When you think of
Joey Lawrence, most people think ďWhoa!Ē I know I do, thanks to the
iconic catchphrase he made popular back in the 90ís while playing Joey
Russo on the hit TV show Blossom.
Before becoming a
teenage heartthrob on Blossom, Joey spent his adolescent years
doing guests spots on other popular sitcoms like Diffírent Strokes
and Silver Spoons before landing his first recurring role on the
80ís hit Gimme a Break.
ended in 1995, Joey has continued to act in films and made-for-TV
movies, as well as in sitcoms including Brotherly Love (alongside
his brothers Matt and Andy), Run of the House and Half & Half
and the popular drama American Dreams. He also danced his
way into third place in 2006 on ABCís popular reality competition
Dancing with the Stars.
Now at 34, Joey
Lawrence is all grown up and this father of two is back on TV in the ABC
Familyís original series Melissa & Joey that airs Tuesday nights
at 8/7 Central. Starring beside his childhood friend Melissa Joan Hart
Ė with whom he had also done the TV movie My Fake Fiancť Ė Joey
portrays an unemployed commodities trader named Joe Longo who has turned
live-in male nanny. He also lends his singing talents to the show Ė a
passion which he has been exploring since his 90s hit single ďNothing My
Love Canít FixĒ Ė performing the opening theme song ďStuck with Me.Ē
Gaining popularity, Melissa & Joey has now been picked up for 20
episodes next season.
Recently, we sat
down with Joey to talk about growing up in front of the camera, family,
his new role as a ďmannyĒ and our mutual love for a school called
I have two kids at
Abington Friends School, where you graduated.
Really? Thatís so
cool. I loved that school. How long have they been there?
This is my
daughterís first year. Sheís in kindergarten and my son is in third
No way. Itís such
a great school. They have a great campus too. The school store, I mean
come on, the school store is awesome. Itís like 200 years old, that
thing. And the meeting for worship house, it was just a great time. I
was actually there when they built the Mueller Auditorium. I just have
such great memories from my years there.
my first question is by í94 when you actually graduated, you had already
Gimme A Break and you were working currently on Blossom.
How difficult was that Ė to travel across the country while working in
LA and then come back here to Abington Friends for school?
difficult because it was just what I was used to. I had been doing it
ever since second grade. First grade, really. And 60% or 70% of my
class were lifers so we were all there together since kindergarten. It
made it very easy. There werenít new groups of kids that I had to deal
with or that didnít know who I was. They were there with me from the
beginning so it never hit them overnight. Therefore I was able to come
back home and get right back into the groove of things and go on my cool
country trips. Great stuff. It was really awesome.
That is cool.
Yes, itís was a
really great time in my life. It was incredible.
I really liked you
Would you like to do more of the dramatic roles or do you prefer comedy
I like both. I
can do both, so itís just a matter of what makes sense at the right
time. This seemed like a good project and I was able to have a lot of
creative control on this one. I hadnít been involved in the half hour
in a long time, so to come back to it this way was nice. But yes,
movies and drama and stuff like that I think is obviously in the future.
Itís all part of the journey and this is where I am at the moment.
You and Melissa
have known each other for quite some time. How do you guys maintain
chemistry onscreen? Youíre friends in real life, but you have to have a
spark onscreen too.
Right. Well, you
know thatís why we get paid the big bucks there. [laughs] Itís
just all part of the job when you have to play certain characters.
There are areas that you have to tap into and youíve got to pull from
personal things in your life and try to use those in your job. I
associate it to just putting myself into Joe Longoís world. Heís
attracted to her, therefore, I am as well as Joe Longo.
both also have younger kids. Whatís it like raising tweens [on the
I think thatís
where the comedy comes from because these people are barely in their 30s
themselves, and they have 16-year-olds running around. So, itís really
more of an uncle/aunt type relationship or an older sibling type of
relationship. Weíre trying to create some kind of normalcy for these
teenagers with their parents either in jail or on the run. Yet at the
same time when youíre 16-years-old youíre kind of baked. Youíre who
youíre going to be. Itís just a matter of the final toppings on the
sundae there. I think that we feel that responsibility to hopefully at
least set a good example for them. Itís tough, being in our 30s, but
weíre sort of on the young end of that, so I think that weíre still kids
at heart and probably act like big kids at times. Itís a tough job. I
wouldnít know what itís like other than the fact that my youngest
sibling, Andy, is 12 years younger than me. So growing up I was really
more like an uncle to him than I was a brother because I took care of
him and he looked up to me that way much more so than Matt, for
instance. Matt and I are only three years apart, so you have all the
much more the normal sibling stuff.
I wonder if you
could talk about just how this project got started. I would assume your
My Fake Fiancť
led to this?
Yes, I think so.
My Fake Fiancť was something that we did together and we had a
good time. There were intangible things that happened and I think that
in the comedy world we just have this sort of innate timing that really
works well. You never know why two people work well together in a
certain genre or a certain type. I donít know if it would be the same
in drama, but certainly in the comedy world we just worked well. We had
never worked with each other or anything like that. We had known each
other, but when we were doing the movie I think that we felt that Ė and
I know the network, they were watching the dailies and stuff and they
were feeling that. Then one thing led to another and before the movie
was over we were all thinking this might work to do a half hour comedy
or something like that. And a year and a half later here we are. But
definitely I think the initial idea came from My Fake Fiancť and
that whole experience.
How different is
it being the executive producer on a series like this? What does that
exactly mean? Do you have more say into your character and how the show
Itís awesome. You
canít be fired at all, which is great. [laughs] No, it does
allow you a lot more creative control over how the show turns out at the
end of the day. In this particular medium I have a lot of experience,
so itís not just like an actor grabbing at some power; itís that I know
as much as anybody does in this particular medium just because Iíve had
so many years of experience. I think that it just helps when youíre not
feeling great about something or if you have an idea about something
that theyíve got to take it seriously. Itís not like an actor for
hire. Itís a part of the team. If I was going to jump back into this
world Ė to the half hour comedy world Ė I wanted to be a big part of the
team rather than an actor for hire.
the teenage characters on the show, how involved are you in choosing
some of their storylines and saying, you know what, I donít want to go
too dark with them and I donít want to make them seem like theyíre
growing up too fast? As a parent of young kids do you feel like a role
model for the younger audience that is watching?
Weíre on the
edgier side, so weíre not going to sugarcoat it, but at the same time
itís not the Disney Channel. Itís not for eight-year-olds. I would say
minimum would be thirteen, just because of the content of the show.
Itís a young adult comedy with teenagers, so it certainly wouldnít be
for six-year-olds, seven-year-olds, or eight-year-olds. It probably
wouldnít hurt them to watch it, but itís not for them. In terms of the
teenage stuff, we try to handle it responsibly but part of the comedy is
that Melís character is not responsible and that Iím there to shed some
light on responsibility. Thatís where some of the comedy comes from.
So there are moments when there is not the right example set, but I
think by the end of the half hour somehow you get a sense of either what
should have happened or what will happen the next time. Theyíre not
really parents and I think theyíre both less developed in that area than
I am in my personal life and Melissa is in her personal life, because we
are young parents and they arenít.
Why did you decide
to keep your first name for your characters on the show?
Honestly, that was
an ABC Family decision. They were emphatic and very passionate about
that. Initially, believe it or not, the character names were Jack and
Annie. But they did their marketing research and the brilliant minds
over there in the ABC Family said, ďLook, there are a lot of channels
and a lot of choices, and we believe in this show and we want to make
sure that people know what it is and we want to be able to cut through.
And we really think that if we use your names, that that will be a
no-brainer, people will know what this is and instantly there will
recognizability for it.Ē We couldnít disagree, even though I think
Melissa and I were both sort of like, eh, at the beginning. But they
gave us some examples and they said look, if you look back at some of
the shows that have done this and itís worked, to name a few, they said
thereís Cosby and Roseanne and Seinfeld and Mary
Tyler Moore, and after that you just kind of go, okay. But it was
really for name recognition and marketing and so far itís really
worked. I think they know a thing or two over there.
character on the show is a bit embarrassed by having the job as a nanny.
What are your feelings are about playing a male nanny.
Look, every good
dad and husband is part nanny. Thatís part of the job, right? You have
kids. I know that part of the domestic responsibilities; itís a 50/50
road there. Iím doing laundry at home and cleaning up around the house
and cooking meals, and thatís just the way it works. But I think that
for this guy in particular it would be a little tough to go from making
millions of dollars and basically having life at your fingertips to
living in a basement apartment and cooking meals. It would be a
transition, to say the least, and I think thatís where the comedy comes
from for Joe Longo. Thatís why heís obsessed with the fact that heís
not actually working for her Ė heís working with her and heís freelance,
so he thinks he can leave at any time he wants. He probably could, but
he wouldnít have anywhere to go. So until he gets his feet back under
him, thatís sort of the underlying theme. Heís going to use this job
until he can trade again, which is five years from now, because he
struck up a deal with the Feds to avoid jail time, but he canít trade
for five years. So it would be tough, I think. Not because of the job
but just because of where you came from to where you were at the
What do you like
best about your character, Joe Longo?
What do I like
best? I like that heís a guyís guy. I like that heís brutally honest.
I sort of wanted to create him as a throwback because I didnít think
that this guy was on TV right now, this brutally honest kind of Bruce
Willis from Moonlighting type guy who had a swagger and had a
great heart. Heís just the kind of guy that if a woman asked him if she
looked good or not in a dress he would be perfectly honest and say,
ďHonestly, that one doesnít look that great.Ē Thatís the kind of guy
that you think youíd hate, but at the end of the day I think youíd
probably like him because heís not saying it for malicious reasons but
heís saying it to be honest. Whereas, most guys would go, ďNo, honey,
you look fine, you look great, you look wonderful.Ē But this guy would
say it. I just wanted that guy back on TV. Heís a little politically
incorrect. Heís kind of a unique combination because heís very smart
and made a lot of money and now heís taking this job that he feels heís
really sucking it up for a minute until he gets his life back together.
Heís a complex guy and I didnít think that that guy was on TV, so thatís
probably what I like best, that heís just brutally honest.
big question, whenever you do a romantic or a sexual tension sitcom, is
do you put the couple together? Have you guys and the writers figured
that out yet?
I think that this
relationship is very similar to Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in
Moonlighting. Itís very similar to Ted Danson and Shelley Long/Kirstie
Alley. Itís those love to hate, hate to love things, and if you get
these two people together that starts to signify the show wrapping
itself up. So youíve got to fight that for as long as you can, because
if you give into that then it becomes syrupy and gives you cavities and
then the comedy dies. So it probably will happen, but hopefully we have
an opportunity to be on for a while and it wonít happen for a while.
What does it feel
like for you to work in front of a live audience? Do you find the
energy is different having the immediate reaction from the fans?
Yes, I think that
with this particular medium, the half hour comedy, I prefer it in front
of a live audience, or at least some sort of hybrid version of it, just
because I feel that a lot gets lost when thereís no live audience at
all. It was really intended to be theater in a box. I mean, thatís
what half hour comedy on TV was intended to be. As itís grown and
changed I think that thereís a single camera format where you donít have
any audience. I think the live crowd keeps the show alive and moving
along and keeps it bubbling under the surface, so to speak. I like that
energy being in this format. Itís fun to watch and I think it makes you
feel alive when you watch it. It is a rush, because it really is like
theater. You get that great response when a joke works and you also
donít get a great response when a joke doesnít work and you know and
then you can change it, which is what we do. I donít know; itís a great
Are there any
personality traits in real life that have been infused into the
Youíve got to put
a little bit of yourself into all the characters that you portray.
There are some similarities, but Iíd say there are more things Ė
especially in Joe Longo Ė that are not similar to me, but thatís what I
enjoy. I enjoy playing that because thatís not the guy that I am
essentially. But I do like the fact that heís honest. I think we share
that in common.
about families, both you and Melissa have young children and Iím just
wondering how hard it is right now to balance the series and your
Thatís really the
challenge of any young parent with any job really. Iím not any
different than any guy whoís an upstart lawyer or an investment banker
or a construction worker or a teacher or anything like that. The
toughest challenge in life is to balance being the best parent you can
be and also succeeding as much as you can. Knowing that youíre doing it
for your family, knowing that youíre doing it for college funds and to
hopefully allow you and your wife to be able to spend your later years
in somewhat of financial comfort. Thatís what itís all about. But that
balance is probably the toughest thing in life, really, because itís
about switching gears constantly. You come home from a long day of work
and thereís a lot of things on your mind and the normal stresses and
anxieties and responsibilities of your work, and then bang, you walk
through the door and itís diaper changing and Phineas and Ferb
and story time and bath time, and itís just, wow. So itís not easy, but
challenges are something that I feel are exciting and that I want to
conquer, and this is certainly I think one of the largest ones that any
person will ever have, really.
Are you going to
use your musical talents on Melissa & Joey?
Yes, I actually
did write the theme song for this. In the opening titles, the way they
do it nowadays sort of the theme song as a whole has kind of
disappeared, which is unfortunate, they donít play the whole thing. But
at the end of the show if you listen out for it and itís like this, ďI
guess youíre stuck with me,Ē right, and that is part of a full song
which will be up on iTunes and itís a really cute little folky-pop
thing. Then we totally did a full remix, a brand new version of it,
which will be on my record which comes out early next year, which is
really exciting. The recordís great. I would not have gone down that
road again if I didnít really think it was awesome, and it is exciting
working with Matthew Gerard and a bunch of great guys on this thing.
Itís a pop record that I think people are going to be happy with. Itís
really exciting stuff. Anyway, the total remix version is we did this
reggae sort of dance version of this song and we flipped it up on its
head and I re-did the vocal and everything and it sounds really sick.
So that will be on the record too.
and Melissa both have a really large fan base that goes back a long way
and so I was hoping that you could talk about who the fans are for the
show and what audience youíre expecting, new fans, old fans, and just
the response so far.
The response so
far has been great. I think our fans are people that have grown up with
us and then thereís a younger growing fan base thatís grown up with the
reruns of the shows. Thatís whatís so great. I know that when
Brotherly Love went over to the Disney Channel, although my fans at
the time were probably 19, 20 years old, it went over there and became
the number one show on that channel for four or five years, and it was
exposed to a bunch of 8-year-olds and 10-year-olds who are now 17 and
18. So even though probably my core audience is 25 to 35 or something
like that, there are all these 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds, and
17-year-olds that know very well who I am and who Matt and Andy are just
because of that success. I know it was the same with Melissa with
Sabrina being on reruns everywhere and stuff like that. Thatís what
makes it very unique. When youíre blessed enough to do this kind of
work for a long time and yet still are young, you are exposed to a bunch
of different ages, and they will start to follow you if youíre lucky.
Weíve both been very lucky in that regard. Iíd say the age range is
probably anywhere from 12 to 49, which is what made it enticing to the
You said that
youíve been in the business for a long time. What do you attribute your
success to, anything in particular?
intangible, really. But thereís no rhyme or reason for it and thereís
certainly no progression that you can follow, other than just try to
work hard. Iíve always tried to work hard. I try to live right and
make as many right choices as I can. Nobodyís perfect by any means, but
I think that we all know right and wrong and the goal in life, as my
grandfather told me, is to try to make as many of the right decisions as
you possibly can. I was from a generation that was about the work.
There were young people even in my generation growing up that messed up,
that had problems with drugs and run-ins with the law and stuff, but it
was about the work. They didnít go into it wanting to be famous for
anything other than doing great work or being in big movies or TV
shows. Today if thereís been any change at all, itís that a lot of
young people are coming in to this to be famous Ė like famous to be
famous, not famous because of the work. For us, it was just about doing
the work you loved to do. The fame thing was like, wow, a cherry on top
and it was a cool thing but you always kept perspective on it. Whereas,
today gosh, so many of these young people are just famous for a sex tape
or famous for something else crazy or getting arrested or drug
overdoses, you know, itís horrible. Part of the reason why Iíve been
able to stick around for a long time is just because, well, number one,
Iíve been lucky and I have great, incredible fans out there that grew up
with me, because Iíve been able to do this from 5-years old to
34-years-old already. And Iím just sort of beginning really, I feel,
because as a leading man this is when it begins, at 30 really. So itís
kind of cool. Then keeping my nose clean and trying to live right and
making it about the work instead of about my personal life, and trying
to keep as much of that private. Even though Iím a public person you
try to keep as much of that private and try to keep it classy. I think
that itís worked so far.
if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and re-do it?
There were certain
movies that I did not do during the whole Blossom run and stuff,
just because I didnít want to get burned out doing the whole teen
thing. I was fortunate that when I was a young teenager I was playing
the age that I was. It wasnít one of those things where I was like some
of these other actors and stuff that were 25 playing 16, so that was the
good thing about it. But you pass on some of these roles and they end
up turning out to be huge hit movies. I donít know whether Iíd re-do
it, but it makes you think twice, like maybe I should have. At the same
point in time I didnít want to burn myself out as a teenager and not
have any sort of career later in life, because I think there are two
ways you can go with that. You can either get over-exposed and then
never work again, make a lot of money but never work again, or you can
pace yourself and say, you know what, I believe that I can do this for
the rest of my life and I think the prime area of a career, for a male
especially, really doesnít even begin until youíre in your middle
thirties. Then if youíre lucky enough and if you choose wisely and you
work hard enough probably 35-60 is really the career that you want. If
you look at all the great leading men, you look at Tom Hanks and Michael
Douglas and John Travolta, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, these guys. I
mean, George Clooney didnít even start ER until he was 35 or 36
years old. So thatís what I was thinking. I was trying to keep my eye
on the bigger picture. But there were a couple of those movies that
ended up being huge hit movies that probably wouldnít have hurt, and
thatís the way the cookie crumbles. I try not to have any regrets about
anything, just because I believe that the way it went down is the way it
was supposed to go down. You have to believe that otherwise youíll
drive yourself crazy.
I know in the past
youíve worked with your brothers in a lot of different projects. Is
there any chance one of them would guest star in the future? Would you
be interested in that?
Sure. I love
those guys. Theyíre so talented. Yes. Weíre already starting to throw
around some ideas, cool ways to have Matt and Andy on the show in some
regard. As a matter of fact, itís a very good chance that Matt at some
point will be on the show very shortly, and Andrew will as well, but I
think the role for Matt will probably come up first.
know youíre still involved with film other than TV and I was wondering
if there are any upcoming projects or things youíre working on that you
could talk about?
As I mentioned,
weíve got the new record coming out next year, which is exciting. I was
able to work with Matthew Gerard on the whole thing, and I donít know if
you know who he is, but you can Google him. Heís just a prolific
producer and has had 30 number one hit songs - one that Kelly Clarkson
did, Jesse McCartneyÖ itís just incredible what heís been able to do
to. Miley Cyrus and all that stuff. We just started working and itís
turned into this amazing thing. In terms of films, Iím always working
on that. Thatís just a process that I really wanted to take my time and
not rush it. Thatís why even as a teenager I passed on a lot of those
movie roles because I wanted to do them later when I felt like as a man
that Iíd be able to do the roles that I wanted to do. Weíre getting
there. Iím going to be doing a movie next year called Havana Heat,
which is this big action Miami Vice thing, sort of in the line of
The Expendables. Wesley Snipes is in it and weíre working with a
bunch of great other guys. Theyíre closing their deals right now so I
canít really talk about them, but weíre going to put together sort of a
dream team of amazing action guys and Iím going to play this cop that is
sort of in the middle of it all. Itís about a drug lord that goes from
the United States down to Cuba and me and my team follow him. Itís
really exciting. Itís really cool. Weíre going to start shooting that
probably early next year, as soon as Iím done with hopefully the first
full season of the show and before I start the second season.
I wanted to know
what your favorite memory is or what you loved best about working on
Thereís not one
specific memory, just kind of a really great, warm feeling about the
whole thing, because that was a tremendous time in my life. There was a
period of time there where as a 16-year-old, I was probably the most
successful one in the world, so itís not something that you plan but you
certainly canít beat that. It was just so great to be on a big hit show
like that and to be so successful personally and yet still have all my
friends. Since I was in high school and all those great things, you get
your prom and you get your school trips. I flew back every three weeks
to Abington Friends and then got to experience all that stuff and
graduated from there. It was just a wonderful time. You look back on
that and you say, wow, man, it was crazy how simple and just awesome it
was, because as you get older life gets complicated, you know.
I read that you
sold a script to ABC Family for a movie called
Can you tell us about it?
Yes. Itís a movie
that Iím doing with the producer of the Wedding Crashers,
which is great. Itís a really funny movie, kind of like Doc
Hollywood meets Sweet Home Alabama. We hope to be shooting
it sometime next year, in between hopefully season one and two of this
show. But itís a really funny, romantic comedy that I think will work
well for them. It would have made a great feature too. But I think
that with the success of My Fake Fiancť we thought why not let
ABC Family kind of give another crack at it, and they were excited about
it and got a great team, and weíre going to make a good one. So Iím
looking forward to that.
mentioned that you liked working in front of the live studio audience
with the comedy. When you worked in Chicago were you bitten by the
theater bug at all? Do you want to do more stage work?
I would do that.
That is a ton of work. Iíve got mad props for those stage actors that
do it 50 weeks out of the year, because itís just tremendously draining
because every day you wake up and basically itís a countdown to the
show. Especially a musical like that, you have to be in perfect voice
and you have to sleep and you need your rest, and you wake up and just
prepare for the show. Itís eight shows a week. Itís unbelievable. I
did it for four months and it kicked my butt. It was a great
experience, but boy, it was like, wow. I happen to love that particular
musical and I love the character and they let me do a Frank Sinatra
thing with them and I loved it, so that was why I did that.
active on Twitter and Iím wondering how youíre finding that and how you
find time for that.
Well, itís hard to
find time for it, actually. I was sort of pushed into it. All my
friends are like, oh man, youíve got to be on Twitter. Iím like a
techno-idiot actually, but I was able to master my iPhone and Twitter.
Itís kind of cool. Itís crazy; itís like crazy and cool at the same
time. Itís crazy that you are communicating with your fans, and thatís
kind of cool and you get that instant feedback. But then itís part of
your job now, because if you donít do it there are a lot of people that
are doing it and developing that kind of relationship I think is
I also noticed
that Melissa is active on Twitter and has more followers than you, and
Iím wondering if thereís any rivalry there?
Well, she started
a long time before me. I just began the thing like five, six weeks ago,
maybe seven weeks ago, and Iím getting my feet wet. I havenít announced
that Iím on Twitter as much as I should because I keep forgetting to do
it, like when Iím on Regis and stuff. But weíre working on it.
Yes, sheís got more than me. Bastard! No, itís fine, itís cool. I
didnít expect to have more than 200, so I was like hey, Iíve got 8,000,
itís pretty cool. Iím sure it will grow the more that I talk about it
and stuff. I just have to do a better job of letting people know that
Iím on it. Thatís really my job.