Courtney Thorne-Smith Interview: "Two and a Half Men" Star Reprises Her Role as Emma Fielding in Hallmark Mystery
Image attributed to Courtney Thorne-Smith
Courtney Thorne-Smith is known for playing Jim Belushi’s wife on ABC’s According to Jim for eight seasons, Georgia in Fox’s legal comedy-drama Ally McBeal, Allison Parker in the primetime soap opera Melrose Place and for her recurring role on Two and a Half Men as Lyndsey McElroy. Additional TV credits include Growing Pains, L.A. Law, Spin City, Norm and Fresh Off the Boat.
In 1986, Thorne-Smith made her first feature film appearance in Lucas, alongside Winona Ryder, Corey Haim and Charlie Sheen. Other film credits include Welcome to 18, Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, Summer School and Side Out.
“I always wanted to be an actor. I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else. But I honestly never thought it would happen. I thought that it was too big of a dream.”
Most recently, Thorne-Smith starred as the title character in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery, based on the books by archaeologist and crime fiction author Dana Cameron. The second movie in the franchise, Past Malice: An Emma Fielding Mystery, premieres on Sunday, January 14, 2018, at 9:00 pm, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. In addition to Thorne Smith, Past Malice also features James Tupper, Adam DiMarco and Tess Atkins.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Courtney, how did you become involved in the Emma Fielding mystery movies?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Well, Joel Rice, who produces them, came to me with this idea. He’s been doing these Hallmark movies for a while. I loved the idea of an archeologist who’s also a sleuth. I just thought it sounded like a wonderful project and a great idea.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you read any of the Dana Cameron books the movies are based on?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Not before he came to me with the idea. I did afterwards, and I thought Emma was a great, ballsy character. I liked the idea because I thought she’d go on different adventures to different places, and I liked the idea of history being a part of the stories. I thought that you could tell any number of stories. It could go on and on. You could go where the mysteries were, and I liked that idea.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about this second movie in the franchise.
Courtney Thorne-Smith: The new movie is called Past Malice. It’s really fun. In the first movie, we had to do a lot of explaining about who the people were and the history. In this one, we get to jump right in and have fun. Emma and her cohort, FBI Agent Jim Connors, end up at this castle. An old friend of Emma’s comes and asks for her help with this crypt end of the castle where they’ve discovered treasures. She doesn’t trust the archaeologist that’s working on it, and she wants Emma’s help to figure out of there’s something untoward going on.
Emma jumps in, and as it happens in these mysteries, people start to die, and she and Jim go to work unraveling the mystery. I love this story so much. I think the supporting characters are such great fun. I really do. We had so much fun making it. Even reading it, I thought it was great fun. It read like a really fun mystery, and I think people are going to have so much fun with these characters in trying to figure out whodunit as it unravels.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you worked with James Tupper (who plays Agent Connors) before?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I worked with him on the first Emma Fielding movie, but that was it. He’s wonderful. We had such a great time together.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There’s definitely some chemistry there between you two.
Courtney Thorne-Smith: He’s such a great actor, and he’s very much in the moment. We both really believe in the project, and we both love to play with the other actors. It’s really fun to work with a whole new crew of actors, and they’re so wonderful. They bring so much life to it.
I think the writer did such a great job of making the characters alive, funny and interesting. I wish we could bring them back for every script, but we can’t because so many of them die, and somebody has to be the murderer (laughs). They obviously can’t keep coming back, which is too bad.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Unless it’s a soap opera, and then the “dead” can return (laughs).
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Yeah. That’s true. You can never count anybody out in a soap opera. Even if you see the body, it doesn’t matter! I’ve been on Melrose Place. That doesn’t matter. You can still come back!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was the deciding factor for you to become an actor, Courtney?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I always wanted to be an actor. I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else. But I honestly never thought it would happen. I thought that it was too big of a dream. I was a very practical kid, so I thought, “I’m just doing to act in high school and plan to become a lawyer. I could be in a courtroom and do some level of acting there.” I was working at a theater company in high school because I was doing as much acting as I could to get it out of my system, and they had this crazy thing. They had an open casting call, which I’d never heard of happening, for a major movie with 20th Century Fox.
They contacted my little, tiny theater company, and we went to an audition in a church basement after our car wash to raise money for our little theater company, and I got a screen test, which was crazy. But I got a part in the movie. My acting teacher’s wife was a working actress, and she introduced me to her agent, which was my agent for 30 years until he retired. So it literally fell into my lap. Then I auditioned for a couple of things, and I got something else, and I just thought, “Maybe this is what I’m supposed to do.” Thirty-three years later, I’m still doing it, so I guess I was supposed to do it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was that film called Lucas, also featuring Charlie Sheen?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Yes. David Seltzer was the director. I tracked him down and had him over for dinner recently because I just wanted to say, “Thank you.” I told him that he gave me my career. He came to northern California and plucked me out of high school and gave me my career. He’s a very sweet man. But, yes, I worked with Charlie Sheen then, and I worked with him on Two and a Half Men 30 years later. Crazy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You did a few films mostly in the 1980s, but the bulk of your work has been on television.
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Yes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was that a conscious choice, it did it just work out that way?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: You know, I love television. I really do. I like to be in one place. I like to be home. I’m very much a homebody. I like my friends and family. I like going to the same place. I remember talking to a friend and her saying, “Oh, I get so sick going to the same place for work every day,” and I said, “Oh, I love going to the same place for work every day.” (laughs) TV works for me, and I never had the desire to fight my way back into films. I didn’t have that feeling that I wanted to get back into movies. I just thought, “I’d love to do another show.” I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve had a few long-running series. I’m very happy on a long-running show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ve heard that comedy is the most difficult genre to master.
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Comedy makes me happiest because comedy sets are happy sets. There’s nothing better than a happy comedy set. What’s happier than going and playing with Jon Cryer all day? (laughs) What’s to complain about? I was either laughing when he was saying lines or laughing when he was talking to me between saying his lines. I love it. It’s difficult if you miss the joke or it doesn’t work, and you know right away (laughs). It can be humiliating when there’s no laugh. But when it works, there’s nothing better. It’s great.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve said that your son never needs to see Melrose Place. How old is he?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: (laughs) He just turned ten.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you still strict about his TV watching?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: He has no interest. He couldn’t care less. He’s never had to compete with my career because I pretty much stopped working when he was born, and now he just has no interest. Maybe when he’s older, he’ll watch it and think it’s funny. I don’t know. My niece is the same way. My niece is 20, but she never felt any competition with my career, so she always thinks it’s so funny when people recognize me. She thinks it’s such a lark that I have a big career (laughs).
You know what? I want him to think I’m his mom first and foremost. One day, somebody will tell him I had a career (laughs). He just thinks it’s great that mommy saved enough money to stay home with him as long as I did. When he got sick of me, I got to go back to work. When he started slamming the door on me at play dates, I decided it was time to go back to work (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you watch as a family?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: We’re starting to overlap a bit. I just bought Modern Family, and he’s loving it. So the funny thing is that we’re starting to overlap and like the same things. So that’s thrilling that we both like Modern Family. He’s very funny, so I love that we both love humor. I was watching Frasier, and he watched some of that with me. I think he likes Modern Family because of the kids on there. I love New Girl, and he watched some of that, but it’s just a little too girly for him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I always laughed out loud at According to Jim.
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Oh, that’s great to hear. I wonder if he’d watch that. I bet he would like that because Jim (Belushi) and Larry (Joe Campbell) were so funny. There’s a lot of physical comedy, and he does like that. I’m going to try that for him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s certainly not nearly as risqué as Two and a Half Men (laughs).
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Yeah. No. Sometimes, I wouldn’t be paying attention, and I’d be running lines in the car. Jack was younger then when I was doing Two and a Half Men. I’d run lines in the car, and he’d say, “What?” I’d say, “Oh, nothing, sweetie.” He wouldn’t know what I was saying (laughs). But Jim wanted families to watch According to Jim together. He really wanted that because he had little kids at the time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When fans approach you, do they talk about Melrose Place, Ally McBeal or According to Jim?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: It’s Melrose Place because I think that it’s a time in people’s lives. They’ll say, “I got together with my friends and watched Melrose Place.” That’s the show people really have a connection with.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What did you think about the Golden Globes this year and the message that Hollywood’s tolerance of sexual harassment is over?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I think that we’ll see what happens. It’s great that there is a growing awareness, and we’ll see what the impact is. Michelle Williams wrote an interesting article. She said that she already feels a difference on sets, a change in onset behaviors. I hope that’s true.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s next, Courtney?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: We’ll be filming another Emma Fielding movie in March, so it will come out a little after that. Past Malice comes out on January 14. I hope people like these movies, and we’ll do more and more. They’re really great fun to do.
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