Talking MELISSA & JOEY with Taylor Spreitler

ABC Family’s MELISSA AND JOEY returns tonight with all new episodes.  To celebrate the next run of fun summer episodes, I had a chance to speak with Taylor Spreitler (Lennox) about how she got involved in the show, and how this unconventional onscreen family stays a family when the cameras stop rolling.  Worth noting?  This show charms me and I can’t wait to watch all summer!

I’m so charmed by the show.  How did you get involved – was it the classic audition process?
It was really just like the regular audition process.  When they cast the pilot and did the pilot for MELISSA & JOEY, I was still on DAYS.  So I had no idea about the show, and then it was the first or second audition that I went on, after I found out that I was no longer going to be on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and I booked it!  I read with the casting director.  And then I read with Paula and everyone, and then I read with network.

It feels like a family.  It feels like you’ve known each other forever – did you all meet each other first day, and it just clicked right away?
Over time, we’ve all gotten that much closer.  When we did the promo shoots, that was the first time I had ever met them.  We had so much fun at the photo shoots.  Meeting Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence is very like, oh my gosh!  It’s stressful!  But then I met them, and they were so welcoming and so loving and were so much fun, and ever since then, we’ve all gotten so close.

Let’s talking about the upcoming new episodes and what we’ll see this summer.  What fun storylines can we look forward to for Lennox?
There’s a lot of really cool stuff coming up for Lennox.  She’s going through that whole teenage thing where she’s no longer the new girl in town, she has friends now, she has a love interest, she’s meeting people at her school, and she’s going to school dances, and getting into a lot of trouble.  There’s a lot of fun stuff like that, like going to my formal, and we actually just watched the episode of that, the final cut, a few days ago, and it was hilarious.  I’m excited for everyone to see it.  We have a lot of interesting stuff coming up.

MELISSA & JOEY harkens back to the comedies of TGIF that I love.  I will watch TGIF shows all day long if I’m allowed.  If someone asks you about the show, what do you compare it to, how do you explain what the show is?
It’s hard to explain!  There are so many dynamics that go into the show.  It’s really hard to compare it to anything.  That whole family aspect, and the way that we became a family.  I mean, yeah, the family aspect has been done before, but our family, how close we are, and the trouble we get into, and how close I am to my aunt, and my manny and my little brother, it’s just awesome.  We do traditional family things that most families go through, but it’s a different take on it, because we have not always been that family.  Especially the stuff we went through in the beginning without knowing each other, really.

A lot of shows these days are looking at family in an unconventional way – thrown together due to circumstances beyond your control.  Nothing is normal anymore, this is normal, and I love that about the show.
Yeah, definitely.  The stuff that the kids went through, with their parents just ditch out, and they have no one, to all of a sudden have to be thrown into “oh all of a sudden my aunt is taking care of us?”  She was my crazy aunt, the party girl, and now she’s taking care of us?  Are you kidding me?  It’s great.  It’s a lot of fun to work on.  I think you can see that when you watch it.  You can tell that we have so much fun doing it.

You touched a little bit on it, meeting Melissa and Joey, they’ve both been in the business for so long.  Do you go to them for advice, do they offer you advice?
Yes [laughs].  There are a lot of times where I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have one of them there.  I tell them, especially Melissa, I consider her one of my best friends.  Tuesday mornings, after our table read on Monday, when we have time to sit around and talk about what we’re going to do today, it’s like, the four of us, sitting on our couch, talking about what we did over the weekend, what’s going on in our lives.  I’m talking about like, this guy that really made me mad, they talk about the crazy stuff their kids did.  That’s what we do.  We all sit on the couch like a family, and talk about the great stuff going on.  Melissa and Joey are a lot alike but they’re completely different in the advice that they’ll give you.  It’s really interesting to sit there with the both of them. Joey will be like, you need to do this, this, and this, and Melissa will be like “are you crazy?”  And then they get into a fight about it.  It’s really funny!

How much like your character are you, how much like their characters are everyone else?
I think Nick is the one who is not really like Rider at all.  Rider’s kind of ditzy in a way, spacey, typical teenage boy, and Nick is not like that.  He’s very, very sarcastic. Joey is not that much like Joe.  Joe is very much business, business, business.  Melissa is basically just like Mel without all the crazy, you know antics, and stories and all that.  And then I’m a lot like Lennox.  We’re all like our characters ha.

Did the characters chance once you got cast so that they would be more like you?
You know, I think they could tell from meeting us that we were kind of a lot like our characters, and that had a lot to do with the casting process.  But as we go along, they become more like us.  The writers will put in the weird quirks that we do, and the way we roll our eyes, or the way we’d say something.  Or the weird things we’d say when we respond to something.  Those have come into the show.  The more and more that we all hang out, our characters do become more than us.

Why do you think people should tune in?
I think it’s a funny way to bring up serious situations.  It is a situational comedy, it’s a sitcom, and I feel that our whole dynamic is entertaining to watch.  At the same time, they actually walk away kind of learning something, or feeling different about it in a way.  Some of our episodes impact people, and yet we’re still funny.  When you’re watching, you don’t stop to think, oh wow, this is a deep message, because, we’re making fools out of ourselves.

It’s never billed as “on a very special episode of MELISSA & JOEY” – it’s handled so well, there’s a message each episode.
The writers are amazing, the way they pull everything off. A lot of the things that we’ve dealt with, they’re tough things to write about.  We have one coming up where like, our cousin’s a lesbian, and she’s about to get married, and all this stuff happens, and things go wrong, and it’s kind of hard to write about, because there are a lot of people who will be watching and waiting for us to say something inappropriate, but the writers are very good at keeping us politically correct!

Do you get a chance to watch other stuff on TV week to week?
I watch HAPPY ENDINGS.  Wednesday is like the only night that I sit down and watch.  I’m usually not home when a lot of shows come on, or I’m already asleep because I have work the next day, so I don’t really get to watch TV that much.  It’s crazy because I’m an actor, but I’ve never really, I mean, yeah, I watched FULL HOUSE and cartoons, but I was never like, oh my god, I love watching TV so much, I want to do this.  I still don’t really sit down and ever watch TV!

What else do you have coming up besides MELISSA & JOEY?
That’s it for me right now!  That’s kept all of us pretty busy over the past year.  So that’s all ha

It must be exciting, as an actor, to be a part of a show that is succeeding, and scoring big episode orders after one or two episodes air.
Oh, definitely!  I think we were supposed to do 9 or 10 episodes.  We were filming them before our show even aired.  They had asked us to do more, and we had that whole thing that we were wrapping in 2 weeks.  Are we coming back, what’s going on?  Our last tape night, they called us into the ABC Exec room, and they were all handing everyone champagne and handing me and Nick like water bottles, and said we were picked up for 30 more episodes.  30 more episodes, that’s crazy!

MELISSA & JOEY premieres tonight on ABC Family before the series premiere of STATE OF GEORGIA.  The hour comedy block starts at 8/7c.