We love her as the no-nonsense Jan Levinson on The Office. Melora Hardin has also played Roxie Hart in Chicago: The Musical and lit up the screen in various movies and TV shows. The multi-talented actress and singer – who is mom to daughters Rory, 8, and Piper, 4 – opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her seasoned acting career, how motherhood has enriched her life and her various projects including a new CD and movie.
CBS: You are mom to two daughters: Rory, 8, and Piper, 4. Tell us about your girls. What are they into? What do they do to make you laugh?
MH: “Yes, I am a happy Mom and my daughters are just my “little dreams come true” as I tell them all the time. Rory just turned 8 and is just about to lose her first top front teeth so she’s really starting to mature. I lost my teeth late too so it’s interesting to watch her development and to see how she’s so into the boys and so social.
Piper is just about to turn 5 and I always say, “she isn’t a red head for nothing!” She’s a little spit fire and feeling very mature and like the “big girl” in her last year at pre-school. They are just joys and make me laugh all the time. We make up dances a lot and laugh at the fun of doing that together.”
CBS: How has motherhood changed you? What are some of the greatest challenges? The greatest rewards?
MH: “Being a mother is definitely the most challenging and most rewarding job I have. Tuning into the needs of the girls, staying clear on how some of the things they can do trigger me and how I can be the best person I can be around them so as to teach by example is something I’m focused on. My husband and I try very hard to keep our relationship evolving and never rest easy in some old, negative pattern.
Kids are amazing mirrors and they see everything so if I’m not always trying to keep growing then they are going to be repeating any of my bad habits. I feel that’s my biggest responsibility in being their mother, so I’m pursuing my life and supporting theirs emotionally and spiritually as well as all the obvious other ways we support and nurture our kids.”
CBS: Were your girls thrilled that you starred in the Hannah Montana movie? Did they come to the set with you?
MH: “The girls were thrilled to come visit me in Tennessee on the set of The Hannah Montana Movie but they really don’t watch TV at all so when they met Miley it was just like meeting any of the actors they’ve met over the years.”
CBS: How do you balance your busy career with your family life?
MH: “I always say, ‘I have a great husband and a great support network!’ I rely on my husband to be a team player and he is and my parents help out a lot as well as our amazing nanny who has just moved on to be with her boyfriend in Hawaii and start her own family one day. So it’s about finding the right team of support and then spending real, quality time with the kids when I’m around, without cell phone and computer etc. interruptions!”
CBS: You’ve starred in numerous hit TV shows like Friends, Gilmore Girls and CSI. You’ve also graced the big screen in hits like Hannah Montana: The Movie and 27 Dresses. Do you prefer TV or movies? What are some of the differences?
MH” I really like them both. When you work on a series like The Office for 6 years you really get to know people and that can become a kind of family situation. That works nicely when everyone gets along and can be difficult when people don’t. I like that in movies like 17 Again you come in, all having the common goal of creating a great, entertaining film and then it’s over. That can be refreshing and wonderful to have the experience and then move on to something else.”
Did anything prepare you for the quirky-pace of The Office?
MH: “I’ve had a great time on The Office and the pace has never been too much or too crazy for me. I’ve been acting professionally since I was 6-years-old so I feel I’ve had so many different kinds of experiences with different kinds of people that it has served me well in terms of being able to go along and get along in most situations.”
CBS: It must take all your power to refrain from laughing at Steve Carell while playing his love interest, Jan? How close does everyone stay to the script? Are you encouraged to ad lib?
MH “Everyone laughs a lot on the set and we do always do the scene as written but once we’ve got it the way it was written we also let loose and do one for the fun of it.”
CBS: Although your regular appearances on The Office are now over, we hear you’ll be returning throughout the upcoming season? Will Jan and Michael reunite and raise the baby together?
MH: “Yes, I’m told that Jan will come back to the show sometimes but I really don’t know how or why or what the writers have up their sleeve in terms of Jan. Whatever they do with her I’m sure it’ll be funny and surprising as Jan always is.”
CBS: You appeared on Broadway starring as Roxie Hart in CHICAGO. Tell us what that was like. Was it a dream come true?
MH: “Playing Roxie Hart was completely a dream come true! To do 8 shows a week singing, dancing and acting my heart out was pure joy! I’ve been singing all my life, dancing since I was 5 and acting, as I said before, since I was 6 so Roxie was an opportunity for me to bring all those loves of mine together and just pour all my passion into it. I was in heaven and I can’t wait to get back to Broadway to originate a role someday soon I hope! The song “Roxie” is on my upcoming CD, All The Way To Mars which can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com now! I hope everyone will get a copy!”
CBS: Your parents were also in the biz. Your father, Jerry Hardin, is a prolific character actor who has appeared in over 100 films and TV shows. Your mother, Diane Hardin, is the acting coach behind young stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jessica Biel. Did your parents encourage you to enter the family business? What are some of the best tips your parents taught you about acting?
MH: “My parents were always focused on the craft of acting, not the fame. I was encouraged to be a professional, know my lines and I’m very thankful for that and thankful that I understood my craft from such a young age so that now it’s really second nature to me.”
CBS: You began acting at the age of 6. Did you enjoy acting when you were a child? Why do you think so many child stars crash and burn? What is your best advice to child stars?
MH: “I started acting professionally at age 6 and I really believe that it’s all about the parents. My parents were never living vicariously through me. They were pursuing their own dreams while at the same time supporting mine. That is really the key, I believe. The kids that crash and burn are just stranded out there in the big, world trying to define their own desires with no guidance an no boundary between themselves and their parents.”
CBS: Do you want your children to enter the family business? Has the acting bug hit either of your daughters?
MH: “Both of our daughters are in the movie my husband and I made called, YOU. They did it for us, but I’m not sure that they will want to act. They enjoy performing but they will need to REALLY want it for me to let them do it. I REALLY wanted it and that’s the only way it works in my opinion. I even tell aspiring grown up actors, “if there is ANYTHING they can do and be happy, they should do it!” There is so much rejection and down time that I really believe it has to be a deep, inner drive.”
CBS: What is your best advice to parents who want their children to be actors?
MH: “Get them great training (if they are in NY study with my Mom) and I’d tell the parents to continue pursuing their own dreams!”
CBS: Do you enjoy working in comedy? What is your preferred genre?
MH: “I really love comedy and drama! They both come from the same place, honesty! They are both fun but, of course, it’s great to go to work and laugh!”
CBS: Who’s on your top 5 list of actors that you want to work with in the future?
MH: “Daniel Day Lewis, Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep.”
CBS: If you are working on any other projects or with any charities, please feel free to discuss.
MH: “The bonus track on my cd is available on iTunes. It’s a Xmas song written by Nell Benjamen (Legally Blonde) and Ben Toth, and I hope everyone will add to their holiday repertoire. Everyone can download “Come Home With Me For Christmas” now!
As I said before, I’m very excited that people can pre-order my CD All The Way To Mars produced by Richard Jay-Alexander (Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters, Ricky Martin). And, everyone can check out my directorial debut, YOU, at www.youthefilm.com and on Amazon and iTunes.”View Slideshow »»