Last week Sorcerer Radio DJ’s Kristen Hoetzel and Aljon Go of the “WDW Tiki Room” radio show interviewed actor Joey Lawrence, star of the ABC Family Original Series “Melissa and Joey.” Lawrence plays Joseph “Joe” Longo, a former commodities trader who lost his job, money and marriage in the wake of Mel’s brother-in-law’s Ponzi scheme and wound up living in his car. Seeing that Mel (Melissa Joan Hart) needed help raising her niece and nephew (and he needed a job), he has agreed to be the live-in nanny to assist Mel and give advice to the kids.
Lawrence’s first started acting in commercials at the age of five. He appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where he performed the song “Give My Regards to Broadway”. After appearing in guest spots on Diff’rent Strokes and Silver Spoons, Lawrence won the role of Joey Donovan on the hit NBC sitcom Gimme a Break! in 1983. Lawrence also provided the voice of Oliver, in the 1988 Disney film Oliver & Company. In the mid-90’s Lawrence co-starred in the hit TV series Blossom, in which he played Joey Russo, a dim-witted teenager who frequently said “Whoa!”, which due to the success of the show became a catchphrase in the United States. Lawrence has also starred in the series Brotherly Love and Run of the House, and has guest starred on shows such as American Dreams and CSI: NY. One of Lawrence’s movie credits is Urban Legends: Final Cut. In 2006, Lawrence appeared on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Paired with professional dancer Edyta Śliwińska, he placed third in the competition. In May 2007, he starred in the Broadway hit Chicago as Billy Flynn. He next hosted a dance competition show on The Learning Channel, Master of Dance, which premiered June 9, 2008. In 2009, Lawrence starred in the television movie My Fake Fiance, with Melissa Joan Hart which premiered on ABC Family to 3.6 million viewers becoming the most watched television movie of the ratings season, sweeping top rank in its time-period in key demos.
WDW Tiki Room: What is it about the show that you think keeps people tuning in to Melissa & Joey?
Joey Lawrence: Well, I don’t know—we just tried to come up with a half-hour comedy that people could relate to, about two young people that are just trying to make life work under unique circumstances and I think that, sort of, basing it in a time of relevance as to what people are going through as of today. We just try to make it lighthearted and funny and let people kind of tune in and escape for a half hour and kick back and laugh. Hopefully if we keep doing our job, people will keep tuning in.
WDW Tiki Room: How do you think the relationship between Melissa and Joey has evolved since episode one?
Joey Lawrence: Well I think that where we find them now is that they’re sort of getting into a groove of living together and kind of working together in this cohabitating type of relationship that they have. I think that they’ve developed a real affinity toward each other. There may be a little sexual tension there but I think that they both try to deny that and fight that. I think that that sort of underlying sexual tension is sort of what keeps the show going. Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to further explore that and see how things progress.
WDW Tiki Room: I was reading in a future episode you speak Japanese. How much did you really know and how much was memorized?
Joey Lawrence: Well I knew none but I had to learn a lot – in about four days. You know, I got to a point where—you know, I mean I guess my teacher said that I picked up the inflection of the language very well, actually, which is hard to do because Japanese is pretty specific; it’s nothing like—it isn’t like speaking Spanish or anything like that. It’s very unique unto itself, and it’s quite difficult to do, but I had like full scenes with four, five pages of dialogue in Japanese, so it took a lot of studying and listening to tapes over the course of three or four days in order to get that.
WDW Tiki Room: Melissa mentioned in a recent call that you each did one shout-out, I guess you could say, to your former characters and shows. She said yours was one word – that was her phrasing. So, of course, any fan of yours knows what it will be. Is that something you still get asked to do a lot by fans? Like for me any time I hear it from anyone, your face and voice are the ones that come to mind.
Joey Lawrence: Right. Yes, you know – I do, and it’s something that I actually look back on fondly, you know? It was a great period of time in my life and I get asked every single day. I mean it’s pretty amazing when you do something like that and it just transcends time and generations – and we did it as a joke. I mean it was one night, the line that they had written wasn’t working and they told me to kind of make up something in place of it to hopefully get a laugh, and I don’t know where that came from. I just came up with it and they—the audience laughed their rear ends off and all of a sudden, like overnight, it just exploded. It’s kind of crazy.
WDW Tiki Room: Yes, and it’s been so many years now that everybody knows. Everybody still knows it and knows you.
Joey Lawrence: I know. I know. I had not said it on network television in about—well since ’97, so 13 years, and there was an opportunity in the script where it sort of made sense without doing it—the character doesn’t do it on purpose like that, it just sort of comes out of just a reaction.
And it just made sense, so I did it and of course you know that’s the one they use in all the promos and stuff because ABC’s not stupid. But yes, it’s—you know, look – I think that things that we do in our past that are successful are the reasons why we are where we are today, so to say—you know I don’t ever get these people that do things that are successful, and then when they go on and do better things they don’t want to talk about the things that got them to where they are. That seems sort of crazy to me. So, for me it was a fun, amazing time of my life and I have no problem that people still want to talk about it. It’s kind of cool.
WDW Tiki Room: It’s a show that the whole family can watch, and we just absolutely love that.
Joey Lawrence: Oh, cool! Well thank you very much. That’s kind of what we wanted to do. We sort of set out to make something that obviously is for the adults. I mean, the humor is for the adults; it’s not for the kids. But it’s something that your kids—if they’re in the room or they want to tune in as well it’s not going to be crazy offensive or anything that’s completely inappropriate for them to watch. And that was sort of the goal of kind of what we wanted to do, kind of bring back that, just have a romantic comedy that doesn’t offend, just kind of fun.
WDW Tiki Room: So word has it that your brothers, Matt and Andy, will be making an appearance in this upcoming season. How was it to work, again, with them?
Joey Lawrence: They will. It was great. It was something that we wanted to do, that I purposely wanted to do. We’ve been getting a lot of Twitter response and stuff saying, “You gotta have your brothers on. You gotta have your brothers on.” So it’s definitely something that we wanted to do and we found kind of a unique way, an interesting way, to sort of bring them both into the show in different episodes, and I think it worked out great. So I’m very excited about it.
WDW Tiki Room: You’ve been involved in a ton of different projects over the years. What would you say you’ve learned and taken away from this show, in particular?
Joey Lawrence: Every project you do is an opportunity for growth. I think that you should get better with every project that you do, and that’s something that I try to do. This project, I’m wearing a couple of different hats as executive producer and stuff. I was able to write the theme song for it, which was kind of cool. Because I got a brand new record coming out this summer as well, and actually my first single will be available on ABC Family.com June 29th, this Wednesday exclusively just for a week. I’m going to give it away to all the fans that want to download it. And it’ll be up on iTunes and everywhere else for the rest of the world July 6th.
But I think it just gives an opportunity to just kind of wear a bunch of different hats and continue improving, which is what we need to do as actors. I mean every job that we do we should get better. That’s kind of what it’s all about.
WDW Tiki Room: In just about every episode you are cooking a good meal in the kitchen. Do you think it’s important to portray healthy eating on TV?
Joey Lawrence: Well sure. I’m a big fan of healthy eating. I make sure that my daughters eat healthy. You know I think that it’s not hard to cook healthy. Not that kids shouldn’t have Mickey D’s every now and then, and ice cream, and—you know they’re kids. And you know what, I’m guilty of having those things as well every now and then, but I think the majority of the time, sure we’ve got to try to eat good. That’s what it’s all about. I make it a point on the show for Joe to be cooking good food, not for it to be fast food or anything like that, and so far, so good.
WDW Tiki Room: Melissa was saying that you really have an interest in cooking, that you don’t just kind of play with the props but you kind of plan it out. Can you tell me more about that?
Joey Lawrence: Well I love to cook, personally. It allows me the opportunity to sort of talk to the food chefs about it and we make sure that we always prepare something that sounds real tasty.
WDW Tiki Room: Well it’s fun to watch and definitely tempts us all to get cooking.
Joey Lawrence: Sweet. It is too—I mean it actually tastes good too because we have these chefs that come in and really cook the food, and then I just prepare it in the scene, but it smells great. It smells great, so—
WDW Tiki Room: Megan Hilty plays your ex-wife, and both of you are talented musicians. Can we expect any collaboration in the future?
Joey Lawrence: Well I don’t know about that, but I’ve got a brand new record coming out in August and my first single in 11 years that I co-wrote with Matthew Gerrard, who’s a big time music pop guy; worked with everybody from Justin Timberlake to Kelly Clarkson. He and I collaborated on my whole record. And the first single will be available exclusively on ABC Family.com for the first week, and then it will be up everywhere on iTunes and TuneCore and all that stuff for the rest of the world. But music is something that I’ve always loved. I know that she does too. You never know about a collaboration, but certainly for me I’m really excited about getting a single out there for the first time in a long time, and also to have my full record coming out in August. And I hope people like it. It’s going to be great.
WDW Tiki Room: Do you have a guilty pleasure favorite TV show that you wouldn’t mind telling us about?
Joey Lawrence: A guilty pleasure? Well I don’t know if it’s guilty. I mean I’m a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm – I love that show and I’m so excited for the new season to get started. I don’t really have any guilty pleasures. Every now and then—you know my wife is obsessed with the Kardashian stuff so that’s on TV and I have to sit through it every now and then. But no, for me it’s like Curb Your Enthusiasm and then news and then sports, you know? That’s about it.
WDW Tiki Room: How do you manage to stay so grounded and positive while being a child actor?
Joey Lawrence: Well you know, I’ve got a great life. Look, I’ve had to work my rear end off for everything that I’ve ever gotten, but for me it’s always been about the work and about continuing to be able to work and continuing to be able to do what I love in an industry that that’s sometimes very difficult to do. So I am excited just about the opportunity to continue to do what I love to do. That’s really what it’s all about and hopefully I’ll be able to do it for many, many more years, you know?
WDW Tiki Room: Now that you do have daughters are you considering doing more Disney movies?
Joey Lawrence: We’re actually talking the animated side of things – the feature side and the animation department, trying to see what makes sense. But, sure – I mean Disney’s a great company to work for and there are several opportunities there that we’re kind of talking about. But doing something that my little girls can go see would be great, you know? Actually, I did one of the very first animated movies that Disney did back in this new generation, back in ’89, when Katzenberg first took over; it was called Oliver & Company and I was the voice of Oliver. But that’s really the last thing that I’ve done on the feature side for them. We just had a big meeting about hopefully changing that soon.
WDW Tiki Room: Yes! Kristen and I are fans and have the movie in our Disney collection!
What was it about this character that made you want to take on the role?
Joey Lawrence: Well it was a character that I sort of came up with. This is sort of a guy that I wanted to play on TV, in the half hour comedy world anyway. He’s sort of a guy’s guy. I think he can be brutally honest at times, but I sort of loved that about him. He shouldn’t be able to get away with some of the things that he says, but he does because there’s nothing under it other than just him being straightforward and honest. And that’s a guy that you sort of want to hate, but you can’t help but like him, you know? I mean he really is the kind of guy that if … came up to him and said, “Does this dress make me look fat?” He would probably say, “Well it doesn’t make you look thin.” You know? And initially you’d go, Oh my God, that was so rude! But at the end of the day you go, it’s kind of refreshing that he was being honest. He wasn’t being mean. He was like, look, you’re an attractive lady and I’ve seen you wear things that look hotter on you. You’d almost kind of want that, weirdly enough. Instead of stuff like, “Oh no, baby. You look amazing. You look incredible. Everything you wear is incredible.” You know?
I love the fact that he’s a financial wizard and that he’s sort of a fiscally conservative guy. This is a character that doesn’t exist on TV and it’s sort of fun for me to portray him a little bit. He’s a little Bruce Willis; he’s a little Alex P. Keaton; he’s a little—he’s like all those things, and that guy isn’t really on TV right now and that’s kind of why I sort of wanted to play him.
WDW Tiki Room: What are any similarities or differences that you have with your character?
Joey Lawrence: We’re both a little OCD. We both love to cook. He’s a big sports guy; so am I. I’m not a financial wizard but I enjoy making money, so we share that in common. There are things. I think as an actor you always try to bring as much personal experience to the role. That’s kind of important.
WDW Tiki Room: What made you decide to grow your hair back?
Joey Lawrence: Yes, so that was it, honestly just I like to change it up every now and then. I had long hair, shaved it all off, worked a lot, and then after a while people were—I got a lot of tweets about will I ever grow it back and stuff, and then I said, “Oh I can grow it back a little bit.” So, you know, I decided to grow it back. It’s as simple as that.
WDW Tiki Room: On your new album, are any of the songs dedicated to your little girls?
Joey Lawrence: You know, they’re not, because it’s not about that. I write them songs all the time and I perform at home and they’re just for them … and that’s what it’s about. I don’t need to do that on a record. The record thing is kind of its own life. Honestly, the record’s for my fans because it was fan driven. The last year and half they’ve been tweeting me every day, all day long, about doing it and teamed up with Matthew Gerrard and we actually wrote the theme song to the show and from that developed this great relationship and we started to write, and tune after tune started turning out great and then he said, “Man, you’ve got to release this.” So that’s what we’re doing. The first single’s called “Rolled” and it’s available exclusively at ABCFamily.com for a week; I’m going to give it away to everybody. And then it’s up on iTunes after that and the whole record will be out in August, and we’re going to tour next year and it’s going to be great. I’m really excited about it. It’s a really good record.
WDW Tiki Room: What was it like to work with Melissa Joan Hart again?
Joey Lawrence: Oh, it was great. It was great. You know we have a really good sort of working relationship and a rapport, and I think that’s sort of what got us excited about working together again, sort of in a larger capacity on a TV show. So, that’s what we did and we put together something and developed it, and it turned out great. We had a big vote of confidence from the network who picked us up for 30 episodes, which is, like unheard of in a first season, and here we are.
WDW Tiki Room: Since you like to cook, what is one of your favorite things to cook?
Joey Lawrence: What is one of my favorite things to cook? I cook a lot of Italian stuff, but I’m good at fish, too. But I do like—I do a baked manicotti and the stuffed shells, and I do a vegetable lasagna. I do lemon Dijon chicken with sort of this risotto that’s really good. A lot of different stuff, you know?
WDW Tiki Room: Is there anyone who hasn’t yet been scheduled that you’d really love to work with as a guest star on the show?
Joey Lawrence: There’s been talk about us trying to get Danny DeVito on there, because his daughter, Lucy DeVito is one of our supporting cast, who does a fantastic job for us. So that would be awesome; I’m a huge fan of Danny DeVito. Who else? I don’t know – the list is large. But Danny, I think, is probably at the top of it. I think it’d be a lot of fun to have him on.
WDW Tiki Room: Your character had a great business career until the rug was pulled out from him by the underhanded, the “illegal dealings of one man.” That was his wording. Over the last few years, the country has had to deal with hard economic times, coupled with similar situations to Joe Longo’s. Do you think that people being able to identify with your character in that respect is part of what’s making the show so successful?
Joey Lawrence: I think so. I mean that’s what we wanted to do is come up with something—get these characters into it in a timely fashion, somehow get them involved in the show, let them feel like these characters are sort of where everyone else is, because we’re all going through tough times. I mean that’s what it’s all about. So yes, I think that that’s part of it, for sure. For sure I do. And that was sort of an on purpose type of thing that we wanted to do.
WDW Tiki Room: Twitter seems to be an important part of your relationship with your fans. Can you talk a little bit more about how you got into that and what your favorite parts are and all that?
Joey Lawrence: Well, you know it’s just one of those things. It’s part of kind of what we do now, it truly is. Part of the landscape of being an entertainer is having that one-on-one sort of relationship with your fans, and you’ve either got to get on the train or it’s going to leave the station without you. So, we’ve opened up a whole social media wing to the company, which is me, and it’s been working out great. For instance, you know I’ve got my brand new single coming out for the first time in 11 years, it’s called “Rolled,” it will be off my brand new record coming out in August, then it’ll be up on iTunes and everywhere on July 6. I tweeted that; it was driven by the fans, every day thousands of tweets about the music, and I tweeted that it’s coming out and literally my Twitter account’s been—it’s 1,200 an hour have been tweeting about this day and the countdown to it and how they’re so excited about it. So right there is a perfect example of how you can reach them instantly, and that’s what it’s all about – it’s about getting the products to the fans to see if they like it, because that’s what we do this for.
WDW Tiki Room: We are playing “Rolled” on Sorcerer Radio. So can you just tell us a little bit about the single, and how you came up with the song and the title and the lyrics?
Joey Lawrence: Yes. It’s sort of an expression that me and my friends used to throw around a lot in our mid-20’s, because honestly, I know it’s tough to—believe me, it’s tough find good guys that are out there, but it’s also tough to find good ladies that are out there, too, especially in this town. And one of the things, especially if you’re a successful guy, it’s sort of tough to figure out whether they’re in it for the right reasons or whether they’re in it because they think you can buy them a big house and a big diamond ring and the whole thing. So there’s an expression that we sort of came up with and it’s called rolled and it’s like, “Dude, did that girl just roll you?” Which means that basically she used you for what she needed to, and then as soon as there was a better offer or something, a more successful guy on the table, she dumped you like yesterday’s trash and you got rolled. Do you know what I mean?
So this thing took off for us and it became sort of this saying, so I wrote a song about that. And that’s kind of what the song’s about. It’s about a guy that is into this girl that sort of rolled him, and all of his friends were telling him that that’s not what he should have done and he knows now that he should have listened but he couldn’t help it because she was just so hot. And it’s sort of a fun take on that, but it’s sort of a mid-tempo pop tune and the whole record is sort of a feel good record. This one’s sort of one of the edgier songs, but I really love the way it turned out. That’s why I wanted to lead with it.
WDW Tiki Room: Are you influenced by any other music genres and types? Or do you have any favorite songs?
Joey Lawrence: Well musically I’m influenced from everybody from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, George Michael, Prince, Dave Matthews. I have a very eclectic sort of music taste, but I’m a big fan of Michael, and Prince, and then George Michael. So it’s definitely in that vein.
WDW Tiki Room: I saw the screener of the new episode and they used more of your theme song, which I love. I was wondering, whose decision was it to give it more air time?
Joey Lawrence: It was a network decision, but it was definitely something that I championed over there because I just didn’t like the trend of these shows that had like three seconds of opening and then they went right into the show. It just felt weird to me, so I was championing hard for them to put it full—kind of opening title, sort of like—you know like they have on Friends or anything else, and finally they thought it would be a good idea, too. We had always had a full length version of the song, but they only were using like three seconds of it, so now I feel like at least people can hear a good 25-30 seconds of it. It’s actually a really good tune, it’s got a bridge and everything to it. It’s actually what—sort of my relationship working with Matthew Gerrard, who I collaborated on that song with, is what led to my record sort of happening. And that’s why they’re releasing the first single too on ABCFamily.com.
WDW Tiki Room: We look forward to the new album!
Joey Lawrence: Oh, sweet. Well you’ve definitely got to check this new tune out. The full record will be out in August and then we’re going to tour next year. But it’s a really cool tune if you like pop music.
WDW Tiki Room: Both Kristen and I are fans of “Dancing with the Stars.” We saw Mark Ballas guest star earlier in the season. Are we going to see Edyta guest star at any point?
Joey Lawrence: I don’t know about on the show. Edyta might be in one of my music videos, though. We’re sort of working on that with her. But I don’t know about the show. Maybe. But definitely in one of my music videos coming up, so that’ll be fun.
WDW Tiki Room: As part of the Disney Family, a voice actor, and a fan of the Disney parks, do you have a particular attraction that you and your family enjoy riding?
Joey Lawrence: Let’s see, well, it’s sort of hard to say because I like so many and for different reasons, but Pirates has always just been such a juggernaut for so many years. It’s a classic. It never disappoints. I’m sort of old school; I like the Peter Pan rides because that’s one of my favorite movies. I know it’s like 30 seconds long, but I just love it. And then I sort of like what they did with Space Mountain, and I like Big Thunder Mountain for something a little bit quicker. So there’s different reasons why you like different attractions, you know? I could name the whole park for you but then it’d just be like, “Well I like the whole park.” But it’s a blast. I mean, I got married in Disney World.
WDW Tiki Room: Oh, wow. That’s cool. Now having said that, obviously with your association with Oliver & Company and doing the voiceovers and such, if Disney were to redo an animated classic movie to a live action movie, is there a particular character that you could see yourself portraying?
Joey Lawrence: That’s a good question. One of the ones that I’d love to see them redo – I don’t know whether there’d really be a role in it for me unless I played like the mean knight that sort of took advantage of young Arthur, but that would be Sword and the Stone. I loved that movie. I loved that film. I think it’s a great animated movie, with Merlin and the whole thing. It’s fantastic. But there’s the knight of the King or whatever—the guy that young Arthur works for, he’s sort of like, whatever he is, the Duke and his Knight, he just keeps calling him Wart. He’s a really, kind of mean character. And at the end of the movie when he becomes large and he becomes King and pulls the sword from the stone there, it—I don’t know, it’s just a great film. I think it’d lend itself to a fantastic live action movie.
WDW Tiki Room: Can you tell us about a time in your career where maybe things weren’t progressing as you’d like?
Joey Lawrence: This whole career is—I mean being an entertainer is about up and down, that’s what the whole thing’s about. So there are going to be tons of moments when things are not going the way you want. I mean I’m still not where I want to be, you know? I think after doing this for 30 years and being my age now it’s—I’m excited because I feel like the guys that I look up to like Bruce Willis and George Clooney, they didn’t even get started really until they were 35. George Clooney got ER at 36, so this is really just the beginning; even though I’ve been doing this for 30 years. But feature film is where I want to go and those opportunities are starting to present themselves and it’s kind of exciting.
But I’ve always been positive, because you sort asked a two part question there. But I’ve always been positive, always. Where there’s a will there’s a way. That’s my motto. I don’t take no for an answer because if there is three or four dead ends I’ll find the one road that gets me there. But there’s been a lot of ups and downs; that’s what it’s all about so you better have real thick skin and try not to take anything personally, because you won’t get most of the things that you want to get. It’s about celebrating the 400 no’s on that journey to find the one yes.
WDW Tiki Room: Do you do voices to your daughters?
Joey Lawrence: Sure. Sure, yes. I do a lot of the Sesame Street ones and I’m good at those. And I can certainly make any of the voices from the characters that they really like, so, yes, we have a lot of fun doing that stuff. As a matter of fact, I just took my daughter to see Cars 2 for the second time this weekend because she’s obsessed, and she was playing Holley Shiftwell and I was playing Finn McMissile who is Michael Caine; we were doing that all day yesterday. As a matter of fact, I had to wear all grey to be Finn and she had to wear all purple to be Holley – so there you have it.
WDW Tiki Room: Question about the set: Do your daughters play with Melissa Joan Hart’s sons?
Joey Lawrence: They do every now and then, yes. When it makes sense they do.
WDW Tiki Room: Do they watch the show? Or do they watch any of your old work?
Joey Lawrence: Not really. I mean Charli does. She’s starting to get into it a little bit. She’s come to a couple tapings and she sits through it. She’s an amazing little girl. But my 14-month-old, no; not yet.
WDW Tiki Room: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us today!
Joey Lawrence: No problem! Tweet me @Joey Lawrence. Alright?
Be sure to watch the ABC Family Original Series “Melissa and Joey” Wednesdays at 8/7 Central.
Official Site: http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/melissa-joey
Don’t forget to check out Joey Lawrence’s new single, “Rolled,” available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and emusic.
Hear excerpts from this interview on the “WDW Tiki Room – The show about ALL THINGS DISNEY” with hosts Kristen Hoetzel and Aljon Go on Sorcerer Radio – LINK.
*This interview is made in partnership with Sorcerer Radio, Chip and Company and ABC Family.
- Free Download of Joey Lawrence’s “ROLLED” (chipandco.com)
- ABC Family’s Hit Comedy “Melissa & Joey” Returns With All-New Episodes Premiering Wednesday, June 29 At 8:00 ET/PT (chipandco.com)