Marvelous Monica: An in-depth interview with Monica Potter.
Whatever your definition of success, Monica Potter has achieved it. From humble beginnings in Ohio, Monica has become a Hollywood actress, producer, entrepreneur, designer, decorator, wife, Browns fan, homemaker and (very) amateur bowler. She also tells CV Lux about her favorite title— “Mom”—and her days on the beloved sitcom, Parenthood.
CVLUX: You were simply amazing in Parenthood. How much are you missing your television family?
MP: I miss them so much every day. I told my husband the other day I had dreams about everyone—I think it is starting to hit me now because we are not seeing each other. Also, being so busy traveling for my company, and now that I am able to hand things off to my girls in Ohio, I just miss being with them, chatting with them and working with them. We really are a tight, close-knit family.
CVLUX: The relationships within Parenthood were so real, and so many people could relate to their own families, if not wish for a family like the Bravermans. The conversations seemed so real and authentic. Were they all scripted or did you ever get to improvise?
MP: Yes, it was scripted, but we always ad-libbed everything, which was so great. As I am developing a new show, everything is so different. I am still going to try and bring the Parenthood style into our new show, if they will let me. In the big family scenes, after a few seasons, even if I had dialogue, I would sort of sit back and be quiet and eat because it was so hard to get a word in edgewise. By the end of Season 3 when I was pregnant on the show (not in real life), I had gained 12 pounds because I was eat- ing in every scene!
CVLUX: Since Parenthood ended, have you managed to stay in touch with any of your cast mates? If so, who? Who are you closest to?
MP: We all sort of stay in touch, but I am really in touch with a lot of the kids. My daughter, Molly, has play dates with them on weekends or they come over to the house. Savannah, Tyree, the twins - Mia and Ella—Mae and Miles, and I text Peter and Lauren often. Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia just sent me a beautiful letter, so yes, we do all stay in touch in some way.
Tyree, who played Jabbar on the show, will be playing my son on my new half hour pilot for NBC! I said to the other producer (as I am also producing), do you think that will help or hurt? We agreed that it didn’t matter as we thought he would be the best fit to play my son with second ex-husband, Donald Faison. It should be very fun and interesting, with a little Parenthood magic, as well.
CVLUX: With so many family shows on primetime TV, what made Parenthood so magical?
MP: Everything you saw on screen was really happening; nothing was ever forced and the cameras were just an afterthought. Even when the director said, “Rolling,” we didn’t even pay attention— it was very natural.
CVLUX: Your diagnosis with breast cancer was definitely such an important performance and message. Did the writers create that storyline, or did you suggest it? Did you know the outcome of your disease while playing the part? If so, how did you stay in the moment?
MP: I went for my first mammogram at 39, and they saw some- thing on the screen. I had to wait and in that time I was freaking out. I immediately called our Creator/Producer/Writer, Jason Katims, because I was worried that if I might go through this in real life, maybe we should bring it to the screen. He told me he couldn’t believe I was saying this, as they were just going to announce the story line of Kristina getting breast cancer. Jason’s wife had gone through breast cancer, so a lot of things that you saw on the show happened in his life. At the time of playing the role, I was offered a lot of information, but I purposely didn’t want to know anything and I did not know the outcome as I was playing the role.
CVLUX: What is your favorite Parenthood moment, and why?
MP: There are so many, but there are two that really stick out. One was with Max, when he asked Kristina how to dance. The other was when we picked up Max from his camping trip and I got in the back seat with him. These were scenes with no words, nor did they need any.
CVLUX: After appearing in Con Air and Patch Adams, as well as doing a six-year TV series, what is your heart’s desire to do in the future?
MP: This is going to sound so corny, but in the job that I have, I just want to relate to people, as I do in my real life. Whether it’s through being emotional or happy—to just tell stories and feel, express and connect. Just as in Parenthood, in my new show, I want to make sure there is a connection that’s grounded, with a foundation and a real core of being aware of yourself in your real life and the acting world. But I also want to have FUN! I like laughing and that is why I am so excited about this pilot. I want to laugh!
CVLUX: Who is co-producing your new pilot? Can you tell us anything about it?
Is it family-friendly? Comedy? Who is in it?
MP: Ellen DeGeneres and I are producing it together, and I hope it’s family-friendly! The network is NBC and the studio is Warner Bros. When I started taking meetings last June, I sat down with 10 groups of writers, executives and big powerful people and I said, “Here’s what’s missing on TV: a show like Parenthood in the half-hour world.”
The shows I really miss watching are the shows that my daughter, Molly, and I could watch together, like Full House, All In The Family, Good Times, or Roseanne.
My biggest fear is that I am not a “sitcom girl” and I don’t talk really fast. I said to the writer, we need to discuss what your thoughts are because she speaks very quickly and I don’t. A good friend of mine who is an actor gave me some very good advice.
She said you cannot fit into the mold they want because you might be doing it for 10 years and you will be miserable. How- ever, the writers that we do have know my voice so well and they keep telling me to stop worrying! The funny part is that I have three ex-husbands, so that alone is funny: Eddie Cibrian, Donald Faison and Rory Scovel.
CVLUX: Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, what led you into acting?
MP: I wanted to be an actress since I was three, or a nun. I grew up in a Catholic family and went to a Catholic school—I liked the order. I have three sisters and I liked the “sisterhood.” I loved their outfits. It was easy and sensible. You go to your closet and you pull it out and you are done. My parents were my biggest support and my dad always told me that he wanted me to go to Hollywood and become a big star. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I knew I wanted to do it.
I was a weird kid. I liked to be alone a lot and pack a lunch and sit by this lilac tree that was in our field in the summertime and just dream. I was a dreamer. I did take the bus downtown and do modeling and local commercials.
At 18, I got married and had my first son, Danny. We moved to Chicago, then Miami and, in 1993, we moved to LA where I got a job on a soap opera, The Young and the Restless. Actually, Eddie Cibrian was on with me, so we are both coming full circle. On that soap, I was horrible! You really have to know what you are doing and it is the hardest thing in the world to do! I was so bad—I got fired, and then found out I was pregnant with Liam at 23 years old. We were poor and used WIC to buy groceries, but that time also holds the best memories for me.
CVLUX: You were inspired to open your first store in Cleve- land that sells handcrafted goods for the home and body. What are some of the products?
MP: It didn’t matter where we lived: when my boys were little, I always wanted to make a house a home—even if we were travel- ling, or in a hotel room. I wanted them to have a sense of comfort and to feel warm, protected and taken care of. All of the products in our line convey that message. I’m so proud that we work with local artisans and crafters and I design most of the products with them.
We are also moving into wellness for the body that I am very excited about! It’s all natural and the wellness line will be organic One of the products we will feature is “Molly’s Dream Cream,” which is a very rich lotion that is mixed with lavender and Vita- min E. I make it at home myself to use on her, and when the boys were little, I made them “Dream Spray,” that is lavender-based. We also have a lavender hand-aid, which is one of our top sellers! We have bath sachets, Epsom salts, Himalayan sea salt, soaks... luxury things that I use every day.
CVLUX: How exciting was it to return to your hometown and create new jobs?
MP: We have family and friends that are helping run the business. I have had a dream since I was a kid to bring commerce back to Ohio, because we didn’t grow up with abundance. I can remem- ber my dad taking us out to buy a Christmas tree and he didn’t have any money. He tried to give the guy his Swiss Army knife so that he could get a tree, and the guy said no. We went home with- out a tree. The next day, our church found out and brought us a Christmas tree. I’m so happy that I can now give back in the way of jobs in our community. All our gifts are made here and shipped with love. You can find them at mrspotter.com.
CVLUX: Tell us about your favorite products.
MP: The lilac is divine and I love our barn boxes because you can use them for everything. We have lilac body sprays, travel kits, air freshener, hand sanitizer, and a hand-aid moisturizer, which reminds me of when I was little in Ohio. It is one of my favorite scents!
CVLUX: Besides Cleveland, where is your favorite getaway place?
MP: I really like San Francisco, Maui and the charm of Solvang.
CVLUX: Now that you are living in LA, what are some of your favorite things to do on the weekend?
MP: I like to hike at Fryman Canyon in Studio City, and then go to the beach.
CVLUX: What is your favorite restaurant right now?
MP: “Antonio’s” Italian restaurant, in Studio City. They have a pasta dish named Pasta Monica that has any pasta you want with a meat sauce that has garlic, onions, basil and oregano. Just awe- some and it reminds me of a sauce that my grandfather made.
CVLUX: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
MP: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
INTERVIEW DONNA KACZMARSKI
PHOTOGRAPHER JEFF VESPA
STYLIST KAREN RAPHAEL
MUA MARY KLIMEK
HAIR DAVID GARDNER
NAILS MELISSA DELACRUZ