Heart to heart with ‘Two and a Half Men’ outsider Jennifer Taylor
In her most expansive interview, Charlie Sheen’s TV fiancé on #MeToo, bad auditions, intuition, awkwardness, health, and God
“Two and a Half Men was one of the best things that ever happened to me.” Jennifer Taylor refuses to knock the bawdy, perpetually clever 30-minute sitcom that launched her into the living rooms of 15 million viewers over two seasons. As no-nonsense brunette bombshell Chelsea Melini, she loved freelance jingle writer and constant philanderer Charlie Harper “for who he was despite some of his crap.”
Before joining Two and a Half Men’s sixth season in 2008, the sole female player on her 10th grade football team had spent eight financially uncertain years slogging through occasional guest turns in movies and TV series. Compounded by a poor economy and writers’ and actors’ strikes, Taylor was on the precipice of selling her modest Los Angeles home and moving back to Miami to pursue a teaching career with her electrician husband, son, and incoming bundle of joy.
Taylor was as low as any person could go, face down on the floor begging to God. When nobody expressed interest in buying their home, Taylor took that as God’s divine intervention to hang tight and accepted online courses from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, to complete the 10 credits required for her Bachelor’s in Sociology degree. Welcoming daughter Samantha, within seven days Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre asked the future God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness leading lady to audition for the role of Chelsea [she had previously portrayed three different characters going all the way back to the pilot].
In the months leading up to the interview I found myself replaying all 178 episodes of Charlie Sheen’s eight seasons on CBS’s moneymaking juggernaut before he was controversially axed for self-destructive behavior and creative differences with Lorre vented to the media. Googling cast bios, Taylor came of age in nearby Florida, modeled until appearing in Adam Sandler’s blockbuster comedy The Waterboy, and was a Christian in a sitcom deemed “filth” by costar Angus T. Jones and the Parents Television Council. Such a dichotomy intrigued me. A Buttoned Up profile, one of Taylor’s infrequent interviews from nearly a decade ago, revealed that her lactose intolerance had been misdiagnosed for years.
Worried about a friend who battles the uncomfortable digestive disorder, I reached out for an interview request. Two weeks later and no reply. Assuming all hope was shattered, suddenly a conscientious assistant at Taylor’s management office named Daphne replied to my email. The Shameless guest actor wanted to do a phone conversation after reading the articles I had submitted for consideration. It was an encouraging harbinger, as it’s virtually unheard of for a potential interview subject to spend time researching my portfolio. That job is reserved for the gatekeeper [i.e. manager or publicist], and oftentimes they stop reading the pitch when they realize which publication bears your name.
Although initially annoyed at submitting my questions in advance — Taylor wanted a basic idea of which direction the conversation would follow — I accepted the challenge and devised 50 — considerably too much but unsurprising if one knows me. Taylor reserved the right to demur any topic which made her uncomfortable, but over two hours and ten minutes she proved herself to be an engaging, grounded, heart on her sleeve individual who fiercely believes in taking nothing at face value. And she didn’t mind if we ventured off script — which occurred repeatedly. In the four months it took for this story to see the light of day, Taylor supplied details which I had neglected to raise the first go around and ensured accuracy which is very unusual. In spite of the “spectacular failure” of a $750,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to film her debut Unfaithfully His movie script — a condensed Unfaithful short which she produced, wrote, and starred in is already in the can — the eternal outsider is the real deal.
The Jennifer Taylor Interview
What kinda kid were you?
Just normal. I grew up in New Jersey. My dad is a native Italian, and my mom is Irish. I would hang out in the neighborhood as a little kid. My parents didn’t have friends come over. We would go to the families for any events.
I was a quiet kid and really shy. In elementary school my teachers were concerned about me because I didn’t like to engage. Even though I was very bright, I was shy. Mr. Luzzi, one of the music teachers who wrote original plays at my elementary school, suggested I should start doing them — maybe that would help. So I did and never failed to try out for any of his productions. I really enjoyed each experience.
When I was in second grade my parents took me to see Annie on Broadway. I was like, ‘Whoa, I wanna do this,’ but I might as well have said I wanted to walk to the moon. There was no path.
I did plays in elementary school, and we moved to Florida when I was about 10 years old. I got into sports. I didn’t do theater throughout high school. I started modeling, and I booked a commercial where I had to speak. I was like, ‘Oh, I like this.’
Does stage fright impact you?
When I am acting, it isn’t about me. Acting is safe and allows me to be creative. I am hands down an introverted person. If I’m gonna be around a lot of people that I don’t know, it gets overwhelming so I have to really gear up.
If I’m going down the line at a red carpet event and looking at the whole thing I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I have no problem talking one on one, so my trick is not to look at anybody else in the line and place my entire focus on the interviewer.
I’m cool being in big groups of people that I know. Friends are like, “You’re not an introvert.” But I truly am.
What did your mom and dad do for a living?
I’m from a solidly middle class family. My dad was a grocery store manager. In New Jersey he worked at ShopRite. My mom stayed at home most of the time, but before that she worked in a bank. As I grew older, she went into retail.
It was Mom’s decision to move to Florida. We were the only one of both sides of the family who ever left New Jersey. They divorced within a year of moving, and that was rough.
Life’s not always ideal.
It’s really not, but my parents are better now. When I had them at my wedding in 1997, I talked to both of them and said, “Look, you guys are gonna be nice. It’s my wedding.” My mom actually gets along with my stepmom now [laughs].
Do you have any family ties remaining in Florida?
I do. My mom, my brother and his family, and husband’s sister live in Florida.
What sports did you play?
In middle school I started on cross country and track. One day I was sitting with some friends and wondered, “What else should I play besides track?’ I was going through different sports and was like, “I’ll try football ‘cuz I always play with all the guys.”
I went out for the team and played junior varsity [JV] football in high school. I shouldn’t have been playing but I wanted to [laughs]. It was fun, but nobody, including the guys or coaches, wanted me on the team. I was like, ‘I don’t care. I wanna do it.’
I remember the juniors and seniors teasing me and saying, “It’s time for you to move up to varsity. Are you gonna do it?” I was like, “I’m not dumb — I’m done” [laughs].
What subjects did you excel in during school?
I was a good student. I was a nerd. When I was in New Jersey they had me in a gifted class — a pull out of regular class type deal. When we moved down to Florida they tested me and were like, “Oh, she’s not gifted. She’s just an over-achiever.” I’m like, “That pretty much sums me up.”
I loved school and all the subjects. I excelled in English and math, but when I got to creative writing in high school I was like, ‘Whoa, I really enjoy this,’ because starting as a little kid I wrote poetry. Of course, I never showed anybody. I’ve got probably 60 or 70 poems that have never seen the light of day. I have kept everything even from when I was 10 years old.
How much TV or films did you watch?
I didn’t watch a lot of movies growing up. There weren’t movie channels although we eventually got HBO. Television was another story — I watched every kind of sitcom that you can imagine including Gilligan’s Island, I Love Lucy, and In Living Color. I had to get up and change the channel on the dial [laughs].
That was preparing you for what would happen decades later on Two and a Half Men.
I guess so.
Was there an actor that you hero worshiped growing up?
If I did, it wasn’t a big part of my life. I would go down to our basement and sing with a butter knife. I would pretend I was Olivia Newton-John or an ice skater in my garage. I wanted to do gymnastics but my parents were like, “You’re too tall.” I was all over the place and unfocused as a young kid.
Did you consider pursuing a singing career?
Oh absolutely. I’ve got the moves, but I don’t have the voice [laughs]. A singing career never became an option. However, as a kid I didn’t know that singing lessons existed. I tell my kids Jake and Samantha all the time, “You guys don’t understand how good you have it.” Nowadays for sports, dance, or any type creative thing parents are like, “We’ll get you into lessons for anything you want.” That was not in my world. If it wasn’t free at school, it didn’t happen.
Are your kids artistically inclined?
In some ways, but acting is one thing that I’m not gonna push them into unless it is literally written on their soul that that’s what they wanna do. Only then will I offer advice and encouragement.
Jake isn’t really interested, but I can definitely see a little bit of spark of that performing actress in Samantha. Until she is older and says, “Mom, this is what I wanna do,” I’m not gonna interfere. It’s not an easy life as a middle class actor.
Do you prefer being called an actor or actress?
It’s funny. I don’t really care. I always used to say “actor” because I found that “actress” has a negative connotation. I don’t think that’s true anymore.
How do you handle rejection when you don’t get the part?
When I was working in Miami and then the first few years out in California, I used to cry if I didn’t get the part, especially a role that I really wanted. It hurt big time. Once I had my son, what people thought didn’t matter anymore. I know if I interpret the part a certain way, it is what I think the character should be.
Going into an audition, if I do everything that I wanna do, I become okay with that whether they hire me or not. That has been incredibly freeing, and I don’t shed tears anymore. The only people whose opinions matter are these people in my house right now.
You’ve got your priorities in the right place unlike other folks.
Thanks. Sometimes you have to go all way the other way before you can just come to be comfortable where you are.
With an acting résumé stretching to 1998, do you still have to do auditions?
Absolutely! I sometimes get offers for things. I’m constantly not getting a job because a star is getting it, and there’s nothing that I can do about that. However, if I do an amazing job and somebody wants to buy what I’m selling — great! I also believe whatever is meant for me is going to be mine.
Are all auditions horrible?
No. I have actually learned to enjoy auditioning. Whether I get the job or not, it’s an opportunity for me to work and act. I get excited about getting auditions now. I’ve had some really horrible ones. I literally spiraled down for a while after one audition. I got nervous and wasn’t prepared. Every audition that I subsequently did was really bad for awhile.
Perhaps the director or producer was having a rough day, or there were negative vibes in the room.
It could be, but I did a bad job and let it get to me. Everybody else’s energy in the room shouldn’t matter. I’m very aware of other people’s energy. There used to be a time that I would absorb everybody else’s energy, but I can’t live like that. They may be having a bad day. It’s not my job to see how they’re feeling and try to appease anybody. But I am very sensitive to and aware of how other people feel.
What kinda frustrating feedback comes to mind when you recall all the auditions that you have endured?
Anything that I have no control over. That’s why I usually don’t ask for feedback anymore from my manager or agents. If I do, I’m like, “Is there anything useful?” If it has to do with how I look, I have no control over that.
I’ve heard the “oh she’s too pretty,” “oh she’s not pretty enough,” “oh you’re too tall,” and “oh you’re too short” lines countless times. You’re always too much or not enough of something. I’m not gonna let that get to me.
What advice would you give to struggling actors facing auditions?
Be prepared! Literally do the work and know it inside and out. Don’t be lazy like some actors. If I’ve done a good audition, when I get back to my car I don’t replay it over in my head — ‘What could I have done differently?’ The only auditions that I second guess are the ones where I think, ‘Oh, I should have done that.’ And that’s usually because I didn’t prepare.
You accumulated some brief supporting parts in Florida in 1998.
The Waterboy and Wild Things were filmed in Florida. Maximum Bob [based on an Elmore Leonard novel, Maximum Bob was a truncated seven-episode comedy drama on ABC starring Beau Bridges as a right-wing judge who is fond of pronouncing maximum sentences] was also in Florida and then the short-lived Miami Sands telenovela. We moved out here pretty quickly.
For Adam Sandler’s comedy blockbuster The Waterboy, did you have any scenes with Country Music Hall of Fame singer-guitarist Jerry Reed?
I did see Jerry, but we didn’t have any scenes together or get to really have a conversation. I only worked on The Waterboy for three days, so I was in and out.
What would have been the first project that you did in Hollywood?
Oh gosh, that would have been Pacific Blue.
As game show assistant-ingenue Charmaine Dufour, your sole appearance on the long-running medical mystery series Diagnosis Murder was “Two Birds with One Sloan” [the 21st episode of season seven broadcast on April 27, 2000, via CBS]. What were your impressions of Dick Van Dyke?
Dick Van Dyke was wonderful, spectacular, and so kind and open. When I got to Hollywood you could still be an unknown and get a really good guest star part. It’s not like that anymore. To get a guest star like that is so hard. I’m really thankful that I did get here when I did and had a few prior Florida credits to my name.
How did God save your career in 2008?
Being an actress in California hasn’t been easy, especially financially. We had a kid, a baby on the way, a house, and mortgage. We had endured both a writers’ and actors’ strike. The economy had also tanked. We were literally gonna lose our house.
I was getting to the point where I thought, ‘Is it really worth it for me to do maybe one or two guest stars a year and be so far away from our family?’ It was a really, really hard time. I was literally face down on the floor pleading, “God, tell me what you want me to do. I’ll do whatever you say. Am I supposed to stop acting? Because I will.”
I didn’t know which way to go, but when I got up I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna finish school. We’ll move back to Florida, and I’ll become a teacher’ [I had 10 more credits to get my bachelor’s degree].
We put our house on the market. It was in great condition but wasn’t selling at all. I was getting ready to have our daughter Samantha, and I couldn’t move while we were doing that. We were about to take our house off the market when I said to my husband, “Look, there’s a reason why our house did not sell. God has a plan.” Paul goes, “I think you’re crazy.” Alright, whatever, fair enough.
Long story short, I had my daughter and literally started school online. Seven days later I got the part of Chelsea on Two and a Half Men. I was like, “Really? Okay.” I still had the hole in the ground from where the sign was for selling our house. I took that as a sign — ‘You’re not going anywhere, you’re just getting started.’ My daughter Samantha was four months old on the first day I started as Chelsea in 2008.
Sometimes God has to smack me upside the head before I get the sign.
Oh yeah, literally. I’m sure there were a ton of signs along the way, but I’m so darn stubborn I didn’t see it until I was about to lose everything.
Is it safe to assume that the week when you didn’t know which way to turn before the serendipitous Two and a Half Men offer would have been one, if not the, worst moments in your life?
That was really hard, a crossroads in my life. But I’ve had plenty of darkness in my life.
Has depression ever infiltrated your life?
I say this with all seriousness — I honestly don’t know. I did not have an easy childhood when my parents got divorced. Sometimes life sucks, but it always gets better.
Have I ever been depressed? Maybe. But I’m like, ‘Alright, this is just what this is right now.’ Since I had a different upbringing, I didn’t have very high expectations. Sometimes the younger generation has such a sense of entitlement and expects happiness. They get disappointed.
I don’t know how to answer that question. I want to say no, but I’ve gone through times that were really hard. No matter how I feel, I always get up out of bed and do what has to be done.
If you were depressed, you didn’t let it govern your life. You still got out of bed in the morning.
Yep, not every day is gonna be a happy day.
Is it okay to ask you about Two and a Half Men?
Absolutely. Two and a Half Men was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Take me back to how you got started on Two and a Half Men.
I went on an audition for a pilot called Nathan’s Choice  for Fox. Chuck Lorre was the writer and executive producer along with a bunch of future Two and a Half Men writers. The pilot never went, but right after that Chuck did Two and a Half Men. My agent wanted to submit me for another part. The producers were like, “No, that’s not right.”
Chuck offered the part of “Suzanne” to me [Charlie and then-cute 10-year-old nephew Jake briefly meet Suzanne while grocery shopping]. I’m so glad I kept the original table draft script from the pilot of Two and a Half Men. On the photocopied front cover was a note from Chuck saying, “For your eyes only. Chuck Lorre.” I can’t believe that was 15 years ago!
Later they were like, “We’ll have you back.” “Cool.” They were true to their word since in the season two episode “Last Chance to See Those Tattoos” I returned in a bigger part as one of Charlie’s spurned ex-girlfriends named Tina.
A few seasons later in season five I replaced somebody on show day — Friday — playing one of Charlie’s potential one night stands named Nina in the “Our Leather Gear Is in the Guest Room” episode [Taylor’s natural chemistry with Sheen is already firmly in place]. I auditioned for the part of Chelsea Melini in season six, and it was just between me and another girl. I booked it which was amazing [“Pinocchio’s Mouth” aired on November 17, 2008].
Who was the other girl?
I remember but I won’t say.
How much of Chelsea is you?
You take yourself into every character that you portray. You can’t help it. There’s a lot of me in her because she was pretty no-nonsense. She loved Charlie for who he is despite some of his crap.
Chelsea’s character reminds me a lot of my husband because she saw through all the other stuff about Charlie. My husband is not impressed with my business at all but is 100 percent supportive.
When you come over to my house for a party, Paul wants you to check Hollywood at the door. Just talk about something else. Chelsea’s affection for Charlie was like, “I don’t care what you did in your past. Let’s be real.”
Were you invited to be part of the table reads going all the way back to the Two and a Half Men pilot?
They invited me to the table reads for all of my episodes. Table reads are nerve wracking for me [laughs]. You have all the cast, writers, and executives from Warner Bros. and CBS present. I’m more sensitive to table reads now.
Awhile back I was fired from a job where I had already been hired. It happened after the table read, even though they loved me at my audition. It was a part that was supposed to have the character much more done up. I showed up at the table read like normal with no makeup, jeans, T-shirt, and flip-flops. I found out later they were like, “No, she’s too much like the other one. We can’t have her.” I lost the job.
That would have nearly killed me.
It did. That’s where the little spiral down I had really started. I did another episode of Shameless last week where I went for the table read. I always make sure I have makeup and my hair done. I’m more on edge at a table read.
In Jon Cryer’s 2015 memoir So That Happened?, he divulged that Charlie Sheen hated the table reads, too.
That’s funny. I didn’t know that. When you’re acting with another person and doing your thing in your environment, it’s different from the audience’s eyes on you versus the eyes behind you from the network. They literally sit in chairs behind you. It’s a little stressful.
Where did you film Two and a Half Men on the Warner Brothers lot?
We filmed on Stage 26, which wasn’t a long drive for me. I don’t know if it applies to every sitcom, but shooting Two and a Half Men was so efficient. You come in on Monday for the table read. You’re done in under an hour. You start rehearsal on Tuesday at 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. You’re running through all the scenes. The same thing occurs on Wednesday.
By Thursday you’re doing a studio run-through — pre-shoots happen if necessary. Friday is the network run-through followed by the final audience show. For the week you’re working under 25 hours, so it’s really conducive to family life. You cannot beat those hours.
What exactly is a network run-through?
What you do for network run-throughs is go scene to scene from the beginning to the end — you’re basically doing the show. You’re still holding your script until those cameras are filming.
They’ll set up chairs in front of each of the little sets for all the writers, network, and standards and practices. “You can’t say that on TV” versus “Yeah, we can” happened constantly. They’re literally going through each scene of the episode before you shoot the final version and seeing what needs to be changed.
I wonder if the Two and a Half Men censor has any hair left.
I used to love to watch the female censor assigned to Two and a Half Men. God bless her for what she had to do. She and Chuck argued back and forth on what was appropriate and not appropriate [laughs]. I don’t know how she did it.
Before the Two and a Half Men cast converged on Monday mornings for the table read, how much time would you have to look over that week’s new script?
You would get the script after the Friday show, so you’d have the weekend.
That’s not much time to memorize dialogue. On top of that you were taking college courses and raising an infant.
There wasn’t a lot of time for other stuff. I finished college online, so none of my classmates realized I was on a sitcom simultaneously. I had gone to college when I was in Florida. Before we moved out to Los Angeles I stopped, even though I had enough credits to have three degrees. I kept changing my major. I ultimately got my Bachelor’s in Sociology from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa [the campus has since closed but the original San Diego headquarters remains]. I did it online but it was still difficult. I would be up until one in the morning with my baby on me while I was writing a paper.
What time did you have to report to Warner Bros.?
Oh, by 9 a.m. When you have an infant you’re not getting much sleep anyway.
Did you and the principal Two and a Half Men cast members find moments to rehearse upcoming scenes together?
When we were all on set we rehearsed with the director. I don’t know if they did, but I didn’t rehearse things outside of being on set or before. Everybody was pretty respectful of everybody’s process. You do your thing when you’re there.
What is the role of the director on a sitcom like Two and a Half Men?
The director helps us do our best. I don’t want to say directing traffic, but they have a lot of things to deal with besides the actors — e.g. where the cameras go and stuff.
I guess I never really looked at it through their perspective. We go through it and are like, “We’re gonna do this here. Now walk there.” I know I’m sounding severely unintelligent on this part.
Join the club — I’ve sounded severely unintelligent this entire time.
Was there a director on Two and a Half Men that encouraged your best work?
I did most of my episodes with Jamie [James] Widdoes, and he’s awesome. Just really cool and laidback. Jamie lets you do your thing but then guides you.
Was Chuck Lorre a hands-on producer who spent considerable time on the set?
Definitely. Chuck wasn’t there during rehearsals. He would come in for the table read, various run-throughs, and the entire time the episode was being shot for broadcast.
For the run-throughs, some actors only show up for the scenes that they’re in. Even if I wasn’t in the scene, I would follow everybody around. If Chuck changed anything, it only made it better. I wanted to see, ‘What are they changing in this? What do they think is working?’ I found it fascinating.
Did you always have to adhere to the script? Could you alter Chelsea’s dialogue and / or discuss any concerns with Chuck?
That was all scripted, and you didn’t change anything. If you alter a line in a sitcom it throws it all off from the cadence and rhythm of the delivery. The Two and a Half Men writers were so good. There’s nothing that I could do to make it better. I had to re-train myself to be a little freer to change something as I accepted other roles post-Two and a Half Men.
Did any of the Two and a Half Men writers realize you were interested in their craft?
Not at all. I didn’t start writing until 2017. They had no idea that I had any inclination in that direction.
Who was the funniest Two and a Half Men cast member in real life?
Gosh, that’s hard to say. I adored working with everybody. During that time I had two children — one being an infant — and I was going to college. I had blinders on. I would do my work and then come home. I didn’t really socialize with a lot of them, but they were all kind.
Jon Cryer is the most gracious and talented person on the planet. He is amazing. Charlie is brilliant. How he does what he does in the midst of everything else is astonishing. The entire cast was wonderful.
There are two people from Two and a Half Men that are still part of my life — really good friends. Kelly Stables played Melissa, Jon Cryer’s love interest and receptionist at the chiropractor’s office.
My friend April Audia was a stand-in on the set for me as well as different characters. I adore her. April is an actress today. It was so great to see everybody when I returned to do the first episode featuring Ashton Kutcher as well as the series finale. But they’re not truly part of my life like those two ladies.
At the start of your career, were you a stand-in?
I never did that. I was a little bit of a snob when I first started. That’s really funny how I ever got that attitude coming from Florida. I served as an extra once. After that I was like, “No, I’m not doing this.”
I also had the same thought that I was gonna move from Florida to Los Angeles and establish myself in a year. Then I could move back to Florida, and the powers that be would fly me back and forth. It didn’t take long to realize that was not gonna happen [laughs]. I was humbled very quickly.
It’s good to have confidence, even if it’s going to get shattered.
[laughs]. It is. Confidence will take you a long way.
Did any of the Two and a Half Men cast members gather to watch brand new episodes on Mondays at 9 p.m. EST?
I don’t know if they did, but I definitely didn’t. You have to realize I was literally an outsider coming in.
Were you promoted to a series regular?
Yes, I was a regular for my last season [season seven, 2009–2010], but I still was not one of them. Nobody ever made me feel bad. I was a welcome guest, but I never made myself at home. I never assumed that I was always gonna be there.
Did the promotion signal a nice salary raise?
From what I was making? Sure. Obviously it’s not even in the same universe as the rest of their salaries, but for me it was amazing.
I won’t ask you for any specific Two and a Half Men salary figures, but what would have been a ballpark paycheck that you were receiving as a TV guest star in the early 2000’s?
Every show is different. A sitcom is different from a one hour drama. Any time I get paid in this business is great. It certainly is not what the main cast members are making.
It’s so funny that you bring up money. My son recently said, “Mom, some friends googled you and said you’re worth $2 million.” I laughed hysterically. Our dishwasher is really old and broken, and I had it draining into a bucket. I replied, “Ya think I’m holding out on you?” He started laughing. Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.
Another actor and I were talking about being middle class actors. It’s hard to make a living like that here in Los Angeles. It’s so expensive. If you have a house you’re just making it. However, the perception remains, “You’ve got all this money” [laughs]. That’s not true.
Were any of your major life moments like a birthday celebrated on the set of Two and a Half Men?
I’m really good at flushing things, so it’s tough to pinpoint specific moments. I got to be on the 150th episode which was pretty cool.
Do you have a favorite Two and a Half Men episode?
During my first season as Chelsea, it was fun to pretend to be sick and have my hair all jacked up in “My Son’s Enormous Head” [aired March 16, 2009].
Between takes of Two and a Half Men, would Charlie spend significant time with his fellow cast members and crew? Or did he prefer to stay in his trailer and remain private?
Sometimes Charlie would have to go and take care of business or family stuff, but mostly we would hang out and talk. Charlie was totally cool.
Did Charlie reveal the source of his unhappiness about the series and Chuck Lorre to you?
I’m very naïve. I never knew about Charlie’s past. I never dug up stuff on people or tried to be nosy. Charlie was always kind to me, and we always had good conversations.
Charlie also knew that I was very happy being on set. When there were times that Charlie wasn’t happy, he would be like, “You’re crazy.” But I made no bones about also adoring Chuck. Maybe it should have been uncomfortable being in the middle, but I didn’t really feel I was in that position. I was probably blind to a lot of stuff going on.
Did you witness moments where Charlie was unprofessional on set?
I know that Charlie did his job every day that he was there. He didn’t miss a cue, and he didn’t miss a line. Whether he was unhappy or not, I don’t know. Obviously he wasn’t. I didn’t see it or I chose not to see it.
Were you okay with Charlie and Chelsea’s relationship fizzling out without resolution in “This Is Not Gonna End Well” [broadcast on May 24, 2010]? In the episode’s climax Charlie, who had already lost his driver’s license while cruising with nephew Jake Harper [Angus T. Jones], gets arrested after accidentally ramming into another car. He tries to flee after seeing you walking your dog following an emotional birthday party where his gift to you was a diamond bracelet hand-delivered by Jake.
Not at all. I had hopes for so much more. Who knows if that would have happened. It stinks the way that it ended so abruptly. Nevertheless, everything happens for a reason.
Did Chuck Lorre tell you that Chelsea might return after “This Is Not Gonna End Well?”
When we were starting to break-up, I remember Chuck pulling me aside and saying, “Don’t worry.” I was so grateful to be on that set every day that I was there. Every second was a gift and a blessing. I didn’t have any expectations. When Chuck told me those encouraging words I was like, “Alright, cool.”
Stuff happened and things unfortunately changed. What are you gonna do? I was upset because it was such a huge part of my life. I’m also glad that I wasn’t there for that last abbreviated season that Charlie was part of the cast.
Can you offer more insight about Charlie’s very public meltdown?
It’s pretty common knowledge regarding what happened during the eighth season of Two and a Half Men. It would have been really hard to see Charlie unravel. I would not have wanted front row seats for that.
Charlie would do a continuation of Two and a Half Men in an instant. Even though he was not happy during the latter seasons, the series must hold a special place in his heart.
How could it not? That was huge. When you’re outside you get a different perspective looking in on the inside.
When did you last speak with Charlie?
Not since we did the “This Is Not Gonna End Well” episode of Two and a Half Men almost 10 years ago. I miss our conversations, and who knows, maybe we’ll work together again someday.
Have you reunited onscreen with any of your Two and a Half Men cast mates?
No. I worked with them when I went back for brief cameos in “Nice to Meet You, Walden Schmidt” [the debut 2011 episode of season nine starring Ashton Kutcher] and the series finale [“Of Course He’s Dead”] in 2015. I actually got to work with Kelly Stables again on an episode of Malibu Dan the Family Man [an online Christian sitcom from Pure Flix which debuted in January 2018]. I came on as a guest star. I don’t think I’ve worked with anybody else from Two and a Half Men, although I could be wrong.
I always used to feel bad for Melissa as I knew a joke was incoming about her height.
That’s Two and a Half Men for you. They make fun of whatever you’ve got.
Did you watch the subsequent five seasons of Two and a Half Men after you were not on the show?
Not really. I can’t even say that when I was on Two and a Half Men that I watched it religiously every week. To be able to go four more years without everybody losing their jobs was so awesome for them. But Two and a Half Men became a different show once Charlie was let go.
Can you watch yourself onscreen without cringing?
It’s gotten a little easier. I’m much better when there’s a lot of space between it. The first time I watch myself after doing something, it’s like I shut down. Or I’ll see every flaw and not be very objective. After six months I might watch my performance again and realize, “Oh okay, I like that.”
How do you feel if you catch one of your earliest acting appearances from 20 years ago?
That honestly hasn’t happened. I have two kids and don’t really have time to watch TV. I don’t really come across anything that I’ve done.
If you are channel surfing and Two and a Half Men comes on, will you watch it?
It’s not really a show that I have on in the house with my kids unless by accident [laughs]. Jake is 14, so he’d be fine to watch Two and a Half Men. If it happens to be an episode that comes onscreen where it’s me and Charlie in bed, the kids will be like, “Mom!!!”
So your kids have seen you on Two and a Half Men?
They’ve seen little clips, but they haven’t watched the whole thing. They’re like, “Mom???” and I’m like, “What? It’s my job. Give me a break.”
Would you be okay if your children watched Two and a Half Men on down the road?
What did you keep from Two and a Half Men?
I have all my scripts from Two and a Half Men. Sometimes they have my grocery list written on them [laughs]. I also have a cast picture from one of the seasons.
Did you turn down a role that you now regret?
No. There’s honestly only one thing that I turned down that I definitely wish I didn’t, and it’s not even a part. After my first season on Two and a Half Men as a guest star, Warner Brothers called to say that they wanted to submit one of my episodes for Emmy consideration.
I took bad advice from a person who insisted, “You’re going to be a regular next year on Two and a Half Men, so you shouldn’t let them do it.” I simply gave in and replied, “Okay, if you think that’s right,” when every fiber of me was saying that I should do it.
Probably nothing would have happened as far as actually winning an Emmy, but the fact that the studio was proud of my work meant something. That is really the only thing I regret. I did not follow my instincts, because at the end of the day I have to be okay with everything.
It boils down to gut instinct for me, too.
I have turned down parts before because it just didn’t feel right. I will always go with my intuition. Gut instinct, spirit-led — however you wanna call it — that’s how I go through life.
Complete this sentence: “I wish Hollywood would cast me as a…”
That’s really hard…I don’t know.
Have you played all the roles that you want to tackle?
No, there’s tons more that I want to do. I’ve always been an outsider. I’m on the outskirts of Hollywood, so I don’t think Hollywood really thinks of me [laughs]. I just wanna keep on working and do good stuff — whatever that means — because every role is different.
As soon as I say, “Oh no, I’m never gonna do that,” that means that’s the exact next thing I’m gonna do. I don’t know what I would ask Hollywood to cast me as because I’ll make my own role if I need to do so.
Would you make a Western if such a role was offered to you?
Heck yeah. It’s so funny you say that. There was a Western called Bad Girls that came out with Madeleine Stowe, Drew Barrymore, Andie MacDowell, and Mary Stuart Masterson in 1994 when I was still modeling. I saw that in the theater and was like, ‘I wanna do that.’ Nobody has ever asked me to do a Western, and I’ve never auditioned for that film genre.
Westerns are not prevalent as they once were between the 1930s and 1960s.
No, and when they make the really big ones, they’re not coming to look for me. They’re using big actors.
What is one of the worst movies or television shows on your résumé?
Oh God, overall I have been blessed to work on really good things. There may be a couple of iffy things that I’ve done, but I won’t name names because everybody that I’ve worked with has been so amazing. Anytime that someone is trying to create something — who knows — maybe it didn’t go the way they had planned. I’ll never criticize somebody for trying to do their best. Even on those disappointing jobs, if I’m happy with what I did, I’m good.
What attracted you to archery?
I haven’t done archery as much as I want to. I am probably going to do a few more classes over the summer. A friend said, “Hey, they do archery lessons here. Someone from the church runs it.” I’m like, “That’s so cool! I totally wanna do it!”
I went and did a bunch of them, and I’m pretty good at it. I don’t know how far I’ll go — it’s just fun to do. Eventually I’d like to get my own bow and arrows and not use theirs. I told my husband, “For Christmas I want gun lessons. I wanna go to a shooting range.” He’s like, “Okayyy.”
On your IMDB page there are photos of you holding a pistol.
Those come from one of the Lifetime movies called The Perfect Boyfriend . I know there are some photos on my Instagram. I did Family Vanished [premiered in July 2018 on Lifetime] where I pretty much held a gun the whole time.
Did you have firearm experience before you did the Lifetime movie?
I went shooting once a long, long time ago. When I hold a gun on a set I have this attraction-aversion feeling. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I know how dangerous guns are. But it feels really cool holding one.’
What else have you filmed lately that hasn’t come out?
I filmed two back-to-back episodes of Shameless [a 60-minute Showtime dramedy starring William H. Macy and Emily Rossum] in late May and early June. The first episode, “Are You There Shim? It’s Me, Ian.,” served as the season nine premiere on Sunday, September 9, at 9 p.m. EST.
I finished a movie over the summer for Lifetime called A Deadly Romance. I’ve worked with the executive producers before, and it was really fun. Of course, I will keep auditioning and hoping for the next good thing.
Do guys really watch Lifetime?
They do. You know why? Because my guy friends’ wives watch it — so they’re watching it, too [laughs].
Has a daytime or late night talk show appearance ever materialized?
No. There was one thing I was interviewed on when I first got on Two and a Half Men. I don’t know how I would do on a talk show. I remember being nervous when I had to do a cast interview when I first joined Two and a Half Men.
I said to my husband, “I don’t know what to say.” He actually gave me the best piece of advice ever. He goes, “You’re not witty, clever girl. You’re heart-on-your-sleeve girl. So be who you are.” I was like, “Hmm.”
I’m not saying that I’m not funny sometimes, but you see some of these interviews where they’re so witty, quick, and clever. That’s not me.
I watch plenty of late night comedy, and it’s tough to find guests who are genuine like yourself.
I can’t be anything but genuine. I can’t fake it. I’m a horrible liar, too. I was planning a party that was supposed to be a surprise 50th birthday party for my husband. Paul looked me in my eye and asked, “What’s going on for my birthday?” I spilled the beans. When I told my daughter, Samantha was so pissed off. She’s only nine. She goes, “You’re an actor — it’s your job to lie!” I’m like, “Actually, no. Acting is not lying — it’s telling the truth.” She’s like, “Whatever” [laughs].
It’s my goal for you to guest on one of the late night shows hosted by Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, or James Corden.
Thank you, I think [laughs]. I’m sure it’s gonna be a pretty slow day in Hollywood when they’re calling me to come be on a late night show.
How did you and Paul serendipitously stumble upon one another?
At a certain point in my teenage years I decided that I was coming to L.A. because I was going to be an actress. However, I needed money. I had every job you can imagine. When I was 17 I began working at a bar as a cocktail waitress.
I lied and said that I was 18 because that’s the age you had to be in Florida. I started working at the bar, and Paul was a bartender. We were friends and then we started dating. I’ve been with him ever since.
Where was your first date?
After work one night we went to a restaurant called Wags, similar to Denny’s. Paul asked me for my license while we were talking. He was like, “You’re only 17.” “Well, I’m almost 18.” Paul was 21. When we left, his car wouldn’t start, so we had to push start it. That was our first date [laughs].
How soon did you know that Paul was meant for you?
I knew very early on that Paul was the one. It took him quite a long time to figure that out. We broke up once for a year, but we probably never went more than a week without talking. Paul argued, “You’re young, so how could you possibly know that I’m the one?” I knew what I wanted [laughs]. Last week we had our 21-year wedding anniversary.
How do you settle arguments?
We’re not big arguers. We do not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we know that we’re on the same team. We’re in this forever. He’s a really level headed guy who, God bless him, has to deal with me.
If we don’t agree on something there are certain things that we defer to each other. As in, “Alright, you take the lead on that.” We always have respect for each other. We’re best friends.
We do have arguments. Our kids are so not used to us fighting. If we’re having a discussion about something — I’m a very passionate Italian — I talk loud and with my hands. They’re like, “Don’t fight!” We’re like, “We’re not fighting! We’re just talking and disagreeing.” It’s okay to disagree.
The key is communication. If you argue, slam the doors, and remain silent, the problem only festers.
For me that has been a learned thing. I am constantly working on my communication skills. My parents were not good communicators, so I learned a lot from Paul. He knows when something is wrong with me. I’m like, “No, I’m fine.” He knows otherwise.
Have you experienced sexual harassment?
That’s a really hard one. If I answer it will probably not be politically correct. When I was 17 I started working in a bar as both a cocktail waitress and bartender. I had to deal with a lot of men. I had no problem saying no, especially as a bartender. I would not be nice when I would do it, either.
I also love men. I’m very comfortable around guys. I always tell my husband, “I’m just one of the guys.” He’s like, “You’re not.” Whatever.
When I got to Hollywood, I was already married. I’ve always led with that. I’ve never hidden the fact that I am married. I have no problem with people flirting, but I also have no problem saying, “Alright, that’s enough. You’ve crossed the line.” Did my career suffer for it? Possibly. I am grateful that I don’t have any of those really horrible experiences that a lot of women did.
Whenever a potential uncomfortable experience arose you said…
“Hey jerk! No.” All the time my husband says, “I don’t know how you made money as a bartender. You’re mean.” I said, “Honestly, I made a lot of money because I was and still am mean.”
I don’t know what it is, but when I would yell at somebody in the bar or tell them to shut up, they didn’t take offense [laughs]. People were inappropriate all the time, but I wasn’t having any of that.
You’re not afraid to stand up for yourself. It’s an ongoing battle for me.
No, I’m not. I enjoyed being on the other side of the bar compared to a cocktail waitress because people don’t touch you. I remember being at a nightclub with my friends, and we decided to go dancing. As I walked towards the floor, guys touched me. I turned around and would not be nice. I said, “Get your hands off me! What the heck is wrong with you?”
You confronted them.
Absolutely. They were like, “What?” “You just don’t touch people!” I am always up-front at the start — ”Don’t touch me! Get away from me!”
But on that same note, I always wore my wedding ring when I was on set. Once in Florida I did a commercial, and I didn’t have my wedding ring on because I wasn’t supposed to. Afterwards the director asked me out. I was like, “I am so sorry, but I’m married. Thank you.”
I don’t want to put somebody in a bad position. There’s nothing wrong with asking a co-worker out. If I had been a single person, obviously that would have created a different dynamic.
You would be a good friend to have when the going gets tough.
Oh, don’t mess with my friends or kids. Forget about it. Mama bear, no way.
What makes you angry?
There are way too many things that make me angry for us to be able to cover.
What about hypocrisy and judgmental people?
There’s so many things out there that make me a little bit crazy. But if I start naming all them, I’ll start sounding crazy. Why don’t we not go there?
I prefer to keep my voting choices generally private and research each candidate. If you go on Twitter or Facebook, people are screaming at one another and unwilling to engage in civil debate.
It’s so horrible and divisive out there. Nobody is listening. If you don’t hold the same opinion, you’re demonized. That’s a really bad thing. Differences in opinion are good and people should be able to talk about them and not yell.
At the end of the day, who really cares about anybody’s political views? Everybody is so much closer and on the same page than it seems out there. I don’t believe that there is that much division because I go out in my community and people want the same things.
Do you vote?
Absolutely! But I also believe that the parties are two sides of a crooked coin.
I’ve been trying to convince a friend to cast a ballot without much success.
They absolutely should vote. There are countries where people do not get that privilege, so we should use that privilege that we have to vote.
Do you live in Los Angeles?
I’m in Los Angeles County, but I’m in a nice little suburb in a regular neighborhood.
So you don’t live in the thick of Hollywood.
Oh, gosh no. I can’t. I love my community, neighbors, and church. I like a normal everyday life. Living in the city is too much for me.
Are you referring to the traffic?
No. I don’t know what’s going on. The amount of homelessness has gone insane, even in my community. In Los Angeles it’s off the charts. There are drugs all over. It’s a mess. I’ve been out here 18 years and it has changed a lot.
Tell me about your battle with supposed lactose intolerance.
I remember being a small kid, and my stomach would hurt so bad after I had finished eating. I’d be in the bathroom praying, “God, I’ll be nice to my brother if you please make this stop. I’m so sorry.”
I was actually in Spain on a modeling job in my late teens and became very ill. I had had some cheese and another model was like, “Maybe you’re lactose intolerant.” I’m like, “I don’t even know what that is.”
I finally looked up lactose intolerance and figured she might be right. I would be unwell even if I had had cereal or bacon. Finally I’m in my mid-twenties and sometimes the pain was crippling. I couldn’t leave the house for a few hours.
I started looking up stuff and found the common denominator was preservatives. I realized I am super, super sensitive. I cannot have processed foods — I will pay the price if I do. I’ve recently become gluten free, and I noticed the difference by not consuming gluten.
I honestly don’t think it’s the gluten — it’s the crap they spray on the wheat. It makes me angry. Chemicals like Roundup make people sick in addition to preservatives. Genetically modified food creates proteins that our bodies see as an invader and leads to inflammation.
I have to have organic pure food. Sometimes my son wonders, “Why does everything have to be organic?” “Look, I’m doing this for you. Go ahead and look it up. Do your own research.”
Were you prescribed medication?
Here’s the thing, I also questioned doctors. So when I went to the doctor…
Which they probably hated.
I’m a doctor’s worst nightmare. When I went in the doctor revealed, “You have IBS.” I’m like, “IBS? Irritable bowel syndrome?” They wanted to give me medication. I replied, “You didn’t actually tell me what’s wrong. You just named symptoms.” That’s when I really started digging in. “This is stupid. I’m not gonna take a medication.”
I stuck to my guns and a few years ago another issue emerged. I went in for a regular checkup and they’re like, “Your thyroid is off the charts.” “Alright, why?” “We don’t know, but you should take this medication.” “You’re not gonna tell me why, but you’re gonna give me a medication that I’m gonna have to be on for the rest of my life?”
I made up my own mind to cut out caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. I’ve been caffeine free for three or four years now. My numbers went completely back to normal. The doctor said, “You must be taking something that has a steroid or something.”
I’m like, “No, I’m not. Honestly, I went off the wagon and started eating garbage until I cleaned up.” I simply can’t take the medicine they prescribe without researching it. Our bodies are these amazing things that can heal themselves if we give them the tools to do it.
How do you eat healthy?
I eat a lot of fruits, salads — I like anything green. I usually cook separate for myself because I can’t force kale and garlic on my family as a meal. I do cook healthy and organic for them — organic burgers, Italian — whatever they want. I hope that they’ll come around and always want to eat like this.
If I want something sweet, I’ll have Dates. I love avocadoes. Once in a while I want meat, so I’ll have an organic burger on gluten free things. I make our own pizza, including organic dough.
If Paul ever loses you, he’s a fool.
Ha-ha! He’s not going anywhere, and I’m very lucky to have him.
I’m a slave to caffeine and sugar, although I’ve never cared for coffee.
I thought I couldn’t get off coffee. Even when I was having everything organic I was still having my coffee and creamer and was like, “Nope, nobody is taking that away from me.” I found I was having four cups of coffee a day. I would have coffee in the morning because I enjoyed it. I was addicted.
Oh my gosh, after I got off caffeine I was even. There were no ups and downs. I still love the smell of coffee, but I have no desire to go back because I feel good. I do make my own Kombucha, and I think there is a tiny bit of caffeine in it. If I were to have a cup of coffee, I would be literally shaking.
What is in your vegetable garden?
Our vegetable garden is all Paul. He calls me “Mrs. Black Thumb” because I’m not good at growing much of anything. I do love the benefits. I tell him, “You cannot use any sprays. They have to be organic seeds…”
When Paul comes home from work, he goes out into the yard and tends to the garden. We have a couple of avocado trees, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, squash, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, apricots, kiwi, grapes, and probably more that I’m forgetting. Gardening is his passion and gift to us.
Is Paul a songwriter?
That’s so funny. My husband came home from work a few months ago and was like, “So the guys at work are saying, ‘Hey, do you have a new career as a musician?’ No, my husband is a union electrician. He does big construction.
There was some article that came out about the women of Two and a Half Men that featured my husband and I. Paul Taylor was listed as a songwriter, but I was never interviewed for it.
We can put that false assertion to rest now.
Nope, Paul is not a songwriter. I’ve got a working man electrician.
If there is such a thing as a perfect day, what would it consist of?
There is no such thing, but I guess a perfect day would be all the moving parts fitting together. I get to work, but then I don’t miss any of my kids’ activities. A day when everything just works [laughs].
Your wisdom astounds me. You’re not superficial.
I have no tolerance or any room for superficiality in my life. If I even try to act that way Paul would be like, “Really, are you kidding me?” He is definitely a grounding factor because in this business it’s easy to get superficial and get caught up in stuff that really doesn’t matter.
When did you become a Christian, and has your faith always been strong?
I grew up Catholic, so I’ve always believed in God and truly felt Him. My teenage years and into my early twenties were some difficult times. I was not very faithful. I questioned God. I saw hypocrisy everywhere. I didn’t wanna have anything to do with religion.
When I had my son, something was leading me to try and find more faith. I started checking churches. I’d be like, “Nah, I don’t like this.” We had some really close friends who were Christian. They had three kids and were the most fun people. They never pushed their faith on us or anybody. They would talk about Jesus, but it was always in a way of sharing their life and never judging anybody. I admired that.
I found a church that I’m still at that I really love. I found that it’s not about religion. I am naturally a questioner. You tell me one thing, and I’m gonna say the opposite and then research what you said because I don’t necessarily believe you.
Christianity became more personal and powerful than I ever thought it could be the further I dove in. My faith affects every part of my life and how I make decisions.
When you became man and wife, was Paul’s faith at the same plateau as yours?
We were the same. When you get married in the Catholic Church you have to do a thing called Pre-Cana where you go in, meet with the priest, and fill out a questionnaire separately to see if you are on the same page. It’s almost a compatibility thing.
When we went over the questionnaire and got to the part saying, “Do you plan on going to church regularly?” “No.” “Do you plan on raising your children like this?” “No.” We were both on the same page.
I have definitely changed, albeit gradually. Faith is a huge part of my life, and I serve at my church. Sometimes Paul calls me “church lady” and I’m like, “Whatever, shut up.” We’ve been together since I was 17 years old, so we can talk to each other that way. Paul’s okay with it because I’m not trying to push it on him. If you wanna come to church, awesome. If not, it’s not about judging you or trying to change people.
There is a fine line between pushing faith on others and being overly judgmental.
That’s the thing. Jesus’s own words were, “Take out the plank in your own eye before you judge the speck in your brother’s eye” [Matthew 7: 5 and Luke 6: 42]. We’re not supposed to judge, and that stuff makes me crazy when some people say, “Christians are so judgmental.” I’m like, “Maybe they’re just a jerk” [laughs].
I am reminded of the Joe South-penned gospel pop tune that Elvis Presley covered in 1970 — “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”
Absolutely. I’ve got no room to cast stones.
What kinda hypocrisy were you witnessing?
I’m not gonna talk about other people’s lives, but if you’re gonna talk the talk, you better walk the walk. I don’t like hypocrisy, and that’s what I would see. On the flip side, nobody is perfect. Whether you’re Christian or not, you’re going to make poor choices.
Be humble . I would so much rather somebody come to me and say, “I did this horrible thing,” rather than try and play it off or hide it. We’re messed up and it’s okay. I like honesty. I have no room for deception.
Some of my friends have admitted that they’re afraid to question God, but you’re not.
Always. I question everything. I always tell my kids, “If there’s only one thing you take from me, do not believe everything you hear to be true just because someone is supposedly an authority. Do your own research.”
God can handle our questions. If you read Psalms, David is literally crying out and calling God out. It’s okay. We should question everything, whether it’s religion, government, politics, people, schools, or institutions.
I can envision you publicly speaking about your faith.
I have no problem speaking in front of people…if somebody wanted me to do so. I view that like I view my presence on social media. I think, ‘Who really cares?’ The fact that you’re even interviewing me, there’s a big part of me going, ‘Why does he wanna know? Seriously, who cares what I think?’ I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way. I don’t get it [laughs].
Was there a reason why it took 20 years before you penned your debut screenplay, Unfaithfully His?
I have actually been blessed to have had some really good roles. But you always want more, and it gets frustrating. I never really thought that I would have the patience to write. My friends were like, “Everybody is writing their own stuff. You should, too.” I’m like, “No, I’m not gonna do that.”
I was at a really cool women’s event at my church. I had never heard the Old Testament story of Gomer and the prophet Hosea from the book of Hosea. It was about an unfaithful, promiscuous woman and her husband. The whole story is basically an analogy for God’s love for his people. We aren’t faithful to him all the time, but he still pursues us.
Right then and there I knew I had to write a script about a modern day Gomer and Hosea. I didn’t know whether it was crap or not. I sent my first 25 pages to a female writing friend who said, “Keep on going.” So I did and finished it. My script is about 100 pages. It’s not crazy long, and it moves pretty fast. I sent it to a male writing pal who told me it was really good.
I sent it to one company who had great things to say, but they felt it was a little too risqué for faith-based films because of the subject matter. That’s when I finally said, “I’m not gonna shop this to try and sell a script. I wanna make this movie. Of course I’m gonna star in it.”
Some friends of mine who are writer-producers were like, “Let’s do a proof of concept.” I trimmed it into a six-minute, self-contained short that gives the heart of what Unfaithfully His encapsulates — a faith-based film for people who are not necessarily religious.
The completed short is simply entitled Unfaithful. I financed Unfaithful myself on pretty much a zero budget. Instead of going the traditional route of finding investors, I decided to crowdfund Unfaithfully His on Indiegogo. It was very humbling to put it out there and ask for money, but I think humility was the right place to start to tell this story. Our campaign goal of $750,000 was not met, but I still am absolutely gonna make this movie. Hopefully I will get the funding in a much less public and humiliating way [laughs].
As the writer and star of the Unfaithful short, did you also serve as a producer?
I executive produced it. I had a couple of good friends serving as producers, but my hands were in it the whole time we were on set. What I’ve always loved about doing independent movies is there’s such a different feeling versus being on a big production.
I love being on big productions — they pay much better — but there’s a spirit of pure creativity and everybody is all in when you do an indie. That’s what we had while filming the Unfaithful short and what I hope that we will have when we tackle the full version.
Would you go behind the camera for a future project? How about directing?
I don’t see myself directing, only because I’m not that well versed in all the different camera stuff. I definitely will write more and executive produce, but that depends on having the budget with investors.
I found as a producer that I want to give people what they usually get paid. I don’t like having to ask people to work for less, and I don’t like asking folks to do things for free whatsoever. Every single person on a set adds value to that production — no matter how small — and you should be compensated.
One of my favorite actors — Michael Landon — wrote, directed, produced, and acted. If pancreatic cancer had not felled him in 1991 he would be making faith-based films in the 21st century. Who knows, you could turn into the multi-faceted female version of Pa Ingalls.
That would be amazing, because honestly it’s funny how I got into faith-based work. I had done a movie — everybody on it was great — but the content of the movie was not something that I liked.
I remember I was driving with friends to Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park with our kids in the car. I was like, “When God saved my career, I don’t think this is what he meant for me to do.” Literally the next day I got my first ever offer for a faith-based film [Like a Country Song, co-starring Billy Ray Cyrus and “Help Me” singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin, 2014]. I was like, “Okay, there might be something here.”
What are you reading?
Oh gosh, I love books. I read several at a time so it takes me a while to read all the way through. Malcolm Gladwell and C.S. Lewis are a couple of my favorite authors. Completely different. Let me go over to my little stash of books. Right now I’m reading Lynne McTaggart’s The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe , Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less , and Jonathan McKee’s More Than Just the Talk: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex .
I have a lot of different interests, but they’re mostly nonfiction. I read the Harry Potter series over seven times. The Hunger Games trilogy [Suzanne Collins, 2008–2010] comes to mind, but I have to be really careful what I read with fantasy books because it stays with me. I’ll dream about the characters. They become part of my life. I don’t wanna just read anything. I like to read things that add to my life or help me.
What about biographies?
No, that’s funny. I don’t know those people, so why do I wanna know about their life? [laughs].
Have you read Jon Cryer’s memoir, and could one be in your future?
I should, because he’s awesome, but I have not read Jon’s book. I honestly don’t know if I would write my own.
You would have to mention names.
Exactly. As soon as I say “nope,” that’s the next thing I’ll be doing. I suppose I’m open to it, but we go back to — who really cares?
Is there anything I neglected to ask you that you want readers to know, or did we cover everything?
You’re pretty thorough! To sit here and ask me all these questions — to be really interested — is a gift. When I first received your interview request, I wanted to read the interviews you included from your portfolio since everybody has a slant when they’re writing. It seemed you really appreciated all of the people that you wrote about. I was like, ‘I totally wanna do this.’
What advice would you extend to someone battling anxiety about expressing himself to the girl that he genuinely cares about?
Be honest and be yourself. More people are attracted to people who are honest and humble. Even if it’s awkward, just be in that awkwardness. People can sniff out bullcrap.
I was born awkward.
I was, too. I am the most awkward person on the planet.
But you don’t sound that way.
Right now it’s two people talking. There’s less awkward and no expectations. We’re told to love one another. Go in and be like the way you are with me. Any girl that you approach and express interest in is bound to be intrigued. Be yourself and don’t worry. Everything takes care of itself as long as you’re being truthful and honest.
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