Faith Ford Faith Ford

Sunny, funny Faith Ford cut her prime-time teeth with a 10-year run as Murphy Brown's Corky Sherwood, a role for which she earned five Emmy nods. For the last two years she's been playing homemaker Hope to Kelly Ripa's flighty Faith in ABC's Hope & Faith. (Yes, it's confusing, and it always will be.) As the show readied for its hourlong third season premiere (airing tonight at 9 pm/ET), spent a few minutes with the Louisiana native to discuss the Ted McGinley curse, today's crazy teens and the scene she never wants to do again. Hope & Faith's creator, Joanna Johnson, is no longer with the show. How is that transition going?
Faith Ford: We miss Joanna a lot, but [the new executive producers] are really nice people. All we care about is that everybody's nice, because we believe that there are a lot of people who are talented in our business and one of the things Joanna, Kelly and I had was that we were like girlfriends, we were really close on that level. Is there still a jar in the writers' room where they have to put in a dollar each time they say Faith when they mean "Hope"?
Ford: I don't think so. They get it straight, for the most part! Are you feeling any shifts in storytelling?
The main difference I've noticed is that Charley [Hope's husband, played by sitcom vet Ted McGinley] is stronger this year. Their relationship has been pushed a little bit more to the forefront. Sometimes the jokes rely on Charley being, well, a little daft.
Ford: Yeah, he was kind of "not with it." He still gets a lot of abuse, being surrounded by these two women, but he stands his ground a bit more. How different is the experience of providing Friday-night family fare versus your time on Murphy Brown?
During Murphy Brown, I remember there weren't that many successful family shows. Now, that's really where it all is — teens and families relating — and I think that's what people need to see. How do families have any kind of unit with all that's going on in the world? Especially considering all of the temptations for teens, who are much more progressive these days.
Ford: They're very sexual now. I have a niece who's 13, and I asked what she knew about pot. She said, "Uh, hello, I'm a teenager in the 21st century." I was like, "Yeah... right." I had no idea. With urban kids now, it's all about sex and when do you lose your virginity and AIDS.... My childhood thoughts were along the lines of, "Am I going to make out with this guy or not?" Pot is one thing Hope & Faith hasn't tackled yet with Hope's tarty teen daughter, Sydney.
Ford: But she's headed that way. I kind of like where they're going with her. [The role was recast with Megan Fox after Season 1]. Instead of making her an innocent teen, they're going with the fact that she kind of hides a lot, which I think is great. I love that she's so hip and Hope is so not hip. Is it safe to say that the "Ted McGinley curse," like the Red Sox curse, is over?
Absolutely! I don't even think that existed. It's just something the media grabbed onto. Some liken your and Kelly's on-screen antics to I Love Lucy-type stuff.
Ford: I would never think that we could even come close to what Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance did, but we do love to do the physical comedy. It's exhausting and you have to be willing to fall flat on your face, but we kind of love that. What have you learned from Kelly, and she from you?
She was nervous at first [doing prime time. On Live with Regis and Kelly], she kind of throws it out there all the time and feeds off the audience. So I just said, ‘Look, you make mistakes and you keep going." I used to just kick [the studio audience] aside — like, they're there, but they're not really there — but now we do a lot of interacting with them between takes. So I guess I've learned to include them more. Kelly once told me that you two watch soap operas in her dressing room during lunch. Is that still the case?
She does. I'm not as into it. I'll go in there and hang with her, and she tells me [what's going on], but my eyes just pop. I don't get the story lines. Finish this sentence: One type of scene I hope never to do again on Hope & Faith is…
Ford: …anything in the water. In the first season, we had to hide in [the Yankees' clubhouse whirlpool], and that was hard. I'm not used to "water acting." [Laughs] They once wanted to do synchronized swimming with us and I said, "You're kidding, right?" And here I thought you were going to say "chopping carrots in the kitchen" scenes.
Ford: I'll be honest with you. If I never had to do another "serving my family food" scene, that would be amazing! I've got a family who sits on their asses while I friggin' serve them? In what family in America does that exist?! When you have a mom that works, you get in there and you're active, that's how you learn to cook. On the show I've got a teenage daughter who sits there and primps — I mean, hello! You grew up in Louisiana; how did the recent hurricane tragedy affect you and your loved ones?
My parents live in the center of the state, and every shelter is maxed out. Just when you think everyone's taken care of, there's more. Overall, my concern is that, like with most natural disasters, it's topical when it's going on, then people lose interest and move on to the next one, and I think this is going to be a longterm problem. It's important to me to stay involved and keep the relief going on my part. The last thing I feel like doing sometimes is comedy, but I realized that, in the world of being an actor, the show must go on.