Lifetime has a big premiere coming your way this Sunday, and Jennifer Love Hewitt was available recently to talk about The Client List. Lifetime’s The Client List premieres on Sunday, April 8 at 10/9c!
Spinning the 2010 movie into a series, The Client List follows Hewitt’s character, Riley, as she tries to juggle her double life. I’ll have a review soon, but let’s jump into the interview… after a couple of clips, and some more info.
Everyone’s got something to hide and Riley Parks is no exception. Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Riley, a single mother, living in a small Texas town and leading a shocking double life.
Her secret would send shockwaves through the community and possibly land her in jail if it was ever exposed. Riley’s taken a job at a seemingly traditional day spa, but soon realizes that the spa offers a little more than just massage therapy. It’s not the happy ending she was expecting but it does open her eyes to a world she’s never seen before.
The series follows Riley balancing these two worlds – one that revolves around her kids and family – and the other that revolves around the spa and it’s special clientele. These two worlds couldn’t be farther apart, yet she’s totally comfortable in both. Keeping them separate … now that’s the tricky part as she discovers she’s not the only one with secrets.
The Client List Featurette
What made you want to be a part of the television version of this? We know you starred in the film version.
Jennifer We had sort of joked around when we were doing the movie about how fun it would be to sort of turn this into a series and really get in deeper with the lives of the women in the spa and everything. So when the movie did really well, I talked it over with everybody and said let’s pitch it and see what they think and here we are.
How has your online promotion helped with the television show? You’re a big part of Twitter now—taking pictures from the set and things like that. How has your social networking enhanced interest in the show?
Jennifer I have to say that by nature, I’m sort of like a 90 year old woman, so the whole Internet thing and the Twitter thing and Facebook and all of that I’m very new to. But I am quite shocked at how much fun it is to be able to reach out to people on a daily basis and keep content out there, and how much it actually really does help promote things in such a different way.
I also feel like sometimes as actors and artists, we don’t really get to be an effective integral part of the promotional process, other than doing interviews. With Twitter and Facebook now and all of this stuff, it really allows us to play and have fun vis-à-vis the pictures that I send every day out on Twitter or little videos or whatever it is. I feel like I’m getting to promote the show in my own way as well, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a lot of fun.
What do the men in your life think of you playing such a provocative role week to week?
Jennifer The men in my life are our crew members and the actors that I work with on the massage table, they’re pretty happy about it because they’re usually getting massaged. My one male dog is very jealous, because I’m gone a lot with the hours.
How did you mentally prepare for that first scene at the massage parlor and did you get as nervous as your character Riley did?
Jennifer It was a little nerve wracking the first day for sure. It is still—essentially even though we’re actors the guys are strangers to me at the time. I’m sort of there in lingerie and everything, but I will say that the guys that we’ve hired so far have just been just such gentlemen, they’ve been so lovely. I think it’s awkward for them also because I‘m in lingerie, they’re in pretty much nothing, but we’re in front of so many people. But it is a very intimate thing to have to massage people, so it does take a couple of takes to sort of feel comfortable with it.
Can you talk about the research you did? Did you actually go to massage parlor?
Jennifer No, I chose not to. For me, the funny thing is that even though the show has this provocative sort of setting and I know what people are talking about is this sort of happy ending aspect of the show and everything. For me, the part that I did more research on was being a single mom—playing a Texas woman in economic struggles, somebody who emotionally has to carry all of these secrets and all of this loneliness, and all of the stuff that she struggles with emotionally in the series.
I’m from Texas. All the woman in my family are from Texas, so I did more research in spending time with them and the women that I know and being single moms, and how they hold it all together with a full time job than I did the happy ending part of it, because for me that’s not who Riley is. That’s where Riley finds herself, but that is not who she is, so I chose not to do research on that aspect of things, because it wasn’t something that I needed to know how to play the part.
You are from Texas and the show is set there – is there anything that you drew on from your personal experiences to create the character or the setting or anything like that?
Jennifer Definitely. It’s really funny—Riley and Linette are sort of these great combinations of my own mom. I feel like Riley is who my mom definitely was in her 20s and 30s and still so much of her sort of spirit. I feel like Linette is kind of how my mom is now in so many sort of great ways—not in what they do in the show necessarily, but sort of in the spirit of who they are. I’ve really drawn a lot—my mom was a single mom who did have a boy and a girl. She was a Texas mom and all of those things.
I’ve gotten to go back to my original accent, which has been really fun for me, but it’s hard to drop now sometimes when I go home. So I talk goofy, and my friends are like, “What are you doing?” So that part of it has been really fun and it’s been good. It’s reminded me how lucky I feel to be from Texas and how much I just love this spirit there, so it’s been nice.
How do you feel about women like Riley who are caught between conventional work and perhaps comprising their morals to get ahead?
Jennifer I think it’s realistic. It may not make people comfortable and it begs the question of are there any other options. For her there isn’t at the time—for Riley—and I think people are just going to have to try to be as nonjudgmental about that as possible, but I do think that this real. The story that we’re telling is real. There really is economically families that are put in these positions. There are women out there who are in sex worker positions that you would run into them at the grocery store with their hair piled on top of their head and have no idea and it’s a reality.
So I feel like as women and men and people on the planet, you just have to do the best with what life gives you. Hopefully on our show people will have a lot of fun watching Riley do the best with what life has offered her, and it’ll be an interesting series.
Given the double life that Riley leads, what’s the biggest challenge for you in playing her?
Jennifer Not eating pasta because I’m in lingerie all the time! I miss pasta so much. Probably my biggest challenge is not eating all the food that I want to eat sometimes.
How hard was it for you to decide to jump back into a TV series—regular role again?
Jennifer It took some thought, but after meeting everyone at Lifetime and after knowing that this was the part I was going to jump into, it was pretty easy. The only real consideration was the hours and just how sleepy you get and things like that, but the work made it the easiest decision ever. I love this part, and I love what the show represents and I’m really, really so excited for and blown away by Lifetime’s commitment to sort of change their network and do bigger, bolder things and to let us help them do that and it was exciting .
What do you think audiences will enjoy the most about the show?
Jennifer I think people are going to take away different things. I think that it’s extraordinarily relatable, even though people may not think that right off the bat with our promotional campaign, but I think that it is relatable in that economically where we are right now. I also think that there are lots of single moms out there in the world who are doing the best that they can. There are lots of people that married their childhood sweethearts and it turned out different after some time went by.
I think there and also different characters that people will identify with on the show, so I think there’s a little something for everybody. I do think that we make the journey really fun for people to watch, and that’s the best television. We all sit down to watch television to forget about reality for a minute and we want to do that for people.
Is there any characteristic of Riley Parks that was so complex that you had to take time to adjust to?
Jennifer I think for me playing her every day, I still ask myself every day was there another option; could she have done something else. I think that hopefully my journey emotionally playing her will be the same journey that the audience will go through, which is just as you start to maybe feel like you could judge her for a minute or go I don’t know, maybe she shouldn’t have done that or is there another way, I think you will realize that there isn’t.
And that she’s doing exactly what she should be doing and that she’s on the right place and that she’s growing in her humanity in doing this. And she’s becoming a better mom and a better woman and a better daughter and just a better person because of her circumstances and that makes it really cool. So other than that, no, but I think that I definitely have asked myself a few times like okay, are we telling the right story here and are we doing it the right way.
Is it hard to shake off Riley sometimes when the scenes are very intense?
Jennifer No, it’s kind of fun, actually. She’s real feisty and I’m pretty feisty in life, too, but it’s good. It’s good for me to get to do that stuff sometimes. The hardest thing is because I’m 33 now, I go home sometimes at the end of the day after a day of massages or a day of really high, high heels and all that stuff and I’m like sore. I’m like, “Really? Really you old lady, you’re sore from giving massages all day?” but no, it’s good.
There has been apparently some backlash from massage therapists over the fact that this show portrays one side of the job—that happy ending element to it, and might be down playing the medical, the therapy aspect of it. What’s your take? How do you feel the show does in terms of portraying the realities of this profession?
Jennifer I think from the word go, it’s a television series, so I don’t think anybody that’s watching it or turning it on is expecting me to keep the logistics of giving a proper massage. If they’ve seen our billboards, they’re definitely not expecting that. I played a medium on Ghost Whisperer for six years, and the mediums never complained at the fact that I had cleavage while I was crossing people over into the light. In fact, they were super-excited that like a hot person was out there representing the medium.
So I have the utmost respect for the massage therapy industry. I get massages all the time. Friends of mine are massage therapists. I think it’s important for people to understand and they will when they see the series that we also give legitimate massages at the spa, so it’s not all happy endings. There is a client list and those people and those people only get extras. The rest of the people are there for real massages, so we do represent both sides of them.
But at the end of the day it’s the reality. There really are these places. There are lots of people that go to them, and we’re just trying to entertain. Like we’re just trying to tell a story and would never ever disrespect any profession intentionally. I hope that some of those people eventually will be able to sort of stop for a second, watch the show and find themselves enjoying it.
How do you dive into character for a TV series versus how you portrayed it in the film?
Jennifer I’m portraying her the same way essentially, except I’m getting to know her every day. That is what I do love about television is that you actually really do get to know a human being because we’re all different every day and so stuff happens in my life comes into how I play her. If you have PMS, maybe Riley is a little bit feistier that day. If you’re really, really happy, she might be super elated or whatever it is.
So it’s different in that it’s an everyday thing, and we’re getting to break her down emotionally and psychologically much differently than we did in the movie. In the movie we had two hours and so it had to go from A, B, C, D, E, F done. In this, we’re still on A in season one. Season two would be the next step and the next unfolding of who Riley is, and I think that we’re still figuring that out.
There’s definite things that we thought we were going to do in this season that either we’ve pulled back from now and have decided not to do in this season because we want to give it more time, or things that we’ve rushed because we went we can get there that quickly, let’s do that. So those are the ways that it’s kind of different.
You’re one of the executive producers. Do you ever get involved at all with the writing of the show or the way it’s going to go or anything like that?
Jennifer I do, probably more than the writers like, because I have lots of storyline ideas like swirl around in my head and lots of opinions on things. That’s my job as playing Riley and as an executive producer here is to sort of watch over her and the rest of the cast and sort of where they’re going emotionally in their characters in this first season and what we’re saying to the audience and things like that. So I have been very vocal. I’ve not physically written anything, but I’ve definitely been very vocal.
What really drew you to the role of Riley Parks?
Jennifer I just thought it was really interesting, even initially with the movie. I think it’s an interesting thing. I think it’s interesting to create empowerment in a woman, who essentially could feel powerless and who could find herself in danger and could look at the situation she’s in if she wanted to as sort of not very female empowerment.
This is actually very powerful, and she’s making these decisions, and she’s making them consciously, and she’s growing sexually and emotionally and physically and mentally in this job. She’s connecting in a real human way with the human condition and human spirit and hearts of the people on her table, and it’s super powerful. So I was really interested in that. I just thought that that was really cool and a neat message to send out.
What was something that you were really looking forward to exploring more in the series that you didn’t necessarily get to do in the film?
Jennifer Just more of her being a mom, more of the double life, more of the friendships, the odd friendships that she would sort of make with the people either in the spa, outside of the spa, clients, whatever, that kind of stuff.
What’s it like working with Cybill? Is she a lot of fun to be on set with?
Jennifer She lights the set. Like all the lighting that you see on the series is pretty much just Cybill being in the room. She is hysterical. I love her to pieces. She’s just an awesome, awesome lady, and we were able to bond in the movie and there was no way that I was going to do the series without her. She was not going to let me do it without her and it’s great. It’s just great. I love her to pieces. We have a really good time.
You’ve been one of America’s darlings for a long time now. What are you looking forward to the audience to see from the show?
Jennifer I’m hoping that they’ll just have a really good time. It’s a fun story that we’re telling; it’s an interesting story. I hope that they will really love Riley and root for her, as well as judge her sometimes, because I’m one of those weird people that thinks a role model is an imperfect person, not a perfect person, because that’s who we are as real people. So we’ve consciously tried to make Riley imperfect in the most perfect way, so I’m hoping that people will appreciate that.
I just want them to have fun. It’s a really fun show, and we want to catch them by surprise and grab them by their shirt collars every now and then and have them cry or laugh unexpectedly or get angry for her unexpectedly. But for the most part, we just want them to have a good time.