HitFix Interview: ‘Melrose Place’ star Jessica Lucas

10.20.09 8 years ago

The CW

On a show that’s all about bad girls, Jessica Lucas’ Riley Richmond has spent six episodes being the good girl.
Of course, being a good girl on The CW’s “Melrose Place” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as it does in a different zip code. Yes, Riley is a humble elementary school teacher, engaged to aspiring filmmaker Jonah (Michael Rady). But that doesn’t mean she’s above getting drunk and making out with neighbor Auggie (Colin Egglesfield). 
And while Riley isn’t willing to go quite as far as doctor-turned-hooker Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen) to fix her financial woes, this Tuesday’s (Oct. 20) “Melrose Place” finds her leaving her students behind to pick up a gaudy paycheck as a fashion model. And, in the episode, her photographer is none other than Daphne Zuniga’s Jo Reynolds, the latest original “Melrose Place” veteran to appear on the reboot. 
HitFix caught up with with the “Cloverfield” star and “90210” reboot guest to discuss modeling, playing the good girl and working with the old “Melrose Place” standbys. 
We also discussed another upcoming “Melrose Place” murder, Riley’s flirtations with Auggie and whether Heather Locklear is going to be able to work ratings magic again.
HitFix: So is Riley leaving her teaching behind? 
Jessica Lucas: No, not yet. I mean, she’s taking off a week of school to go model, but then she’s back to being a school teacher. At least for now.
HitFix: So she’s not just abandoning the kids for the glamour of modeling?
JL: No, no, no. She’s just taking the week off because she and Jonah are in a lot of financial stress at the moment and if she takes the week off to model, she gets $10,000. That’s her incentive to do it, but her heart is in teaching.
HitFix: Everybody on the show has been making these personal and ethical compromises because they’re having money trouble. Why doesn’t anybody suggest moving to a cheaper apartment complex?
JL: Uh, that’s a good one. But we couldn’t possibly move. Then we wouldn’t have show.
HitFix: Couldn’t they just hop in their cars and visit each other elsewhere?
JL: No. Come on. That would be boring. That would be too much work.
HitFix: You’ve done your share of publicity shoots over the years, but have you ever done any modeling?
JL: No. Never. I guess you can consider photo shoots modeling, but it’s never really interested me. I find it somewhat boring actually. It wouldn’t be something I would do.
HitFix: But it’s fun getting to play in that world?
JL: Completely. In the storyline, it’s really interesting and it’s so far out of Riley’s comfort zone that that was fun to play. She really gets pushed into something that she doesn’t want to do and that was interesting to have her reach her limit and kind of snap. That was great.
HitFix: Well, drunken indiscretions aside, Riley’s been a good girl on a show of bad girls so far. Do you enjoy playing that kind of contrast? Or are you ready to just break out and go bad?
JL: I think it’s nice to have that balance. We can’t all be bad right way, so that’s been fun to play. Plus, she’s much closer to me in real life in that way. I’m really excited to see her go from being a good girl to maybe not necessarily a bad girl, but to being a stronger person who makes stronger decisions and becomes more independent. Things like that. I think there’s a lot of potential for her in that regard.
HitFix: But since it’s “Melrose Place,” eventually she’s gotta go bad, right?
JL: Oh, course. She’s already made some questionable decisions with the whole Auggie thing, so there’s more of that to come and with her and Jonah to let her bad side come out.
HitFix: I’m not really sure I get what’s happening with Riley and Auggie. What’s the bond between them?
JL: I don’t know. I just think he understands her on a level that Jonah doesn’t, maybe. They have a lot a things in common and I think he just really listens to her and I think a lot of Riley’s life has revolved around Jonah and his career and she probably gave up a lot to come to LA to do something she’s not really that into doing or living in a place she’s not really that into, so I think Auggie’s just a shoulder for her to lean on, a guy who listens to her.
HitFix: And is this just one of those situations where it wouldn’t be as entertaining if they were a sable couple, just happy and cuddly and stuff.
JL: You can only watch a couple being happy for so long before it gets tired. I think what we wanted to do in the beginning was just establish them as a strong couple so when they finally do get pulled apart, it has that much more of an impact.
HitFix: I understand you’re sharing scenes with week with Daphne Zuniga. What do you get to do in the episode?
JL: Well, it’s just the whole modeling shoot. She’s basically the photographer on the shoot and Riley’s not a very good model, she’s an amateur. So Jo is just pushing her to look deeper and find something that can be brought out in photographs and Riley pushes right back. It was great because they have a whole sparring session and at the end of the episode, Jo gives Riley some great advice.
HitFix: Does the energy on set change when the old “Melrose” stars are around?
JL: It’s just exciting. The fact that we’ve had so many of them want to come back is just a great testament to the fact that our show is great. We can learn a lot from them and they tell us stories of the old show. They’re usually more nervous that we are, so that’s been funny, too.
HitFix: Does it become nostalgic for them? Are they constantly going off on “When I was on ‘Melrose’…” stories?
JL: A little bit. Daphne definitely told me stories of the original show and how it had no drama, how there were no lobotomies and things like that, it was a very real show about people living in an apartment complex. Then, when ratings weren’t doing so well, they ratcheted all that up and then Heather came on and change everything. So she went down that memory lane, which was interesting.
HitFix: Following up on that, Heather Locklear is generally credited with taking the original “Melrose Place” and raising the drama and bringing the ratings to life. Do you guys view her appearance as doing hopefully the same thing?
JL: Yeah, hopefully. That would be awesome. But we don’t want to put too much stress on one specific thing that’s going to turn the show’s ratings around or anything like that. We’re just happy to have her back and I think it will be fun for old fans of the show to see her playing this character again so many years later. I think our stories are just getting stronger and stronger and the characters are getting more developed and the storylines are getting richer, so that all coincides with her coming as well.
HitFix: How much as she shot so far?
JL: I think she’s on her third episode now?
HitFix: Have you gotten a chance to work with her?
JL: A little bit. We did a group scene with her in the courtyard where we were all there. That was fun. She’s a really sweet woman and really down-to-Earth and cool and funny and it’s been great having her on set.
HitFix: One of the things the new “90210” struggled with in its first season was bringing back favorite characters in a way that kept them from being a distraction. Do you think that “Melrose” has done a better job with that?
JL: I think every single person who has come on has had a legitimate reason to be there. With Daphne, having the photographer from the original shooting my campaign was great and she has a really strong storyline. She’s not just there to be there. And the same thing with Josie [Bissett], with her coming back because her sister was dead. They’ve done a really great job of integrating them in and making sure they have their own storylines in their own right.
HitFix: Is there somebody in the cast or in the crew who’s paying particular attention to the ratings at this point? Or are you guys just doing your work and not paying attention?
JL: Well, I think we try not to pay attention to it, because if you come in on a Wednesday and people are talking about ratings, it can be distracting. Some of us are more into it than others. I keep up with it, but I try not to let it effect me at all. There’s really nothing that any of us can do about it, so we keep our heads down and focus on making the best show we can make. Hopefully that will connect with people.
HitFix: Are you hearing anything about a back-nine?
JL: We’re just waiting to hear and focusing on the episodes that we have to shoot now and we should be hearing about that soon.
HitFix: You mentioned earlier that the original started off as this muted and normal drama and picked up momentum when things got really soapy. Since your version started off with a murder, where would you like to see the show go to top that?
JL: The episodes we’re shooting now are even crazier than the first couple. Someone’s going to die coming up, so there’s another murder and that’s crazy. And Katie’s been kissing girls more and Jonah and I are in turmoil and you’ve got Lauren’s prostitution coming to a head. I think it’s getting pretty crazy. I think the more we can keep it the way it is now, grounded in reality a little bit, it’s better, because people can relate to it a little bit more. I think the original was a very specific time and people were into shows like that and I’m not sure that that would necessarily work now.
HitFix: Can you give me any hints about the upcoming murder?
JL: Uh… No. I can tell you that it involves the first murder. It’s tied in with the first murder. That’s all I can say.
HitFix: Will it shock me to my core?
JL: It should. I think it’s very shocking.
HitFix: As a last question… The original “90210” and “Melrose” place existed in the same narrative universe and would occasionally cross over. Are you the proof that the new “90210” and “Melrose” are entirely unconnected?
JL: Well, I still hear them talking sometimes about maybe doing a crossover, but I don’t know what character it would be with or what it would entail exactly. And yeah, I’m playing a different character, but I don’t think it would bother the audience that much. I think we could still do it.
HitFix: No chance we’d find out that Riley has an identical twin sister working as an undercover cop?
JL: No. I don’t there’s going to be anything like that. That would be a funny and outlandish storyline, but I couldn’t really see that happening.
“Melrose Place” airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on The CW.

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