Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview: Catching Up With Courtney Thorne-Smith

Courtney Thorne-Smith (pictured left, photos courtesy Lifetime Television) is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Allison Parker on the popular nighttime soap opera Melrose Place from 1992 to 1997. She then honed her comedic chops on the ABC sitcom According to Jim from 2001 to 2009. Now she is starring in an original Lifetime Television movie called Sorority Wars, playing Lutie Snow, a woman who desperately wants her college freshman daughter, Katie, to join the sorority she co-founded, the Delta house.

Courtney was excited to try something new with Jim ending its eight-year run. She reveals: “Doing Sorority Wars was really fun — it has a lot of good stories within the movie. When I first read it, I thought it was sort of a lark, but once I started working on it, I started noticing all the stories about friendship, the mother-daughter relationship and being true to yourself. I thought, ‘Wow, it’s actually really good.’ I was really impressed the more I got into it.”

Playing the mom to a college-age daughter was a new challenge for Courtney, and she was more than happy to take it on. “I played the young ingénue for so long, and when you’re the ingénue, you are the grounding, normal person in a sea of crazies. With Lutie — well, “crazy” is a strong word — she is really neurotic, and she lives in the past.

“She is still so involved with her sorority; it’s like she thinks she is still in the sorority. It’s the most important thing in her life besides her daughter. She’s really tightly wound, and I liked that I’d really got to play a character. It was so much fun for me.”

Was it difficult for Courtney to tap into a part of herself to be able to empathize with Lutie’s obsession with her old sorority and her daughter’s future place in it? “It was hard until I realized that Lutie wanted this to be something that she shared with her daughter. Her sorority was where she felt most important and the fact that if her daughter didn’t make that same choice, then what would they share?

“Lutie never created anything else for herself in later life. She feels rejected when her daughter doesn’t want what she has to offer — and it’s heartbreaking when you think about it that way.”

Courtney enjoyed acting with her co-star, Lucy Hale, who plays her daughter, Katie. Lucy is best known for her role on the critically acclaimed and now-defunct comedy-drama “Privileged.” Courtney gushes: “She is so solid. I kept telling her, ‘Don’t worry about getting another series; you’re going to be a movie star!’ Her work is very honest. And she’s so smart. She’s going to go far — mark my words!”

While Courtney did have fun on the set, it also was a sort of learning experience for her. “What I learned from Lutie is that you really have to keep your life going, keep it on a forward path. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give everything to my son, because I do, but you need to have a full life. It doesn’t help you to get stuck in the past.

“It’s like, what if I were still wearing my Melrose Place baseball cap and asking people to call me Allison? It wouldn’t work. I’ve moved on. Even though with the new Melrose Place, it’s HARD to move on. You just have to move on and keep your life going in a positive direction.”

You can see for yourself that Courtney Thorne-Smith has moved on in her new movie, Sorority Wars, which premieres Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the Lifetime Television network.