Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Office's Melora Hardin talks with TV STORE ONLINE

Melora Hardin from NBC's The Office as well as films like LAMBADA, ABSOLUTE POWER, SOUL MAN, RECKLESS KELLY and THE HOT CHICK talks with TV STORE ONLINE about creating "Jan Levinson-Gould" on NBC's The Office.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What the heck happened to your show Wedding Band [2012] on TBS?

Melora Hardin and Brian Austin Green on the
TBS series Wedding Band (2012)

HARDIN:  Well...You know what mostly happened was that TBS I think just didn't know what to do with an hour long comedy.  They were so behind it and then they seemed to lose interest in the show for some reason.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think that first season will come to DVD?

HARDIN:  I hope so, but I'm not sure.  There has been some talk about a feature length film so we'll have to wait and see what happens.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I've just seen online this totally cool web comic book series about your role in BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) and it's totally awesome!

  I know!  I've downloaded them all!   They're totally awesome.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  In that first issue...Did that actually happen to you?  Did Bob Gale really call you up out of the blue and take you to dinner to talk about how sorry he was for having to let you go from the film?

Oh...No...No....That was just made up.

TV STORE ONLINE:  But you were originally cast in the role of "Jennifer" in BACK TO THE FUTURE.  So what happened there?  Why did they let you go?

HARDIN:  Well, originally Eric Stoltz was cast as "Marty McFly" and they decided to let him go after the shooting had started.  When Michael J. Fox came on and they saw how much taller I was than him they let me go.   It didn't happen the way it does in this new comic book but Bob and I did re-connect like fifteen years later after the fact and we talked about BACK TO THE FUTURE and life.  Bob's a real sweet guy.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I like how the whole thing with Bob Gale is set up in this new web comic series...

It's so funny how they've got me smoking in it, and they've got me with big boobs in it.  It was like they drew me as if I was playing "Jan" on The Office [2005-2013].

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did it effect you to get let go from the film by him at the time?

Of course!  I was so sad.  I was only seventeen years old at the time and it made me cry.  Bob was so nice though.  He sent me a big boutique of flowers afterward.    Read the comic HERE:

TV STORE ONLINE:  There's been bootleg footage going around for years and I think there's some footage of Eric Stoltz as "Marty McFly" on the BACK TO THE FUTURE DVD Box Set...I was wondering if the two of you shot anything together and what would that be?

HARDIN: No we didn't.   Because by the time I arrived Eric had already been there a while and I really was just on the set to shoot publicity photos is all.  I hadn't even started filming yet.

TV STORE ONLINE:    I really love the film that you and your husband Gildart Jackson made called YOU (2009).  I really like how it's structured in the sense that it skips around from the present to the past and then around again.  Was that structure something that you knew you wanted prior to going into the editing room?  

HARDIN:  Well Gildart had written it so it would be a story that would bounce around in time.   I always say that the film is a love letter.  When he wrote the script, he wrote a love letter to me, and when I made the film, it was a love letter to him.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   So your husband wrote a script about you dying and having to cope without you in his life.   How does that make you feel?   It seems like maybe we've all had these types of fantasy thoughts as if it's part of the human condition. Why do we think that way?   Do humans have a sense or urge to be in dramatic situations naturally?

I'm not sure, but with my husband I think I understood where that came from inside of him.   We had just had our first daughter and he had to leave and go to work in Canada.   He wrote that script in three days and he told me that he just cried it out.  He was just missing us, and I understand that because when you have a child with someone there is a very sort of primal connectedness that you have with that person.  It's a very overwhelming feeling to have.  So I know that those thoughts are really where the idea for the story of YOU came from.   

Available at Amazon.com
TV STORE ONLINE:  You've also had this second career as a singer going on for several years...I recently gave a listen to your album Purr and really dug the '30s and '40s musical style at play there.  How long have you been interested in doing music?

HARDIN:  Well my mom once told me that I wrote my first song when I was two years old.  I've really been writing songs and singing my entire life.   The first CD I released was called The Melora Drama and then I did Purr and then my third CD was called All The Way To Mars and the next one I put out will probably be tied into a theater piece I'm putting together for the stage.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So growing up what kinds of music did you like?  Anyone influence you in particular?

HARDIN:  As a young girl I was always really into actresses that sang.  I was totally obsessed with Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand.  When I was eight I discovered The Beatles.  I got into Fleetwood Mac.   I also discovered Billy Joel too and he's probably the one that has influenced me the most as a songwriter.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did SOUL MAN (1986) come to you? 

HARDIN:  Steve Miner was so much fun to work with, and Steve Tish the producer was awesome and we we went on together to do Dirty Dancing: The Television Series [1988-89].  I can just remember reading the script for the first time and seeing all of the scenes that my character "Whitney" were in and she was supposed to be nude in all of them.  I told my agent that I wasn't going to do them naked because it distracted from the comedy.  Whitney was a very funny character and had she been naked it would've taken away from that.

Hardin and C. Thomas Howell in the screwball
comedy SOUL MAN (1986) 

TV STORE ONLINE:   I love those funny fantasy sequences with you and C. Thomas Howell at the dinner table where he's a pimp and your character Whitney is pregnant....Any improvisation in creating scenes like that?

HARDIN:   No actually that was all done in the script that way...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  You mentioned Dirty Dancing: The Television Series a moment ago...Television critics at the time said that you were a better "Baby" than Jennifer Grey was in the movie...Getting cast as Baby...Did you feel any pressure that you'd have to live up to  expectations that fans of the film may have had for that role?

Patrick Cassidy and Melora Hardin 
on short lived Dirty Dancing television series.

HARDIN:  I really didn't.   I really felt like the producers were saying that they were going to make the show something different from the movie.  I had been a dancer my entire life and I really wanted to work with Kenny Ortega.  Being a dancer already was annoying because I had to pretend that I couldn't dance.  Patrick Swayze was actually one of my first dance teachers when I was fifteen years old.   He was so hot and he looked just like "Johnny Castle" back then too.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  The show was canceled after a handful of episodes...Where do you think it went wrong?  Did it not find it's audience?  Was it on the wrong night?  Was it because of the fact that it didn't solely focus in on the "Johnny" and "Baby" characters and it was more of an ensemble storyline?

HARDIN:   It was just timing I think.   That's the case for so many shows that get canceled before they really get anywhere.   Look at The Office for example.  Had reality television not been at it's peak that show might not have succeeded in my opinion.   The whole mockumentary style of The Office I think really offered an audience something that reminded them of something real.   Dirty Dancing: The Series was great.  It had a great team behind it and it really had a great cast too. 

Hardin as "Jan" with Steve Carell's "Michael Scott"
on NBC's The Office
TV STORE ONLINE:   Was The Office something that was offered to you or did you have to go in and audition for it?

HARDIN:  Yeah, I had to go in and audition for it.    When I auditioned for it at the time I had also went in to audition for a show called Wolf Lake [2001-02].   The casting director for Wolf Lake was also the casting director for The Office.   When I first went in to audition for The Office is was supposed to be for a guest spot or maybe a reoccurring character whereas Wolf Lake was a lead part so I really wanted the part on Wolf Lake.  But when I ran into the casting director and we started to talk about it she had told me that she really wanted me to get the part on The Office.   In the end she was right...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:   There are those that would consider "Jan" on The Office to be a very aggressive and bitchy woman.   What are your thoughts on that?

HARDIN:    I really loved Jan.  I never thought of Jan as being a bitch and maybe that's why I play bitches well.  I didn't think that she was a bitch.  Maybe that's why I can get inside of their truth.  Some would say "Whitney" in SOUL MAN was a bitch too but I never passed judgement on either of those characters.   You have to remember that both of those women thought that they were doing right.  They didn't see themselves as doing anything wrong.   In their minds they had valid reasons for what they did or for who they were.   I really thought Jan was a fun character to play and I really got the humor there.   You either get the humor or you don't and I feel like I got the humor there in both of those women.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What's your favorite episode of The Office?

HARDIN:  I think "Dinner Party" is my favorite from Season Four.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Were you around much for the shooting of the final season of The Office?

HARDIN:  I only worked on the episode "The Whale".    It was great and I didn't know that it was going to be my last episode.   Originally they told me that I would be coming back for the final episode and so after The Whale I never say my goodbyes but I guess that was probably the best for me.   I think they wrapped the series up very well.  As for Jan...It was really great to see her back in the corporate world and I thought that was really great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I feel like I once heard that NBC was looking at a "Jan" spin-off television series? Was that just a rumor?

HARDIN:  They were talking about that actually but that was a while back before they created Parks & Recreation [2009-current].  They had talked about it but for whatever reason it didn't pan out.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   Any interview with Melora Hardin wouldn't be complete unless we talked about LAMBADA (1990)...How did that come to you?

  I just went in and auditioned for it.  They knew I was a dancer but I didn't actually have to dance in the audition.  Shabba-Doo choreographed the film and a lot of the dancers that he hired for the film  I had worked with in the past.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  They didn't want you to dance in the audition because they wanted you to save it for that big classroom dance number!

Hardin in LAMBADA (1990)
HARDIN: Exactly...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's such a strange movie

HARDIN:  It is!

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your character has a certain sexuality about her....Who knew that LAMBADA would twist and turn going from this potential sexual relationship between this female student and her teacher to being a message film about the importance of math in inner-city schools!

HARDIN:  Laughing...That's so funny!  That's probably why the film didn't do so well!  Math is so important though!  

TV STORE ONLINE:  I feel like you started to get typecast a bit by the time you had done LAMBADA.   From Whitney in SOUL MAN to LAMBADA you seemed to always play these sexually aggressive young women...Did you see that happening at the time?

HARDIN: No I didn't.   I just think that I was very in touch with my sexuality in those films.  Every actor brings themselves to the characters they play.    I think the fact that I was a child actor is what was really my saving grace because I was never cast in any of those "cutesy" types of roles when I was younger so I think I was able to transition really smoothly into being an adult actor because of the fact that I was always doing serious drama when I was younger.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Why did the dance Lambada become such a phenomenon in 1990?  There was LAMBADA your film and then Greydon Clark's THE FORBIDDEN DANCE (1990) that same year...

Hardin with Gene Hackman in 1997
Clint Eastwood directed ABSOLUTE POWER
HARDIN:  I know!  It was because the company that was going to make the film had split up.  Golan-Globus had split up and they were fighting each other.  One made a Lambada film and the other one made a film about the dance too.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I love what you did with Gene Hackman in Clint Eastwood's ABSOLUTE POWER (1997)...

HARDIN:  That is such a highlight for me!    Gene Hackman is such a lovely man and an incredible actor.   I got to sing for Clint Eastwood a few years ago when he was honored at the ball.  He asked me to sing for him.   Gene Hackman was so sweet.   When I arrived on the set he came up to me and said, "I'm nervous for our scene."   I said, "Don't worry I'll take care of you".  (Laughing)   He was such a gentleman too.  He'd save me a seat at lunch.   It took us two weeks to shoot that fight scene and during the course of that scene my skirt was always up in the air. Every time we'd cut Gene would put my skirt down and help me up.  It was a glorious two weeks of shooting.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Then there's CHAMELEON (1995)?   Your character endures a long birthing scene in the film...Giving birth on film then and now having given birth to your actual children do you think that your life experience would effect the way you'd play a scene like that as an actress if you had to shoot a similar scene again today?

HARDIN:  I don't know I haven't looked at that film since I had my babies so I can't even remember how I played it!   As an actor you can use your imagination too.   Actors don't always have to be shot in the head in order to get into the moment.   A lot of people asked me if I really got a "boob job" for that episode of The Office where we see Jan in a new light.   I found it quite offensive actually.  I don't think that people were asking Mark Wahlberg if he really got a penis extension for that scene in BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997).   To answer your question, Yes, I think that life experiences do effect how actors approach a role.  The older we get and the more life experiences that we have certainly pepper us and how we approach a character.


Hardin with Yahoo Serious in RECKLESS KELLY

HARDIN:  That was fun.  I went to Australia to shoot that, and at the end of it we came back here to shoot some of it as well.

TV STORE ONLINE:  You got to shoot a big ass gun in RECKLESS KELLY...

HARDIN:  I did!  That was really fun.  I got to go and practice at a shooting range.  I got to shoot a .44 Magnum.   I was a good shot too. I put a shot right into the center of the target  and afterward the guy that was helping me told me that most women are actually better shots then men.  It was fun and I could totally see how someone could take up target shooting as a hobby.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  So the character you play in RECKLESS KELLY is a Shakespeare loving bank teller / actress....You're taking this character very seriously.   What's your process in regards to how you approach any character that you play?

HARDIN:  It's different with each character, but I guess similarly what happens is that I have to find my way into them.  I need to find an emotional hook to get into a character.  Also it's important in how a character looks too.   There are times when I'll catch a look of myself in a mirror and see what the costume is that I'm wearing and that really helps me get the feel of who someone is.  That's important to me.  I do work from the outside inward but I also work from the inside outward at times.  The process is different for each character but I'm always looking for that one thing that feeds me to find the character.

TV STORE ONLINE:  But how do you ever know when you're on the right track in the initial creation of the character as the actor behind them?

Available at TV STORE ONLINE.com

HARDIN:  You can feel it, and you just know when you're on the right track.  Plus it's collaborative too.  If you have good collaborators then they'll give you their thoughts and opinions in regards to what you're doing and that's always very valuable to have.   Then you also have the opportunity to look at what you're doing in the dailies and I personally am able to disconnect from what I'm seeing in front of me and that's really helpful too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  My last question for you...Where can we see you next?

HARDIN:  I'm working on a one person stage show now.  I don't know how long it's going to take to finish but it's so fun.  I'm writing new songs for that as well.   I just did a pilot for TBS called Do It Yourself with Cheech Marin and Bill Engvall as well.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Actually...I forget to ask you about your short film SCREAMIN' BIG BAD FUN (2013)....Will you be directing more projects in the future?

HARDIN:  Definitely.   I just optioned a great book called The Cowboy And His Elephant that we just finished the first draft of the screenplay for and we're hoping to be in production on that by next summer. So watch for that.

Melora Hardin's Screamin' Big Bad Fun Short Film:

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