Brooke Burns talked to us recently about her new show, Miss Guided (including a sneak peek at the next few episodes,) her upcoming movies, and the importance that her daughter Madison has on her life. She does indeed live up to her IMDB resume which posts “Prior Job Title: Mom.” But she is more. She is courageous, having recovered from a near-fatal accident, yet still does most of her own stunts, is charming to chat with, and kept us chuckling through the entire interview.
We just got our first peek of Miss Guided. Pretty funny stuff! We liked your character, Lisa Germain.
(laughs) She’s awful, isn’t she, and funny at the same time. She’s very full of herself.
Are you anything like that?
No! I always like to say that everything that Lisa is, is what I am teaching my daughter what not to be.
Has she seen the show?
Honestly, I don’t think that she would be interested. She only watches Hannah Montana. Madison would be like, “Oh, there’s Mommy on TV. Can we change back now?”
How old is Madison?
Seven. She’s unimpressed with Mommy being on TV, but I prefer it that way.
Tell us more about Lisa.
Lisa is basically, in her adult life, yearning to go back to her high school days, the best 4 years of her life. She was the head cheerleader, the prom queen, and she was the most popular. Her life since high school has been in shambles, partly due to her narcissistic world view. So she comes back to the school to teach, more by default, I think, than by choice. She was recently divorced and is hoping to find that happiness again.
I think overall she has a bit of a schizophrenic personality, is very insecure, and has a lot of sadness in her true being. But the personality that she puts out for others to see is an ever-confident, ever-charming, ever-popular beautiful woman.
Wow. You have her down already.
(laughs) I think growing up in the South was where I got a lot of my inspiration for the role. You’re never quite sure if someone was your best friend, or if you just thought that they were, or if push came to shove, if they would even say that they knew you.
How many episodes have you shot so far?
We shot six out of the twelve before the writer’s strike started, so we’ve only gotten half of our season done. That is why they are going to air them all now, back to back and quickly before May so we can get them out there before pick-ups for the fall.
Are you going to shoot the rest?
No. We are waiting to see what the numbers are now before the fall.
How well do you get along with your costars? Are you one big happy family?
I’ve been so lucky. I always hear those stories about drama on set. I feel really privileged to work with this group of people because, not only are they actors, they are true comedians. Being in the make-up trailer before we go to set is as funny as working on the show.
Judy (Greer) is unbelievable. She and I really got close and Chris Parnell is one of my favorite people on the planet. I love him. He is hilarious. You just cannot be around him and not smile. I love going to work!
We like Earl Billings (Principal Huffy,) too. He’s so deadpan.
Yeah. He’s the guy who sits in the corner, you barely know he’s there, in the middle of this whole conversation going on about whatever’s happening in life. Then Boom!, out of the silence there comes one line and then everybody just hits the floor laughing.
Who is the kidder of the group?
OMG, they are all kidders! Well, Ashton of course was playing pranks on everybody when he came to guest in the premiere. Maybe it’s me. (laughs) I like to stir things up a little bit. Everybody’s a good sport about it. We all have fun.
That probably helps on the set when you can play around.
Yeah, the energy level, because that’s important in a comedy.
There was one line we particularly liked, “It’s so weird knowing all those students think I’m doable.” Lisa is so confident!
(laughs) Isn’t that hilarious? She is super confident, borderline obnoxious confident. Anybody at some point in life has their moments.
Will Ashton be doing any more episodes?
I’m not sure. He only did one of these six and he has a lot of other stuff going on right now. It’s so much fun having Ashton go from just being a friend to being a boss. I e-mail him “Hey Big Boss.”
(laugh) Big Boss?
Yeah, I call him the Big Boss.
Tell us a bit about (creator) Caroline Williams.
She’s lovely. She’s like the girlfriend that you want in your life, all the time. She’s this beautiful, petite blonde, funky, full of life kind of girl, and so funny. She really has the voice of Becky Freeley down so clearly and I hope it’s the beginning of a huge career for her. She deserves it.
Do you think the character of Becky is based on her at all?
I can’t imagine that she would have been dorky in high school, but maybe she was.
What led you into acting? Weren’t you a model?
I was a ballerina, which was my first love, and then I hurt my knee in a snow skiing accident. My mom took me into modeling because I was devastated at not being able to dance. So I basically started traveling around the world working, which was great because I have a sort of gypsy spirit about me. After a while it became very two-dimensional and I got bored with it so I said, “What else?”
My modeling agency started sending me out on commercial audition and under my commercial agent, I got my first TV pilot (“Smilin’ Jack”) kind of as a fluke down in Orlando. The producer, Al Burton, gave me my second TV series job (“Out of the Blue”) and then said, “If you ever move to California, you should meet some of my friends that I think would really like you. They run a little show called “Baywatch.””
You became a Baywatch Babe?
I was actually a redhead at the time and I auditioned for a guest role as a total b---- and I didn’t get the role. I was devastated because my first two jobs came so easily to me. So I said, “What? I didn’t get the job? That’s it! I’m moving to California, I’m starting to study and take this thing seriously.“ Six months later, they were looking for a series regular and I was back to blonde, and I got the role.
A blond Brooke in 2003 - Glenn Harris / Photorazzi
Did you think it’s sad to have to go blonde just for a role?
No. It’s just hair. I’ve been every color in the book. I enjoy changing it. I’d get bored having just one hair color. On the show it’s very dark, but I’m bronze now.
Tell us about “Out of the Blue.”
I played a dolphin trainer at Sea World. I love dolphins and the water. It was like, “Someone is gonna pay me to do this? (laughs) Sure, sign me up!”
You were also in “Shallow Hal.”
Yes, that was my first film role. I actually auditioned for the role of the neighbor and they thought that I had too similar a look to Gwyneth Paltrow, but when I went into audition a couple of times, the Farrelly brothers said, “You’re the dorkiest, pretty girl we ever met. We’re gonna write a role for you.” I thought that was never going to happen, but they did! The lovely Katrina!
You must have been honored.
At first I thought it was a load of Hollywood you-know-what, but when they actually called me with the offer, I thought it was awesome.
Was it fun making it?
OMG, yeah! That was probably my initial falling in love with comedy. Jack Black is unbelievable. The Farrelly brothers were a blast to work for. They set the stage in a really great way for me.
Is that your favorite role so far?
My favorite role in comedy is Kathy Dinkle from “Pepper Dennis.” I felt a huge, loving connection with her because I created her out of equal parts of my mother and my child.
How fun to be an actor and get all that out.
It is, isn’t it?! People ask me why we choose that as a job and I tell them because we can’t decide on another job. As an actor you get to play so many jobs, but only for like three months at a time. When you get bored, you switch again.
Don’t you think actors are born that way.
Yes. I think you have that essence of wanting to be a performer and a curiosity that carries you through the work of the ups and downs of this industry.
Did you really take acting lessons when you came out to California?
I did. I started studying right away with a bunch of different people and I was fortunate that every class got pre-empted by work. Again, I feel really blessed that that’s the way it’s gone.
You’re from Texas?
I am, originally from Dallas.
You have no accent.
I know. My parents have strong Southern accents, but having been a dancer and living in Seattle and New York for much of my formative years, I think they beat it out of me in the Northwest (laughs.)
What’s your favorite medium to work in or do you care?
I don’t. I love to work. I love all of it. People ask me if I miss the dancing or hosting. Hosting is just improv to me and really fun. TV is great lifestyle-wise. Being a mother it’s a little more consistent than filmwork, but filmwork is really fun because you get to pour so much into one character and there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. You have the light at the end of the tunnel. They all feed different parts of you.
What’s on your playlist?
This is kind of old school. I always have Sinatra, and a little bit of Jet because Madison is into them, unfortunately Hannah Montana (laugh) from listening with my daughter. I have Linkin Park, and a wide range that goes from George Winston for my chilling-out music to David Gray, who is one of my all time favorites, and Cheater. I like music and am always checking out what’s new.
Can we talk about your accident, or is that too painful? (No pun intended.)
Of course. It’s never painful. It’s always a good reminder of how grateful I am to be walking through life and not rolling through it, as they say. I had my surfboard in my pool that has a black bottom. I dove underneath to where the slope goes from the shallow end to the deep end and I broke my neck. I happened to have a friend of mine here who is a fireman/paramedic and he saved my life.
That was lucky.
So, so lucky. If anyone had tried to get me out of the pool, my doctor said, basically I would be a quadriplegic. I was about a millimeter away from that. My spinal cord was bruised, so he immobilized me in the pool and really saved me. And now I have a rod and 10 screws and two titanium plates that hold my head on my shoulders. I guess I have my head screwed on tighter than most. (laugh)
(laughs) That’s an amazing attitude! What were you doing with a surfboard in your pool in the first place?
One of the things I do to stay in shape is to paddle. So I jury-rigged my 12 foot board in my pool so that I could stand up and paddle in my back yard. I just stay still and do a core work-out.
That sounds a little more intense than anyone needs to do.
(laugh) It’s safer in the ocean. Let’s put it that way.
Do you still surf?
I was never an avid surfer, more of a tandem surfer. I do distance paddling now and tandem surfing when I have my partner in town.
I would be scared to get back in. Are you okay now?
Yeah. Those things are easy for me. The water is more forgiving than other things. When I think about jet-skiing, the hard attack on the spine kind of makes me cringe.
The ocean can heal you.
It absolutely does! Right after my accident, when I was wearing my collar, I took Madison to Hawaii and that’s where we spent our Christmas. We would lay on the beach and be in the ocean and pal around a little.
What did you do during the strike? Did you do some movie-making?
I did. I went up to Canada and I shot a movie about autism and in the first couple months of this year I’ve been Mom. I’ve been wearing the hairnet and serving hot lunches at school. (laughs) It’s the ultra-glamorous lifestyle of being a mom.
(laughs) Are you being literal? Did you really do that?
Absolutely! The look on my daughter’s face when I show up in the middle of the day is priceless.
Tell us more about the Canada shoot.
That one is called “Dancing Trees.” I have another one (“Smokejumpers”) that should be coming out as well where I play a firefighter/smokejumper, a very physical role. It was great and very empowering to me after breaking my neck.
You did some of your own stunts?
Yeah, pretty much everything, except there was one where they were going to have me crash through a window and I thought that probably could go wrong. (laughs) I used to always say, “I want to do all my own stunts.” I’ve been set on fire, I’ve jumped off of boats, I’ve done all kinds of crazy things. And then I realized I am giving someone else a job when I allow them to do my stunts. I’m like, “Really, go ahead!”
(laughs) Sure. We want to keep stunt people working, too. You do plenty of physical activity in your work.
I’ve always prided myself in that. It’s a humbling and maturing experience to sit out certain things now, being considerate of my physical abilities.
I have another movie that’s doing the film festival circuit. I think it will be in the Beverly Hills Film Festival on April 9 called the “Art of Travel.” A group of gypsy travelers go down to Panama and machete their way through the Darién Gap to set a world record. Talk about an experience, really living it. Chris Masterson is the lead of that one.
Do you have any talkshow appearances coming up?
I just did Carson Daly. I did Chelsea, that was really fun. Now I’m doing a radio tour. This week I will be on Ryan Seacrest. I’m taking it at day at a time. It’s tough keeping up with all the schedules.
Before we sign off, can you give us a clue about what will be coming up in the next few episodes of “Miss Guided?”
There’s a sort of funny occurrence between Bruce (Chris Parnell) and Lisa, which is great. There’s a, “Would it ever be possible for Lisa and Becky to be BFF girlfriends?” episode.
Do you think so?
I don’t know. What do you think?
No. (both laugh)
I think it’s in Judy’s and Becky’s dreams. I think the reality is that we would throw each other under the bus.
Thanks for talking to us.
Thank you for the laughs!