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BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Her house is full, again

Lori Loughlin returns to TV, this time as the sudden surrogate parent of three children in 'Summerland.'

June 20, 2004|Marc Weingarten

For a while there, it seemed as if Lori Loughlin's celebrity might be frozen in time. As a 27-year-old struggling actress, she was cast as Rebecca Donaldson, the uber-perky wife of John Stamos' character, Jesse Katsopolis, on "Full House," a wildly popular (and critically panned) ABC sitcom whose nine-year run established the Long Island native as a major TV star. But when "Full House" finally ended in 1995, so, it appeared, did Loughlin's. Save for the occasional guest star appearance, she seemed to have vanished.

Her low visibility was a conscious decision. Loughlin, now 39, got married (to fashion mogul Mossimo Giannulli) and had two children, Isabella, 5, and Olivia, 4. But Loughlin is primed for a career renaissance with the WB's "Summerland," a show she created for Spelling Television. Loughlin plays Ava Gregory, a fashion designer suddenly thrust into the role of surrogate parent when her sister dies in a car accident, leaving Loughlin to raise her three children.

How did "Summerland" come about?

It was actually my idea. I had done another pilot for Fox called "The Witches of Eastwick" that didn't get picked up. The executives at WB saw it and called me in for a meeting. I'd been in meetings like that before, and I wanted to go in with an idea I could pitch them. I thought of a show based on a friend of mine in the fashion business, who can handle any situation except when she's confronted with a room full of children. I wrote a treatment and they went for it. I hope it works out. I feel good about it.

You're playing a single aunt. Do you studiously avoid falling into the "40-year-old Mom" trap?

I have played moms, and I am a mom. I wanted to do something different from my everyday life.

What is it like to work in Aaron Spelling's universe?

He's great. He has all of this knowledge stored up from being in television for so long, and he's still sharp as a tack. He just has this instinct for knowing what the public wants. When Stephen Tolkin wrote the pilot, he wanted the lead character changed to a lawyer, and Aaron said, "No, fashion!" One time in a meeting he said to me, "I don't know if I'm a genius or not, but I can tell you this: I've made many successful shows based on fashion and hair styles."

A lot of folks wondered what happened to you after "Full House."

What happened was I had a family. I limit myself because I don't want to leave my family for long periods of time. They're my priority. I'm not going to take them out of school to go to Vancouver or something. I've passed on a lot of stuff over the years. I don't regret anything. I'm right on the path that I'm supposed to be on. I understand that we live in a time where moms and dads both have to work. I'm fortunate that I don't have to.

Did that lack of exposure hurt you in the industry?

When you don't work for a while, immediately you get a little black mark next to your name. You have to make difficult choices in your life, and you just have to be happy with them.

You're known for working in comedy, but "Summerland" is an episodic drama.

Sitcoms are great fun, it's a great lifestyle, and the work schedule is a piece of cake. I have done a lot of comedy, but I feel more comfortable in the dramatic zone, as it were. You really get to stretch out and try things in a drama, but comedy certainly isn't easy by any means.

The Olsen twins were co-stars of yours on "Full House." Who knew?

Yes, what a nice thing to not be reading about them doing drugs and such! It's great to see two successful child actors who have made the transition into adulthood smoothly. The fact that they were twins probably helped them; they had each other to help them go through it all.

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