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An Interview with Catherine Bell (Denise, 'Army Wives')

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Catherine Bell
Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images
Back in the '90s and early '00s, JAG was one of the hottest shows on television, making its series stars David James Elliott and Catherine Bell household names. Years later, Catherine returned to our cozy living rooms once again with the popular Lifetime drama Army Wives, playing the wife of a soldier, living on base amongst of close-knit group of army wives.

In addition to her role on Army Wives, Catherine has also produced and starred in a series of Good Witch movies for the Hallmark channel and most recently, she made a Lifetime movie entitled Last Man Standing.

I had the opportunity to chat with this extremely talented (and very sweet!) actress about her days on JAG, getting through those heartbreaking scenes on Army Wives and her latest Lifetime movie Last Man Standing...

Q: I understand you studied biology at UCLA, what made you decide to go into acting?

Catherine:
"I wanted to be a doctor, I wasn't sure what kind and I got to UCLA and my heart wasn't really in it. I had a creative side, as well as a scientific/mathematical side and the arts won out. I started doing some modeling and went to Japan and when I came back, I took an acting class, fell in love with that and never went back to school."

Q: What sort of career path would you have followed if acting had not worked out?

Catherine:
"I don't think I would have gone the doctor-engineering route, I think I realized I had more of a business sense, which is probably why I enjoy producing so much. I have a business mind, so I probably would have started my own business."

Q: When you first appeared on JAG, you played a completely different role, how did you wind up returning as another character?

Catherine:
"It's such a great story... I guest starred on the season finale in the first season and there was another girl playing the female lead opposite Harm and my character was killed off, but it was a really important character for Don Bellisario, who created the show, because Harm was in love with this woman. He shows up to investigate a murder and she's dead. We met and we really hit it off and when we worked together we had a blast. One of the days when I was working, he announced that the show had been canceled, but CBS picked up the show and they decided to recast the female lead. I went after the role and wrote Don a letter after I had read the breakdown for Mac and they brought me in. Six callbacks later, I got the role."

Q: Your character on Army Wives is so diverse, what characteristics do you share with Denise?

Catherine:
"I think I share a lot more with her now than I did at the beginning of the show. The first season, she was more withdrawn and was being abused by her son, but now she has come out of her shell. She is such a strong woman now, especially after losing her son and getting through that experience and helping others. I think I share some of those strengths with her."

Q: As a parent yourself, how did you mentally prepare for the scenes when your son died?

Catherine:
"It was absolutely brutal, especially with having a newborn son and losing my baby boy on the show, it was absolutely heartbreaking. I was just crying for three weeks straight doing those three episodes. When I read the scripts, I sobbed. When we filmed them, I sobbed and when I watched them, I cried again.

Q: Which Army Wives episode are you most proud of?

Catherine:
"For sure, the episodes with Jeremy's death. I think the one where we found out about his death was my favorite and then the third episode where I run away from home is my second favorite."

Q: Where is your character headed as we near the end of the season and head into the next?

Catherine:
"Well, it's got to go uphill from here right?! At the end of the season we all get some shocking news that is going to affect everyone's life and decisions that will certainly affect where we go next season."

Q: Do you and the other cast member keep in touch during the hiatus?

Catherine:
"Sometimes. We are all so busy. Our whirlwind lives take over. I just texted Kim (Delaney) the other day to see how she's doing. Before we know it, we'll all be back in Charleston filming again."

Q: Do you follow any TV shows on a regular basis?

Catherine:
"Sometimes, although usually its kids shows. My husband and I really got into Game of Thrones. I also get into American Idol; my daughter and I watch it together."

Q: I know you're very active on Twitter (@reallycb) and Facebook (Catherine Bell), do you do all the updates yourself?

Catherine:
"It's really me. People ask me that all the time, so sometimes I'll take a picture of myself holding up their Twitter name. I have my iPhone with me constantly, so it's something fun to do."

Q: You have a movie coming out on Lifetime, Last Man Standing...

Catherine:
It was a project me and my husband came up with. We pitched it to Lifetime and they bought it a couple years ago and then brought in Gale Anne Hurd, who is an unbelievable producer. It's an action-packed thriller about a woman who appears to be a soccer mom who has this secret special ops past that comes back to haunt her."

Q: Do you have any other projects in the works?

Catherine:
"I just finished shooting Army Wives and I've got Last Man Standing coming out and I've got a couple of things going and maybe a movie later in the summer after I spend some time with the family. My husband and I have a project going called kickstarter.com -- it's a really cool website where you can raise money for projects. We're raising money for storyboards and a model of a spaceship for an alien-type movie. If you type my name, it'll come up, it's called the B-Ring. It's a really cool sci-fi project Adam and I have been working on."

Q: Anything to say to the fans?

Catherine:
"Thank you for all your support. It's been an amazing ride."
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