The Secret Life of the American Teenager actress Tricia O’Kelley stars in Lifetime’s new movie, Missing at 17. Premiering Saturday, October 19 and 8 p.m. ET/PT, the drama – costarring Alex Carter and Brandi Glanville – is about a young girl searching for her birth mother.
Tricia opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her two young daughters that are “such cool kids.” She goes on to talk about her proud Midwestern roots and her impressive resume, including a successful line of greeting cards sold at Target.
CBS: You have a new movie coming out called Missing at 17 that’s premiering on Lifetime on October 19th. Tell us a little about your role in the movie. Being a mom in real life, can you relate at all to this story line? Did that affect how you played the role?
TO: “Honestly, when I read the script my first thought was, ‘I can’t do this.’ What my character Shannon goes through is every mother’s worst nightmare, and it terrified me to even think about pretending to go through it as an actor. But at the end of the day, that’s why I decided to take the part. It’s always good to challenge yourself in your work, and this was absolutely challenging — as a mother and an actor.”
CBS: You have a pretty incredible resume! You’ve done theater, movies, starred in a ton of TV series, started your own production company and design a line of greeting cards. What made you want to start your own production company? And how did the idea of the greeting card business come around?
TO: “I started T&A Pictures with my best friend (and Old Christine co-star) Alex Kapp Horner. While we were working on The New Adventures of Old Christine we started writing together, and quickly realized that we are great writing partners. We just work really well together — on-screen and off. Our ultimate goal is to create a show for the two of us to star in together.
The greeting cards came about when I turned 30. I made birthday cards for my best friends from home — we grew up together and are still really close as adults, so I wanted to create something really personal for each of them for their 30th birthdays. In doing this, I realized I kind of had a knack for it — this hidden talent and passion that I didn’t know I had.
I submitted some designs to Recycled Paper Greetings (now Recycled Paper Greetings/Papyrus), and soon I was working as a freelance artist for them. Within a year, I was under contract with them exclusively and my cards had their own kiosk at Target. It was incredibly exciting, and has continued to be a fantastic creative outlet for me.”
CBS: While living in the Midwest, you started a resource center for actors which provided many resources for the local acting community. You were then honored as one of the “100 Women Making a Difference in Chicago” by Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine. Can you give us a little background on this?
TO: “Soon after graduating college, I was living in Chicago and auditioning. I took a trip to Los Angeles to learn a little bit more about the business, make some contacts, etc. While in LA, I noticed that there were a lot of resources available to actors starting out in the business. In fact, the business was EVERYWHERE. While waiting for their next audition or job, there was always something actors could do on a daily basis to help develop and further their careers. That wasn’t really the case in Chicago, and I wanted to try to change that.
I opened a resource center that offered all kinds of services to actors: we had seminars and workshops and guest speakers and teachers, we offered resume and headshot consultations, we rented out space for actors to work on auditions or monologues, we had a library of plays and resource books that actors could check out. We published a resource guide for actors, which provided everything you need to work and live in Chicago as an actor. And it was also just a place actors could go to network with other actors. The door was always open.”
CBS: Tell us about your daughters. How old are they? What are they like and enjoy doing?
TO: “My girls are five and three, and absolutely incredible. They are such cool kids — so smart and funny. They love all things princess, anything girly. And they both love to draw. I worship them both.”
CBS: What does your family enjoy doing together?
TO: “Ice cream shop!! They got their love of ice cream from me. And we all love the movies. I don’t think I’ve seen anything above a G rating in 5 years. Thankfully, kids movies are very adult-friendly now. They’re really, really good! We draw and color together quite a bit — give me some washable markers and a coloring book, and I’m happy for an hour. Love it.”
CBS: How do you find that balance between protecting your kids and allowing them to explore life?
TO: “I think it’s one of those things that you revisit every day on a case-by-case basis. I want my kids to have fun and explore and get dirty — I want them to be kids. But if I can protect them from getting hurt in the process, I’m going to. I’m definitely not a helicopter mom that hovers over her kids, constantly trying to protect them, but I am always watching.”
CBS: You’re originally from the Midwest. Do you like living in LA now? Do you miss the Midwest?
TO: “I LOVE the Midwest, and there’s so much I miss about it. My family and girlfriends from home are still there, and I so wish my girls could grow up with them being more a part of their daily lives. But LA is definitely my home now.”
CBS: Do you believe women can have it all? How do you juggle all your roles?
TO: “That’s the million dollar question! Personally, I’ve always been very focused on my career, but when I had kids that completely changed. It’s difficult to just split your focus and switch hats when you need to. My daughters will always come first, and anything else will come in a very distant second. That being said, the juggling is very hard and it takes a lot of work. But yes, I will always believe that women can have it all.”
CBS: What is up next for you?
TO: “I’m doing a web-series called Bitter Party of Five that I started with my co-stars from an NBC pilot I did last year. It’s about five fairly successful actors interviewing their much more famous friends — and we’re not at all happy about it. It’s really funny, all improvised, and we’ve had amazing guests like Allison Janney, Chris Colfer, Kaitlin Olson, Martin Short, Tony Hale, Martha Plimpton — the list goes on. Check it out on BlipTV and YouTube.”