On my trip to LA this past weekend for a Disney press junket, I had the opportunity to rub elbows and hang out with one of my daughter’s favorite moms. Well, favorite mom besides me, of course, and this one just happens to be on TV. Yep, my daughter’s fav TV mom is Leigh-Allyn Baker from Good Luck Charlie. Sure, she is horrified that I met Mrs. Duncan in a hoodie (aka my “soft clothes”!) but was pretty impressed that I got to preview her new Disney Channel movie, Bad Hair Day.
When we arrived at the Disney Channel building in Hollywood, I was pretty excited to meet this comedic mom actress that all the kids know. Booyah! A few cool bonus points added to my mom status!
Leigh (aka Liz – yes, we are now on nickname basis!) was exactly how I thought she would be. She was cute, relatable and extremely funny. She chatted casually about her boys, the making of Bad Hair Day and her plans to work on her own TV series next.
The point of the interview was to talk about Bad Hair Day which premieres this Friday, February 13 at 8/7c on the Disney Channel so we got right down to business.
Bad Hair Day is a comedy about a high school tech-whiz whose prom day abruptly shifts into a wild ride across town, thanks to a down-on-her-luck cop and a jewel thief.
Leigh did double duty on the film both starring in it and filling the role of Executive Producer. Here is a portion of our conversation…
Q : When you read the script what made you want to get more involved in the executive producing role rather than just being a part of the action?
Leigh-Allyn: As my husband said,”They’re finally gonna pay you to micromanage everybody else.” [LAUGHTER] I felt it was very tempting to see if I had it in me. To see something build from the ground up and to really be brave and be bold to put my vision and not hide behind somebody else’s vision but put my own out there and see how it went. You know, Amy Duncan is — I’m sure you can tell when I adlib or when I riff on Good Luck Charlie. You can tell in here too. So I just wanted to see what other creative elements I could bring to this.
Q. How much creativity did Disney give you with Bad Hair Day?
Leigh-Allyn: Disney Channel has a lot of trust in me and I have a lot of trust in them. Having worked with them for years on Good Luck Charlie, they gave me a ton of liberty with the film.
Q. Laura Marano who played your co-star in the movie was great. How many actresses did you see and how did you ultimately decide on Laura for the role?
Leigh-Allyn: There are so many talented young actors in this town but Laura Marano has a certain maturity and skill set that I think was really necessary. We needed a girl who could pull off being in the lead for prom queen and Miss Pretty Perfect, and could also pull off knowing how to work that computer. And Laura just came in and she just knocked it out of the ballpark. It’s not easy to find young talent that can go toe to toe in comedy with an adult. You guys saw it on Good Luck Charlie and now you see it here. That’s what it looks like. She did a great job.
Q: After doing this, is your focus now going to be in more of a producer type of role?
Leigh-Allyn: Honestly, I can’t see one without the other. I really can’t. I’m not ready to not be acting because as you can see I have so much fun. I don’t know what happens to me but there’s this other thing that takes over my brain and I’m just having a blast and I just start saying things. Sometimes I think “Did that just come out of my mouth?” So I really can’t see one without the other at this point.
Q: How much creative liberty did you have?
Leigh-Allyn: When that camera is rolling and I’m standing in front of it, I have all the liberty I can handle. There’s nothing they can do at that point. I would say that after working with Disney Channel for five years that they have a lot of trust in me and I have a lot of trust in them and so it allows me quite a bit of liberty. And they gave me a lot of freedom and yet there were times where I was afraid to push the envelope and they were like no, go.
They encouraged me. Go further. Where can you go with this, you know? And not just with my performance or with the comedy but with story development, too. They were really willing to push the envelope on this one.
Q: What’s next for you?
Leigh-Allyn: We shall see. I would like to develop my own series, actually and I’m working with another gentleman my age who used to be on the Disney Channel. I won’t tell you what but to hopefully develop a show.
Q: Do you think you put a lot of yourself into your characters?
Leigh-Allyn: Absolutely. I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that about Amy Duncan’s behavior on Good Luck Charlie. But, yeah, you know, Amy Duncan is really my most feminine side and then Liz is, Liz (Bad Hair Day) is really me at home. I have two boys. I know how to get down and dirty and run a muck with the guys. It’s just really fun for me also to show that I am an actor and every actor says I’m not a one trick pony. I can do other things. So that is one of the things that really intrigued me about how this is different. Wash all the makeup off, change the hair, put some schlubby clothes on me and let’s go to town.
Q: How do you balance the kids at home and work?
Leigh-Allyn: I learned that in season one of Good Luck Charlie. I remember going to work and just missing my baby. I just had a baby, Griffin, my oldest and I remember just missing him terribly all day. And then when I got home, I was rocking him to sleep at night, my favorite part and I remember looking at him and I was thinking ‘oh, I can’t believe that I missed that at work and I missed that and I should have been focused’. And I realized, oh, my gosh I’m not a hundred percent there at work and I’m missing the enjoyment there and I’m not able to be a hundred percent with him here. I’m missing the enjoyment here. From there on, simplicity rules.
When you’re at work, at work. When you’re home, you’re home and that’s how you do it. That’s the only way I can do it. And I love doing sitcoms. Honestly, as far as acting goes there is no greater job for a mom in the acting world than half hour multi-camera sitcom work because you actually have a life. There’s a regular schedule. You don’t shoot crazy odd hours except for one day a week. You shoot three weeks on and one week off. You get five month hiatus in between seasons. I know what it’s like to be a full time working mom and I know what it’s like to be a full time stay at home mom. I do both of those within a year.
Q: What’s the one message? You talked about there being several messages from this movie for young girls. What’s the one message you would like them to take away from this movie?
Leigh-Allyn: Your identity, who you are comes from the inside. It doesn’t come from what’s out there. That’s the main message, I think. A lot of people like to toss around believe in yourself, but this is — it’s more than believing in yourself. It’s knowing yourself and being okay with who you are and not looking for approval from others and knowing when to call for backup. There’s two ladies — there’s two lessons, you know.
They start out as polar opposites in this film and then through this crazy day with each other, they learn from each other how to fill in their weak spots. They really do help each other grow immensely. Liz learns to be able to ask for help and that it’s okay to be giddy and be a girl. That it’s okay to have fun, not just be a one woman show.
Q: How did you make the track from Kentucky out here to achieve your goal?
Leigh-Allyn: So when I was a little girl, I wrote on a piece of paper the universities that I wanted to go to school at and I wanted to be an actress. And, I don’t even remember writing this. I remember writing it down but I don’t remember what it was but my mom showed that list to me of the universities when I was eighteen years old and had decided to go to USC and number one in that was USC. And, I knew I wanted to come here because my plan as a seven year old was I could go be a legit stage actress and get lots of the acclaim but no money or I can go make money in California. Check please. I’ll take that one. So I wanted to come out here and hope that I could have an easier transition going from college to this big city world that was so new and foreign to me.
I grew up in a tiny little town where everybody knew everybody. I knew everybody’s first, middle and last name in my class. Yeah, I don’t know who they are now but I mean it’s that small of a world and so I wanted like a little safe haven to bridge me into a bigger city and New York was just way too scary for me and too big city.
And so I went to USC and I remember auditioning and they only accepted like ten boys and ten girls for their conservatory program and I just knew that that’s where I was supposed to go. And that’s where I would get into. And so when my mom showed me that list, it was pretty astounding.
Q: You attained your goal of doing what you wanted to do since you were a kid. My mother taught me once you get there you gotta reach higher. So what, what do you wanna do next that is within sight for you?
Leigh-Allyn: I think this was a step. It takes some guts to say no and I think it should be this way knowing full well that anyone can look at you and go “first time executive producer.” Whomp, whomp. It really took some guts for me to believe in myself to go no, that’s my opinion on this. This is where I think it should go. If it doesn’t, okay it’s on me. And so now the next step for me is to I think to maybe step outside of children’s programming and do other things.
I still am interested in doing things for the whole family but maybe branching out to network television to see how I might do there.
Don’t miss the premiere of Bad Hair Day on the Disney Channel at 8/7c on Friday, February 13, 2015.