LEIGH-ALLYN BAKER on
'GOOD LUCK CHARLIE'
Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
May 11, 2010
In the latest Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, the Duncan family welcomes a baby girl named Charlie (Mia Talerico) to their already crowded household. Hoping to give her new little sister tips on adjusting to her world, Teddy (Bridgit Mendler) records an ongoing video diary for Charlie, documenting the exploits of her own life, as well as those of older brother PJ (Jason Dolley), younger brother Gabe (Bradley Steven Perry), and their parents Bob (Eric Allan Kramer) and Amy (Leigh-Allyn Baker).
Good Luck Charlie, unlike most other Disney Channel shows, is grounded in everyday suburbia without a fantasy or sci-fi gimmick--no wizards, no cruise ships, no hotels, no time travelers, no acting troupe, no pop superstar secret identities. For this reason, the series has garnered favorable comparisons to family sitcoms of the '80s and '90s, particularly the TGIF block of programming that included standards like Full House and Family Matters. Despite the throwback aspect of its framework, Charlie has a contemporary feel driven by a charismatic cast, and mercifully avoids the more archaic cliches of its predecessors, such as those signature saccharine moments that led to grating melodrama. Any sentimentality in Charlie is usually deftly trumped by a well-balanced moment of disarming humor.
Leigh-Allyn Baker plays Amy, a funny, energetic spitfire of a mom. In this exclusive interview, Leigh-Allyn talks about assuming the role of the Duncan family matriarch and working on Good Luck Charlie.
A brand new episode of Good Luck Charlie debuts this Sunday at 8:30/7:30 central on The Disney Channel, with encore presentations throughout the following week! Check out video previews with these links: CLIP #1 CLIP #2
RadioFree.com: You shot the entire first season of 26 episodes over the course of about nine months. Now that the fruits of your labor are actually out there, what kind of reactions and feedback have you been getting?
LEIGH-ALLYN: You know, I think everyone's reacted really positively. Everybody seems to be really excited about it. Even adult friends of mine call me and say, "We started to watch the show just like as a courtesy for a couple of episodes because you were in it, and now we're addicted to the show and we love it!" So it's going over really well with all different demographics.
Good Luck Charlie has been described as a return to the classic family sitcom. Do you think the show has found a comfortable balance between that old school comedy formula and a modern sensibility? Can it be sweet without being cloying?
Absolutely. Keep watching the episodes and you'll see that the show can get quite wry and smart, and then the next minute it will have a sweet moment. It's a great blend. As much as everyone's comparing it to the other sitcoms of the '80s and so forth, it really is a hybrid unto itself, because it kind of takes a modern day twist on that.
What are some of your favorite past sitcoms?
Let's see...I loved The Cosby Show growing up, and Family Ties. Those were two of my favorites.
How do you think your character Amy compares to some of those classic sitcom moms? To go with your examples, how does she stack up to Clair Huxtable and Elyse Keaton?
You know, she is the matriarch of the family, so obviously there are a lot of similarities. But where they differ is Amy's got a lot of spunk--she's a lot of personality in this little body. And they really write her to be very energetic and funny.
Amy strikes me as being a cool mom because she's so funny. Of course, no matter how cool any parent is, they will always embarrass their own kids...
Oh, yeah. I'm sure my character is cool to every other kid except my children in the show...
Exactly! So what characteristics of Amy, besides the spunkiness, do you think endear her to viewers, but at the same time, embarrass the kids?
Well, I think Amy tries to walk a fine line between being liked by the kids and being their parent. She's no nonsense when it comes to being their parent and everybody knows exactly where they stand and not to cross her. But at the same time, she wants to be like "one of the teenagers" and "one of the girls" and "hang with Teddy"--and she wants to know what the kids her age are wearing, you know? So I think sometimes she steps over the line trying to be liked by the kids.
Speaking to that point (and I hope you don't mind my saying so), I sort of feel like you and Amy are too young to have four kids, the oldest of whom is 17. Do you have to specifically "play her older"? Were you surprised you were considered for the role of the mom?
I was very surprised to be considered. Five years ago, Disney wanted me to be a mom and I did a pilot for them, and I kept saying, "I'm too young to be a mom, I'm too young to be a mom!" And this time, when I went in and tested for this part, I was nine months pregnant. So we knew I was no longer too young to be a mom, but it was "Am I too young to be a mom of four kids?" And at first, I thought, "I'm going to have to consciously think of playing her older." But the truth of the matter is you step out on set and you just fill in the mom shoes, you know? I don't know, something takes over where you just kind of become the mom.
The first season has only just begun, but I already have a favorite episode. I loved the one where Amy and Teddy play the school mascot Whammy the Ram...
[laughs] That was a fun one, huh?
Were you really in the costume doing all the funky dancing and acrobatics?
The funky dancing that you saw out of costume was definitely me, and it was me making it up on the fly. But the actual ram costume was someone else.
Obviously, then, you're game for anything in the name of comedy?
Pretty much...I think that episode kind of shows I'm down for anything! [laughs]
Is there a lot of physical comedy in store for Amy? Or rather, do you run the risk of getting injured just to get a laugh?
[laughs] Yeah. I mean, I'm always up for a good pratfall. There's some physical comedy in "Butt-Dialing Duncans." Of course, you saw some in the "Double Whammy" episode. They use that quite a bit with me, actually.
Do they feel like they can get away with having you do stuff like that, moreso than with the kids?
Ummm...I don't know. You know, they kind of push that envelope with everybody. Everybody's fair game on the show. But they do know that I'm definitely game for whatever.
You had a funny recurring role on Hannah Montana as Mickey, a manic talk show host who seemed to simultaneously embody all morning talk show hosts and none at all. Did you base her on anyone?
[laughs] I kind of did exactly what you picked up on. I kind of took a big bowl, and I put in a bunch of Kelly Ripa, sprinkled with a little Oprah, with a little Ellen on the side, and mixed them all up, and that's what I got.
The Hannah cast and crew are wrapping up their final season. Did you get the chance to reprise the role of Mickey for one last time?
I did not reprise the role for the last season. It's interesting...You'll see why as the season plays out. You'll see the route that they took. I can't blow it, though. I don't want to tip the hat...And I was busy filming [Good Luck Charlie], too, so...
You have an extensive resume of voiceover work in video games and animated shows. Will you be doing more of that during Charlie's hiatus?
When I have time, I do them, and I have a recording studio at home that I'm able to work from a little bit. And different studios are near my work that help make it possible for me to do it.
Do you have a favorite voiceover character that you've become attached to?
I would say Abby in Back at the Barnyard.
Earlier today, I had the opportunity to speak with your TV kids, and they all had nothing but praise for your TV baby...
What has been your experience of working with Mia? She's so adorable and seems perfectly reactive to everything going on...
She is. We don't know how she read the manual, but she did somewhere along the line. [laughs] She's just really got the perfect temperament for it. And she really likes doing it.
When the kids babysit Charlie, it's usually a very natural job for them that doesn't become a comedic farce or the focus of an episode. Do you think it's rare to see teenagers with that kind of realistic responsibility in sitcoms?
Yeah, I think it's rare in sitcoms, but I think it's a reality in life that everyone has to pitch in. So I think that's why it flows so naturally. And like you said, an issue isn't made of it--it's just what happens.
Has there been talk about a second season yet?
We have not been given an official pick up yet, but things look pretty positive, so we're optimistic.
Will there be upcoming episodes that focus on Amy's job as a nurse? Will we see her in that hospital environment?
I think you're going to see her in that environment more in [a possible] season two.
What other aspects of Amy would you like to explore in the future?
Oh, gosh, Amy's up for anything, I think. I'd like to have some more involvement with PJ, actually. I seem to have had a lot of scenes with Teddy, and some good stuff with Gabe. And so it'd be interesting to see her interacting with PJ a little bit.
Eric Allan Kramer guest starred on an episode of Will and Grace while you were there. Did the two of you develop a working relationship back then?
Yeah, we did an episode together, but our scenes weren't together. We were in different storylines. So it was like a big hello across the stage...[But] we did talk and get to meet each other. And I know that as soon as I saw he was doing this part, I was really excited to take part in the show, because I really respected him as an actor.
What special quality do you think he brings to the role of Bob Duncan?
Oh, I think he's got a huge heart. Eric's a really sweet guy, and he brings a real likability and sweetness to Bob.
We see Bob and Amy interacting with the kids quite a bit, but not as frequently with each other. Will there be a stronger focus on the two of them together in upcoming episodes?
Again, I think that is a place that we [would explore] in season two. It's pretty bold for Disney to try their hand at a sitcom geared for the entire family that involves the parents so much. And I think in season two, they [would] give us a little more freedom with that.
Cool! Leigh-Allyn, thanks very much for your time, and best of luck with the show going forward...
Thank you, I really appreciate it...Bye-bye.