If all has gone according to plan, Josie Bissett of “Melrose Place” fame has just set off for Sri Lanka on a week-long mission with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. She attributes her decision to make the trip to the inspiration she got starring in the TV adaptation of country star Jimmy Wayne’s “Paper Angels.”
Now that’s some strong inspiration.
“I have always wanted to do a mission and I’ve always loved traveling,” she explains. “But you know, life gets busy and work takes your attention.” Now she will be helping in the process of giving hearing aids to hearing-impaired children and adults.
How did “Paper Angels,” which debuts Sunday, Nov. 16 on the UP channel, lead to such a trek? The story of a woman who has run away from her alcoholic husband and is at such a point of destitution she can’t provide Christmas cheer for her children sounds like pretty tough subject matter for a holiday movie. But the readers of Wayne’s immensely popular book will smile at the mention of the name.
“It was just one of those feel-good movies that leave you wanting to be a better person and give more than you get, and I love that,” she says. “I love content like that, especially being a parent myself. I really loved it when I read it.”
In fact, Bissett, who is divorced from one-time castmate Rob Estes, finds much with which to relate in the character. “It was really interesting, the parallels with my own life. My kids are the same ages as the kids in the show, a boy and a girl,” notes Josie, whose son Mason is 15 and daughter Maya is 12. “There are so many single parents out there who can really relate to that struggle.”
She adds, “I’ve always known about those angel trees and the Salvation Army. I’ve known about it, but I’ve never truly understood the impact that it could have. It’s one of those things you do, but you don’t get to see the recipient open it, so you don’t really know. Hearing Jimmy Wayne’s story — because basically, that’s what the script is about — you realize, the Angel Tree program did change his life. His personal story — he got his first guitar through the Angel Tree program, and you know, look at him now. Without that program, he would not have had anything for Christmas.”
Wayne has made it his personal mission, through his songs and writings, public appearances and lobbying, to support and uplift people, especially young people, who are in similar dire circumstances to those from which he pulled himself. He was in a series of foster homes. He recalls starving to the point of stealing food.
“When I met Jimmy Wayne, I swear to you, he’s just like an angel on this earth,” enthuses Bissett. “He had such a horrific childhood and now his entire life is about helping other people because he knows how blessed he is coming out of it. That’s all he does is talk about and travel for foster care and helping the foster care system and his various programs. His story really opened my eyes to someone who is just so incredibly giving and passionate.
“I would love to mention his new book that’s just come out,” she adds, “‘A Walk to Beautiful.’ ‘Paper Angels’ is loosely based on his life, but ‘A Walk to Beautiful’ is his personal story.”
Bissett herself is an author. Her “Tickle Monster” children’s book and “Little Bits of Wisdom and Making Memories,” a compilation of stories she co-edited, have fared well in the marketplace and continue to sell. She has another series in the formative stages, one that she says requires travel.
As far as her acting aspirations at this point? Bissett, who lives in Seattle, says she’d be open to another series as long as it would allow her a reasonable work schedule — especially, she mentions, an ensemble show that would “let me keep a balance in my life.” Living in the Pacific Northwest isn’t a matter of wanting to be away from the bustle of the industry in L.A., she notes. It’s a question of, “Where do I feel the most grounded? Where do I want to raise my kids?”
And then there’s the personal side. “I would love to be with someone again some day, but I’m not out there trying,” confesses the multi-talented beautiful blond. “I still believe in timing, and when things are meant to be. I know in my heart, deep down, the person will come when the time is right. I don’t have to look for it or find it. Otherwise people spend all this time dating and it’s really a time sucker. I don’t have time for that. I’m trusting that it will happen when It happens.”