PASADENA, Calif. - She’s not exactly a blushing bride on Fox’s “Til Death,” but in real life Joely Fisher is a bride for the second time. She and her producer-director husband renewed their vows on New Year’s Eve celebrating 10 years of marriage.
Casting her as the wife in the slightly tarnished marriage of Fox’s “Til Death” had nothing to do with the real Fisher. In fact, she has spent a lifetime playing people who weren’t anything like her.
The daughter of singer-actress Connie Stevens and crooner Eddie Fisher, Joely was around show business from the time she could toddle onto a stage. She and her sister were, what she calls “road babies” traveling with their mother as she performed all over the U.S. But if greasepaint weren’t in her blood, she’d probably demand a transfusion.
“From very early on I watched my mother mostly, but my father occasionally, walk onto a stage and tell a story or sing a song and I saw what both parties were getting out of it. I saw how people were getting a gift from her. And I saw what it was giving her. And I thought, `Oh, this is a romance. This is a love story.’ I love that love affair you have with an audience whether it be live or a camera. I love the process,” she says, ordering iced coffee in a diner here.
Fisher, who costarred on the sitcom, “Ellen,” as well as “Desperate Housewives,” “Gross Pointe” also starred in “Wild Card” on USA and has been performing since she left college to pursue her career.
Now the mother of two little girls, 6 and 1, she says she’s learned there’s more to life than being an actress. “Becoming a mother is so profound and it’s bigger than us, bigger than saying,” she says, “you’re a better human, a better woman, a better wife, a better actress. It changes your perspective about everything in the world. I think becoming a mother put a huge gigantic magnifying glass on what’s important.”
Raised by her mother, Fisher says, “There was a lot of estrogen around and (emphasis on) being a strong woman and independent and having all this. And letting go and letting other people take care of you in some ways, that’s really difficult for me.”
She and her husband are not on equal ground, she says. “It’s like we come to the relationship that fits together. You have your role and I have my role and it fits together. I’m a ball buster. I’m the most driven person you know. I love my work. I love my family. I’m one of those people who truly believes you can have it all. If you work hard you can have it all. And part of that is also release and letting go, not necessarily holding it all in.”
She met her husband, Christopher Duddy, on a film set.
“It was something Ellen DeGeneres was doing. He was up on a crane operating this special camera at the time. I looked up and said, `Oooh, handsome guy.’ He moved to director of photography for a bunch of different projects then, I think midlife crisis is a strange generality we throw at people when we say at the age of 40 they decide to change their career. I don’t know necessarily it’s bad, it just happened in that moment. He said, `I’d really like to write, direct and produce movies.’ And in a year he’s done that three times. I’m very proud of him.”
Fisher is stepmother to Duddy’s sons, 21 and 19, from an earlier marriage. But finding herself an instant stepmother didn’t faze her, she says. “The thing I struggled with most of my life was my lack of fathering so why not have a man who is extremely present as a father as a partner and I already know he can do it,” she says.
“Til Death,” which settles into its new slot on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. EDT, couples Fisher with Brad Garrett, who plays her ever-suffering husband. It was a case of almost instant chemistry when Fisher showed up to read with Garrett.
“I read the script and I thought, `I feel she’s a good deal older than I am.’ The way the pilot was conceived they didn’t really care about what they looked like. At best they wore sweatpants. She wasn’t a girl who shopped or did her hair or cared how she looked anymore. I was, like, `I’m not old enough to have been married 24 years.’ They said, `Well they love the idea of you and Brad loves the idea of you, just go in and they’ll fix it.’
“We immediately clicked and made each other laugh. The next day I want to table reading.”
At 39, Fisher has successfully reconciled her passion for work and her home life. “Now that I have children I know what to do when I don’t have a job,” she nods. “But I have been that neurotic actress running around going, `Oh, my God, will I ever work again? When’s the next job?’ You have to be courageous, have thick skin, actually find something else in your life whether it be your family, friends or a craft - anything that fills holes because it does leave a void when you’re not doing what you love.”
You’d think she’d have enough on her plate: Tori Spelling is married, expecting and soon she and her husband, Dean McDermott, will be manning a bed-and-breakfast in California’s wine country. But that’s not all. Their day-to-day hotel management skills will be recorded in a new reality show airing on Oxygen called “Tori & Dean: Inn Love” premiering on March 21.
Young couples have tried this before, most notably Jessica Simpson and her now ex-husband, Nick Lachey, when they inhabited the reality show, “Newlyweds.” Their show did well, but the marriage faltered. Spelling says she’s not worried about the precedents. “We think of it as a `Newlyweds’ as well, kind of the next level. We are still newlyweds, but we have a baby on the way and we’re juggling our careers in the new business, so it’s kind of `Newlyweds Part Deux.’”
She explains why she was willing to open herself to even more public scrutiny. “My life is a reality, basically. I mean it’s out in the media every day, so I figured kind of instead of going by what they write, why not put the truth out there and put ourselves out there and, at the same time, open up a successful business.”
Conan O’Brien is executive-producing Andy Richter’s new TV show, “Andy Barker, P.I.” premiering Thursday on NBC. Of course, Richter used to work with O’Brien on his show years ago. O’Brien says he’s not sure why he keeps going back to Andy for belly laughs. “I don’t know what makes anybody a series star,” says O’Brien. “Andy is one of the most - to me, has always been one of the most likable presences that I’ve seen on television. I’ve always responded immediately, and I know other people have as well. You see Andy on TV, and you like him.”
Richter says it took him some time to figure out he was a comedian. “Mom had one of those books that keeps track of kids on their birthday and when I was 4, 5 and 6 years old I said I wanted to be an actor, but when I was 5 or 6 I said I wanted to be a comedian. After that it was fireman, astronaut or zoo keeper. I think I always had the feeling that I could do that, or (had) an attraction to that kind of work or life. As I got older growing up in a small town I think I started to feel atmosphere around me that you don’t do that - you take over your parents’ business or work in the family store, but NOBODY’S an actor.”
Anthology series like “The Twilight Zone,” “Outer Limits” and “Tales from the Crypt” have always been part of television, and Court TV is renewing the format with its “Til Death Do Us Part,” premiering March 19 and featuring the inimitable John Waters. Waters, who’s better known as director of such films as “Serial Mom,” “Cry-Baby” and “Pink Flamingos,” puts on his acting tights for this one. He plays the Groom Reaper on these 30-minute dramas, which follow a happy couple from the altar to the altercation (which always ends in murder). Waters, who’s known for his macabre and outrageous sense of humor, says he was not allowed to watch horror movies when he was a kid.
“I never watched late-night movies, I went to see them. My mom didn’t know it. I used to climb up the hill with binoculars and watch (the drive-in). She wouldn’t let me see the movies. I couldn’t hear them or anything, but they were even more thrilling that way, spying on a drive-in.”