A Pink Exclusive Interview
If you are one of the 35 million people who tuned into Lifetime Television for the season opener of the hit series, Army Wives, you know Catherine Bell as Denise Sherwood. You may also remember her as U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie on the television series JAG (1997-2005). Perhaps you loved the sassy siren in Bruce Almighty or its sequel, Evan Almighty. Or maybe you had a few laughs with Cassandra Nightingale, The Good Witch, on Hallmark's original movie. But who is the girl inside these characters? Pink magazine caught up with Catherine just as she whisked back into town (Charleston, SC, where Army Wives is filmed) from New York City, where she appeared on ABC's The View.
Here, we invite you to find out what life is really like for one of Hollywood's hottest stars.
Linda Hopkins: Instead of focusing on all the parts you play as an actress, let's start by talking about your real life role as Catherine Bell. Tell me about your family.
Catherine Bell: My husband's name is Adam Beason, and he's a screenwriter. He's a sweetheart. We've been together 16 years, which in Hollywood is like dog years. We're very proud of that.
LH: What would you say is the secret to maintaining a happy marriage in the context of your careers?
CB: I would say friendship and honesty-no secrets, no lies. You have to be friends and work things out. It's a lot of work. Also, we have been together since way before I had a series, so it has definitely been a team effort.
LH: You have a little girl, right?
CB: Yes, a five-year-old. Her name is Gemma.
LH: How has being a mom changed you or changed your life?
CB: Oh, so much. It's the best thing I've ever done. I love being a mom. It's a lot of work, too.
LH: In what ways would you say that your life is just like everybody else's?
CB: I think it's like everybody else's in how you balance your job and get groceries and pack a lunch for school. I don't have somebody fulltime doing all that stuff for me. I still have to coordinate all those things.
LH: What is it like to be in the limelight? Do people impose on your privacy, or can you live a fairly normal life?
CB: A huge part of it is your attitude about it. When you see a photographer, instead of hiding, you just smile, wave and turn in the driveway and that's that. With Army Wives, I'm definitely getting recognized more-pretty much every time I go out now. Still, it's not imposing. It's always nice when people say they like the show or they like my work.
LH: What is the biggest lifestyle adjustment you've had to make moving from LA to Charleston?
CB: The hardest part is not having my mom here. My best friend and several of my good friends live in LA. That's what I miss. I don't miss the city. I feel like I've slowed down a little bit here. Of course, things have been crazy lately, but overall, it's a little nicer pace of life.
LH: Do the roles that you play reflect who you are in any way, or is the real Catherine Bell someone totally different?
CB: I think there is always a little bit of you in the parts that you play, because that is how you choose to play that role. But I'm certainly not anything like Denise Sherwood.
LH: Of all the roles you have played, which have you enjoyed most?
CB: They are all so different; I really like all of them. The Good Witch is actually the most like my personality than any of the characters I've played-more playful and light.
LH: You are sometimes cast in sexy, body revealing scenes. Are you ever self conscious about your body?
CB: Yeah. The same thing all women go through, except that it's magnified when you're on TV. Oooh, my stomach's sticking out just a little bit today. After you have a baby, things change a bit. There are definitely angles that are best and parts of my body that are better than others. The camera adds weight, too.
LH: Do you struggle with your weight?
CB: I wouldn't say struggle. I'm actually pretty fortunate. I have a fast metabolism. But I mostly eat well-I call it moderation dieting. If I'm on set and there's chocolate out, I'll have a square or two. If I know I'm doing a love scene or shower scene, I work out a little harder and eat less carbs.
LH: Do you work out every day?
CB: No. I wish. Honestly, about three days a week. I have a trainer and sometimes I'll just hop on the treadmill or go for a bike ride with the family. Again, moderation. As long as I do something a few days a week, I'm keeping things in line.
LH: Besides being beautiful and sexy, you are also very adventurous. You're sort of known to be a thrill seeker. Tell me about your F-16 flight.
CB: It was amazing-my favorite ever. We get to the end of the runway, traveling at about 500 mph., and go at an exact 90-degree angle, straight up, pulling seven-and-a-half Gs on takeoff and going up about 13,000 feet. [See the video clip on Catherine's Web site.]*
LH: What would you say is the most daring adventure you've had to date?
CB: The F-16 was pretty cool. I also got to ride on the back of a motorcycle with [racing pro] Randy Mamola, on a racetrack at about 160 m.p.h. It was intense.
LH: Is there something you are just dying to do next?
CB: I've always wanted to be a pilot. I've actually started. I'm studying the written part and the mechanics of it.
LH: While most of us see the glamorous side of your job, I'm sure it is very hard work. What is a typical day like for you?
CB: A typical day often starts around 5 a.m. and ends 12-14 hours later. I spend about an hour and a half of hair, makeup and changing into my wardrobe. One scene, about two pages of script which lasts a couple of minutes, might take anywhere from three to six hours to shoot. That's just normal. You say the same lines over and over [with different camera angles and lighting changes]. I get half an hour for lunch. Filming about three to five days a week, in between, I catch up on phone interviews, photo shoots, trying to get to the gym, a million e-mails and all the life stuff.
LH: What personal sacrifices have you made to achieve this level of fame?
CB: I never look at anything like a sacrifice. It's a matter of priorities. I've certainly given up a lot of time. The last six to eight weeks have probably been the busiest of my life. Would I like to have a little more time with my husband and daughter? Yes, definitely. But we really make our time together quality time. Last night we went on a bike ride at sunset. Tonight we plan to barbecue and just hang out together.
LH: Did you ever dream you could achieve this kind of success?
CB: I always dreamed big. I had a great family that always told me I could. That's half the battle-believing that you can.
LH: Do you have a life motto or philosophy of life?
CB: I'm a Scientologist. That is what has helped me the most to have a positive outlook on life-really knowing that I can be, do, create anything. The biggest thing is realizing that we have infinite abilities to create what we want to create.
LH: Tell me more.
CB: You know that saying, "Luck is being prepared when the right opportunity comes along"? That's kind of like what Scientology is about-making a decision and knowing that something is going to be, as opposed to I wish, I hope. We create what we want in our lives. So, I've been really busy, but I'm creating a wonderful life within that. Example: Next week I'm not going to be here, but tonight I am. It's all about choice and making it what we want it to be.
LH: Has playing the part of an Army wife changed your perspective on our current military situation?
CB: The part has raised my awareness about the families and what they go through. We all got a chance to meet several real army wives last season. It was an eye-opener to see how they operated and how they lived without their husbands-how strong they are.
LH: Do you watch the episodes of Army Wives on TV?
CB: If I'm home and we're awake, we watch them live. Otherwise, we get them on DVD. Adam is addicted to the show like everybody else. He doesn't read the scripts, so he doesn't know what's going to happen.
LH: Can you give us a sneak preview?
CB: The season is going to be really interesting. Denise goes through some major transformations. Some serious fun enters her life and then temptation and some problems with Frank that might lead to more confusion in her life. It's a pretty intense season.
Stay tuned to Lifetime Television, Sundays at 10 p.m.
Born: August 14, 1968, in London, England Parents: mother, Mina (Iranian); father, Peter (English) In addition to English, she speaks: fluent Farsi, the language of her grandparents. When her parents divorced: she moved to LA with her mom at age three. A self-described tomboy/geek: she loved building model cars and excelled in math and science. She attended UCLA with the intention of becoming: a doctor or biomedical engineer. She left college to: take a modeling job in Japan. To gain confidence: she took acting lessons and got hooked. First television acting role: A one-liner on sitcom, Sugar and Spice (1990) First film role: Body double for Isabella Rossellini in Death Becomes Her Big Break: JAG Describes herself as: outgoing, curious and fun-loving When not working or traveling, find her: boating, golfing, and participating in a variety of sports. See Catherine live on Hilton Head Island: at the Celebrity Golf Tournament, Aug. 29-31. (For more information, visit www.hhcelebritygolf.com.)
*Learn more about Catherine at: www.catherinebellonline.com.