While I was in LA for my Disney Press trip I was able to attend a special screening of the movie Bad Hair Day (which I will post my review on Friday – the 13 – hahahaha – Perfect Movie for Friday the 13 – anyways) and afterwards we were able to sit down and do an exclusive interview with Leigh-Allyn Baker. We talked to her about the film, life, and what it is like raising a family while balancing her career. She was the executive producer for the new Disney Movie Bad Hair Day and was excited to sit down and watch it with us.
Here is what she had to say:
BAKER : It was really fun for me to watch it with all of you because I’ve never seen it with an audience so it was, it was really refreshing for me. I sat for six weeks with an editor for this movie and so you see it so many times and in the middle of it you think oh, this is a great movie, it’s so refreshing for Disney. And then after you’ve seen it a hundred times you’re like eh, it’s okay. So you totally don’t know. You lose perspective. So it was such a fun ride to watch it with you guys and feel your energy and hear you kind of predict different things or get a kick out of things. It was really interesting.
What was the inspiration behind the movie?
BAKER : There was as script that was originally taken to Disney channel. It was quite different from this but it was a teenage girl and a male cop and what I hear from Disney channel is that they thought well if there is an adult that we would like to try something new with a film that has an adult heavenly in it for the first time let’s try with Leigh-Allyn, see if she’s interested.
So really then that’s when the inspiration started forming on what we wanted to do with this movie and we wanted to first and foremost, we wanted to make people laugh but really secondly it was really important to us to grab people’s heartstrings and give a really good, unique and powering message. As you can see I feel like this film is, you know, is fraught with comedy and heart and great messages for girls. You know, she doesn’t end up with her prince charming. She chooses MIT. Heck yeah, she does, you know. I loved all the computer lingo and [LAUGHTER]. It was fabulous.
So yeah, that was it. Just to have a film for Disney Channel that adults can watch with their kids that has a unique different message. Like let’s go out on a limb and do something really different for the channel and see what the response is and Disney Channel was brave enough to do that because this is very different for them.
When you read the script what made you wanna get more involved in the executive producing role rather than just being a part of the action?
BAKER : As my husband said they’re finally gonna pay you to micromanage everybody else. [LAUGHTER] I felt it was very tempting to see if I had it in me to see something build from the ground up and to really be brave and be bold to put my vision and not hide behind somebody else’s vision but put my own out there and see how it went. I mean you guys know who Amy Duncan is — I’m sure you can tell when I ad-lib or when I riff on Good Luck Charlie. You can tell in here too. I know you all laughing when I do certain, silly things. So I just wanted to see what other creative elements I could bring to this.
What was the funnest part of shooting?
BAKER : All of it was really fun. It was, it was — this movie was a ride to make because it was done in 22 days.
ALL : Wow.
BAKER : That was a legit car chase people. Twenty two days. It was not an easy task. Most people they say with film it’s hurry up and wait and you sit around. this was hurry up and hurry up and as you can see it’s mostly Laura and I through the whole film so there was no time to kind of sit back and relax. But, I would say the most fun was just ad-libing. For Laura and I, it was the first time we worked together but we hit it off so well.
We had such good chemistry. You could see in the bloopers when she’s riding with me in front of the bicycle and me laughing maniacally. What you don’t see is the three people that she’s almost run over. Like seriously, like literally I’m in the seat pushing people out of the way. It was hilarious. It was such a funny day.
You do producing and acting and voiceover for video games. Which one do you like to do the most?
BAKER : I have an animation series called the Seven D which I play the Queen Delightful if you haven’t seen Seven D. it’s really good. Check it out, Disney XD and Disney Channel. So my favorite was this. To produce, to executive produce and act because you really get to have your hand in all elements I mean down to ‘no I want Liz’s dress to look like this’. ‘I want Monica’s dress to look like this’. ‘I want the shoes to be like this’. ‘What if this joke goes here?’ ‘What if on this scene we have them build the relationship and it’s really because of her mother’. You get to just really live in every element of the movie down to editing it and sitting in on the final mix.
I think Laura did a great job. How did you — when you were casting did you look at a lot of girls and how did you ultimately decide to go with her as the lead?
BAKER : There are so many talented young actors in this town but Laura Marano has a certain maturity and skill set that I think was really necessary. We needed a girl who could pull off being in the lead for prom queen and miss pretty perfect and could also pull off knowing how to work that computer and have the smarts and the thinking and the brain stuff going on. And Laura just came in and she just knocked it out of the ballpark. It’s not easy to find young talent that can go toe to toe in comedy with an adult. You guys saw it on Good Luck Charlie and now you see it here. That’s what it looks like. She did a great job.
Did you have to rewrite the script when you got it?
BAKER : I didn’t rewrite the script. We have great writers who rewrote it. I had joke punching sessions with them where I, we went over all the dialogue and I was like I think the girls would say this or let’s do that. The writers that did this were so great. I don’t know many writers who are gonna sit in the room with the lead actress and let them like take over the dialogue and these guys were just so, uh, all inclusive and happy to have my input. But yes the script is completely, uh, took a different detour let’s say.
After doing this is your focus now going to be in more of a producer type of role?
BAKER : Honestly I can’t see one without the other. I really can’t. I’m not ready to not be acting because as you can see I have so much fun. I don’t know what happens to me but there’s this other thing that takes over my brain and I’m just having a blast and I just start saying things. Sometimes I think “did that just come out of my mouth?” So I really can’t see one without the other at this point.
What’s the worst bad hair day you can remember having?
BAKER : When we did the promos for this. I was like –they turned me around in the mirror and I was like, huh, irony. Wow. Yeah, that would be it.
How much creative liberty did you have?
BAKER : When that camera’s rolling and I’m standing in front of it I have all the liberty I can handle. There’s nothing they can do at that point. I would say that after working with Disney Channel for five years that they have a lot of trust in me and I have a lot of trust in them and so it allows me quite a bit of liberty. They gave me a lot of freedom and yet there were times where I was afraid to push the envelope and they were like no, go.
They encouraged me. Go further. Where can you go with this, you know? So and not just with my performance or with the comedy but with story development, too. I was so proud. They were really willing to push the envelope on this one.
You said you’ve been with Disney for five years. Are you turning down other roles to stay within the Disney range and if so what do you think about that?
BAKER : I have turned down certain roles. I will say that I’ve become a prude since working with Disney Channel. I haven’t become a prude but I will say this. There is a lot on television of murder, sex. It’s like it makes up the television on prime time television. And there have been parts that people have expressed in interest in with me and it just didn’t feel right, given where I worked, to do those roles.
But as soon as I finished Good Luck Charlie we, actually right before I even finished we had been in talks about doing this spin development for a while so I knew immediately that I was gonna go into this and honestly I just felt really comfortable putting my whole heart and my whole focus on to this and my kids. You can get too busy and it’s not worth it.
BAKER : We shall see. I would like to develop my own series, actually and I’m working with another gentleman my age who used to be on the Disney Channel. I won’t tell you doing what, to hopefully develop a show.
Would you want to stick to the same comedy and sticking with Disney?
BAKER : You know that I love comedy. I found myself the other day going to an audition for something and I thought oh, my gosh it’s about a family who’s wife is about to be murdered. Like why am I making this funny? Our life is on the line and that’s kind of funny if I do that. You know, to me life is short and I wanna have fun. If I’m gonna be away from my kids to be working I’m gonna be having fun or I’m not gonna do it. And, as you can see in this I can do drama. It’s easier than comedy, way easier but comedy just fills up my bucket and why not go to work and laugh? Who wants to go to work and cry?
Do you think you put a lot of yourself into your characters?
BAKER : Absolutely. I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that about Amy Duncan’s behavior. [LAUGHS] But, yeah, Amy Duncan is really my most feminine side and then Liz is really me at home. I have two boys. I know how to get down and dirty and run a mock with the guys, so and it’s just really fun for me also to show that I am an actor and every actor says I’m not a one trick pony. I can do other things. So that is one of the things that really intrigued me about this is how different can I show myself? Wash all the makeup off, change the hair, put some shabby clothes on me and let’s go to town.
How do you balance the kids at home and work?
BAKER : I learned that in season one of Good Luck, Charlie. I remember going to work and just missing my baby. I just had a baby, Griffin, my oldest and I remember just missing him terribly all day and then when I got home I was rocking him to sleep at night, my favorite part and I remember looking at him and I was thinking oh, I can’t believe that I missed that at work and I missed that and I should have been focused. And I realized oh, my gosh I’m not a hundred percent there at work and I’m missing the enjoyment there and I’m not able to be a hundred percent with him here. I’m missing the enjoyment here. From there on, simplicity rules.
When you’re at work, at work. When you’re home, you’re home and that’s how you do it. That’s the only way I can do it. And I love doing sitcoms. Honestly as far as acting goes there is no greater job for a mom in the acting world than half hour multi camera sitcom work because you actually have a life. There’s a regular schedule. You don’t shoot crazy odd hours except for one day a week. You shoot three weeks on and one week off. You get five month hiatus in between seasons. I mean I know what it’s like to be a full time working on and I know what it’s like to be a full time stay at home. I do both of those within a year, you know.
What’s the one message? You talked about there being several messages from this movie for young girls. What’s the one message you would like them to take away from this movie?
BAKER : Your identity, who you are comes from the inside. It doesn’t come from what’s out here. That’s the main message I think. A lot of people like to toss around “believe in yourself” but this is more than believing in yourself. It’s knowing yourself and being okay with who you are and not looking for approval from others and knowing when to call for backup. There’s two ladies — there’s two lessons.
They start out as polar opposites in this film and then through this crazy day with each other they learn from each other how to fill in their weak spots. They really do help each other grow immensely. Liz learns to be able to ask for help that it’s okay to be giddy and be a girl. That it’s okay to have fun, not just be a one woman show.
Will there be a sequel where we get to see her at MIT?
BAKER : Well let me just tell you honey, it’s already been pitched and as far as I’m concerned it’s in the works.
Did playing this role change you personally, did you grow from your character?
BAKER : Definitely. I will say executive producing this [movie] helped me really grow as a person. Playing this role really helped me grow as an actor because when you work for four seasons in a show with one character you kind of are used to pulling into your bag of tricks. You guys see my bag of tricks, “ba-bam”, all that fun crazy stuff, right? That’s my big crazy bag of tricks. I use it at home with my five year old. It works really well. But then you realize when you’re doing a scene like outside that warehouse where I say if I was your mom and I surprised myself in that scene and I thought oh, wow I can still act.
I’ve just been so focused on being one character that you forget all these other places that other characters can take you. It’s fun to go there and you never know when you’re going to go and you really just kind of give yourself over to the process. You surprise yourself. Those are the fun moments in acting when you haven’t planned it. You haven’t rehearsed it. You just are spontaneous and you feel yourself go somewhere and you trust yourself enough to go there.
Have your boys expressed any interest in acting at all?
BAKER : Yes. My five year old, now six year old, just turned six really just wants to be like Mia. He wants to know why Mia goes with me on the red carpet all the time. But he has said I wanna be Charlie and I said you can’t, Mia is Charlie and he said, well then I wanna be good luck. Honey, you are. So, he’s really great at pretending, at make believe. We’ll see. When he’s old enough to drive himself I guess he can go to an audition. Till then he can be a kid. [laughter]
Has he seen the movie yet?
BAKER : He has seen clips of the movie. He thinks everything I’m in is the most boring thing under the sun. In fact his quote to me one day was you being the Good Luck Charlie girl is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was his first day at kindergarten and all these kids started swarming me and he was like, oh, bummer. There are certain times that my kid doesn’t wanna share me with the world. But then I explained to him that we don’t actually have to wait in line at Disneyland and he was like oh, I love you being the Good Luck Charlie girl.
Do you think that your kids ever direct the roles that you pick? Do you think your boys will direct your future roles? Like do you think about them when you look at a role?
BAKER : Yeah, I do. Becoming a parent, it changes your whole being forever and before I got Good Luck Charlie I had a series that I’d done for HBO called Twelve Miles of Bad Road with Lil Tomlin and Mary Kate Place and it was a dark dramaty and there were some racy scenes with me in it. I was like the girl from the wrong side of the track, you know, in Texas and it was such a great script. It was great.
And then they cancelled us and I cancelled HBO. [LAUGHTER] You’re cancelling me, I’m cancel them right? Then I decided I am gonna create life instead and so I had a baby and then I’m like here I am on the Disney Channel and I’m so glad it turned out that way. So like the other day I get this audition for this role where a family is going to be tortured. I don’t wanna know what criminals think about. I don’t wanna know. I don’t wanna know. It’s not my thing, right.
So I politely tell them that it’s my child’s birthday and it was and there’s no way I can get out to go to this audition. There’s no way. I just can’t do it. And so they totally understand and they call me back and say I have an appointment for the next day. I was like why didn’t I just tell them no, I pass but I just no, I should have said that. And I quite frankly did not want to go there. I did not want to go to a place in my mind where I had to envision my children being endangered like that. It’s just not something I wanna think about and I feel horrible for parents who have to face that kind of thing in reality. So it does guide me in that.
You said you have boys. This film is such a girl power film so what drove you to want to do something with girls?
BAKER : It is girl power. Like it’s taking them in a more empowering position but there’s also something in this I think for boys to love. You know, show me another Disney Channel movie that has a car chase in it, right?
We got a bad guy and he is suave debonair, you know, and I just think there’s something in this movie for everybody in the family and that is what interested me and why I took the role of Amy Duncan in Good Luck Charlie. Originally they had come to me and I had passed, passed, passed, passed and I didn’t even go in to read for it until the final network step okay, I’ll go and meet you and audition. I was over it. I was nine months pregnant and I didn’t wanna be bothered.
So I waddle into the room and I see Eric Kramer there who’s such a seasoned actor and they explain to me that this is really gonna be their first attempt at doing a family sitcom for the whole family, not just for the kids. And so then I thought well, why not and then I stayed on them for four years to make sure it stayed that way.
Who was your role model growing up?
BAKER : Uh, what was her name? I’m just kidding. As a role model in my life it would be grandmother. I’m from the south and my mom’s mother is a hundred percent there for me and she is a salt of the earth, keep it real kind of a woman and I’ve always been that way. I’m always shocked when someone recognizes me ‘cause I always think they’re looking at somebody passed me ‘cause to me I’m just a mom who does this crazy thing that I love for a living.
But then as far as comedy goes I really, really think that Madeline Kahn is one of the funniest women out there. I thought she was hysterical and then I think Diane Keaton is my other kind of comedy — like I think Diane Keaton has hung the moon. She is hilarious. That total freak out that Liz has on the sidewalk waiting for the cab to come. That‘s a total Diane Keaton.
Did you grow up wanting to do this?
BAKER : Yeah, you know, it was kind of weird. I always knew that I wanted to do this and, you know, how you put things out there and they come to be. Well, I remember I remember watching comedy going I wanna do that. It was when I was watching this movie called Nuts that came out. It was a Steve Martin movie and Madeline Khan is like I’m stuck in the elevator, get me free and it was so funny to me and I was like I want that. Looks fun. I was stuck in the elevator.
I just remember thinking too oh, I wanna help kids. I did. I had the thought very young I wanna do comedy and I wanna help kids and I think it was about like five, six months ago that I was like oh, my gosh I’m doing that. I’m making kids laugh. I cannot complain and sit back and groan that I’m an adult in a teenage world because the fact of the matter is this is exactly what I wanted.
How did you make the trek from Kentucky out here to achieve your goal?
BAKER : I have a good answer for you. So when I was a little girl and I talked much like you do (referring to her accent) I wrote on a piece of paper the universities that I wanted to go to school at and I wanted to be an actress. And, I don’t even remember writing this. I remember writing it down but I don’t remember what it was but my mom showed that list to me of the universities when I was eighteen years old and had decided to go to USC and number one in that was USC. And, I knew I wanted to come here because my planet as a seven year old was I could go be a legit stage actress and get lots of the claim but no money or I can go make money in California.
Check please. I’ll take that one. So I wanted to come out here and hope that I could have an easier transition going from college to this big city world that was so new and foreign to me.
I mean I grew up in a tiny little town, you know, where everybody knew everybody. I knew everybody’s first, middle and last name in my class. Yeah, I don’t know who they are now but it’s that small of a world and so I wanted like a little safe haven to, to bridge me into a bigger city and New York was just way too scary for me and too big city.
And so I went to USC and I remember auditioning and they only accepted like ten boys and ten girls for their conservatory program and I just knew that’s where I was supposed to go and that’s where I would get into. And so when my mom showed me that it was pretty astounding.
So then growing up in your school did they have a drama or a fine arts program?
BAKER : They did, they did. They had a great program. Maury High School, great program. We had a speech and debate team so I did oratory. I did duet acting and I did this dramatic interpretation was my strong point, not even comedic, believe it or not. And then when I went to USC I took a summer and I went to England and I studied with the Royal Shakespeare Academy and went to Oxford University to study Shakespeare for a summer.
That was my emphasis and so a lot of people think that’s so weird that you were Shakespeare. I was like all into Shakespeare and now here I am doing kids comedy but really there’s not that big a leap from Shakespeare to comedy because it’s all rhythm so there’s all iambic pentameter and so you learn the rhythms and you learn to develop this rhythm of hearing things. And that’s why it was so fun to watch this movie with you guys because when I would edit it the editor would say no, it’s good the way it is and I was like no, we need to cut back to her for a beat.
And he would say why? And I’d say because don’t you hear it? they need a breath before they can catch that joke and laugh and I want them to be able to rest on that and if you put the other joke right there there’s no room for them to laugh and they’re gonna miss that joke. You start to hear the rhythm of it. And those edits where we made those changes played out with you guys where you could hear if there was a double joke. There was space in between to give you a moment to laugh so you could feel the rhythm of it so study in Shakespeare actually helped my comedy immensely.
You attained your goal of doing what you wanted to do since you were a kid. My mother taught me once you get there you gotta reach higher. So what, what do you wanna do next that is within sight for you?
BAKER : I think this was a step. You know, it takes some guts to say no, I think it should be this way knowing full way that anyone can look at you and go first time executive producer, wap, wap. She’s an actress trying to — and they gave her, you know, but it wasn’t that way with this. It really took some, some guts for me to believe in myself to go no, that’s my opinion on this. This is where I think it should go. If it doesn’t, okay it’s on me, right. And so now the next step for me is to I think to maybe step outside of children’s programming and do things.
I still am interested in doing things for the whole family but maybe branching out to network television to see how I might do there. It’s interesting, my mom, when I first moved out here. I got a pilot right away after I got out of college and it was in competition against this little show called Friends, which my mother says to me Leigh, why didn’t you do Friends? Well, you know, they called me and asked and I was like I’m too busy. I don’t wanna be on your silly show.
It doesn’t really work that way in this town, you know, and I have learned that, you know, families, children, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents have a real appreciation and respect for what I do but this industry does not always have that respect. I’m a mom on a kid’s network to them so that’s when you take the reins and develop your own show.
The interview was great. She truly is so funny and animated and I am glad for the opportunity to be there. Afterwards she came out with us and took the time to take pictures with 25 different people. She laughed and had a great time and truly made us all feel special and appreciated. It was a great experience and I loved meeting her.
Bad Hair Day airs Friday 2/13 on the Disney Channel so be sure to tune in at 8:00 pm EST. to watch it. It is a great show for kids of all ages and adults. I love the message. Check back Friday morning to read our review!
You can connect with Leigh-Allyn on Twitter at https://twitter.com/l_a_baker
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This was an all expense paid trip provided by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.