Joey Lawrence admits he had concerns about the turn of events on his popular “Melissa & Joey” ABC Family sitcom last season – when his and Melissa Joan Hart’s characters went from their sexually charged employer-employee relationship to becoming lovers. However, he tells us, two episodes into shooting of Season 4, he’s happy about their having taken the risk.
“The show changes completely. Joe no longer works for Mel anymore, so he’s going to move out into his own place and they’re going to start dating and see how it goes. Once they finally got together, it changed everything. They decided to go for it – to give it a shot as a couple.”
He adds, “I think that we have a really good writing team and there was a lot of thought creatively about how we’re going to deal with this and keep the show fresh. Certainly Mel and Joe getting together does not mean it’s always going to be smooth sailing. It’s a very interesting way to keep the sparks flying.”
Joey, who will be seen hosting the Hallmark Channel’s Third Annual Hero Dog Awards Oct. 30, reports that when the current 40-episode order of “Melissa and Joey” is finished, the sitcom will have passed the 100 episode mark – a rare feat in today’s television environment. He acknowledges that going in, he had no idea the series would turn into a long-running success.
“We developed a core audience, and I think the end of last year our numbers were up 61 per cent. We found a great little niche and we have a good home. A lot of people watch live, and then we have an audience that watches online when they choose all around the world. Really, if you like the multi-camera comedy – and multi-camera romantic comedy, our show is one of the few actually on TV.”
His former “Blossom” sister, Mayim Bialik, is on another one of those few sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory,” and Joey says, “I’ve seen her from time to time at different events. We don’t talk a lot but it’s good to see that Mayim and I are still plugging away.”
Joey was surrounded by stars including Betty White, Pauley Perrette, Ryan O’Neal and Jennifer Coolidge at the American Humane Association’s “Hero Dog Awards” event.
“It was fun, man, it was fun,” he declares. “Every year they’ve progressed — they’ve wanted my involvement a little more. The first year I was a presenter. Last year I was also working with Miss White. This year they said, ‘Do you want to host it?’ and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ I mean, I love dogs and this is a cool show for dog lovers. Obviously the American Humane Association is doing such outstanding work, and has been for 100 years, you know? So I said, ‘I’d love it.’ So they let me do my thing, spice things up a little bit, you know, and actually it turned out to be a special evening.
“If you’re a dog lover, you understand what wonderful creatures these are. The dogs on the show are amazing. We have one of the five dogs in the country who can sniff out early signs of cancer. Their noses are such an incredible tool — they smell in color, as they say. It’s an amazing thing to see these animals who work like this every day.”
He says it was no problem for him to take on “Hero Dogs” amidst “Melissa & Joey” production. “They allowed me to be myself up there. We shot it on Saturday night so we were able to do it around my work, so everything worked out fine.”
Of course, Joey is a dog lover himself – as are his and wife Chandie’s seven and three-year-old daughters. “We have an Australian Shepherd-black Lab mix named Tiffany, and we have a Golden Retriever named Leo,” he reports.
As for whether either of his girls are also showing signs of sharing his love of performing, Joey replies, “They have. My seven-year-old is already starting to ask questions about it. She’d like to be in a commercial, she tells me all the time.”
What does he say?
“Well, my mom allowed me to follow my dream. It would be really wrong of me to prevent my daughter from doing it. I tell her, ‘We’ll think it over and maybe in a couple of years, when you’re nine and can do something over the summer, well give it a shot. You know it’s not just going out and doing a commercial, it’s going out it’s having to audition, to show you know what you’re doing.’ She said, ‘Oh yeah. I have to go try out for it.’
According to him, his elder daughter is “really, really, really extroverted and she loves to sing and stuff. But I come from a different perspective and a different time. It’s such a different world today than when I was growing up. Then, it was all about work. Now, it’s more about, ‘How do I become famous?’ I want to teach her old school: it’s going to be about the work.” He told her, “It’s going to take a lot of work, but if it’s something you really want to try, maybe we’ll see what pops. It could be cool.”