Congratulations on FBI: MOST WANTED. Tell me how that came about?
They offered it to me [laughs].
I had read for something else and I’d worked for [Executive Producer] Dick Wolf in the past and before the lockdown, I ran into [Casting Director] Jonathan Strauss at Medea, and Bobby Cannavale was there, who I’d also worked with on THIRD WATCH. But I was like, “Oh, I’d love to work with Dick Wolf again,” and he was like, “We’ll look for something!” And then, out of the blue, I read for something different, there was like another part on there, and then they called me and said, “We want to offer you this other part,” and I said, “Um, what’s the part?” And they said, “It’s Jackie Ward, she’s a bounty hunter, she [worships] at the altar of Dolly Parton, she’s foul-mouthed and lives in her car.” I was like, “Oh, my God, am I dreaming?” Like, “Who really knows me? Someone knows me! Someone was spying on me?” I was like, “That is me, finally! Yay!” And then I did the ADR Friday and the producer who does the sound mix, he was like, “Have you played bounty hunters before?” I was like, “No.” He was like, “Have you been a bounty hunter?” I was laughing, like, “No, I have not played a bounty hunter nor been a bounty hunter.” I could be a bounty hunter and be totally fine with it. And I watched the show because as one does, when you’re flipping the channels and you see your old soap friends, you stop and you go, “Oh, what are they doing?” So it happened that one night I was flipping channels and I saw Julian’s [McMahon, ex-Ian] face and I was like, “Oh, what’s Julian doing?” And then I started watching the show and I thought it was really compelling.
When was the last time you had seen Julian? Had you even been in touch?
We had not been in touch. We were in touch during the short time I was living in L.A.
‘ANOTHER WORLD‘ was both of our first contract jobs, our first big jobs, and so we had a bond over that. He had this crazy, amazing house in L.A. and when I was living in L.A. in, like, a little shack, he was so nice and he invited us up to swim a couple times — I can’t believe we got invited back because I would show up to swim at his house on a hot L.A. summer day, and I would bring, like, 10 girlfriends and kind of just take over the house! He was like, “Okay. All right, Amy.” But he was really nice about it. So, that was, like, probably 1997. So, it had been a while! But I had followed his work since then and he’s always a great actor and he’s just a prince of a person.
What was it like to see each other again?
Well, he’s so busy; this is his show, he’s number one on the call sheet, he’s in every scene. So, I got to set and he was like, “No f***ing way!” And I was like, “Yep, it’s me!” He said, “They said to me that Amy Carlson was going to play this part and I was like, ‘I know an Amy Carlson!’ ” But he didn’t realize [it was me] and then he saw me and he was like, “This is a homecoming reunion!” I was like, “It is!” But we couldn’t hug or anything because it’s very strict [due to Covid], so we were just jumping up and down in our separate spaces, just thrilled to see each other again. I did this ANOTHER WORLD [reunion] this summer [with Alan Locher], this Zoom thing, and I opened up this box in my basement, because I’m an organized packrat, and I pulled out all this ‘ANOTHER WORLD’ stuff. Mindi Schulman [former ANOTHER WORLD fan club president] had all these fan club booklets she used to do, and I had them, so I was pulling them out and everyone was like, “Why do you have all this stuff?” But I took some pictures of them [on my phone] because there were pictures of me and Julian in soap opera magazines and I was like, “Oh, my God, look at this, it’s me and Julian,” having no idea that in two or three months’ time, I would be working on a set with him. So I pulled them up on my phone and I said, “Look at what I found recently.” He was like, “Oh, my God.” It kind of brought it all back — you remember all the time that you spent with someone.
What was it like getting back to work during the pandemic?
It was great getting back to work. It’s very intense; you do a Zoom meeting about the protocols for actors [beforehand]. We had our masks on through rehearsal until the actual moment we’re filming, and then you tuck it in your pocket, and they cut and they’re like, “Masks on!” And there are different units, like, the crew, who you usually pal around with, they’re in a separate zone, and the actors leave the set and then the lighting crew comes onto set and when they’re done lighting, then you go on set. It did not used to be like that. In the Zoom when they’re telling you the protocols, they were like, “If anyone wants to talk about this, if you have some feelings about it, we know it’s really intense,” and I was like, “Yeah, this is really intense!” But you do the work. I was just so grateful to be there and so happy to be working and playing this great character; I was fine.
So, you have had a very long association with CBS, with various episodic work and, of course, BLUE BLOODS. What does it mean to you that this network has come to you for so many of their very high-profile shows?
Oh, man, it’s so flattering, and it makes me feel so good. It’s a really great feeling that they have the confidence that I will bring to the table whatever my special thing that I do is! It makes me blush. Literally, that’s what it does, it makes me blush and feel so warm and fuzzy. For a long time, they’ve supported me through different iterations, different network presidents. I feel like it’s a good partnership because I bring a lot of fans. My dad texted me from North Carolina that the local paper ran something about me airing on this show, as a recurring character. It’s not like I have my own show! But he was like, “Look, they’re hyping your thing!” My fans are the best fans — the kindest, most generous people. They just follow me and they have since ANOTHER WORLD. I mean, I have people who have stopped me to be like, “I knew you when you were Josie!” And that’s my favorite fan. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s a long time ago!” The vote of confidence from CBS means the world to me because they have come to me over and over again. I don’t know who or what or how, but I’m super-grateful to CBS!
When you look back on your ANOTHER WORLD experience, what stands out to you?
Well, I still have lunch with the Annas, Anna Holbrook [ex-Sharlene] and Anna Stuart [ex-Donna], Linda [Dano, ex-Felicia], and whatever straggler we can bring in who’s around at the time. Janet Iacobuzio, one of the writers, she also comes with us. We’ve been doing that for years. That bond… I mean, I left home and went to New York and started working on ‘ANOTHER WORLD’ and I always describe it as grad school for acting because there was so much acting, just so many opportunities to stretch and really find my voice as an actor and be free as an actor, and it was really grueling at points, but just a really great life lesson for me, to be doing the soaps at that time. I mean, it was crazy and fun and Soapdish doesn’t even begin to touch on how wild it was [laughs]! I mean, we were traveling around — it was a different world then. There were events here and events there and it was so busy and just to interact with the fans on that level all the time. Also, it was like a rep company, a weird, theatrical rep company, which is why I’m so close with them, because you were living with them almost like you were doing summer stock, but out in Brooklyn!
Do you have any favorite storylines?
I always loved the stuff with Sharlene, to start with. Josie and her mama! That was a big part. And then obviously, I mean, I had a lot of fun — the stuff with Julian stands out because that’s when they actually started to use my character more. But then they separated us and he went with Paulina. Josie making that big transformation was actually the start of all these other parts I’ve gotten, her finding her voice and becoming a cop! Ever since Josie, I’ve been working in that blue-collar [vein]! THIRD WATCH, BLUE BLOODS. But I loved when Josie became a cop and the romance with Gary, I thought, was really beautifully played by the writers, these two wounded birds. That was just a really great storyline, these two really damaged people finding each other. And of course, I can’t forget living in the basement with rats for those weeks when I was getting stalked by Blair! I saw her [portrayer Bridget White] on, like, a commercial the other day, and I was like, “That’s Blair!” My family was like, “What are you talking about?” I was like, “She stalked me for a long time,” and they just looked at me like I’m crazy [laughs].
BLUE BLOODS is on TV all the time. What it is like to turn on the TV any day of the week and there you are?
I feel really proud of the work that I did on BLUE BLOODS and I was there on the pilot and every episode until I wasn’t. And I’m proud of the contribution that I made. I always wanted to do more, but there was not that impulse on their side, so after enough time, I got the message that that was how they saw the role and that was the only way they wanted to see the role, and anybody who knows me knows I like adventure and I like to be challenged and it wasn’t going to happen there, sadly. I didn’t think they were going to kill her! But I’m really proud of the work that I did on that show. When I first went on that show, I felt such incredible opportunity, which is probably why it was disappointing to me [to have a limited role]. I looked at these two characters, Danny and Linda, and I thought to myself, “This is a great opportunity to tell an incredible marriage story on this show.” So, that was the idea I had in my head, and every chance I got, even when I had the two lines at dinner, I tried to fill that story with just the meal scraps on the table. But I think it was successful. People tell me, “I loved that couple,” and that makes me very proud.
How are Syd (Butler, her husband) and the kids?
The kids are amazing. Lyla and Nigel are just my whole heartsong. Sid is on LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS. He’s in the house band. I think it’s been seven years, since the beginning of the show. Like five years ago, we wrote a holiday EP, three songs. And it was really fun and the reason we did it is that I’m so obsessed with holiday music. We named our band OFFICE ROMANCE and we wrote all this music and we just kept writing music and instead of three songs, it ended up being 10 songs, but we had no lyrics. I’m a lyricist, so during the lockdown, he was like, “Well, no there’s nothing else you can do, you have to write these lyrics!” So I did and now the record is out! It’s called Holidays of Love and it’s a 10-song LP. I sing on the first song, but then we hired other incredible singers because I can do my Belinda Carlisle thing but there are other songs that needed more training [laughs]. So, it’s out now and we’ve been pushing THAT. I just directed a VIDEO for that. It’s a Covid-style video. If you watch it, you’ll be like, “Oh, I get it, she made do with what she had.” And I directed a film THE LETTER in the fall of 2019, and this year, it’s in film festivals. It’s a short. I won Best Director and Best Actress at the Hollywood Women’s International Film Festival and it’s in contention for short films at Cannes right now, which is exciting. That was another thing I’ve been working on. Sid and I co-wrote it and I directed and he produced it. It was actually with friends of mine from THIRD WATCH, crew from THIRD WATCH, and I reconnected with them when I did a film with Jason Wiles. I was like, “Oh my God, you’ve got the whole crew from THIRD WATCH here!” I directed and Scott Cohen, who was in TRIAL BY JURY with me, he played opposite me because I directed myself because I was a cheap hire. So, he was in it and he was like, “If you don’t start directing, I’m going to kill you, because this is the most seamless, easy set I’ve ever been on.” I think it’s because I’ve done so many different kinds of projects. Anyway, it was just a joy, and hopefully there will be more directing in my future. I loved it.
Will we see more of you on FBI: MOST WANTED?
They told me it’s recurring, so I hope [there’s an opportunity for more episodes]. The way it works is, you don’t get the scripts until it’s written and they’re ready to go and they’re like, “Here’s your script, you’re shooting next week!” and you’re like, “Oh, okay!” But they have told me they’re bringing me back, so I suppose it would help if a lot of people watch [laughs]!