.: Holly Marie Combs reveals why she's returning to TV :.
As someone who watched, recorded and re-watched every episode of "Charmed" for eight seasons, I feel comfortable saying that Holly Marie Combs is one of the most underrated TV actresses working today. Well, she was until a baby break left us H.M.C-free for nearly four years. Thankfully, that spell will soon be ended as Holly Marie returns to the small screen this June on ABC Family's new series, "Pretty Little Liars."
I caught up with Holly to find out what made her return to the weekly series grind, how faithful the show will be to the "PLL" novels and what it's like to now be the veteran on set.
PopWrap: After "Charmed" ended were you consciously looking to take a break from acting?
Holly Marie Combs: Yes, actually, for two reasons. One, when "Charmed" ended I was three months pregnant with my second son, so I knew there would be at least a year of that. And second, we did eight seasons so I felt a little drained, creatively. I was a little empty. I needed to go live real life, go have real experiences, go reconnect with my family and friends who I really had ignored for eight years.
PW: Did that time fly by?
Holly Marie: It’s like you have blinders on. You just go and go, trying to get the days done. And the days turn into seasons and the seasons turn into years and you look up: it's eight years later. There were fences that needed to be mended and I feel like "Charmed" gave me the means to spend those few years, when my sons were very young, at home with them. And that was the greatest gift I could have asked for.
PW: So were you actively looking to get back into a weekly series?
Holly Marie: [laughs] You know, it’s really kind of funny. I wanted to stay home until my baby was 1. Then, about three months ago, my husband looked at me and said, "you need to go back to work." But I was happy doing the mom thing. He kept saying, "you need to go back to work." Apparently I had started memorizing random trivia and bombarding him with it when he’d get home, I guess my brain was waiting for something to do.
PW: How did "Pretty Little Liars" become the project?
Holly Marie: What I wanted to do this pilot season was find something that was worth leaving my kids for. This show was seamless -- they said I would work two to three days a week on this contemporary series and remain a float in the business. At the same time, I could be home long enough to make my kids realize they weren’t raised by nannies. Which is my biggest goal at the moment.
PW: Seems like you're juggling quite well.
Holly Marie: Well, right now, I’m sitting outside my kids’ kindergarten with a car full of balloons and a giant cupcake. It’s his 6th birthday today. So I’m talking to you, then celebrating his birthday and then going to a costume fitting for "Pretty Little Liars."
PW: Was there also talk of "no green screen" work in the initial discussions?
Holly Marie: There is that. They promised me two-to-three days and I wouldn’t have to blow anything up with my hands [laughs]. I could throw things at my husband, but I wouldn’t have to actually blow anything up. And there’s been no greenscreen so far, which is a relief because when I see greenscreen, I instantly think, “Oh god, what’s flying at me now?” I’m a little shell-shocked. As soon as I see the green I think something is chasing me.
PW: What else appealed to you about the character of Ella Montgomery?
Holly Marie: Ella is like the very modern, laid-back mom who lets her kids be individuals. She’s the very liberal mom, which I myself am not. So I have a little bit of a struggle. The other day Lucy Hale [who plays her daughter, Aria] and I were shooting a scene where we’re having coffee together and I asked her, “Would I be serving coffee to my 16-year-old?” She says, yes [laughs].
PW: So she's that "if you're going to drink I'd rather you drink in the house" mom?
Holly Marie: Exactly! Which is kind of horrifying to me.
PW: The show is based on a very popular series of books -- how closely will it adhere to them?
Holly Marie: At the moment, we’re only on episode three and we're trying to cover everything the books encompass in a way that makes everybody feel satisfied. Which is basically an impossible task [laughs]. The books had a very big following as it was, so there’s some responsibility to be loyal to what's in them. But that being said, we’re going to go through them very quickly. I think Ella’s husband doesn’t have an affair till the second book and we have that in the first episode. We’re expediting storylines. And from what I heard, they get divorced and Ella begins dating younger men. Which kind of horrifies me.
PW: The idea of dating a younger man?
Holly Marie: Yea, I'm a little bit nervous about that.
PW: What about playing mom to a 16-year-old? A lot of fans thought, "she's too young for that!"
Holly Marie: Yea, it’s really funny. On my first day Chad [Lowe] and I were talking about playing parents to a 16-year-old, which neither of us have done in our careers. He thought it was hard, but it felt totally normal for me and I couldn't figure out why. Then I remembered that Drew Fuller played my grown son on "Charmed" after he traveled back in time.
PW: Is it odd to go from "Charmed" where you were the youngest to "Pretty Little Liars," where you're surrounded by 16-year-olds?
Holly Marie: That day I felt like the veteran on the set, which is what I like to call it, and not the old-timer. I recognize that there's a big leap in age from "Charmed" to this. Then, on my way home from work I was in the In & Out drive-through when the kid stops me and says, “Are you still acting?” And I say yes. He goes, “Oh good, I used to love watching you all the time when I was a little boy.” I was like "what do you mean little boy? I will kill you!!!" [laughs]
"Pretty Little Liars" premiere June 8 at 8pm on ABC Family