Diane Farr has the voice of an angel well, maybe a very wry angel who got rid of her extra-thick New York accent. "I think somebody once called it 'whiskey-soaked,'" says Farr, 31, of her distinctive inflection. "It sorta sounds like I had a rough night." But, after well-received stints on MTV's Loveline and ABC's The Job, her days are pretty smooth now, as she lends that unique delivery to the new WB comedy Like Family (Fridays, 8:30 pm ET). She plays a single mother who, with her teenage son, moves into the crowded suburban home of her best friend (Holly Robinson Peete). Luckily, Farr made some space to talk with us.
TV Guide Online: The actor who plays your son on Like Family, J. Mack Slaughter, is actually 20 years old. Um, have you ever read that book Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams?
Diane Farr: (Laughs) No, but I make the jokes all the time that I'm gonna pull a "Mrs. Brady" on him.
TVGO: What's the deal with all the scenes in that giant bathroom? Am I the only one who's just a little weirded out by that?
Farr: Well, I think the idea is that it's the one place you kinda can't get away from each other. Like Family is a little unique, in that the cast is really big for a sitcom. Three kids, three adults and the grandpa.
TVGO: And I'm sure they'll introduce a dog at some point, too.
Farr: Dog comes in Episode Seven. We just shot it. (Laughs)
TVGO: Are you serious?
Farr: Oh yeah. It's all there.
TVGO: Amy Yasbeck John Ritter's widow was originally cast in your role. Was it awkward to come in and replace her?
Farr: In hindsight, thank God, huh? I've known Amy a long time, [and] in the grand scheme of things, you just think, 'Thank God she had her last two months at home with her family [before Ritter passed away].' That's why the universe did this.
TVGO: Did you ever go home after a Loveline taping and regret the advice you gave?
Farr: I don't think I ever regretted it, but there were many times that I wished I'd had more time. On the TV show, you only had about every seven minutes [to talk with callers]. And it was the two guys' show, first and foremost, and then I was supposed to be there to be the voice of women. And really, Drew is the voice of women. And Adam is the voice of [men]. And I sort of ended up in the middle. The only thing they were looking for from us was a quick Band-Aid that would hopefully put them in the right direction.
TVGO: What was your first reaction to ABC cancelling The Job?
Farr: I was having dinner in L.A. with [Job castmates] Bill Nunn and John Ortiz, and we were all flying to New York the next morning because we were on the schedule. We had been picked up [for another season]. So Jimmy Serpico, the producer, called my phone and said, "They pulled us. We're cancelled." And all three of us sat at the table and cried. It was a disaster. And the genius behind that is still showing through on ABC.
TVGO: You taught acting and improv lessons at a maximum security prison for men. Not the typical gig, but was there any one particular moment where some murderer seemed just like any other guy?
Farr: All prisons go on suicide watch about two weeks before Christmas. They become maniacally depressed and very low. So I walked in there and said, "Basically, we're going to play a game of telephone. Everybody's going to call one person that they're not going to be able to talk to on Christmas, and you have one minute to tell them absolutely anything you want." And they went around the room and called their dead parents and their wives who don't talk to them anymore, and their kids that they've never met, their victims, their victims' parents... One guy called his dog because it was the only family he ever had.
Farr: And then one boy called his father, and he said, "I just want you to know that I would like to be remembered as a person who changed his life, and I promise that I will turn around and be someone you can be proud of." He said, "Do you remember the lullaby you used to sing to me before I went to sleep?" And I thought, "Oh my God, if he sings I'm gonna cry, and I'm doomed." Because it would just be way too feminine in that environment. And he sat on the floor with the fake phone and sang the lullaby that his father sang to him as a child. And he hung up and the phone like it was the most normal thing. They didn't judge each other. They were by far some of the bravest actors I've ever worked with.
TVGO: I got a little chill there, Diane, and it's not just the cold medicine I'm on right now. Although, it may be both. So how would you sum up what you learned from that experience?
Farr: I was supposed to go in to teach them acting because they were all having behavior problems; they were striking out one way or the other. And I realized I was there to teach them hope. The saddest place you can ever be in your life is somewhere with no hope.