Lori Loughlin has been one of America’s on-camera sweethearts since her career-making role on the ‘90s series “Full House.” She sat down in studio with Salon recently to discuss her new projects and reprising her fan-favorite role in "Fuller House" on Netflix. Now starring on several projects with the Hallmark Channel, Loughlin appears in Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart,” a period Western series she adores.
On “Salon Talks,” Loughlin discussed her early experiences working on a soap opera at age 17, the most important lessons she learned in her career and how fans react to seeing Becky from "Full House" in the wild.
You began your career as a child actress and model.
Yeah, I started modeling when I was 11 and then did some commercials, and then when I was almost 16, I got a job on a soap opera. It was very random. They set me in on an audition and I got it and I did three and a half years on episode called "The Edge of Night," which was phenomenal training for a young actor.
I wanted to ask you about that because I wonder what that must’ve been like. I started in front of a camera when I was about 15 — never commercials, but fashion — and it was such a surreal experience to go and be on a set. What was it like for you?
I was so green. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I was really fortunate to work with a group of actors who really were theater actors, and the only reason I did the soap was so that they had a decent income, but every night when we wrapped, they would all go to the theater. They were either in a Broadway [or] off Broadway show, so everyone was so nice. They took me under their wing and they really helped me because I was total deer in the headlights. I had no idea.
Watch the full interview with Lori Loughlin
Salon Talks to the "Fuller House" star
You could only go to the show, not the bar, right?
Yeah, I can only go the show not the bar. I mean I literally was not quite 16. I was green as green you could be and then I remember it was the role of a dancer. When I went on the audition, first of all they said [to] lie about your age. I forgot to lie about my age and then the casting director almost let me walk out the door. She said, “Well, come back and read for me anyway.” I did.
She said I’m going to bring you back for the producers for Procter and Gamble — at that time, because it was a soap opera, P&G — and then she said, “I’m going to pair you up with another actor to read.” I’ll never forget. I read it with this lovely young actor. His name was Todd. I don’t know his last name. Right before he walks through the door he said to me, “You know, every time I read with an actress for a soap opera, she gets the role and I don’t.” Sure enough, I go and read and two hours later, I get a phone call that I had gotten…
He didn’t get one?
No, he didn’t get it.
I got it. I lied and said I could dance because it was the role of a dancer and then I got there and they had a full blown dance studio because they never said could you audition and dance? I thought that’s — my manager too was like, “They’re not asking you to audition. They probably just whatever, maybe do couple a of things.” There was full blown dance studio when I got there.
And a choreographer. Then I had to go in and tell the producers I lied and I thought they were going to fire me but then it was a character that couldn’t dance.
Do they write you into the script that you broke your foot?
That they couldn’t dance. I was just bad.
Yeah, it was just bad.
I see. There’s always a work around. It pays to have good writers.
Daytime television, you can work anything out.
What lessons did you learn early on about the film and television business?
When I was on that soap, I did learn that you are always replaceable and to be humble and thankful. I’ll tell you why I learned that lesson. They had an actor who was a main character on the show, Larkin Malloy, and he was hit by a gypsy cab one night in New York City, didn’t show up for work the next day. No one knew where he was. Finally, they located him in the hospital. He was in critical condition. That happened on a Thursday. On Friday they were auditioning, because it’s a daytime soap, auditioning another actor to replace him.
The show must go on.
On Monday, they had someone else to replace him and when he made a full recovery, which was almost a year and half later, they gave him his job back but they had someone else come in and fill his role for that amount of time. I will never forget when they walk this new actor in the studio and I was probably 17 and I thought, yup, don’t ever think you can’t be replaced because you can.
Smart. That’s true. At least they gave him his job back. Traditionally, you don’t get that back.
They were great producers. They were nice people. It was a tragic accident. They gave him his job back but it was just a lesson that I took with me to always be grateful.
That’s good and it served you well obviously. You’ve had a long career. I did read that you turn down the lead role, this is well-known, in "The Blue Lagoon."
A long, long time ago.
Which I don’t really talk about because I don’t think it was meant to be and so I just, yeah. But that happened that was many, many years ago.
You said, no thank you.
Yeah. Brooke Shields did it and she was the best. That was her role meant to be and I love Brooke. She’s a friend and I adore her.
Do people recognize you still the most from "Full House?"
Just constantly on the street.
Yes, I get a lot of recognition. I think because "Full House" has been on television for so many years now. It’s been in on in some form whether it was in primetime 30 years ago or over the years in syndication. We have generations and generations of fans of all different ages, so by far, I get recognize for that. Then I also do another series for Hallmark, the Hallmark channel. The name of it is "When Calls the Heart." It’s a period piece, a Western, and that show is really starting to pick up. We’re in Season 6 but a lot of people are watching that show now. It also airs on Netflix. I think being on Hallmark channel and streaming on Netflix has brought a lot of viewership to that show.
Having had such a long career, do people approach you differently or they just throw out lines from —
Do they scream "Have mercy!" at me? Sometimes. The sense that I get is that people feel like they know me, like I’m an old friend. They’re very warm and kind. The fans always seem to me very nice. They’re always nice to me and I’m nice to them.
"Garage Sale Mystery" . . . is the latest installment in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' popular garage sale mysteries franchise. It kicks off the channel's second annual Garage Sale Mystery month. That sounds fun.
August is Garage Sale Mystery month.
Tell me about Jennifer, who’s your character.
Well, we did this last year. First of all, "Garage Sale Mystery" was one movie for the Hallmark channel. It did really well and they decided that they would take their movie channel and rebrand that the movie mystery channel. Off of "Garage Sale," they’ve now launched many different mystery series. But "Garage Sale" is their longest running. It does really well. Last year, they decided they were going to make August "Garage Sale Mystery" month and air a new movie every Sunday night. It did really well. They said, “Hey, let’s do it again.”
We are back this August every Sunday night with the new movie. Same characters. I played Jennifer Shannon. I own an antique store with my best friend, played by Sarah Strange. Kevin O’Grady plays our lead detective on the show, Frank Lynwood. It’s an old fashioned whodunit.
It’s like "Columbo" or "Murder, She Wrote" where you have to watch it to think about maybe who did it. There’s nothing too scary. Yes, there’s always a murder. There’s nothing graphic. Doesn’t keep you up at night. Won’t give you nightmares.
Speak for yourself.
Families can watch it.
Families can actually watch it, but I’m always frightened by like this . . .
No, Alli, you couldn’t be afraid of this.
. . . the traditional scene where it’s like the old lady at the top of the stairs . . .
. . . this is very Alfred Hitchcock. She falls. Who pushed her? Everything's shadowy. That spooks me.
Who’s the audience for this, do you think?
I’ve had a wide range of fans come up to me. You would think it would skew heavily female, but a lot of men watch also.
Look at that. They just love you.
There’s a wide range from younger to older.
Were you interested in mystery as a viewer, as a consumer?
My mom is a huge mystery buff, always has been ever since I was a kid, and I grew up watching shows like "Columbo," "Murder She Wrote," "McMillan & Wife." All of those three and I would always sit and watch with her. Until this day, she’s 83. She’s always reading a mystery book, always. No matter where she goes, she has a mystery book in her bag.
It must’ve been bad for you as a bad teenager. Were you trying to sleuth out all the things?
No. You couldn’t. I try to sneak out one night and she caught me red handed. I thought I made it. My hand was on the door. I was with my cousin.
I literally had my hand on the door and my mom was behind us, “Girls, where are you going?” You can’t pull anything on her.
My grandmother was also a good sleuth. She used to stop me at the door because when I was a teenager you want to wear the inappropriate skirts that your grandparents think — and now I’m a mom I’m like, that’s too slutty, take it off — she would catch me. She would lift up my skirt to see if I had the shorter one underneath, then she’ll be like “Go back and change.” I always had the hot pants underneath.
That was funny.
Good mystery sleuth, you have to be as a parent.
Kind of had to be.
You have two girls, right?
Yeah. Here’s the problem today. Kids are so savvy and they are lightyears ahead of us as far as the computer, social media, all that jazz. I mean I don’t know. Your kids are still younger. Do they have Instagram yet?
Okay, so they’re still younger. Well, then the kids…
I know it’s coming.
I found out, so you think they have an Instagram that you’re following but then… It’s a Finsta…
It’s Finstagram. I know.
It’s a Finsta and they have the fake Instagram.
Yeah, I know a fake Instagram. We’re not quite there yet but your point is well taken. It’s hard to raise children of either gender but especially girls and I know your daughter Isabella is also interested in acting.
Wants to be an actress.
Your experiences in Hollywood, good and bad, how they’d made you feel about your daughter’s future in the entertainment business since she’s in school?
I know. Well, she is in school and I’m glad. She just finished her first year of college and she really enjoys it and I think she’ll get her degree. And I just said to her, “Look, have some back up plan. Get a degree and something else. You can study theater [and] whatever you need to also at school.” I think I’ve shown her and presented all the pitfalls that there might be. I would be a hypocrite at this point to say no, you can’t do it, because I’m doing it. She sees me and I’m making a living. And then there’s a part of me that goes yes, it’s a hard business, but why not her? I mean it’s like me. I was kid from Long Island. I grew up…
Hauppauge. In a middle class household and my dad worked for the New York telephone company. The odds of me becoming an actress and even working were so slim to none but I did it. I think the same thing about her. Why not? I guess if you work hard enough and you pursue, you can. It’s a lot of luck but you can create that for yourself.
Absolutely. I always believe you make your own luck.
Has the #MeToo movement affected you or your daughters at all?
Not my daughters that I know of. They’ve not said anything to me and for me, I can’t say. I’m sure over the years people have said things that maybe nowadays would be off color or people would be offended. I never had anyone make some really egregious move or like hardcore move on me. I never had. I just haven’t, so. . .
Yeah, it’s lucky. Then there’s a part of me that goes, “Wait a minute. What’s wrong with me.” No, I’m kidding. All joke. I’m kidding.
You’re in Hollywood. You’re back and forth. Do you see historically, politically positive change or is it a lot of talking about change even though it wasn’t your personal experience?
I think we are definitely moving towards change. I just think by the fact that educating young men and women nowadays to behave differently in workplace and really having boundaries and teaching them what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate. This next generation coming up, I think it will already be in the fiber of who they are and I think we’ve seen a lot of important or powerful people take a huge fall from grace because they’ve been exposed doing something that is not appropriate in workplace. I think that we’re definitely moving towards change. I think women are making great strides. I think people of diversity are making strides. I’m sure we still have a long way to go but I do think things are moving in a different direction.
At the very least, women have been involved in to speak up for themselves.
To say I’m not afraid, I have a voice, and I’m going to use it and I think as we’ve heard this voice over and over again, so many people are afraid to say anything because they’re afraid that they would be the ones who would lose their jobs and I’m sure in the past, people did speak up and they probably didn’t lose their jobs.
I think that still the case.
Do you think they still would let…
They’ve been around for a while. I hope that it changes.
Yeah. I’m sure people, they are always fearful. It’s interesting too that you can see nowadays how you can say one thing and it can be taken out of context or used against you in a way that you didn’t mean it. It is tricky and you could, to your point, you could see why somebody might be reticent to open up or speak their truth.
But I hope they do.
Because that’s really important.
Any goals for this coming year in terms of your career, what you want for your kids?
Oh my goodness. For my career, I’m really happy the way things are chugging along. I have a lot of work right now and I feel really lucky about that. My girls, I just wish for them always to be happy and healthy. I just continue to have a good relationship with them and just communicate.
Going to be tight with your girls. I have always wanted that. My mom and I were close.
Yeah, my mom and I are very close and I’m close to my girls too.
It’s lucky because a lot of women don’t have that with their mom, which I think will always surprise me, but I think it’s a terrible shame.
Roles for women over 40 . . .so your TV and movie career’s been going so well which is amazing. Have you seen a shift in the business in this regard? Because I’ve spoken with other actresses . . .
I think we are seeing a shift and then you’re seeing a lot of women that are of a certain age that used to do feature films that are finding homes on great television shows, whether it’s on network shows or cable or streaming channels. I think that they’re finding more roles and good roles. I think what’s great now is it’s just about the writing and people are really open to getting their work out there no matter how. Doesn’t just have to be on the big screen. You’re finding more and more that you can reach an audience in many different ways. Then, of course, one of the reasons I love working for Hallmark is because they are so good to women, actresses of a certain age. They’re very, very generous and employ me. They’re just great.
Obviously, as you said earlier, there’s so many more content outlets. You think there are more opportunities as well in tandem with media producers who are ecumenical in their choices of picking the best actor or actress, not because of their age but because they’re the best?
I think so and what I think is also interesting about the time that we’re now is there’s a lot of talent out there who can upload their own content and be seen and people are watching. Casting directors watching, responding. Kids that are on YouTube. That’s a talent and these kids are having careers but they’re jumpstarting themselves on the internet. My younger daughter has done that. She started a YouTube channel around makeup and beauty and now she’s an ambassador for Sephora and she wants to have her own makeup line one day and she’s totally moving in that direction, but she started that channel on her own. She did it all herself. I laugh. She’s a one-woman production company. She hosts the show. She edits the show. She adds the music. She does the graphics. She comes up with the content. She produces the whole thing.
You have to do that now. It could be scrappy as heck these days.
It’s really impressive.