Lori Loughlin Talks Fuller House, When Calls the Heart and TV Critics

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Lori Loughlin Talks Fuller House, When Calls the Heart and TV Critics

Friendly and sweet on-and-off camera, Lori Loughlin (or, everyone’s “Aunt Becky”) has warmed our hearts for decades as the lone adult female voice in the Tanner household, on the everlasting sitcom mega-hit Full House. Now eagerly promoting the show’s Netflix reunion series, Fuller House, as well as her Hallmark hit When Calls The Heart, Loughlin chatted with us about her early beginnings in Hollywood, becoming a face for the Hallmark Channel, and what the TV critics are getting wrong about the legacy of Full House.

Paste Magazine: Is it true that your career started when you accidentally became a print model?
Lori Loughlin: Yes, that’s true. I always had an interest in wanting to act, but my family wasn’t in the entertainment industry at all, and we didn’t know anyone. We didn’t really even know how you begin to crack that nut.

Then a good friend of my mother’s was taking her daughters to a modeling agency. I grew up on Long Island, and the agency was in New York. She said to my mom, “Lori’s always asking you, why don’t you take her in too?” They ended up taking me. They gave us a contract, like, “Here, we want you to sign this.” My mom’s like, “We can’t sign anything. We’ve got to go home and talk to your father.” I had a discussion with my mom and my dad that night.

My parents were really supportive and they said, “If we see that your school grades are dropping or that there’s a real drastic change in your personality, then we’re going to stop you from doing this. If you can keep up your grades and you remain a nice, normal kid, we’ll continue following this journey to wherever it takes us.” That’s what we did.

After several years of modeling I got an audition for a daytime soap opera. I had done a few commercials here and there but I was never super lucky in commercials. Then I went and auditioned for a soap opera and really was too young for the part. The casting director almost sent me out of her office. She said, “You’re really too young for this part but it was nice to meet you and thank you very much.” As I’m walking out the door she said, “Wait a minute, just come back and read for me anyway. Let me just hear you read.” I did and she said, “You’re really too young for the part but I like you, I’m going to bring you back for the producers.” She brings me back and I ended up getting it. It was a three-and-a-half year gig on a soap opera called, The Edge of Night. It was great training ground for me, it really was. It was like getting paid to take acting class. I was there working with wonderful actors—a lot of the theater actors who were so great to me, took me under their wing, were happy to teach me. It was wonderful. I feel very fortunate that I got that opportunity.

Paste: Before we get into current projects, I have to bring this up. There is a movie that was a big part of my childhood. I’m going to say two words, and I want to know if this sounds familiar to you at all at this stage of the game.
Loughlin: Let me guess, “Jamaican Ska”?

Paste: Yes! I’ve got to say, I have a two-year-old and was trying to sing to him and calm him down so he would go to bed. Somehow, out of my brain, after 20 years of dormancy, I found myself singing that to him. I was like, “where did that come from?” I just remember watching Back To The Beach over and over, of course having no understanding of the original beach movies that it celebrated. That was one of your first film roles, right?
Loughlin: Yeah, and that was a great movie. I loved working with Frankie [Avalon] and Annette [Funicelli]. Both of them, just awesome. We shot at the beach every day. What a really super time. Although she wasn’t telling anyone, I think she had just found out around the time we started shooting that she was sick. She was a great lady. I loved that movie, I really did.

Paste: So did I. Obviously Full House is a show that’s on everybody’s minds these days. When I started watching Fuller House the other day on Netflix, it definitely gave me this unexpected sense of comfort. Is that why people were so excited about the reunion? Do you think they’ve miss that simplicity that was always in the original?
Loughlin: I think that Full House is just a feel-good show. It’s not meant to be anything more than just a little silly, funny, heartfelt and warm program. We don’t care if sometimes you think our approach is cheesy. We don’t care. We know exactly what we are. I laugh when critics harp all over the show and really want to take it down. I just think “Wow, you guys are the fools. You’ve missed the whole point of the show, you’ve really missed it. You guys are morons.” It’s an easy target to go after Full House, and I just think these critics are so short-sighted and they’re just missing the joke. You’re picking on a show that’s not meant to be anything more than it is.

Paste: I think you guys have proven that you get the point just based on some of the jokes that are in Fuller House. It’s very obvious that there’s a sense of self-awareness—this is what we are, we enjoy doing this, and we all understand each other and what’s going on here now. It’s a little bit meta, where there’s this relationship between the show and the audience that is going to love it.
Loughlin: Exactly.

Paste: As a performer, did you ever feel concerned about being permanently identified with the show during it’s initial run?
Loughlin: Look, it’s a double-edged sword, right? You get on a show like Full House and then everybody’s like, “You can only be on Full House, and that’s what you do.” I think it’s just the nature of the business. People always want you to prove yourself. I don’t have a problem going in the room and auditioning and proving myself. If you want me, you want me, and if you don’t, you don’t. I was happy to have Full House, and Full House came at a really good time for me. I took the original six episodes offered to me because I was really low on cash. I really needed a job. When I got there it was such a fun group.

I loved everyone so much and I had such a good time with everyone. Was it, creatively, the most challenging job I’ve ever had? No. Was it one of the best, and one of the most fun? Absolutely. Will it always be the top of the top for me? It really will.

Paste: Let’s talk quickly about When Calls the Heart, which is clearly a huge hit for Hallmark. Obviously this is a total departure from those who just know you from Full House. What intrigued you about this role?
Loughlin: It’s funny, a friend of mine was producing it, he called me up and he said, “Lori, I need your help. I want to try to sell this into a series.” There are people at Hallmark who I love, like Bill Abbott, the president. I have a fan in Bill and I’m so thankful for that. This producer knew that. He was like, “I want to put you in this show because I need a name to help me sell it into a series. If it goes into a series, you can have the option of being a part of it.” I went in and I worked the show for literally one day, and then it went to series.

When it went to series, the producer came back to me and he said, “We’d like to try to work it out for you. It’s going to be shooting in Vancouver.” I said, “I can’t move to Vancouver, but I’d really love to be a part of the show.” I really did like everyone involved creatively, and I loved that it was a western, a period piece. I liked the premise of the show, I liked that it was family television, I liked that it had good morals, and that it had a lesson at the end of the story. I just liked everything about it, but I couldn’t move to Vancouver.

He suggested that we block shoot my scenes. “You go up to Vancouver for a week and we’ll shoot two episodes, and then you go home for a week or two.” I said, “Okay, if you can do that, great. I’m not so sure you’re going to be able to do that.” We started out with the thought process that this will just be a trial run and we’ll see how it works. If you notice in the first season I’m not in episodes three and four, and the reason I’m not in three and four is we didn’t really know if I was going to stay on with the show. Then they brought me back in episodes five and six. I’ve been on ever since. I really was testing it out, just to see if I could make it work with my family.

I feel like I have the best of all worlds. I love working with our crew up in Canada and our cast up in Canada. I love Erin Krakow, who’s from the states, and Daniel Lissing, who’s from Australia. I feel like we have this fantastic melting pot of talent. It’s beautiful up in Vancouver, I love shooting there, and then I’m home. I pop in and I pop back home and see my kids and my husband. It’s just been good for me to have that set balance.

Paste: We hear so much about the challenges that women face scoring quality roles as they go beyond their 20s and 30s, but you clearly continue to find success. Do you think that part of the challenge is identifying who your loyal audience is and outlets that can best reach them, like you’ve seemingly done with Hallmark?
Loughlin: It’s funny. The whole thing with Hallmark is that I don’t know that I made a conscious decision to go there. They first came to me with the mystery movie that I did for them, and when I read the mystery movie, I was like, “This could be a franchise, this could be more than one movie.” I started out making the one movie for them and it did very well. Years before I had done another movie for them called, Meet My Mom. One of the reasons I didn’t initially work a lot for Hallmark was they shot everything in Canada and my kids were really little. Meet My Mom we actually shot in California, so I did that one for them. Even when they rebroadcast it, it does very well. The mystery movie for them shoots up in Vancouver also, but I thought this could be a franchise. It did so well that they decided that they were going to rebrand the Hallmark Movie Channel.

Hallmark has two channels. They have their Hallmark Channel and then they have what they call the Hallmark Movie Channel. They’ve totally rebranded it the Hallmark Mysteries and Movie Channel. They took my mystery movie and then they created a bunch more. They’re doing a loop on the Mystery Channel. I’ve now done six of these mystery movies for Hallmark. I don’t know that I set out saying, “I’m going to go to Hallmark.” They happened to come to me with a project that I liked.

As an actor you are constantly searching, and looking, and maybe you’re calling your agents or saying, “Hey, what’s out there for me?” I can tell you this. At 51, I never thought I would be working as much as I am, because it is harder for women in the business for sure. I even remember saying to my mother, not seven or eight years ago, “Probably when I’m in my 50’s I’ll be semi-retired, probably won’t be working that much anymore.” Not by choice, but because there just won’t be the roles. I remember my mother said, “Don’t be so sure. I think you’re always going to work,” or whatever supportive mom thing she said. She turned out to be right.

Paste: That’s really great.
Loughlin: I think the good news is things are shifting and they have been shifting slowly, but steadily we are seeing older actresses working more than we did even a few years ago. I think it’s all changing. I also think because there are so many different areas for actors now, whether you’re on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, or Disney Channel, or ABC Family, or Hallmark, or a major network, or an indie film that’s being shown at film festivals—there’s so many avenues now.

Paste: I think everyone has an idea of who you are from the characters you’ve played and just from this conversation, it’s clear that you’re the nicest person on the face of the earth.
Loughlin: I’ll take it.

Paste: Can you tell me one band or a musical artist that you listen to , whether in public or secretly on the down low, that might surprise people?
Loughlin: My goodness. Taylor Swift. Would that be surprising? I love Taylor Swift. I think she’s great, I love her.

Paste: Okay, we’re getting warm.
Loughlin: You know who else I like? I like Justin Bieber. I was always a fan of the Jonas Brothers. I love Joe Jonas’s new band.

Paste: I was just hoping you would say that when everyone’s asleep you throw on some old KISS, and put on the makeup and rock out by yourself.
Loughlin: Yeah! (laughs). Listen, it’s not corny, but I love the Eagles, I’ve always been a big Eagles fan.