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Catherine Bell Q&A for 'Army Wives'

by Angie Argabrite, posted Jun 11th 2009 6:00AM
Catherine Bell's no stranger to TV stardom -- she was fan favorite Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie on the long-running hit show 'JAG.' Now she's part of the ensemble cast on another hit series, 'Army Wives' (Lifetime, Sun., 10PM), as Denise Sherwood, who's experiencing something of a midlife crisis. In just the first two episodes of the new season, Denise loses her job, her lover and the support of her friends. Not to mention the very real possibility of her estranged husband going down in the line of fire.

AOL TV caught up with the 'Army' beauty on her character's high-drama storyline, the possibility of a 'JAG' reunion ... and why she turned down Playboy (for a lot of money).


Catherine Bell's no stranger to TV stardom -- she was fan favorite Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie on the long-running hit show 'JAG.' Now she's part of the ensemble cast on another hit series, 'Army Wives' (Lifetime, Sun., 10PM), as Denise Sherwood, who's experiencing something of a midlife crisis. In just the first two episodes of the new season, Denise loses her job, her lover and the support of her friends. Not to mention the very real possibility of her estranged husband going down in the line of fire.

AOL TV caught up with the 'Army' beauty on her character's high-drama storyline, the possibility of a 'JAG' reunion ... and why she turned down Playboy (for a lot of money).
-- By Angie Argabrite


Catherine Bell Photos

    NEW YORK - JUNE 04: Actress Catherine Bell leaves the "Live With Regis And Kelly" taping at the ABC Lincoln Center Studios on June 04, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Catherine Bell

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 04: Actress Catherine Bell visits the "Live With Regis And Kelly" taping at the ABC Lincoln Center Studios on June 04, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Catherine Bell

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 04: Actress Catherine Bell leaves the "Live With Regis And Kelly" taping at the ABC Lincoln Center Studios on June 04, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Catherine Bell

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - JUNE 04: Actress Catherine Bell leaves the "Live With Regis And Kelly" taping at the ABC Lincoln Center Studios on June 04, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Catherine Bell

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - JUNE 04: Actress Catherine Bell leaves the "Live With Regis And Kelly" taping at the ABC Lincoln Center Studios on June 04, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Catherine Bell

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    Catherine Bell is seen outside of Live with Regis and Kelly on the Streets of Manhattan on June 4, 2009 in New York City. Celebrity Sightings in New York - June 4, 2009 New York, NY United States June 4, 2009 Photo by Soul Brother/FilmMagic.com To license this image (57604364), contact FilmMagic.com

    Soul Brother/FilmMagic.com

    Catherine Bell is seen outside of Live with Regis and Kelly on the Streets of Manhattan on June 4, 2009 in New York City. Celebrity Sightings in New York - June 4, 2009 New York, NY United States June 4, 2009 Photo by Soul Brother/FilmMagic.com To license this image (57604361), contact FilmMagic.com

    Soul Brother/FilmMagic.com

    ©BAUER-GRIFFIN.COM Guests make appearances on today's "Live! with Regis and Kelly" show, which featured a barbeque segment. Picture shows: Catherine Bell NON-EXCLUSIVE June 4, 2009 Job: 90604M5 New York, New York www.bauergriffin.com www.bauergriffinonline.com

    DISCIULLO/bauergriffinonline.com

    ©BAUER-GRIFFIN.COM Guests make appearances on today's "Live! with Regis and Kelly" show, which featured a barbeque segment. Picture shows: Catherine Bell NON-EXCLUSIVE June 4, 2009 Job: 90604M5 New York, New York www.bauergriffin.com www.bauergriffinonline.com

    DISCIULLO/bauergriffinonline.com

    ©BAUER-GRIFFIN.COM Guests make appearances on today's "Live! with Regis and Kelly" show, which featured a barbeque segment. Picture shows: Catherine Bell NON-EXCLUSIVE June 4, 2009 Job: 90604M5 New York, New York www.bauergriffin.com www.bauergriffinonline.com

    DISCIULLO/bauergriffinonline.com



How do you deal with playing a woman who's going through so much drama?
Oh, I cry all the time. No, I'm just kidding [laughs]. I love it, for me it's just so much fun. I just get to create all these incredible, deep, wonderful emotions and dig in. It was really, really fun, especially for the first half of the season. [It's] challenging and really rewarding as an actress to do all that stuff. You know, falling on the floor sobbing, and completely broken-hearted, all of it is just good juicy stuff.

Do you think Denise and her husband Frank will work things out?
Well, I don't want to give anything away, because it's certainly a big, big part of most of the season, the repercussions of what happened last season, all the problems we were having, compounded by being separated, and then I thought I was in love with another guy, and so now it's just not good with her and Frank, so I think much of this season is going to be about trying to see if we can work it out and all the feelings between us. All the love, all the hurt and the pretty good intense drama it makes for.

You seem to play a lot of military characters or characters involved with the military. Is there any reason for that?
Yeah, I've made the decision that I'm only going to play people in the military ... [or] people related to the military from now on [laughs]. I almost wouldn't even read the script when the offer first came in. They said that they wanted me to play Denise and that there was this offer, and I looked at the script and I went "'Army Wives'?! The word 'army'? No!" A) I'm loyal to the Marine corps, and B) I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to play a different character and be on a different kind of show, and I ended up getting exactly that, because Denise is so different from [my 'JAG' character] Sarah MacKenzie, she's completely the opposite, and to me it's a different show, it's a much more gritty show. It's a more emotional show.

How does shooting this show differ from when you were on 'JAG' for so long?
Oh, it's so different. I had a blast on 'JAG,' it was just a very different experience. I was in uniform, we were out battling bad guys, shooting, doing kickboxing, and jumping out of planes and all that kind of stuff. All the action sequences I love because it's right up my alley, being a tomboy and [loving] all the adventure stuff [laughs]. I mean, we certainly had plenty of drama on that show as well, but we had action and legal drama, which was just a different experience. The other nice thing, I must say, is that 'JAG' was pretty much me and my co-star [David James Elliott], and we were in almost every scene, and we worked crazy hours ... like, 15-18 hour days, and we were in every scene five days a week. Another reason why I wanted to do ['Army Wives'] was because it's a big ensemble cast, so I get to actually spend a lot of time with my daughter, and I don't work everyday. We've got so many different characters and storylines that it really provides me with the luxury of being able to go volunteer at her school and help serve lunch to the kindergarteners and stuff like that.

It sounds like you have a good system to balance work and family.
I do, and it's always challenging, just for the basic reason that a career in acting is so varied. You know, I'm often travelling, some days I have to be at work at 5 AM and work all day, and other days I'm only in half a day. It's always different, so it's always like "OK, what's today look like," as opposed to a regular 9-to-5 kind of job. But I just squeeze it in, I look for as many opportunities as I can to spend time with [my daughter] and my husband. If I'm working too much, we'll make sure, as a family, to go spend a weekend away at the beach or just do something where we get to keep balancing things out.

Rumer Willis guest-starred last season -- how was that? Do you think she had culture shock coming into Charleston?

She was great, all her scenes were pretty much with me, I mean, we had a blast. Really sweet girl. Really smart girl. She's got a good head on her shoulders. Charleston's actually a very cosmopolitan city, it's very cultured, a lot of emphasis on arts, and there're incredible restaurants. Downtown's like a really neat, historic spot, so I think she did just fine.

Any chance that she'll return?
I don't know, we haven't actually talked about that. That would be cool if the young army wife comes back for some advice.

Any other fun guest stars coming up this season?

We just had [singer-actress] Shelby Lynne on. And ... I didn't get to work with her, but I got to see her at the table read, you know, where we do rehearsal for the next episode sitting around a table, and the girl's got some chops, the girl can act ... She's got a great part on the show too, she plays a country singer who's got an army son and life hasn't been too good to her, so it's a really intense role.

Might someone from 'JAG' come over for a reunion on 'Army Wives'?
I think that there was some talk about that for one character, a general or something. I think David was on that list for a minute. I don't know what happened, it ended up being a different person or somebody older or whatever. But I'm sure it could happen. Anything could happen.

'NCIS' was spun off of 'JAG,' and now 'NCIS' has its own spin-off. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it's great. I mean, it was fun having Mark Harmon on our show when they did the ['NCIS'] spin-off episode. I'd like to go back and maybe re-visit 'JAG,' do a 'JAG' movie or something ... I just talked to ['JAG' creator] Don Bellisario about that, because my husband's a screenwriter and he had an idea that we thought was really cool for a 'JAG' movie, like a feature. And I was talking to Don about it and he thought it was a pretty cool idea, so we're looking at that. You never know.

And what about the 'NCIS' spin-off, would you guest-star on that if they asked you?
I guess it depends if my 'JAG' character did come back on any of those shows, yeah, that'd be fun. Why not? I'd love to put on the Marine green uniform again; I miss it.

You started out as a body double for Isabella Rossellini in 'Death Becomes Her' ...
Yeah, that's where I met my husband, too. It was actually a really great experience. I was modeling at the time, I wasn't even really acting, maybe kind of thinking about it. But it was such an incredible movie with the cast and Robert Zemeckis directing ... everyone treated me really well. They were great about the fact that I'd never body doubled and they were super classy about that whole thing, and my privacy and all that. So it was great, I really had a good time.

If you hadn't gone into acting what do you think you would do?
Somehow I probably would have found my way back to the arts. I love drawing and painting, and I wanted to be an illustrator and, you know, go to an art school. And then I ended up going to UCLA to be a doctor, and I don't know if I ever would have really followed through with the medical thing. I love math and science; I definitely had a passion for that, [but] I had a stronger passion for the arts.

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When did you realize that you wanted to go into acting?
When I was modeling, and I was probably 19 or 20. I took an acting class to overcome my shyness, and I really liked the class and studying acting. I got thyroid cancer when I was 20. I think that was the thing that really woke me up, and I got really passionate about it then. Just one of those defining moments in life where you go "Whoa! What am I doing with my life?" And then I said "What do I want to do with my life?" It was such an eye-opening experience. I think that was when I got really serious about acting and applying myself to it and going to auditions and really doing everything I could to get working as an actress. I was dabbling at it...And then I was like "Whoa!" Yeah, life can be short, and it's those experiences that make you appreciate what you have and want to really not waste your life.

You've been on Maxim's hot list and things like that. Do you feel like you're a role model to young women, to your daughter, with the work you do and the way you're represented?
Yeah, certainly. I think it's completely irresponsible for a singer or actress, or, whatever, a model, to say "Oh, you know, it's not my responsibility if they copy me." And you know what? It is. You are a role model, whether you like it or not, because you're going to have people that want to be like you. So I think it's important to leave a good example and be smart about your choices. I've done the bikini thing. I did that a couple of times for various specific reasons. One was because I wanted people to see that I could be not just Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie [laughs]. And then I did it again after I had a baby. She was three months old when I did another magazine. So there are very specific reasons why I did it. But then I've turned down Playboy or, whatever. Lots of money [laughs], way too much money. But I do think it's important that I try to live a good, clean life and be a good, honest, decent person. And I do get a lot of fans -- really, really wonderful people -- who appreciate that, and kids look up to me or to characters I've played, and, you know, that's pretty cool.

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