Even though Lifetime has reupped “Army Wives” for a sixth season, wife Pamela Moran — Brigid Brannagh — admits, “At this point, we’re kind of preparing for the end, because we never know what’s happening. Everyone is sort of seeing their own end of it.”
The beautiful red-haired actress has decidedly mixed feelings about that. She’s proud of the show and happy doing it, but for her, it’s meant long spells of time apart from her husband, Justin Lyons. He comes to visit her on South Carolina location a week at a time during production, she says. “I actually don’t travel back and forth too much, because we’re essentially on call.” Still, she’s traveled enough to be familiar with the Charleston airport, “which is such a small airport and subject to so much weather, there are a lot of delays. I’ve sat out at a curb in not a great mood too many times.”
Brannagh is clear that when “Wives” does get decommissioned, “I’m definitely interested in doing things somewhat locally for the sake of quality of life, peace of mind and sanity.”
Over her last hiatus, she doubled up making the independent comedy “Not That Funny” and the Hallmark Channel Original Movie, “A Crush on You.” The latter, airing Saturday (6/11), has Brannagh in a genial romantic tale involving mistaken email identities. Sean Patrick Flanery, Michael Clarke Duncan and Christine Scott Bennett round out the cast of the romp, directed by Allison Anders.
Brannagh’s single mom character leads a fairly chaotic life and is a bit on the disheveled side — until a makeover sequence. She says she was right at home in the “before” parts. “One of the first things I appreciated about this character is that she’s a disaster, emotionally as well as on the outside,” she says. “I’m not sure every actress on the planet would be willing to just go there — ‘Make me dowdy, frizz out my hair, make it awkward.’ But for me, it was a nice break. Especially now with HD, people are constantly primping you, because every detail is so noticeable. Quite honestly, that stuff drives me nuts.”
MEANWHILE: Their series focuses on those who keep the home fires burning while their mates are off to war, but Brannagh and “Army Wives” cast mate Terry Serpico just came back from visiting the front lines themselves. “We did a USO tour of Afghanistan. It’s amazing,” Brannagh declares.
“These soldiers were so incredibly grateful we were there. It’s actually surprising. Their wives watch the show. They’d hand me a phone and say, ‘Say hello to my wife.’ It was really a connection from home.”
The actress found Afghanistan tougher than she’d imagined, she says, “sleeping less than you think, everyone walking around with M16s.” She was impressed by “how much they care about educating people and making a difference. They have a lot more savvy, a lot more thought, a lot more conscience than people realize.”
Brannagh says, in fact, “The best thing I’ve gotten out of all the last five years is a much better understanding of those who serve our country, who they are and why they do it.”
Catherine Bell is relieved that her “Army Wives” extramarital affair is behind her – though viewers will certainly be seeing repercussions of her character, Denise’s indiscretion becoming public knowledge in the third season of the hit Lifetime series, which gets underway June 7.
“There’s been so much to play it’s been challenging in a great way,” says Bell. The adultery storyline has been tough, she admits. “My husband and I just had our 15th wedding anniversary, and I’m a proponent of all the things that make a marriage work – faithfulness, trust and honesty – so this was definitely unfamiliar territory.”
Even shooting the sexy scenes gave her pause. “To kiss and be semi-naked with someone else on the set?” she says. “I’ve been forced to dig in and try to be a better actress.”
How does her husband, actor-writer Adam Beason, feel about her doing those love scenes? “He’s great. I can’t imagine anyone being better about it,” she says. “He doesn’t have a jealous bone in his body. He’ll be like, ‘Oh, you had a love scene?’ Very casual. If the situation was reversed, I would be interrogating him: ‘You touched her where? Did you like it?’ All those things,” she admits with a laugh.
Bell doesn’t foresee the changes in military policy under President Obama – topped by his planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq – affecting the series’ stories much. She notes, “Our show has always really been about the families. That doesn’t change. There are still those issues of families parting, marriages breaking apart and getting back together, of adjustments having to be made, whether the husbands and wives are going to Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Denise now will be seen facing the fact “everyone thinks she was a terrible person. There are going to be a lot of scenes with Frank this season,” Bell notes, speaking of her series spouse, Maj. Frank Sherwood, played by Terry Serpico. “We’re having to face the reality of what this (affair) has done to us.”
THE BIG SCREEN SCENE: With a string of films awaiting release, “Hollywood Dreams” actress Tanna Frederick is “looking forward to a dynamic shift” in audience perception about her. Her “Hollywood Dreams” character, the issue-riddled, anything-to-be-a-star actress Margie Chizek earned her critical acclaim and armloads of festival awards. But it had its down side, too, she admits with a laugh. “That was kind of difficult, kind of ballsy now that I look at it — to come out of the gate with a character so abrasive, off putting and intense. People thought that’s who I was. Men jumped three feet backwards when they saw me. I had people say, ‘Oh, you scare me,’ and I’d say, ‘No! I’m not like that.'”
The red haired beauty’s association with filmmaker Henry Jaglom continues with “Irene in Time,” due for limited release June 19, with Victoria Tennant, Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Black and David Proval. “I play a much more contained, more grounded girl in that. Her history is that she lost her father when she was 13, and she has problems trying to find the right man. No one can measure up. It’s really interesting to watch the women watch it. They go crazy for it. They leave the theater bawling.”
However, Tanna is back to Margie form with the “Hollywood Dreams” sequel, “Queen of the Lot,” due later this year, in which she stars opposite Noah Wyle. He plays a sleazy Hollywood reporter. “It gets even better,” she says, adding that her character is now trying to go by Margery. Tanna admits that one scene gave her quite a challenge: “a scene where Noah comes into the kitchen and I’m chewing and spitting Mallomars …It’s hard to be somewhat charming, alluring and sexy while regurgitating.”
Yep, that would be hard. Luckily, she says, “Noah is so great he makes any woman look good.”
GLASS ACT: It looks like Fox will have a bonafide hit in the fall with its refreshingly funny and entertaining show “Glee,” which premiered its pilot episode last week to 10.7 million viewers. Its version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” also soared to number two on iTunes before the night was even over. The biggest smash hit came from the big voice of Broadway star Lea Michele, who is reminiscent of a young Idina Menzel from “Wicked” fame. But at least Michele was smashing things with her voice and not her car this time around. She recently revealed that on her way to her callback she got into a car accident right in front of the Fox studios. She left her crashed car in the middle of the street, ran to her audition, and shook glass out of her hair as she prepared to sing. Now that’s what we call dedication!
SECOND TIME AROUND: Vivica A. Fox tells us it was a big boost in the confidence department when she was asked to host TV Land’s “The Cougar,” especially since, “This was my second hosting gig. Before that I hosted ‘Glam God’ on VH1. I actually got ‘The Cougar’ right after that got cancelled, which was really good for my ego,” says the actress with a laugh. “I thought ‘Glam God’ was a good show but we came out during the Olympics and the Democratic National Convention so how could you compete with that?” When not in front of the camera, Fox says she’s trying to spend more time producing her own projects. “I love producing the product that I present to my audience. It makes me feel really good what my name carries. That I can get the investors, that I can get the cast, that I make projects that I’m proud of, is really important to me.”
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster