Jennifer Love Hewitt by Cliff Lipson/CBS
It's been quite a year for Jennifer Love Hewitt. Once just the mild-mannered (if gorgeous) star of CBS' high-rated Ghost Whisperer, the actress was thrust into an unexpected spotlight last winter, then led a long-overdue scrutinization of the entertainment industry's unreal ideal when it comes to body image. TVGuide.com welcomed the chance to speak with Love about, yes, Melinda's especially tricky travels ahead, but also the message she is adamant to keep spreading, about being comfortable in one's own skin. - Matt Webb Mitovich

TVGuide.com: As I watched Ghost Whisperer's season premiere (airing Friday at 8 pm/ET), the irony was not lost on me that it revolved around arson, when the Universal Studios lot where your show films was damaged by fire over the summer....
Jennifer Love Hewitt:
I know. That was a total coincidence. In fact, the fire happened just as they were getting ready to send out the script for that episode, which freaked us all out a bit. "Isn't our first episode called 'The Firestarter'?" It was one of those weird things.

TVGuide.com: Was there any "upside" to the "refreshing" of the set? Did they seize the chance to spruce anything up or add anything...?
Hewitt:
Warner Bros. has been great in giving us their beautiful back lot, and that's given us a chance to show different parts of Grandview we didn't know were "there" before. But it's been difficult in that we've had to do so much more location work than before, and we're a bunch of homebodies.

TVGuide.com: I feel like this could be a defining year for Ghost Whisperer. You've got exits, arrivals, a darker undertone....
Hewitt:
When you get into the fourth season of anything, it has to be new and different. You have to ask, "How do we remind our viewers every week that this is why they're still watching this show?" And the only way you do that is by shaking things up a bit.

TVGuide.com: Melinda has this little group of "spirits" looking over her now.
Hewitt:
Which I love. It's nice to have some people watch over Melinda for once.

TVGuide.com: Yes, but without revealing too much, they also bear a piece of ominous news.
Hewitt:
Yes.... Death and destruction is always in Grandview. [ Laughs] For a very, very small town, it's got a lot of trouble. And a high crime rate.

TVGuide.com: I have to say, you wrecked me as I watched your goodbye to Professor Payne.
Hewitt:
Awww.... I'm glad. Jay [Mohr] was a great part of the show, and we were all sad to see him go. We wanted Melinda to pay homage to how great it was to have him around. Professor Payne was a Robin to her Batman, a confidante who was more excited than freaked out by what she could do.

TVGuide.com: Was Jamie Kennedy's character brought on knowing that Jay would be leaving?
Hewitt:
No, they were going to introduce Eli regardless. It just ends up that he fills that kooky confidante role.

TVGuide.com: Melinda and Jim are on the baby track, and having a lot of fun trying....
Hewitt:
Mm-hmm. It's very sweet, because Melinda for the first couple seasons was so anti-baby. She was freaked out by what she could do and what that meant for a kid. It's nice to see her have the confidence now to move into motherhood.

The next two questions concern a major (unconfirmed) spoiler.

TVGuide.com: And yet... and yet a dark cloud looms in form of the spoiler that Melinda's husband, Jim, dies....
Hewitt:
A spoiler which I will not confirm.

TVGuide.com: It would be sad, though, if Jim left us.
Hewitt:
The important thing for people who watch Ghost Whisperer to always remember is that things are not as they seem. We never do anything cut-and-dry. There are lots of opportunities for people to think that one thing is going to happen and it actually turns out to be something else. People should very much keep their mind open and enjoy the ride into our big storyline for the season, rather than try to guess what's going to happen. Even with the [death rumor], people don't have any idea what's coming. It's going to be very cool.

TVGuide.com: Tell me about Ghost Whisperer: The Spirit Guide (in stores No. 25). You wrote the foreword for it?
Hewitt:
Yes, it's really cool, sort of an insider's guide to what goes into making our show. People will get a kick out of it!

TVGuide.com: How has the past year been for you? You had the joy of your engagement [to Scottish actor Ross McCall], which obviously can't be dampened, but I sincerely was feeling for you last December, when the whole "bikini" thing hit.
Hewitt:
Bumps in the road always remind you of the really, really good stuff. It's hard to be in this business for 20 years and walk out completely unscathed, so that was one of those "moments." But things are good. I try to just move past it.

TVGuide.com: Having lashed back at the media about that "controversy" [Hewitt blogged, "I've sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women's bodies are constantly scrutinized.... I'm not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image"], did you hesitate about participating in that Us Weekly cover story about your 18-lb. weight loss?
Hewitt:
You know what's funny is I didn't participate in it. Everybody thinks I did, but. They talked to my trainer, who I think was just trying to say nice things and it kind of went on. I literally got a phone call saying, "P.S. You're going to be on the cover of Us, and they're talking about you losing weight." I was like, "What?!" [ Laughs]

TVGuide.com: I myself thought, "How could she do that, having criticized the media for obsessing on body image?"
Hewitt:
I know, and that's what everybody keeps concentrating on, but I had nothing to do with it. I didn't go lose weight because of that. I'm not a "work out" kind of girl - I'd rather shop or see a movie! - but I got this "bug" in me to run a marathon for my 30th birthday [next Feb. 21]. I started training, and when you're doing anything like that which you're not used to, you drop weight. When I heard all the compliments and nice things, it made me nervous. I didn't want people to think what I said [last year] wasn't true, because I stand by what I said. People's bodies are going to change. Sometimes you're going to go up, sometimes you're going to go down.... I wish people would stop talking about it all together, to be quite honest.

TVGuide.com: OK, so let's then focus on other things - like the image of you in a bubble bath. I read that you take one every day. Not a shower?
Hewitt:
I take a shower every other day, to wash my hair, but yeah, I'm a big bath person.

TVGuide.com: Who has time to draw a bath? My wife and I went to do it once - our house came with one of those Jacuzzi tubs - and a half hour later there was, like, an inch of water.
Hewitt:
[ Laughs] You have to make time, it helps you relax. I start the bath, I go do other things, I come back and turn the bath off, and when it cools down to the right temperature I get in.

TVGuide.com: Any major accomplishments on the wedding-planning front? Do you have a date?
Hewitt:
We do....

TVGuide.com: It'd be cool if it was on your 30th birthday.
Hewitt:
I know, wouldn't it be neat? But no, it's not on my birthday. The planning's almost done.

TVGuide.com: So you have a dress?
Hewitt:
Almost. We have a lot of "almosts."

TVGuide.com: Did you well up the first time you saw yourself in a bridal gown?
Hewitt:
Uh, yes. [ Laughs]

Related:
" Ratings: Whisperer Makes Some Noise
" TVGuide.com's Ghost Whisperer Celebrity Blog