Interview: Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence Talk About MELISSA & JOEY

Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence
MELISSA & JOEY returns with some new episodes tonight, June 29, on ABC Family at 8pm. And to help you wait patiently until then, Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence took some time to answer a few questions about what’s coming up in the series.

Are you excited about debuting new episodes?

Melissa Joan Hart: What’s interesting about it is that in the beginning, what everyone has seen is really our warming up. Every show has their first season and there’s warming up. The first twelve especially were just us getting our groove. Now, the next eighteen we’re figuring out where the show lives. The next eighteen just develop even more and are richer in subject and whatnot. I think we really found our groove right around Christmas.

Do you think the tone stays really light or does it get dark at all?

Melissa Joan Hart: Not darker. It’s a comedy. We don’t have to have those very special episodes. It’s going to be a straight comedy and the exciting thing about this is that it’s ABC’s Family first time, first of all with original programming on Wednesday nights, but also it’s their first comedy block with us and ‘State of Georgia’, Raven Symone’s show. So it’ll be their first comedy block. We’re going to always keep it light and fun. We have some great guest stars on the next eighteen episodes. We have Vivica Fox and Joey’s brothers come in, in two different capacities. Matt and Andy.

Joey Lawrence: John Ratzenberger.

Melissa Joan Hart: In the first episode that airs on June 29th Joey’s wife comes back.

Will you still be living down in the basement?

Joey Lawrence: Yep. I’m still in the man cave.

Will we see more development of the environment that you’re living in?

Joey Lawrence: I think so. It actually all leads up to a very interesting finale to season one, part B.

Melissa Joan Hart: We have a threesome. We have a lesbian wedding. We have a few things happen.

Joey Lawrence: We get to get away with things. I think that people think ABC Family and they think, ‘Oh, family.’ But ABC Family is ABC cable and we can do things at eight o’clock that we couldn’t do on ABC and that’s what’s kind of cool. We get away with jokes that I don’t think we’d be able to get away with.

What’s been your favorite storyline in the show so far?

Melissa Joan Hart: I like Japan.

Joey Lawrence: Japan was funny.

Melissa Joan Hart: And before that ‘Dancing With the Stars’ that already aired, but of the new ones Japan. There’s a Japanese businessman coming to talk to the city about opening a business. As a representative of Toledo I try to convince him and Joey can…

Joey Lawrence: I was born on a military base in Korea and I know how to speak the language. So, I come and serve as her translator and chaos ensues. It’s funny.

Did you have to learn all of that phonetically or do you know how to speak Japanese?

Joey Lawrence: No. I had to learn it all phonetically the week of. It was pretty crazy.

Some people have said the lack of sexual tension between the character is a weak point. Has that increased?

Melissa Joan Hart: There’s a lot of sexual tension between the two characters on the show.

Joey Lawrence: You have to do that gradually. It has to sneak up on you. If you just hit people with sexual tension right from the beginning, by thirty episodes in you’re bored. I think it has to be a gradual build.

Melissa Joan Hart: There’s definitely sexual tension laced throughout every show, but the basis of our relationship is that we don’t like each other, but we need each other. So, really, that’s where the comedy comes from. Through the show you see our relationship develop to the point where we respect each other, but we don’t always get along and do things the same way. It’s really like any husband or wife or brother and sister.

Joey Lawrence: Like any husband wife, they really hate each other.

Melissa Joan Hart: They’re just kind of living in the same house. But also where the comedy comes from is that neither of us know how to be parents. So we’re constantly struggling with how to do it. ‘I would do it this way.’ ‘Well, I would do it this way.’ ‘Well, you’re not doing it right.’

As a mother, do you put in the don’ts of motherhood?

Melissa Joan Hart: Well, I sort of based my character on the opposite of what I do for my kids. All those natural instincts, this character has none of those. She’s a party girl who’s a politician. What does she know about raising kids? Basically, the way that I play the character is the exact opposite of what I would do.

And as a father, do you bring any of your parental knowledge or avoid that?

Joey Lawrence: These kids are old. They’re not eight. They’re fifteen and seventeen. So, really it’s more of like an aunt and uncle. I think that I associate Joe Longo’s relationship with Ryder, who’s fifteen on the show turning sixteen, more like I would with my sibling Andy who I’m eleven years old than. It’s really more like that. I think it’s more that you can get away with saying things that a parent necessarily couldn’t, but you also have an opportunity to get through to these young people would than a parent would because they associate you as more of an older peer than a parental figure. We’re not parents and these kids are so old that it’d be impossible.

You were both child performers. Working with the kids, do you see them doing things you wished you did or that you can’t believe they’re doing?

Melissa Joan Hart: A little bit of both. Taylor [Spreitler] is very smart. She’s a firecracker, man, and we’ve become really good friends. She has her head on right. What’s great about her is that she’s willing to look and observe and learn and ask questions. She comes from the soap opera world. So there was a little bit of breaking her in to the comedy genre, but she’s taken to it. She’s willing to take any advice. She’s constantly asking questions, and any time we give them tidbits they totally take it. Nick [Robinson] is fantastic and has great natural instincts. He’s just delightful.

So we’ve all become very close. It’s really fun to watch them because it is a different time than when we were growing up, with iPhones and flip-cams and everything else. People are Twittering crazy stuff, thinking that everything that comes out of their mouth is brilliant. Sometimes that stuff should be kept private and they’re learning that. We try to keep an eye on them in that way, too. It’s also crazy. We have these moments where we think we can relate to them because we keep thinking that we’re that age and then we realize that we’re twenty years older and are like, ‘What happened?’ It’s crazy.

Is there more physical comedy in the show?

Melissa Joan Hart: Wherever possible.

Joey Lawrence: She loves the physical comedy.

Melissa Joan Hart: Spit takes. Throw some salad around at the word diarrhea. We do a lot of physical comedy.

Joey Lawrence: If it makes sense.

Melissa Joan Hart: If it’s not ridiculous. It’s usually ridiculous, but it’s funny ridiculous.

When the show first came out there were comparisons to ‘Who’s The Boss’. Do you think that’s valid?

Melissa Joan Hart: Well, the show structure is the same. You’ve got two people raising two kids that are not together. However, they are the natural parents. So, that comparison is easy.

Joey Lawrence: I don’t know whether it’s necessarily true. I think the fact that you have a guy that comes in and takes care of the domestic responsibilities and is sort of working for the woman and the woman is the business woman, that’s what’s similar, but pretty much everything else is [different]. The relationship isn’t the same. The characters are not the same. Tony Danza didn’t have an MBA in business. They didn’t have a mutual respect for each other in the business front. It’s more like they had respect for each other because they were in the same boat with their children. These aren’t even our kids. It’s not really the same, but I think it’s an easy comparison.