I recently had an opportunity to chat with Andie MacDowell, star of the new ABC Family original series Jane By Design airing Tuesdays, at 9/8c. I had been a big fan of her work in films like Groundhog Day and Green Card and by the looks of things viewers will be in for a treat seeing her at work in Jane By Design.
Andie MacDowell has established herself as an accomplished actress with worldwide recognition. She was recently seen on the big screen in the heartbreaking true story of the Abbate family, The 5th Quarter, Monte Carlo with Selena Gomez and Leighton Meester, and the highly anticipated reboot of Footloose. She has also completed production on the indie feature Mighty Fine with Chazz Palminteri and her own daughter Rainey Qualley. On TV, MacDowell previously starred in back-to-back telefilms, At Risk and The Front, both based on Patricia Cornwell crime novels. She earned praise for her performance in the Emmy-nominated, HBO original film, Dinner with Friends. Additionally she co-starred with Rosie O’Donnell in the CBS telefilm Riding the Bus with My Sister, directed by Anjelica Huston.
Other dramatic feature performances include The End of Violence, directed by Wim Wenders, which was selected to screen at the opening of the 50th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival; Robert Altman’s The Player and Short Cuts, for which the cast earned a special Golden Globe Award for Best Ensemble; Unstrung Heroes, directed by Diane Keaton and the ever-popular St. Elmo’s Fire.
MacDowell earned the worldwide title of #1 female box-office draw with her performances in the smash hit romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination, and the western Bad Girls with Drew Barrymore. She also starred in the holiday classic Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. In other comedies MacDowell continued to partner with top leading men including Gerard Depardieu in Green Card, for which she again earned a Golden Globe nomination, Michael Keaton in Multiplicity, and John Travolta in Michael.
She first received critical acclaim and accolades for her performance as a repressed young wife in Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape. The film won the Palme d’or at Cannes and garnered MacDowell the Independent Spirit Award and the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Actress as well as her first Golden Globe nomination. Additionally, she has been presented with the coveted Cesar D’Honneur for her body of work, the Golden Kamera Award from Germany’s Horzu Publications and the Taormina Arte Award for Cinematic Excellence.
For her philanthropic work, MacDowell was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lander University and received an Honor of the Arts from Winthrop College. This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of MacDowell’s relationship with L’Oreal Paris, for which she serves as international spokesperson.
Aljon Go: In your own career, what have you learned after working with people like your character Gray Chandler?
Andie MacDowell: The thing of it is that I think if Gray were a man people probably wouldn’t judge her so harshly. They were used to having men being this powerful and this strong. You might think he was a jerk too though. That’s true.
But I have learned from working with a lot of women that have to fight for their position. I think a lot of times she’s justified in her behavior, and then a lot of times she crosses over a little bit.
I’ve met some pretty wild people in my life. I started in the fashion business, and I’ve been working in an industry where you meet all kinds of people. So I have a lot of resources I would say from my historical time in life.
Aljon Go: Based on what you’ve seen as an actress, at a high level, what do you think it takes to be a good executive assistant?
Andie MacDowell: Well I think what you expect, a lot of times, is for them to be able to think for themselves, to read your mind almost, to know you well enough to make the decisions that you would make. You expect a lot. I mean really obviously you can’t expect anybody to read your mind, but that’s sort of almost what people start to want. After a certain amount of time, you want someone that knows how you think and knows what you want; you don’t have to tell them.
Aljon Go: What was it about this particular role that made you decide to come to television?
Andie MacDowell: Well honestly I think television is just a great place to be. I think there used to be this sort of idea that film was the most prestigious thing to do. I believe that that has shifted a lot, and there’s great work to be found on TV.
I just feel really fortunate that I’ve found a place that I feel like I have something to offer. That’s important to me, to feel like I may have something unique to offer to a character that hopefully would have some kind of longevity and you could bring something to the table.
The writing is really good. That’s fun. You can’t do good work without great writing. You can’t make a bad script a good script. It’s impossible. So the writing is just fantastic, and I think the idea is a really good idea. It’s a very appealing idea.
Aljon Go: When you began working with the cast, did you find there was chemistry right away or did you guys have to spend some time gelling with each other?
Andie MacDowell: For me, it felt like I was walking into a place where each one of these kids, they know how lucky they are. You know the environment’s harder now. The world’s a difficult place right now, and finding work—when you find a job and you find a job that’s good, you’re ready to work. And that’s really the feeling I got from all of these kids. There’s nothing—they’re just very ambitious, hard working, focused, and really gifted and talented. So that’s the kind of energy I felt when I walked in.
And they were already just sort of just in the groove I would say. Here I am the seasoned actor. I’m supposed to know everything, and it was a little bit intimidating, I have to say, because they were all so good. But on the other hand, when you work with people that are really good, it makes you good. So I feel like I’m in great company.
Aljon Go: Did you look into anything or anyone in particular for inspiration for the character of Gray?
Aljon Go: I started off in the fashion business, and I worked with a lot of really great fashion editors. She’s not a fashion editor, but she is within that sort of same realm of industry. I worked with some really incredible, very powerful, very strong fashion editors. There was one in particular that sort of discovered me in way, whose name was Polly Mellen. So Polly was part of my inspiration, and then I worked a lot with Grace who is very quiet. She wouldn’t be acting like Gray, but I’m hoping there are elements, because there is something very female and lovely about her.
So I would hope that I could have some of those elements at some time, because I think anytime a character is just one—you can’t be just hard. You have to be soft and tender too somewhere because that’s only real and I don’t think anybody is all hard. And then a bunch of other people that I know that are just really strong women.
Aljon Go: How do you feel about comparisons made between a show like “Jane by Design,” and The Devil Wears Prada, for example?
Andie MacDowell: I just think that’s an easy comparison. So if you want to tell somebody what it’s like—because I’ve even used it, to tell you the truth. If you want to explain it to somebody in a nutshell kind of what the show is, you can say, “It’s not really this, but it’s kind of like that.” And that’s the truth. It’s not really that. It’s only kind of like it.
So it’s not exactly that story by any means. There’s much more to it because she has the whole high school life going on, and that is really an important part of the story. That’s one of the most powerful things of the story is being able to see the difference between these two worlds, and that wasn’t at all in The Devil Wears Prada.
So you can compare it to it because it is about an assistant and a boss and it is the fashion world. So those are really the main similarities.
Aljon Go: Would you say that you became a part of this project in part because of the message it has for young women?
Andie MacDowell: I would like to think that that’s why I did it. I have to be honest, when I saw what the message was I was already attached, but I was like, “Yes, this is good. I’m really glad that that’s what they’re saying,” because I have daughters.
Actually, I have a daughter that is modeling and going to high school, which is so funny because it’s a lot like Jane. She’s a kid and I want her to be a kid and I want her to treasure her years in high school. So I’m having to reiterate that to her all the time. And then here paralleled, at the same time, I’m working on a show that is exactly that same story, which I find fascinating that that happened. That life is like that.
Aljon Go: What is a typical day like on the set of “Jane by Design?”
Andie MacDowell: Fast. It’s very fast. We work really hard. The writers and the producers don’t have a life. They were there all the time. The kids are just great. They’re gifted and talented and smart and funny and they gave me such amazing energy. Watching Erica work was really—I can’t tell you how good she is. The kid’s great. And they all know how lucky they are. You can just see it. Rowly was really wonderful and even helpful to me. They were just sweet.
We’d hang out in tiny little trailers. Eat—they have nice food but we don’t have very long to eat. We’re changing hair really fast. We’re getting dressed really fast and we’re running back into the set. Working late at night sometimes, which is really hard when you’re my age. Having to remember your lines at midnight. But it was all fun. It was a lot of fun.
Aljon Go: What does Gray see in Jane? What is the special thing that not only makes her hire Jane but to connect and keep her around?
Andie MacDowell: I think she sees that she’s got great style, and maybe she sees a little bit of herself when she was younger, the capacity to think quick, and then something in her that is trustworthy.
Aljon Go: Are you planning on doing any more films with your daughter?
Andie MacDowell: I hope so, but we’ll just have to wait and see. At this moment, we don’t have any plans. I hope her career takes off on her own. That’s what I really hope.
Aljon Go: Did you film a lot or do you have any projects coming up when it’s done filming?
Andie MacDowell: I’m getting ready to work on something. I’m not going to talk about it yet, but I’m getting ready to work on something. We’re looking for other good things, but it’s hard. I don’t want to do just anything so I’m being patient.
Aljon Go: It’s always been a pleasure to see anything that you’ve been in.
Andie MacDowell: Thank you. It’s not always easy when you get older. You have to be patient, I think. There’s loads of work. There’s a lot more work because it’s a very youth oriented business and so I can’t take it too personal.
Be sure to see Andie MacDowell and the rest of the cast of ABC Family’s Jane By Design on Tuesdays, 9/8c on ABC Family!
Official site: http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/jane-by-design
ABOUT “JANE BY DESIGN”
Jane By Design is a light-hearted drama about Jane, a teenager who lands a job at Donovan Decker, a hip fashion house, when they mistake her for an adult. Jane soon finds herself juggling life both as a regular high school student and as an assistant to a high powered executive in the cutthroat world of fashion… all while trying to keep her true identity a secret.
Jane By Design stars Erica Dasher (The Lake) as Jane Quimby; Nick Roux (Lemonade Mouth) as Billy Nutter, Rowly Dennis (Desperate Housewives) as Jeremy Jones, India De Beaufort (One Tree Hill) as India Jourdain, Meagan Tandy (10 Things I Hate About You) as Lulu Pope, Matthew Atkinson (CSI) as Nick Fadden. And featuring Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) who stars as Gray Chandler Murray – Jane’s steely boss whose constant demands keep her on her toes.
*This interview was made in partnership with Sorcerer Radio and Chip and Company.
- Official ABC Family’s Jane by Design Opening (chipandco.com)
- WDW Tiki Room Interviews Charisma Carpenter of “The Lying Game” (chipandco.com)