Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cutting Room Floor Commentary: Christine Lakin Reflects On '80s TV and Celebrity Crushes...

I am a child of the '90s. So when a recent assignment for Snakkle TV put me on the phone with Christine Lakin of Step by Step fame (and only a month after meeting Patrick Duffy at the TCAs!), a little part of me had to stop from singing the theme song all day leading up to the interview. Snakkle is a "Before they were stars" and "Where are they now?" site geared entirely for the fans. While they rely on witty commentary on yearbook photos and old screen tests and regional commercials, they are never mean about the subjects they profile. It is the type of site I would have killed to read as a kid (you know, if the internet was as developed as it is now when I was a kid), so working there is an honor. And chatting with Lakin was, as well. Some former child stars don't like to talk about the work that made them a household name. I get that-- to a degree. Past work is past work, and if you exist solely on it, you will dry up fast in this town. Lakin has been working steadily as an actress and also a producer since her days as a teen TGIF star, but she is also smart enough not to bite the hand that fed her. She knows just how crazy a dream she has gotten to live out, and she's happy to talk about it (don't believe me? Just read her Twitter bio). But perhaps most importantly, she never begrudges fans their freak-out moments because she, too, has had her own. She literally grew up on television, but she grew up with it, too. In this installment of "Cutting Room Floor Commentary" from my Snakkle feature about her new project Worst Audition Ever, Lakin and I talk about interactions with fans, the shows whose fan clubs she would have joined, and who her celebrity crushes in the '80s and '90s were.

: When Step by Step ended, because it was on for so long, you didn't look that different from how you look now. So do people still come up to you a lot, referencing the show and recognizing you from Step by Step versus what you've worked on since?

Christine Lakin: It's funny, you know, not really. I think people of a certain age do. There's a whole set of people who are slightly younger than me that really remember the show and know me from that. You know, I can't say that people are coming up to me 'Oh my God, Step by Step, I loved that show!' But it inevitably comes up, like, for instance if I hang out with a new group of people-- it inevitably comes up that someone will say to me 'I don't mean to embarrass you or anything, but my friend, she loves Step by Step.' I just think it's great. I think it's super flattering, and I think it's great that people who watched it, it obviously impacted their childhood, and I get it because I have those shows, too. It was a time in television that we don't really see often anymore and that I think was really cool-- a kind of family. I'm proud to be a part of it.

D: You just mentioned the shows that you were so invested in-- what were some of those?

C.L.: Oh God, The Wonder Years! That was huge for me. You know, Growing Pains was one. Full House, to a degree. Perfect Strangers-- I actually really loved the Friday night TV so when I found out that the show was going to be on Friday nights, I was like 'I have made it!' You would have thought I was going to Broadway. It was literally the greatest thing to ever happen in my life because it was everything I grew up with. But you know, I grew up with Carol Burnett and The Cosby Show and stuff like Mr. Belvedere and Family Ties. I was a product of all of those shows. I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and specifically sitcoms. Nickelodeon, You Can't Do That on Television, Saved By The Bell--

D: I do think it's funny, then, that what helped you get the part was crying on camera. You ended up on a show that was not a serious drama, and all of your influences were comedic anyway.

C.L.: I actually had another monologue. It was one that was funny or whatever, but I filmed it in Atlanta, and it wasn't of the quality-- it was just my mom filming me with a video camera; I probably looked like I was in some kind of jail cell! So they wanted to get something that was really great quality, and I think they wanted the dramatic one just so I'd have it. That way I'd have the funny one and the one that's more dramatic, but yeah, it's very odd that that would be the thing that the producer would see.

D: But if you can do that-- if you can cry on cue like that I'm pretty sure he felt your range would be wide enough for him.

C.L.: Yeah, kid actor tricks! [Laughs]

D: When the show was on, you guys were all over the cover of magazines, and I'll admit that growing up that was my thing-- I was a big Teen Beat, Bop, whatever--

C.L.: Seventeen.

D: Yeah, let's rip out the photos of the cute boys and wallpaper my room. So I have to ask: who was your celebrity crush growing up?

C.L.: Okay, get ready for this--

D: Uh oh.

C.L.: I have notes, literally--

D: Still?

C.L.: Yeah, that I sent my girlfriends in, like, fifth grade talking about my TV crushes. You're going to die. Neil Patrick Harris.

D: Nice!

C.L.: Mmm-hmm. Probably didn't really realize because he didn't know at the time, but definitely he would not have been looking for someone like me. But I thought he was so cute! And also, Fred Savage. Just because of The Wonder Years. And of course Michael J. Fox because I always seemed to like the funny, little, cute, witty thing. I loved that. Which is so weird. But then I remember meeting [Jeremy] Jackson from Baywatch, and I had a total crush on him! We met at some event, and I have this picture with him, and I would, like, salivate over him. I have an old picture with Zachary Ty Bryan-- again, you'd meet these people at, you know, charity events or wherever it was. I was thirteen, crushing on boys, so they were definitely some of my big ones. But it's funny because I had this crush on Fred Savage, and years later he's directing now and a producer, and I was up in Vancouver filming, and he was filming something else, and we ended up getting together with a mutual group of people to watch the Emmys or whatever. And I know Danica-- I know people that know him-- and we had met a couple of times before, but now we were adults, and we were watching the Emmys, and I was just laughing to myself. I was like 'Oh my God, if I could have told eleven year-old me what would happen, I probably would have wet my pants back then!' You know?

Oh, I know all too well! But I did find it refreshing that celebrities really are just like us and can still get excited over things in this industry, too-- no matter how long they've been here.

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