Joey Lawrence Talks About MELISSA & JOEY and Some Future Projects

Joey Lawrence

ABC Family has a hit on its hands with the new MELISSA & JOEY, and no one seems happier about that than the stars themselves. Joey Lawrence recently talked to the press about Melissa & Joey, his character Joe Longo, some of his future projects, and why he thinks he`s been so successful.

On getting Melissa & Joey on the air and the response so far

When shooting My Fake Fiancé, Joey said that it was clear to everyone involved that there was something special there–he and Melissa had that intangible chemistry and comic timing that led to the idea of a longer-term project. With the resurgence of comedies on CBS and the fact that everyone involved was already a fan of the classic 80s and 90s shows like Mad About You or Who’s the Boss, it seemed like a good time to try a sitcom. Joe said he really wanted to do a romantic comedy because there wasn’t one on the air and that the show developed from there.

When asked about what it’s like being an executive producer, Joey immediately and happily said, “Great. I can’t be fired.” He continued that he liked having more creative control and not simply being an actor at will. When asked how involved he was in the kids’ storylines and keeping them role models, Joey explained that Melissa & Joey is geared toward teens and up, not eight year olds and that while they try to handle stories responsibly, they aren’t going to sugar coat everything. “This isn’t the Disney Channel.” He elaborated that he hoped people would come away from an episode knowing what should have happened, even if the kids (or Joey and Melissa) didn’t do quite the right thing–that they would know a lesson was learned for a future episode.

Joey described the audience response so far as great, crediting the fan bases both he and Melissa have developed both from when their shows originally aired and the re-runs that attracted younger viewers. He said he considers himself blessed with great fans who have followed him and who now fit into the advertising-attractive 18-49 demographic.

On Joe Longo

Joey described Joe as a man’s man: someone who is brutally honest and sometimes politically incorrect–a guy who, when asked, would tell a woman if she didn`t look good. Joey wanted the character to be a sort of throwback, someone with both a swagger and a great heart, like Bruce Willis’ character in Moonlighting. Joey said that there really isn’t anyone on TV like that right now and he wanted to fill that void.

When asked about Joe’s embarrassment to be a manny, Joey pragmatically described Joe as a guy who had been pulling down millions as a commodities trader and now is living in a basement apartment and can’t do any trading for five years, He needs to see himself as a freelancer; someone working with Melissa, not for her. He also needs to believe that he can leave any time he wants and that he’s just marking time until he can get back to his real career.

Joey said that while he has to put a bit of himself into every role and that he and Joe share honesty and political correctness, for the most part, Joe and Joey have more differences than similarities. That is a big part of what drew Joey to the project in the first place.

On what’s next for Melissa & Joey

Joey said there’s a very funny Dancing with the Stars-themed episode coming up that isn’t at all what we’d expect. He credits the writers for their ability to take an idea and “turn it on its head,” creating something fun and different.

We’ll also meet Joe’s ex-wife in a future episode and Joey hinted she would be played by someone we would recognize. Ideas are being kicked around now.

Both Matthew and Andy Lawrence could (and probably will) appear on Melissa & Joey, though neither will play Joe’s brother, and they will be in separate episodes. Joey hinted that Matthew might be on sooner than we’d expect. Joey just wants the stories to be right, but so long as that happens, there’s no one he would rather have on the show.

“That’s why I get paid the big bucks” was Joey’s teasing answer when asked about how he and Melissa, after all their years as friends, keep the chemistry alive on screen. He explained that it really is simply a part of the job and he just has to insert himself into Joe Longo’s world.

When asked when Joey and Melissa would get together, he described Melissa & Joey as being like Moonlighting or Cheers with that brand of sexual tension. He explained that when the couple gets together, it generally means the show is wrapping up or it gets too syrupy and you lose the comedy. The best bet, according to Joey, is to keep the characters apart as long as possible and he hopes they’re given a nice long run to see the journey through.

On his success and any regrets

When asked why he thought he has had so much success, Joey attributed it to his work ethic and the intangibles that make viewers connect with some actors, claiming that luck and having great fans played a big role in his career. He also said that his grandfather had always told him to “make as many of the right decisions” as he could and that while he hadn’t been perfect, he always tried to do that. Joey further explained that in his generation, people mostly went into show business to work, whereas now many seek fame instead.

As for regrets, Joey said that while he prefers to believe that “what went down was supposed to go down,” there are a few movie roles he turned down during the Blossom years that he has since thought twice about. While he didn’t give specifics, he said a couple of the movies went on to be very successful and they might have helped him easier launch a feature film career. At the time, he feared burning out as an actor and was looking for longevity because he doesn’t think an actor’s prime years start until age 35, giving Tom Hanks and George Clooney as examples.

On future projects

The next year will be busy one for Joey. He wrote and recorded the theme for Melissa & Joey, and the full song, what Joey termed a “cute folky pop thing” will soon be available on iTunes. He has also done a reggae-dance remix of the song and it will appear on a new album Joey is releasing next year. He’s very excited about this album, his first in a long time. It’s being produced by Matthew Girard and Joey likened it to Justin Timberlake.

Joey also has a couple of movies in the pipeline. One, a theatrical film called Havana Nights, is an action thriller starring Wesley Snipes about a drug lord that goes from the U. S. to Cuba. Joey will play a cop and he described the film as a Miami Vice or Expendables-type film.

The other movie Joey hopes to shoot during his Melissa & Joey hiatus is an ABC Family movie he wrote and will also produce called Mr. Everything. Joey said it’s a Doc Hollywood meets Sweet Home Alabama romantic comedy.

Joey also said he hopes to direct an episode of Melissa & Joey, but he was hesitant when asked if he would write one. While he said he could, he admitted it would take a lot out of him and he wasn’t sure he would be able to find the time and settle down to actually do it.

On Twitter

Joey recently joined Twitter (@joeylawrence) after being pushed into it by friends. While he claimed he was a “techno-idiot,” he admitted he finds Twitter to be both crazy and cool. He said it’s a good way to get fans more involved and get information out to people and that it has become almost a part of the job. Melissa Joan Hart can also be found on Twitter (@mellyjhart) and has about 50,000 more fans than Joey, but he claims he’ll catch up once he starts pushing it the way he should.

On his eye injury

Recently on set, one of the actresses hugged someone while holding her script and it somehow jammed into Joey’s eye, ripping his cornea. Joey called it a freak accident, but said it was one of the most painful injuries he could imagine., After five days, the pain is just beginning to subside and it could take a month for his vision to fully return. For now everything is blurry.

Melissa & Joey airs on ABC Family Tuesday nights at 8pm/7 central.

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