Most of us know Jamie-Lynn Sigler from her great work on HBO’s The Sopranos and Entourage. Now NBC can call her their own with their hit comedy Guys With Kids. The delightful and talented, Jamie-Lynn talked to me about babies on set, her battle with an eating disorder and the importance of trusting your gut.
There’s so much to gab about! Let’s start with your new hit show Guys With Kids. It seems like you are with a lovely cast of people.
I was actually talking to Tempest (Bledsoe) today and we were saying that we don’t think you’re supposed to have this much fun at work. I’ve always dreamed of a job like this. All of my jobs have been great and I’ve been so fortunate, but I’ve been waiting to be part of something after The Sopranos and this is really it for me.
It’s everything I could have hoped for. I get to perform live once a week, which brings be back to my theatre roots. It’s something that’s brand new to me and I always like a challenge. I can tell you from the first couple of weeks to now – it’s night and day. It was hard.
Well comedy in general is hard and this kind of comedy is such a rhythm and you can’t really teach it, you just have to experience it. And I think that it just starts to become ingrained in you. Now the nerves are gone on tape night and even for run-throughs and I’m becoming more confident. I can even see with the way that their writing my character, they realize what our strengths are and they are writing for them and letting us have fun and let loose.
I love the Jimmy Fallon voiceover “Taped in front of a live studio audience.” That’s Jimmy right?
Yep! And he sings the theme song.
Stop. Oh, he is having fun. Look at him singing theme songs to his own executively produced shows.
Ridiculous, he’s having too much fun.
Yeah, how dare he. So wait, what was it like the first night? What sort of preparation did you have to do?
I was super nervous and I tried to relax by doing some yoga, I turned the lights off, I lit a candle, but I just couldn’t…
Ha! You had all the relaxation accouterments.
And I only had like four lines the first episode, so it wasn’t about that. But it was nerve-wracking. And then it was the first night for the babies. The babies were crying, things just did not go smoothly our first tape night. It’s definitely been, from my perspective, a learning process. A fun one but a process. I was just thinking about it on my ride home from set, that today was so great and I’m just so happy to be at this point. And now I don’t want it to ever end.
You’re out of the terror zone and into the fun zone. I don’t look at the babies hard enough to know, are they the same babies all the time or do they get switched up?
They’re all twins and triplets. So Jesse (Bradford) and Erinn’s (Hayes) babies are triplets but only one ever works. He’s the Marlon Brando of babies. He doesn’t make a peep, he doesn’t move, he doesn’t cry, he smiles, he giggles, he can even raise one eyebrow, he’s the perfect baby. His brothers stay in the room just in case. But it’s been 15 episodes now and he’s the only one that ever works.
As for my babies, we had two in the beginning that were identical but they just did not like Hollywood. Around episode five we got new ones, they’re twins but they’re not identical. (Laughs) We just hope nobody really cares. We just trade them off.
Most people are probably like me, they just see cute and don’t get too wrapped up in the details.
You can’t! You can’t, you have to understand, sometimes you just gotta switch ‘em up. Tempest (Bledsoe) and Anthony (Anderson) have a set of twins, they’re fraternal but they’re played by identical twins. So each fraternal twin has an identical twin, if that makes sense?
Wow, it does. There’s a small gang of babies on that set.
There are nine adorable babies on set at all times.
Speaking of adorable, you and Nick are adorable together? Did you have to do a bunch of chemistry reads?
We didn’t have a single one.
(Laughs) I know, Zack (Cregger) was cast first, then Anthony (Anderson), then me and we never read together. It was literally just kismet that we have chemistry and it worked out.
That seems like a bold move for a network.
Well, to be honest, originally the show was supposed to be just about the guys. The girls weren’t supposed to be much of the focus. But luckily, they saw that the chemistry between these six friends as really valuable. Obviously it’s called Guys with Kids but now the women carry just as much as the guys.
I could be wrong, but it seems like you’re not the most Hollywood girl. You seem to have regular friends and do regular things.
I do have regular friends!
Is regular something you gravitate to?
When I first moved to Los Angeles, my first friends were non-actors. One was a teacher, the other an event planner, one of my girlfriends works at a magazine. Of course I have some actor friends now. But I think subconsciously I seek friends that aren’t in the business. We all crave stability and when you have friends who are always in town and have children and a home, it creates some stability. It’s nice to have your home-base team when all your family is in New York.
Are these East Coast girls?
They’re from all over. My best girlfriend is an actress, Joanna Garcia (Animal Practice), but we rarely ever talk about acting. It’s probably the last thing we talk about.
And your best boy friend is Lance Bass?
Yes, Joanna and I share him. That’s how we met.
He seems like such a southern gentleman.
He is. He’s straight up Mississippi all the way. He’s just a good person. He’s the type of guy that if anyone is friends with him you know they’re good people.
Were you really little when you got into acting?
Eh, I mean, I was in my little dance class at three. As kids got older and ventured out to other things, I really wanted to stick with performing. I lived for the end of the year recital where I got to put on a costume and little bit of lipstick and get on stage. Then around eight they brought a musical theatre class into my dance school and we were doing scenes from the movie Annie. And we had to write down the part we wanted to audition for and I wrote down Sandy. The dog. I had no inkling that I could sing and then when I auditioned I got the role of Annie.
How old were you got the role of Meadow Soprano?
I was sixteen when I got the part.
Oh! I always thought you were younger. Sixteen is young but it’s not crazy-young.
No. Well, at the time I was only doing theatre. Because every time I auditioned for any film or commercial I was told that I was too ethnic looking. I wasn’t white enough, I wasn’t Latina enough, I wasn’t all-American so I never really thought I’d have a career in film or television. So it wasn’t really my focus. But around sixteen, which is an awkward age for roles, I decided I was going to go away to summer camp like everyone else finally and not act. Then right before I was leaving my manager called and said there was an audition for this show called The Sopranos and asked if I wanted to go.
Did you want to?
Well quite frankly, I just went so I could go into the city and go shopping. And because of the title I assumed it was a musical and so that’s why I went in.
Thank god for city shopping! Were your parents freaked out about the nature of the show?
No, not at all. They’re not really protective in that way. They were excited for me. It was my also my first experience on a set, so they didn’t know what would become of it. And it was on HBO which wasn’t popular for programming at that time.
That’ s true. The Sopranos and Sex and the City kicked off what we’ve come to know as HBO programming. What do your parents do?
My dad runs an amateur baseball league and my mom was a housewife. She took care of us, drove me everywhere.
Yep, real Long Island folk.
Just how we like it. As Meadow Soprano, you were so fresh to your my mother. You really captured the relationship between girls and their moms at that age. I was fresh to my mother in those teen years in a way I never was before or after. At the time, I wondered if you had moms coming up to you on the street yelling about how you should be nicer to your mother. Or saying, “My daughter is exactly like you!”
All of that, I got all of it. Moms would say, “Ugh, you’re just like my kid” and “You should be nicer.”
What would you say to them?
I didn’t know what to say. All of that was so new to me.
Being Jewish, was it strange to be associated in such a strong way with Catholic Italians?
Not really. Well, the Italian part maybe. I was raised Jewish because my mother converted to Judaism when she married my father. However, my mother, Consuela Lopez, was raised very strict Catholic in Cuba by nuns.
So, she has that instilled in her. And my Spanish grandmother, who is still like a second mother to me, is very, very Catholic. There was time before she got pregnant with my mom she was thought she was going to be a nun. So all of that was very real and familiar to me.
I consider myself a pretty big fan of The Sopranos. Have you ever had a fan do something nutty?
People were just excited about it. Even today, it’s still surreal to me. The moment I thought, whoa this is big, was at the 2007 Emmys. It was the last year that we were nominated. They did a huge tribute to the show where each of us made an entrance. Robert Iler, who played my brother, and I rose up from below the stage and could see the entire audience on their feet. I really got to see that I was a part of something so unique and special and wonderful.
That’s pretty amazing.
It was and I’ll take that forever with me, no matter what happens. It was one of the things I promised myself and I’ve stuck to, is that I’m not looking for anything to compete with that experience. I will never judge myself or my career against The Sopranos because you can’t. If something else amazing comes along…great. Doing Guys with Kids couldn’t be further from The Sopranos but it’s just as fun and amazing and it’s just something I won’t compare.
I think that’s so smart. It takes a real sense of self to get your mind right like that.
I think you just can’t have an ego. And the second I moved to LA, nothing was given to me, I had to audition for everything. So maybe if it was different it would have been harder for me to keep that mantra (laughs). But I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten.
You weren’t able to just walk in and say, “Hey I’ve been on The Sopranos I’m only going to do this or that.”
I’m a working actor and that’s such a rare thing when you think of how many people in this town are wanting a job. I hate when people are pretentious or judging of anything anyone does. They need to drop that attitude. They need to enjoy life a little more and let go of those sorts of things.
They’re operating from insecurity.
I find that so many times in my life, when I let go, is when all of these amazing things happen. It just happened to me two years ago. I hadn’t worked in a little while and I was getting frustrated. I had alway wanted to go to Spain. But I kept saying to myself, I’ll do it when I get this job or that job. Then I thought, “What am I waiting for?” So I went online and I booked a trip and I decided if I get back from the trip and don’t book anything I’ll start taking cooking classes…I just thought, I can’t let this profession define me. My finger was not off the mouse from booking my flight when someone called to tell me I got a part. It’s just about that energy.
You’re going to have actresses booking flights to Spain they can’t afford. Jamie-Lynn said if I book the flight I’ll book a role!
(Laughs) I think it’s just about finding other things you enjoy and letting go.
And that can go for every profession. What other life advice do you have for girls?
The one piece of advice I wish I had given myself, is to trust your gut. I was so afraid to really listen to that voice inside myself. I thought maybe I wasn’t old enough or I didn’t really know what was best.
Was there something you wished you listened to your gut about when you were younger?
To be completely candid, getting married. I think I knew it wasn’t right but I was 19-yrs-old and everyone else saw it as such a fairytale. But it wasn’t right for me and I was too afraid to act on that.
Did you push that anxiety way down?
Yes, I just thought I didn’t know what was best.
When did you become clear?
A year or two into the marriage when we were going through a divorce. My father said he had never been more proud of me because I took my life into my own hands and made a decision.
Hello Giggles is a very safe space for girls to feel good about themselves and their bodies. But of course girls still struggle so much with image. I know you’ve come out publicly and said you’ve had an eating disorder. Is that something you’re comfortable talking about? Where are you today with your body image today?
I fluctuate like anyone else. I eat, I indulge, I watch what I eat like anyone else, but if you told me 14 years ago that I would have the relationship to food that I do now, I never would have believed you. I say that to give anybody who is struggling with an eating disorder hope.
So you were really in a bad place?
I can promise wholeheartedly that I was at the deepest darkest levels of an eating disorder that anyone could be in.
Yes, I was suicidal, I was 85 pounds and I was on a very fast downward spiral. I have zero issues with food right now. I don’t stress if I see a pouch, I don’t cry if jeans don’t fit. During my disorder, I would eat a piece of cake and cry for days.
Oh my god.
On top of it, I went through my major fluctuation in front of the world, documented forever in the first three or four seasons of “Sopranos.” At work, the first season, everyone was worried about my weight. And when I came back the second season I had gained weight. Everyone was so happy for me that I wasn’t ill anymore. I was still struggling with my relationship with food but I was on my way…
On your way to healing.
Right, so when the second series started airing I was super excited to see what people were going to say on the HBO website forums. People were awful. The meanest things you could ever say about someone were said about me.
And to me, by the way, I would do radio shows and they would say it to my face. I would cry on the radio.
What a nightmare.
I was only seventeen years old and still really fragile. But I was really lucky to have a job, especially in this business, that didn’t care what size I was. They just wanted me well. I wasn’t really well until I was twenty-three. But I do want to say to anyone out there that’s struggling, I am really okay. And if I can be okay, than anyone can.
I think it’s so hard to have a good relationship with food, and most of us have touched on some level of a disorder at some point. I remember being away in London for a semester and sticking my finger down my throat. Luckily I couldn’t figure out how to do it correctly. But I told one of my best friends about it when I got home. I wanted to see what her reaction was going to be to see if it would be a big deal or not. It was a big deal.
Thank god. You could have told the wrong friend.
Yep. But when I think about it, it wasn’t like I was unhappy. It was just a slow evolution. I was getting compulsive about what I was eating and it just escalated.
We’re all susceptible to having an eating disorder. If you find yourself having a lot of inner dialogue about your body and your image, start talking to people that you trust. I kept my entire struggle to myself. So just express your feelings to someone you care about.
That’s great because I don’t feel like it’s talked about enough.
Well, I think it’s still considered a really vain issue. It’s an addiction, it’s a disorder and it becomes very little about weight and size.
So just to end on a lighter note, you have someone special in you life right now….
I do. And it happened very organically. I had been single for a long time. Been on dates with a lot of different people, but none of them were going that well (Laughs). It was a night when I was feeling down, I was watching a movie and everything was making me cry. Joanna called me and asked what I was doing. I was like, “Watching a movie and crying.”
She said, “Come over we’re going to go out tonight. Me and Nick (her husband) and his friend Cutter (Dykstra) and a couple of people, so come on over.” And I told her I’d wasn’t sure and I’d call her back. Then I thought, how am I bettering my life just sitting here? So I took a shower and put on some makeup and went out, and I met my boyfriend, Cutter!
That’s fantastic. Well Jamie, this was great. Thank you so much for sitting down with me for HelloGiggles!
Catch Jamie-Lynn Sigler on “Guys With Kids” NBC Wednesdays 8:30-7:30c
Featured image via Zimbio