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Jennifer Love Hewitt – Working Up The Client List


Jennifer Love Hewitt

Working Up The Client List

by Jay S. Jacobs


Jennifer Love Hewitt grew up on television, so you knew when her long-running series Ghost Whisperer was cancelled in 2010, it was only a matter of time before she returned to the spotlight.


The return is coming with a sizzle, as she has agreed to star in a Lifetime series version of her earlier made-for-cable movie The Client List, about Riley, a Texas mother and masseuse who joins a new spa which offers "special" services for a select group of patrons. This leaves her in a moral conundrum: she needs the money to raise her children, but she isn't comfortable with the services she may have to do.


The series is a re-imagining of the movie, not a remake, so the character names and some plot points are different. The series co-stars Cybill Shepherd as Riley's mother, Loretta Devine as her new boss, Brian Hallisay as her estranged husband and Colin Egglesfield as her brother-in-law.


About a week before the series debut, we were one of a select group of media outlets who were invited to speak with Hewitt about her career and The Client List.


You starred in the film version of The Client List. What made you want to be a part of the television version?


We had joked around when we were doing the movie about how fun it would be to turn this into a series and really get in deeper with the lives of the women in the spa and everything. So, when the movie did really well, I talked it over with everybody and said let’s pitch it and see what they think and here we are.

How has your online promotion helped with the television show? You’re a big part of Twitter now — taking pictures from the set and things like that. How has your social networking enhanced interest in the show?


I have to say that by nature, I’m like a 90-year-old woman, so the whole Internet thing and the Twitter thing and Facebook and all of that I’m very new to. But I am quite shocked at how much fun it is to be able to reach out to people on a daily basis and keep content out there, and how much it actually really does help promote things in such a different way. I also feel like sometimes as actors and artists, we don’t really get to be an effective integral part of the promotional process, other than doing interviews. With Twitter and Facebook now and all of this stuff, it really allows us to play and have fun vis-à-vis the pictures that I send every day out on Twitter or little videos or whatever it is. I feel like I’m getting to promote the show in my own way as well, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a lot of fun.


You love your love quotes.


I do love my love quotes. I really do love them. Sometimes just during the day, because I have to film the show or they get mad at me, I don’t have enough time to think of all these original Tweets. So the love quotes are great, because I can Tweet those back out and people feel like I’m thinking of them and I can say something, but I’m not always having to be like “I just ate a hot dog,” so it’s nice.


What do the men in your life think of you playing such a provocative role week to week?


The men in my life are our crew members and the actors that I work with. On the massage table, they’re pretty happy about it because they’re usually getting massaged. My one male dog is very jealous, because I’m gone a lot with the hours.


Are even your male friends perhaps intimidated by you playing such an intense role or provocative role?


No, but I have had a lot of my guy friends be like, “So have you learned anything in massage yet? Can I get a massage?” I’m like, “I just worked 14 hours, no; you cannot have a massage. That’s not what we do there.” I think people are having a pretty good time with it.


But you’re enjoying it overall — filming and everything?


I am. I love it. It’s a lot of fun.


How did you mentally prepare for that first scene at the massage parlor, and did you get as nervous as your character Riley did?


It was a little nerve wracking the first day for sure. It is still — essentially, even though we’re actors, the guys are strangers to me at the time. I’m there in lingerie and everything. I will say that the guys that we’ve hired so far have just been just such gentlemen, they’ve been so lovely. I think it’s awkward for them also because I‘m in lingerie, they’re in pretty much nothing, but we’re in front of so many people. But it is a very intimate thing to have to massage people, so it does take a couple of takes to feel comfortable with it.


Since the show is on Lifetime, obviously there’s only so much they can show, but if it aired on HBO or Showtime instead and the role actually required nudity, would you still have done it?


I wouldn’t have done nudity, no. That’s not something that I feel particularly comfortable with. I also think that it’s sexier not to show everything. I feel that people’s imaginations can do way more, so no it probably would have been a different consideration for me.


I was watching the scene where Riley comes home from work and her mom asks her how her day is, and she sort of brushes her off. It made me think, have you ever done anything in your life where you had to keep a big secret from your loved ones, so that you can relate to this?


It wouldn’t be a secret now, would it, if I tell you? No, I really haven’t. I’m a pretty bad liar and I’m not very good at keeping secrets. I’m one of those people who is like, “Let me tell you what happened today. You’re never going to believe it.” So I feel like I probably would not be as good at this as Riley is.

Can you talk about the research you did? Did you actually go to massage parlor?


No, I chose not to. For me, the funny thing is that even though the show has this provocative setting and I know what people are talking about is this “happy ending” aspect of the show and everything, for me, the part that I did more research on was being a single mom. Playing a Texas woman in economic struggles, somebody who emotionally has to carry all of these secrets and all of this loneliness, and all of the stuff that she struggles with emotionally in the series. I’m from Texas. All the women in my family are from Texas, so I did more research in spending time with them and the women that I know. Being single moms, and how they hold it all together with a full-time job. [I looked at that more] than I did the happy ending part of it, because for me that’s not who Riley is. That’s where Riley finds herself, but that is not who she is. So I chose not to do research on that aspect of things, because it wasn’t something that I needed to know to play the part.

You are from Texas and the show is set there. Is there anything that you drew on from your personal experiences to create the character or the setting or anything like that?


Definitely. It’s really funny — Riley and Linette are sort of these great combinations of my own mom. I feel like Riley is who my mom definitely was in her 20s and 30s and still so much of her spirit. I feel like Linette is how my mom is now in so many sort of great ways — not in what they do in the show necessarily, but in the spirit of who they are. I’ve really drawn a lot — my mom was a single mom who did have a boy and a girl. She was a Texas mom and all of those things. I’ve gotten to go back to my original accent, which has been really fun for me, but it’s hard to drop now sometimes when I go home. So I talk goofy, and my friends are like, “What are you doing?” So that part of it has been really fun and it’s been good. It’s reminded me how lucky I feel to be from Texas and how much I just love this spirit there, so it’s been nice.


Your promo where you sang “Hey, Big Spender” was pretty popular. Are you looking to get back into singing or recording albums?


I’d like to at some point. They’re keeping me pretty busy at this moment, but I would definitely like to do that again someday.


How do you feel about women like Riley who are caught between conventional work and perhaps comprising their morals to get ahead?


I think it’s realistic. It may not make people comfortable, and it begs the question of are there any other options. For her there isn’t at the time — for Riley — and I think people are just going to have to try to be as nonjudgmental about that as possible, but I do think that this is real. The story that we’re telling is real. There really are families that are economically put in these positions. There are women out there who are in sex worker positions that you would run into them at the grocery store with their hair piled on top of their head and have no idea. It’s a reality. I feel like as women — and men and people on the planet — you just have to do the best with what life gives you. Hopefully on our show people will have a lot of fun watching Riley do the best with what life has offered her, and it’ll be an interesting series.

Given the double life that Riley leads, what’s the biggest challenge for you in playing her?


Not eating pasta, because I’m in lingerie all the time! I miss pasta so much. Probably my biggest challenge is not eating all the food that I want to eat sometimes.


Do you think your stint on Ghost Whisperer really helped you in terms of getting ready for this role, and if so, in what ways?


They’re two completely different roles. It definitely prepared me for the work schedule and for the hours, and for what’s it’s like to promote a new show and all of those things. As far as emotionally, they’re so different. Such different people, so in that way, not really. But definitely in the off-camera aspects of how to live a life, work these hours, and do this sort of job, it definitely helped for sure.


What role do you like playing more — The Client List right now or Ghost Whisperer, or do you like both of them?


I like both of them. Again, they’re two totally completely different parts. I will say that there’s one common theme between them, which is their empathy. That is something I apparently am very attracted to in the characters that I play, because I loved that about Melinda and really do love that about Riley. I think she’s quite possibly to a fault, one of the most empathetic people I’ve ever met, and that’s a really lovely quality. It’s hard to find in a human being. I like that about her and Melinda was that way as well, so I think in that way they were sort of similar, but I couldn’t choose a favorite one. I like not always having to talk to dead people. Definitely giving a massage beats the crossover any day, but I like playing both.


How hard was it for you to decide to jump back into a regular TV role again?


It took some thought, but after meeting everyone at Lifetime and after knowing that this was the part I was going to jump into, it was pretty easy. The only real consideration was the hours and just how sleepy you get and things like that, but the work made it the easiest decision ever. I love this part, and I love what the show represents. I’m really, really so excited for and blown away by Lifetime’s commitment to change their network and do bigger, bolder things and to let us help them do that. It was exciting.

What do you think audiences will enjoy the most about the show?


I think people are going to take away different things. It’s extraordinarily relatable, even though people may not think that right off the bat with our promotional campaign, but I think that it is relatable in where we are right now that economically. I also think that there are lots of single moms out there in the world who are doing the best that they can. There are lots of people that married their childhood sweethearts, and it turned out different after some time went by. I think there are also different characters that people will identify with on the show, so I think there’s a little something for everybody. I do think that we make the journey really fun for people to watch, and that’s the best television. We all sit down to watch television to forget about reality for a minute. We want to do that for people.


Is there any characteristic of Riley Parks that was so complex that you had to take time to adjust to?


For me playing her every day, I still ask myself every day was there another option; could she have done something else? Hopefully my journey emotionally playing her will be the same journey that the audience will go through, which is just as you start to feel like you could judge her for a minute — or go I don’t know, maybe she shouldn’t have done that or is there another way — I think you will realize that there isn’t. She’s doing exactly what she should be doing and that she’s in the right place. She’s growing in her humanity in doing this. And she’s becoming a better mom and a better woman and a better daughter and just a better person because of her circumstances and that makes it really cool. So other than that, no, but I think that I definitely have asked myself a few times “Okay, are we telling the right story here?” and “Are we doing it the right way?”


Is it hard to shake off Riley sometimes when the scenes are very intense?


No, it’s kind of fun, actually. She’s real feisty and I’m pretty feisty in life, too, but it’s good. It’s good for me to get to do that stuff sometimes. The hardest thing is because I’m 33 now. I go home sometimes at the end of the day after a day of massages or a day of really high, high heels and all that stuff and I’m like sore. I’m like, “Really? Really you old lady, you’re sore from giving massages all day?” But no, it’s good.

Do you get to ad lib, or do you follow the script completely?


We pretty much follow the script. We do ad lib. I mean we definitely make things [up]. The writers are amazing, and I have a lot of respect for what they do and how they break down stories and make it happen. But when it’s passed off to us as actors, our job is to go “Okay, are we saying it in a way that they’re going to be able to grasp it the best?” Are we emotionally? Yes, your thought process was this one thing, but emotionally can I deliver it better, so that they can cry, or that they can laugh, or that they can feel something even deeper than what you intended? And so the only reason to change a line or ad lib is to have that be the purpose. We do that sometimes, but not all the time.


There has been apparently some backlash from massage therapists over the fact that this show portrays one side of the job — that happy ending element to it, and might be downplaying the medical, the therapy aspect of it. What’s your take? How do you feel the show does in terms of portraying the realities of this profession?


From the word go, it’s a television series, so I don’t think anybody that’s watching it or turning it on is expecting me to keep the logistics of giving a proper massage. If they’ve seen our billboards, they’re definitely not expecting that. I played a medium on Ghost Whisperer for six years, and the mediums never complained at the fact that I had cleavage while I was crossing people over into the light. In fact, they were super-excited that a hot person was out there representing the medium. I have the utmost respect for the massage therapy industry. I get massages all the time. Friends of mine are massage therapists. It’s important for people to understand — and they will when they see the series — that we also give legitimate massages at the spa, so it’s not all happy endings. There is a client list and those people and those people only get extras. The rest of the people are there for real massages, so we do represent both sides of them. But at the end of the day it’s the reality. There really are these places. There are lots of people that go to them, and we’re just trying to entertain. We’re just trying to tell a story and would never ever disrespect any profession intentionally. I hope that some of those people eventually will be able to stop for a second, watch the show and find themselves enjoying it.


How do you dive into character for a TV series versus how you portrayed it in the film?


I’m portraying her the same way essentially; except I’m getting to know her every day. That is what I do love about television is that you actually really do get to know a human being because we’re all different every day and so stuff happens in my life comes into how I play her. If you have PMS, maybe Riley is a little bit feistier that day. If you’re really, really happy, she might be super elated or whatever it is. So it’s different in that it’s an everyday thing. We’re getting to break her down emotionally and psychologically much differently than we did in the movie. In the movie we had two hours and so it had to go from A, B, C, D, E, F done. In this, we’re still on A in season one. Season two would be the next step and the next unfolding of who Riley is. We’re still figuring that out. There are definite things that we thought we were going to do in this season that either we’ve pulled back from now and have decided not to do in this season because we want to give it more time. Or things that we’ve rushed because we went, we can get there that quickly, let’s do that. So those are the ways that it’s different.

You directed some episodes of Ghost Whisperer. Is there any chance you’ll be stepping behind the camera for this show?


Yes, I am directing the season finale, which I’m super excited about.


How do you feel directing a cast when you’re in the show?


It’s great, it’s really fun. The good news is that they’re used to me and essentially because I direct, I’ve been able to observe them — what they like, what they don’t like, their power, all of their greatest attributes. I’ve been watching from day one, so when I get in there to direct, I know if somebody is an actor who likes to keep moving while they’re acting, or an actor who needs to use props in order to forget that the camera is there. I’ve seen them figure out how to get to an emotional spot, and so I know where in the day to place that scene or what to say to them to bring that out in them. I start at an advantage, which is really nice when you get to direct the cast like that, so that’s cool.


Is there a show runner or a person who’s doing the main writing?


We do have a show runner. His name is John Tinker and he’s fantastic, but the writing is sort of divvied up between different writers. Some are combinations of people, some single people are writing episodes, whatever.


You’re one of the executive producers. Do you ever get involved at all with the writing of the show or the way it’s going to go or anything like that?


I do, probably more than the writers like, because I have lots of storyline ideas swirl around in my head and lots of opinions on things. That’s my job as playing Riley. As an executive producer here to watch over her and the rest of the cast and where they’re going emotionally in their characters in this first season and what we’re saying to the audience and things like that. So I have been very vocal. I’ve not physically written anything, but I’ve definitely been very vocal.


I particularly like the Karaoke scene, because I’m a big Karaoke person and I thought it was the most realistic Karaoke I’ve ever seen portrayed.


We had was so much fun. We really sang it every single take. By the end of the day, like none of us had any voices, but we really did it every single take. We really decided to do it Karaoke style. We didn’t have track one minute and the mic here and all that. It was live and we did it and it was so fun. We had the best time.

What do you prefer, movies or TV?


I like them both for different reasons. Films are amazing — to be a part of a movie is the greatest. It’s so historic and exciting and all of that. Television for me is great because I love to act every day. I love to work that muscle. I love to learn, and I love to be able to just do what I love. It’s when I’m at my best, so I love TV for that reason because it’s every day.


What really drew you to the role of Riley Parks?


I just thought it was really interesting, even initially with the movie. It’s an interesting thing. It’s interesting to create empowerment in a woman, who essentially could feel powerless and who could find herself in danger and could look at the situation she’s in if she wanted to as not very female empowerment. This is actually very powerful, and she’s making these decisions, and she’s making them consciously. She’s growing sexually and emotionally and physically and mentally in this job. She’s connecting in a real human way with the human condition and human spirit and hearts of the people on her table. It’s super powerful. So I was really interested in that. I just thought that that was really cool and a neat message to send out.


When in your life do you most need a massage? When do you call up and make an appointment?


A friend of mine is a really amazing masseuse, so on those few very days that I got off really early, she’ll come over and give me massage. I really do it — it’s a way for me to consciously like take a minute for myself. I don’t always lay down on the table. Sometimes it’s just like sitting up in a chair and getting my shoulders and neck rubbed or whatever, but it’s good. For now it’s research for me as well, because if she does something that I’m like, “Oh wow, that’s really cool and that feels nice,” then she can teach me how to do that, so that when I’m actually doing a massage on the show, I can look like I know what I’m doing. And the actors can go home and be like, “Yes, I actually got a little bit of a massage, that’s super exciting.”


On the other end of that — you giving massages — how do you handle or how did you handle having to run your hands through hairy back and hairy chest?


That was very interesting, but he was a lovely man, and he was very sweet and was so gracious and lovely knowing that I was making all these funny faces behind him. But it was definitely something I have not experienced before for sure.

As a fan of your music, I really want to know if you’re open to recording a song that we could possibly hear in a future on the show.


Yes, I would love to. We definitely played around early on with the fact that possibly Riley have had other dreams when she was younger about maybe being a singer or doing something like that. So if we get lucky enough — knock on wood — to do another season or two, we’d like to find a place in the series if possible to work in some music.


What was something that you were really looking forward to exploring more in the series that you didn’t necessarily get to do in the film?


Just more of her being a mom, more of the double life, more of the friendships. The odd friendships that she would make with the people either in the spa, outside of the spa, clients, whatever. That kind of stuff.


What do you think it says about the economy that a woman like Riley would find herself in a position where she has to do something like that to make a living? Has playing the role changed your mind on maybe the morality or even the legality of that type of job at all?


The legalities of it are not something that I’ve really thought about. Again, I will say for me, I’m an actor playing a part and I find it interesting. I do think that it is no surprise that economically we’re in trouble. There’s been a lot of trouble out there. I think I read a stat maybe like a year and a half ago that more women than ever found themselves in these positions — mostly phone sex and things like that — to help pay bills, so that they could be two income households. They could do these short-term jobs and still pick up their kids at the school at the end of the day and drop them off in the morning and all of that stuff. I find it fascinating. I’m not one to judge the people in that situation. nor would I really want to. I think that’s why I’ve not done research on that side of things. That’s not for me to really be a part of, but I do think that it makes for a really interesting television series. I think that there’s enough in the story that people will be able to relate to that you will be able to watch an episode and ask yourself some real questions about where you stand on certain things. If you’re talking about us after we’re off the air, then we’ve done a really good job.

What’s it like working with Cybill [Shepherd]? Is she a lot of fun to be on set with?


She lights the set. All the lighting that you see on the series is pretty much just Cybill being in the room. She is hysterical. I love her to pieces. She’s just an awesome, awesome lady. We were able to bond in the movie and there was no way that I was going to do the series without her. She was not going to let me do it without her. It’s great. It’s just great. I love her to pieces. We have a really good time.


I watched the pilot last night and it was really entertaining, and it seems like there’s a love triangle that’s going to form with the two brothers. Can you talk more about that?


There might be a triangle. You never know. Yes, there could be a bit of a triangle. It’s a complicated relationship between Evan and Riley and Kyle. It’s complicated when you go into a family and you’re that close with both brothers. The audience is going to help us make up our minds a little bit on where that cookie is going to crumble. It might be a little bit of both. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I really don’t want to give away anything, but there’s definitely going to be a triangle. Riley’s life is going to be turned upside down, and one brother is the driving force behind it being turned upside down. The other brother is there to hold her hand through it, and so that’s going to bring up some complications and some interesting storylines.


There are slight differences in the storyline between the movie and the show, especially with just the names and also with her husband leaving in the show. Can you talk more about that?


There was a conscious choice to start over. The movie was the movie, and we are beyond grateful that people loved it for what it was and that it did really well and all those great things, because it got us here. We really want people now to look at the series as its own thing, so we made subtle differences and changes in things and places where we could to say this is its own deal. We felt like that was important and hopefully the audience will be cool with it.


Watching the first episode had me thinking about the current series that I’m reading called Fifty Shades of Grey.


Oh, I just heard about this; I can’t wait to read it.


Yes, I was just going to ask you if you have read it and if so if the role of Ana would appeal to you. But since you haven’t read it yet, that answers my question.


I just heard about this today and I can’t wait, but from what I hear about it so far, I will say yes to Ana. I will say yes.

You’re working with Brian Hallisay. What has it been like working with him?


It’s great. He plays my husband in the series. He’s not had tons to do because he leaves Riley, so the husband in the series will play out in an interesting way for the audience. He’s there and he’s not there. That will be explained as the episodes unfold, but it’s been great. We’ve gotten really lucky to have really great actors who are really amazing at their parts, and it’s been so fun that way. Particularly with Colin [Egglesfield] and Brian. It’s been really fun to play the scenes with both brothers because they’re so different. That’s been really fun for me in playing Riley.


Are you a Hunger Games fan?


I have not read Hunger Games and I have not seen it yet, but I’m excited and intrigued to. I love Jennifer Lawrence. She’s amazing.


What is the most important lesson you learned about yourself throughout your career?


Oh, wow, that I bounce back pretty quick from rejection. I think in 24 years in the business, you have a lot of doors slammed in your face or a lot of people say mean things or you’re not right for this or whatever it is. Every time I’m constantly surprised at how the span of time gets quicker that I get okay with it, go out grab something and I’m over it. That’s been an interesting thing to learn.


Are you planning on writing another book? I just started your book and I love it so far.


Thanks very much. I’ve been playing around with some new ideas for one and yes, if I get a second to sit for a minute, I might take another stab at it.


You’ve been one of America’s darlings for a long time now. What are you looking forward to the audience to see from the show?


I’m hoping that they’ll just have a really good time. It’s a fun story that we’re telling; it’s an interesting story. I hope that they will really love Riley and root for her, as well as judge her sometimes. I’m one of those weird people that thinks a role model is an imperfect person, not a perfect person, because that’s who we are as real people. So we’ve consciously tried to make Riley imperfect in the most perfect way, so I’m hoping that people will appreciate that. I just want them to have fun. It’s a really fun show. We want to catch them by surprise and grab them by their shirt collars every now and then and have them cry or laugh unexpectedly or get angry for her unexpectedly. But for the most part, we just want them to have a good time.

Tell me a bit about a regular day on the set.


It’s great. It’s very funny. The show subject matter leads to a lot of fun jokes, and we have a great time. Loretta Devine is the best. She and I are always in hysterics. My favorite thing to do is try to bother all day, so we have a really good time. Like I said, Cybill is just this ball of light. It’s great. It’s a lot of fun.


When you’re deeply connected and immersed in a role, any kind of role, have you ever had a dream that you felt was not yours but one of the characters you played?


That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. I definitely — I don’t know. I feel like every time this studly dudly guy walks into my massage parlor on the show, I kind of feel like that that’s a dream. That’s one of those fun moments for me, so I don’t know. I’d have to think about it. I might have to get back to you on that one, but I like that.


What do you do in your downtime to recharge and find some balance in your life?


I watch The Voice and American Idol. I sit in my Brookstone foot massager. It’s so exciting at my house. And I don’t know what else.


The characters that you have taken from paper to flesh, do they ever revisit you after you’re done and if so, are you able to release them and what happens to them?


I don’t think I ever say good-bye to them. I always try to take a little bit of whoever I just played into the next character, so I feel like I’m not saying good-bye. It’s very strange to feel like you get attached to essentially a piece of paper, but emotionally you create a real person. That person feels like a friend for however long you get to play them. I’m not good with good-byes, so I don’t think I ever fully say good-bye to them. I just let them rest for a while and watch over me in the next character, up to where I try to bring a little bit of that old gal into the new one.


Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 6, 2012.


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