now. And I think you're gonna' see numbers come way down becauseyou know they have these people they go around, they chase, they get these numbers way up. And all of a sudden it’s like I have a half million followers, a million followers, two million - a million and a half don’t even know. They like, “Who’s this?” you know. So I have like 175,000, but it’s all me. I don’t really Tweet that much because you know it’s just not - I mean I like it. I love being able to talk to them but I don’t, I don’t like - you know, I don’t think they need to know like what Latte I’m drinking, you know. But it’s been great man. They coined themselves Joey’s Angels and they are so passionate it’s unbelievable. So we had a little contest and we gave away - I said you know, choose the genre. I’ll write an original song and we’ll put it up on iTunes and we’ll give it away you know. And they choose big band. So I had to write an original big band record, we recorded with an 80 piece orchestra at Capitol Records, and we released it. And I mean if I had sold it it would have been really sweet. I probably should in retrospect. But it was 129,000 downloads in 4 weeks...
Joey Lawrence: Which is pretty incredible. So it got me thinking that well we should do some music for real. So me and my brothers, believe it or not, for the first time ever. ‘Cause Andrew, who’s the youngest, is one of the most Amazing guitar players that you’ll ever hear. He’s been playing since he was about 6, he’s classically trained, 26, incredible. An amazing singer too and Matt can sing his rear end off. So we’re coming together and we’re working on some tunes and we’re gonna' sing a lot next year. We call ourselves Still 3, it’s gonna' be fun. The music’s really dope, otherwise we would not do it, especially me. So I’m excited about it. I didn't know what it was gonna' be, but it’s, it’s [LAUGHS] really good music. So we’re excited about it and it’ll be out next year.
Us: What kind of music?
Joey Lawrence: I’d say coming together it’s a combination of like Cold Play meets probably Sam Smith. It’s probably like kind of where it’s landing. We’re using a lot of live instrumentation. It’s got great hooks and stuff, but it’s definitely got more of a Rock vibe to it, but it’s really good stuff. So we’re gonna' give it a shot and see what, and see what people think.
Us: You’re writing it together?
Joey Lawrence: We’re writin’ it all, yeah. And if they hate it, we’ll know quickly, you know in this day of social media. You suck! You know. That’s my favorite. [LAUGHS] Thank you for sharing. Uh yeah.
Us: Is that you singing the theme song?
Joey Lawrence: It is. I wrote that. I wrote that theme song.
Joey Lawrence on Parenting and Show Business
Us: How does being a parent influence your role on the show?
Joey Lawrence: It doesn’t really. I mean you know um Joe, Joe Longo is, is you know - obviously found out that he was a parent, but he, he’s not really a parent you know. You know this show is definitely not for kids. My 9 year old cannot watch this show. I mean she watched like the Christmas episode you know, but it’s not for the 9 years olds. I mean it really is for teens and for young adults and for people that are our age you know in their middle to late 30’s. So um it doesn’t really affect it too much. You know this is - I mean honestly I keep my private life and my work life pretty separate. I’m not one of those actors that loves to bleed the two together.
I don’t think that one goes with the other. That’s just me personally. You know I don’t take my kids to premiers.
I don’t post pictures on Instagram of myself, my kids. It’s all about me, my work and my fans, and the relationship that I have with them. I want my kids to live normal lives.
I mean a lot of the idols that I look up to they, they don’t. So the path that I sort of wanna' emulate is, you know, like the George Clooneys and Bruce Willis’s and Harrison Fords. And these guys you know they always, they still to this day, you don’t hear a lot about their personal lives.
I personally just feel that my private life is private and I share personal things, but not about my private life or my family ‘cause that would violate their privacy and I don’t wanna' do that you know.
Us: Do your kids know like that you're a celebrity?
Joey Lawrence: Yes. They notice it. My 9 year old for sure, you know she’s almost 9. She knows it, yeah. She’s like, “Dad I, I think that they are treating us really nice in this restaurant because you're Joey Lawrence." I mean it’s just part of what I do. It’s my job. Just like you know, I mean my Grandfather was an architect. He would bring you know tons of art home with him, the sketches of the buildings home with him and he explained to me - I didn't know what he did.
I looked at the building. He drove me by one that he designed in Philadelphia. And I’d be like, “Poppa designed that.” It’s the same sort of thing, but that’s about as far as it goes. My daughter Charlie, who’s almost 9, she wants to try it. She’s amazing at it. The funny thing is [LAUGHS] just for the heck of it ‘cause she was saying, “Dad, dad come on.” So I said, “Alright.” So you know we called up an agent friend of ours and, and I wouldn’t let her go into the room, but they sent her some sides of this pilot, which will remain nameless and I had her read it. I just literally had her cold read it and she’s amazing. You know, like truly amazing. So I self-taped her, we sent it in and she doesn’t know this, but she got it. She got the pilot. Not only did she get it, but the role is for a 12 year old and they loved what she did so much ‘cause she’s so natural, that they wanted to age the whole thing down to 9.
I just wanted her to experiment. So it was a hobby and it was one of these more youth oriented TV shows and I don’t want her to get caught up in that system. ‘Cause it’s just not what it used to be. When I was growing up - it’s just so different now. I know that sounds cliché, but it really is so different. I just did not want her to be one of these like, “Oh my-- ” you know.
I just didn't ‘cause that’s all that’s out there for a lot of these young actors today. It’s like the parents are just idiots you know. Like why are the parents such idiots? In every you know child’s TV show I hate them. So we go back and we watch shows that the parents actually had something to say, because when I last checked parents know more than kids.
‘Cause we’ve been here and we’ve made the mistakes you know. That’s how we figured it out. It’s not that we are just gifted ‘cause we know more, it’s ‘cause we’ve been through it and we’ve made the mistakes. That’s how we can pass on the information to them. So we go back and we watch the Full Houses and the Brady Bunch and you know the Happy Days and you know Family Ties and stuff like that. Where you know...
Joey Lawrence: Blossom. It’s like they had, they had something to say. Parents were fallible, but they weren’t idiots. Whereas today literally the kids always know more than the parents. It’s like, “Oh dad.” “Sorry sweetie.”
I told her that we’ll approach this as a hobby and you know ‘cause I always thought it was a hobby. I really didn't even know that I made money till I was about 14 or 15 and was talking about like cars and trying to get a car you know.
Us: You directed a couple of episodes.
Joey Lawrence: I have. It’s tough you know. I’ve directed like 7 or 8 now each but it’s always tough, man. I’m directing this huge episode we got coming up in January. It was a last minute thing. So it’s this huge - we’ve had like 4 pre-preproduction meetings of this thing already. It’s a lot of stuff that we do here for that kind of stuff. I love to direct. Films too, but later. Yes.
On Working with Melissa Joan Hart
Us: You guys have great chemistry on the set! And it’s all about the chemistry. So obviously guards go down and you probably eat whenever you want. So before you do this stuff is there something that you would say? “No way Melissa.”
Joey Lawrence: I’ll sing and a breath mint is important. Deodorant is important. No, she always makes fun of me ‘cause she says that I smell better than her. That I smell prettier than her or something like that.
I was like, “Oh you know I can’t - AHHHH I like to smell good.” You know we try to be respectful to each other. Yeah, no hummus. ‘Cause she’s done that to me and tuna.
Us: So do you guys make a game out of it?
Joey Lawrence: I think she does. Yeah she tries to - I mean, “Seriously?” It’s like “Uh-um.” “I’m like guacamole? Really?” alright. “I’ll have a breath mint.” I’m like, “You just, no. Just a breath mint. That’s like no.” That’s like splashing a little water on some armpits. Soap and then deodorant. That’s the only way to do it and then maybe a washcloth and really scrub that stuff. Anyway we have fun with it.
Us: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you're working on?
Joey Lawrence: I’m hoping to do this film next year called Shy Ray, which is an original idea that I came up with that was written by a great feature writer, Derek Holtstad, who’s awesome. It’s basically like a true romance meets Bonnie and Clyde. It’s really neat. I gotta’ wait to see what happens with Melissa and Joey. We’re gonna' be crossing that hundred episode threshold this year, which is a feat you know. So whether they have intentions of making any more we’ll find out sooner than later.
Us: If you didn't do acting what would you be doing?
Joey Lawrence: If I didn't do acting- you know politics has always intrigued me. I think that a lot of it is about communication, a lot of it. A lot of it is about being open minded and you know, being able to hear what other people have to say. And then go with your gut you know, and you have to have one.
Next up was Melissa Joan Hart and she was every bit as down to earth and charming as I thought she would be! I just love when I meet a celebrity and they are nice. Nice, down to earth and totally approachable - that is Melissa Joan Hart in a nutshell!
Melissa Joan Hart: All right, How do we do this? Do we just go like left to right? What do you want to do? Have any of you ever been in our Audience before?
Melissa Joan Hart: That’s really funny, you guys got to come by. It’s like a pizza party. There’s like disco lights up here that go off and there’s a DJ. Roger does stand up and it’s a blast. It's very distracting when you’re trying to do a live show. You try to remember lines and they throw alts at us so we have to do alternate lines all of a sudden and remember new lines. And it’s hard enough to remember the ones we already have. We’ve been shooting double episodes, so we shot a different episode yesterday and then now we have to do this one today so it’s like, it gets a little confusing and complicated but you know, we power through it. I have some green tea before the show and then we go.
So we’re having a blast. This is our, well I mean technically, our 6th or 7th Season but they call it, I think we call it 4. You know, we just have a really great crew, it's been a pretty tight crew for all these years and we’ve been able to keep it, between these two sets. Between these two sets and we have a Melissa and Joey Bedroom now that’s like a permanent set. And between those 3 sets, we’re pretty much, that’s our show lives there and amongst really just me, Joe and Taylor, playing Lenox. Nick's been off doing big movies. He's a big movie star now. We bring in a few special guests but this year, we really cut back on the special guests so it's really just the 3 of us and 3 sets. So our writers have done an amazing job being able to keep it going and keep it running.
Us: They work. But you guys do an amazing job like I loved the Halloween episode this year. Are you guys gonna do more of that?
Melissa Joan Hart: There, well, our Christmas episode was probably my favorite episode I've ever done. The period piece was hilarious but of course the hoop starts in the comedy, being able to use that old fashioned language with current sort of more, you know, racy humor was really fun and exciting and we just had a blast doing that. We have one other special episode coming up this year although I heard our budget was just cut so I'm not exactly sure how special that will be.
We're calling it Melissa and Joey's Prison but it's a flash forward thing so that'll be a special episode. Luckily Joey and I don't have to age so we don't need prosthetics but everyone else will. We've been able to keep the show really tight, you know, keep it really just about, you know, smaller stories with just more room for dialogue and character growth and that kind of thing to really focus on the humor and the real life. You know, what really happens when people get married, when you change the dynamics of a relationship or when you have a relationship like we do. It's, you know, it's like my husband and I actually, our relationship thrives on sort of bickering and you know, it's like - it's like a flirting. It's like a little bit of a I don't know, off kilter flirting. I have so many people in my life that look at me and my husband and go, I don't get your marriage. You don't have to. 12 years later, I think it's OK.
Us: Is it important for you then to bring not the same aspects of our family life here but to make it real like your marriage, so it's like a typical TV Marriage?
Melissa Joan Hart: I think so. In a lot of comedies where it's a married couple, the female is the one that's the sort of nagging, you know, bitter, like stop it like if you think about like - I love the show so this is no reflection on that but like, you know, like Patricia Heaton in "Everybody Loves Raymond" or something, it's the one that's like rolling the eyes and really, really? We're gonna do. You know, and the one that's sort of - a lot of the time they've made the wife be other than, what was the Peg Bundy one?
Us: Married With Children.
Melissa Joan Hart: Other than that one. Where the wife is the smart one or she, you know, and she's the one that's keeping the family together and the husband gets to be total fruitcake. Like in this one, I get to be the fruitcake so I love that. Like that's what I wanted. I was so afraid when they were getting these characters together that I'd all of a sudden have to become, you know, the strong center pole that you know, funny things happen around me but not to me, which is what happened on Sabrina. I felt like I didn't like playing that character for that reason. I did on that show, get a lot of opportunity to be a goofball. But on this one, I get to be a complete lush, you know, completely self centered, you know for lack of a better word, b*tch. You know, I get to just be this really flawed fun girl, and I like that even though the dynamic of the show has changed 3 times now, that I still get to play that character, that I still get to be. You know, every once in a while, I'm the grounded, centered one but most of the time, I still get to be that kind of crazy, you know, just completely selfish girl.
Us: You've been doing this for a long time.
Melissa Joan Hart: Did you see the Peter Pan Commercials? My family did 5 Walmart Peter Pan Commercials. And it was such a special opportunity, we couldn't say no. The script was written so beautifully I thought, and I really wanted my family, like I just thought it was so lovely and we'd have this footage forever for our family. But some casting directors did notice, some crew members here got called and were asked to be put in touch with me. So it makes me nervous but they were at the audition and it's weird. It's like, you know, you're competing with these other kids and you know, it's Uh. As mom sitting there and you're like, you want the best for your child but that means that these other children don't get - you know, it was just weird. I don't know. I really don't want them in this business but I also don't want to turn away great opportunities, like this show sounds like a really amazing opportunity. He's young and I don't know that I'm ready for all that for them. I think Ron Howard's kids did it right. I think Goldie Hawn's kids did it right. You know, when they're older and they're out of high school and they can make a decision that this is what they truly want to do, then I'm not gonna stop them.
And I will let, allow them to like, you know, entertain some of these great opportunities but at the same time, I don't want my kids growing up on red carpets and stuff, it just seems a little...I don't know. It's not how I grew up so I think that I don't know what the recipe for that is. I grew up in New York shooting my first show in Orlando. I was nowhere near any kind of big red carpet events or Hollywood stuff going on, I don't feel like I was treated special. I was just, you know, working, I was a working girl. And I loved that. And if I could give it to my son - my son's in the same way, like let them experience it the same way, that would be great. But I don't think you can do that these days, so I think it would be tough.
Melissa Joan Hart: I've never done a live show. My other two shows were on film so Clarissa was four camera, ped cameras like this, but we didn't have the audience so we shot, they were hybrids basically. Those were hybrid shows before the hybrid really existed and Sabrina was really a single camera sit-com before single camera sit-com existed. So we did Sabrina or Clarissa like this but we shot it over in 3 days, we rehearsed for 2. So it's similar to our schedule here. We shoot live one night. Yesterday, we pre-shot some stuff. Fridays, we pretty much take here so it's so lovely. I mean with a family, this is the best job there is in Show Biz, like sit-com is it.
You work, if you know, fast and furious for a few hours a day, and you're done. You know, on episodes and that kind of thing, it's all day, all night. And that's how, what we did on Sabrina. Sabrina we rehearsed really hard Mondays and Tuesdays. And the scripts were broken down in smaller scenes so we had a lot more work to do. Here's it like 10, 15 scenes at the most usually. On Sabrina, we were doing 30 scenes a week so it was just a lot of, little bits which just took a lot of time and there was a lot of rehearsal, a lot of technical stuff. And so on Sabrina, we did two days rehearsal and then we did 3 days of filming. But those 3 days of filming were 12 to 16 hour days.
And we were there all night. And Fridays, we'd just be there until we got done so we're fighting the sun going home. We were younger and we had fun, and we were really a really, really tight crew. We all did everything together. It was fun. Our weekends together, we went on vacations together. We took the whole crew to Florida. We took the whole crew to Vegas. I took a lot of them with me to Australia and Rome when we shot our TV Movies and stuff. So we were super tight for those years. We were all pretty much single. Everyone was just starting to get in relationships. Some were just getting married at the end. There were some people who were having babies but we were all kind of growing up together.
And that was a really hard schedule but it was really fun. But it was a single camera sit-com before they really were around because we had 3 cameras but it was film. And it was shot basically like a single camera show because it was so technically and every angle had to be accounted for in a certain way. Here we can kind of go through it. We do each scene two times and we're done, you know, so this is just such a lovely schedule being a Mom. The only problem is my family is on the East Coast so this makes it, this is a whole other obstacle for me now with - with my home life and my work life. We live in Connecticut so...
Us: Do they come out to visit you over.
Melissa Joan Hart: They're here right now. Every since I had my third son, my last baby, they come with me now. But now they're in school here half the year and tomorrow's their last day of school so we're doing like the teacher's gifts and all the goodbyes. They wanted to do candy canes for all their friends so we had to hand write every candy cane for every friend. And I had to redo all the paperwork and re-enroll them in Connecticut and now we go back to Connecticut on Monday. I mean, the Monday after New Year's. So they'll start there riding the school bus again and stuff so... And then I'll be here by myself for 6 weeks. I know, it's harder on me - it's better for them. though...
Us: What experience from being a Mom have you brought to your role on this show?
Melissa Joan Hart: The exact opposite. Everything that I know about being a Mom, I try to do the exact opposite of my, instincts for Mel, because she doesn't know. You know, she didn't have a baby. It's so different I think when you have a baby and you raise a baby, and they become these little people, and you know their personalities all throughout. And then all of a sudden, you're given teenagers I think you really, and you've known them and you've spoiled and they've been your - your niece and nephews and you spoiled them your whole life like, you know, I have some examples in my life of people that have come into step children that know how to spoil but do not know how to raise. And that's the difference and so I try to bring that to Mel, you know, just inappropriate things. Like telling too many stories about sex and alcohol and then realizing "Oh, I'm not supposed to be saying that to you."
Us: You have a great working dynamic with Ted. Are you friends with Ted as well?
Melissa Joan Hart: Absolutely. Yep, our key grip, Ron, I don't know if you've seen him around here. He has a little boy and his baby is here right now at lunch. So the baby will be here as his best friend so we have a little lunch. You know, we all hang out, Taylor and I are super close. Joey unfortunately lives a little far away so his daughters don't come to lunch anymore like they used to. But there's always high chairs at our lunch, at our crew feed. And you know, we all hang out as much as we can. This crew is different from Sabrina in the sense that everyone has families and babies. And actually, we all had babies in 2012. I think there were, we actually took, we took a picture of all the babies lined up on the couch.
We had like 8 babies born in 2012 when we were on hiatus that week. So we all came back and we're like, none of us saw each other pregnant. It was just like, "Hey look we have babies." It's so weird.
So you know, we all have Mommy brain around here but we have a really tight crew and we have a lot of fun. We also don't, like on Sabrina, we were together, 3 days a week for those massive amount of hours. And here it's like we all get together for a few hours on Wednesday, and a few hours on Thursday and we're out of here. So actually our script supervisor, she was at my wedding in Italy. We do have a really tight crew here, as much as we can.
You can catch the winter season premiere of Melissa and Joey on ABC Family on Wednesday night at 8 PM EST!
HUGE Thank You to Disney for bringing me out to LA for the Into the Woods event! I attended as part of an all expenses paid media trip, but all opinions are my own.