Joy Lauren, Desperate Housewives
In the last four years, Joy Lauren has had to contend with her mother's neuroses and alcoholism, her father's murder by poisoning, her manipulative brother's hit-and-run, a new stepdad with secrets of his own, a foolhardy decision to run away with a murderous neighborhood boy, an affair with her high-school history teacher and, most recently, teen pregnancy — courtesy of someone else's boyfriend. Truth be told, that's the life led by "little Miss Van de Tramp" aka Danielle, the daughter of Marcia Cross' Bree Hodge on Desperate Housewives (Sundays, 9 pm/ET, ABC). When the real Joy Lauren spoke to TVGuide.com about her two divergent lives, she was a sensible and courteous 18-year-old, clearly saving the adolescent dramatics for the screen.

TVGuide.com: I've really enjoyed watching you play a pregnant teenager and seeing how that's affected the relationship with your mom, Bree.
Joy Lauren:
Thanks! It's been a really fun year.

TVGuide.com: You're the same age as your character Danielle, right?
Lauren:
I am.

TVGuide.com: But I imagine your high-school years have been very different from hers, starting with the fact that you were acting and home-schooled.
Lauren:
Yes, I was 14 when I [passed] the California high-school proficiency exam. But I continued taking some classes because I wanted to get a good education.

TVGuide.com: So what was it like playing a pregnant angst-ridden teen?
Lauren:
Definitely something I've never experienced before — I'm not really angst-ridden and I'm not pregnant — so it was definitely a stretch for me to play! You know, I think that's one of the reasons I love acting: You can do and experience all sorts of things that you wouldn't normally.

TVGuide.com: There's always been so much tension and conflict between Danielle and Bree. Do you think that's a pretty typical, common mother/teen daughter relationship?
Lauren:
I hope it's not common! It's definitely not my relationship with my mother at all. We're very close, and she's very supportive of me in every sense.

TVGuide.com: So you haven't had that desire to rebel?
Lauren:
I don't at all actually, because she always gave me a really long leash. So I never had the desire to go out there and do anything crazy because she never told me I couldn't. It's like, you're a teenager, you need to experience things. But if you get into trouble, you're going to stay at home in your room for the rest of your life! If I messed up, she'd take that all away.

TVGuide.com: Like Bree shipping Danielle off to the convent. Do you think that Danielle has grown up a bit?
Lauren:
She's definitely changed a lot, almost linearly. She has evolved, but I don't know if she's matured.

TVGuide.com: Bree and her stepdad did bribe her newborn son from her pretty easily — with a car and permission to attend college away from home.
Lauren:
Yeah, she's grown in one sense, but not in the right sense.

TVGuide.com: Do you think she'll become a better person?
Lauren:
Well, it's my hope that the baby will help her grow up a little bit and make her more responsible and aware of the world around her.

TVGuide.com: There were some really sweet moments between you and Bree in the Halloween episode. There was some growth there on both sides.
Lauren:
Yeah, Bree softened a little bit.

TVGuide.com: Did you enjoy working with Marcia in that storyline?
Lauren:
I always do. She's really an incredible woman and very warm and very giving, as an actress and as a person.

TVGuide.com: What's your character's relationship with her brother, Andrew (Shawn Pyfrom) these days? He used to the big troublemaker and now you're center stage!
Lauren:
[Laughs] He's settling down a little bit just as I'm gettin' crazy! I feel like they're both very selfish beings and in their own little world, so they never really connected that much. It's fun to play mean and evil [toward each other] on TV. But Shawn and I are great friends and he's such an amazingly nice guy. He's like my older brother.

TVGuide.com: There are several other teenagers with you on the show — Shawn, Andrea Bowen (who plays Teri Hatcher's daughter, Julie), Cody Kasch (Zach Young), and now Lyndsy Fonseca (Dylan Mayfair). Some of them come and go, like Josh Henderson last year (Edie's impregnating nephew Austin). Do you guys ever hang out?
Lauren:
You know, Josh I'll see out; we have mutual friends. Andrea and I, and Shawn and I, see each other a lot. Me, Andrea, Shawn and Cody have been there since the pilot so we all have a common bond. It's kind of special — we've all hit critical points in our lives while on the show. I've gone from 14 to 18, Shawn's gone from 17 to 21…. We've all grown up in this very different way and have gone through this together.

TVGuide.com: How many episodes are left due to the writers' strike?
Lauren:
I believe two.

TVGuide.com: What can you tell me about the next episode? The previews say your baby causes some stress?
Lauren: Our writers are really incredible and they always come up with really fun stuff to watch, and this [between husband/wife Bree and Kyle MacLachlan's Orson Hodge] was one of my favorite moments of the show.

TVGuide.com: They're great comedic actors.
Lauren:
Aren't they? Kyle's incredible. I mean he's such a cool guy and he's so funny on set. It makes it a really fun time.

TVGuide.com: What can you tell me about the Dec. 2 episode?
Lauren:
There is a natural disaster, and it'll shake things up a little bit.

TVGuide.com: Will you be around?
Lauren:
I'm at school. All the kids are conveniently away. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Ah, so will your character be coming home from college anytime soon?
Lauren:
I certainly hope so. We haven't had much progress [because of the strike]. Of course I want to get back to work as soon as possible because I love what I do. But we're very supportive of the writers and feel like they need to take the time to get what they deserve. It's something they need to stand their ground on.

For more Housewives drama, visit our Online Video Guide.

The special double issue of TV Guide now on newsstands features our exclusive in-depth guide to Dancing with the Stars' remaining contenders. Try four risk-free issues of TV Guide now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.