TVGuide.com: First, let's put some people at ease. Stephen Collins does not have a serious heart condition. Rev. Eric Camden does. I hear there's some confusion?
[Laughs] Amazingly enough, the guy who handles my fan mail e-mailed me and said, "You know, I'm getting all these concerned inquiries about your health. They really think what's happening to your character is happening to you. I really feel like we need to put some kind of disclaimer on the website." So I did. It's a little bit scary that people would think that, but I'm fine. Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.
TVGuide.com: First you had a role in Blood Diamond, and now Because I Said So [in theaters now]. It looks like you're looking past life on 7th Heaven.
I wish I could say it was part of a master plan. I did say yes to Blood Diamond at a time when I thought the show was over. Ed Zwick, the director, is an old friend. It was actually the first time I was ever cast by e-mail. It was even made to look like a telegram: "Collins. Am in Africa. Stop. Need acting reinforcements. Stop. Someone with chops. Stop." As he said later, "It will take you longer to get there than to shoot your part," but I was glad to be a part of it. It was an amazing script, and I think he did a sensationally good job making that movie.
TVGuide.com: Now you're reuniting with Diane Keaton! In The First Wives Club, you played the husband who left her for his therapist, right?
Collins: And then she turned on me with a vengeance. I remember she put some major economic hurt on me.
TVGuide.com: It appears she treats you better in Because I Said So, if you can trust the promos.
You know what's interesting? I can get along with just about anyone. I make friends easily. Diane was maybe the first person I ever met who I couldn't break through to, on First Wives Club. She was very cool to me. I remember getting home and saying to Faye [Grant], my wife, ‘I think she must hate me." And Faye said, "Maybe she's just that kind of actor, who because she has to hate you in the role, wants to keep that kind of distance." Cut to 11 years later, where on the Because I Said So set we're hanging out, listening to each other's iPods... I realized she really is that kind of actor, and I have such huge respect for that. Her character so loathed mine in First Wives Club that I guess she didn't want to know anything about me that might make her like me.
TVGuide.com: In this new film, Diane plays a meddling mother....
Collins: She plays the mother of three grown women — [Gilmore Girls'] Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo and Mandy Moore — and she's determined to get Mandy with the right guy. Two men pop up, one who seems right in her eyes, played by Tom Everett Scott, and one played by Gabe Macht, who is "Mr. Wrong." One of the things that's cool in this movie is that Mandy sees the best in both of the men, and really quite likes them both. And for a while she is seeing them both, which is kind of dangerous and interesting. I play Gabe's father, Joe. Diane and I meet coincidentally one night and jump on each other within a short time. [Chuckles]
TVGuide.com: So you have a sex scene with Diane Keaton?
We have a couple of makeout scenes, including one in which Mandy's character walks in on us. That's all the script said. [Laughs] When I read it, I thought, "Oh, my god, I'm going to have to be in bed with no clothes on. I'd better get myself in shape." But when it came to shooting, they decided — totally wisely for all sorts of reasons, mostly comedy — that all you were going to see was our feet. You see our feet, you hear a lot, and then you see Mandy walk in the room and you see the shock on her face. You can read all the rest into it.
TVGuide.com: I hear you help Diane's character out with... well, let's say "a problem."
Collins: Well, Joe is kind of a grounding force for her, a guy who's very comfortable with himself and very comfortable with what's going on his life.
TVGuide.com: Actually, I was thinking of Joe giving her her first orgasm....
Collins: Oh, that! [Laughs] Yeah, you learn before she meets Joe that she's a person who's never had an orgasm, and I help her out with that problem. I don't know if he knows the extent that he's helping her out, though. Listen, for me, Diane is the thinking man's babe of my generation. I always thought she was stupendously attractive, completely lustworthy, and getting up close to her doesn't change that one bit. There's something so sexy about an actor who's wildly talented.
TVGuide.com: So you're a bit smitten?
Oh, you can't not be. She's just so remarkable, and she works so hard to make it look easy. In First Wives Club, in one take she slams the door so hard, it reopens and the rebound of it came back, hit her in the face, knocked her over and she fell out of frame. It was hilarious, because she didn't tell any of us she was going to do it. She does a [similar] fall at the end of Because I Said So, and again, I don't know who knew it was happening. She's the mistress of falls.
TVGuide.com: Is it nice to have some "semi sex scenes" after 11 years as the near saintly Rev. Eric Camden?
It's always nice to have those scenes. But on 7th Heaven, there's always been the suggestion that Eric and Annie have a very active sex life.
TVGuide.com: Lots of kids there.
Yeah. It was always [executive producer] Brenda Hampton's idea that sex in a marriage could be fantastic, so oddly enough, while it's not what you would expect on 7th Heaven, it's always been there. And Catherine [Hicks] is so much fun to work with. We still surprise each other. I have such enormous respect built up over the years for Catherine and what she brings to the show.
TVGuide.com: Obviously, enough people love 7th Heaven to keep it on for over a decade. But what do you say to those snarky types who make fun of it?
By and large, the people who make fun of it haven't seen it, they only have an image of what it is. But the show has always had a pretty good ability to laugh at itself, and the Camdens understand how they're seen in the world, and they're the way they are anyway. The fantasy of the show is the idea that the family will be there for each other, no matter what. And I think that maybe we do that more than 99 percent of the real families out there. But that's what kept us alive, that people see it as a certain kind of wish fulfillment.
TVGuide.com: You got some attention when you returned and Everwood didn't.
That was misinformation. It was really between One Tree Hilland Everwood. People don't understand that. That was the choice [for CW].
TVGuide.com: Should we expect a teary death scene at the end of the season for the rev?
Collins: I don't think we'd ever do that. The illness was just a way for Brenda to write stories in which Eric suffers fools a little less well. It's been fun as an ongoing plot point, but we have no idea if this the end of course. None of the ratings on the CW are great this year, but we're still in the top five on the network. The toughest thing for 7th Heaven was that after 10 years on Monday night, they moved us, to Sundays, and people thought the show was canceled. The other day a cashier said to me, "I really miss your show. I'm sorry it's not on anymore." I can't even remember that it's on Sundays! They've also preempted us, which the WB never did, and usually surrounded us by reruns. Parenthetically, the Monday-night comedies [Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends, et al] have never come close to doing what we did that night.
TVGuide.com: You sound like a man who wants another year.
It's a win-win either way. Part of me is ready to move on, and part of me is in love with the show. There are still stories to tell. I can see us anchoring Sunday nights, moving us to 7 pm [the time slot to be vacated when Reba goes off the air Feb. 18]. It will probably come down to what the CW has in development.
TVGuide.com: Before we go, here's a strange rumor: Did your great-grandfather run for president?
Collins: Yes! James J. Weaver ran on a third-party ticket twice. In 1892, he won over a million votes. He was also in the House of Representatives, and the first person to introduce a law for women's suffrage and the progressive income tax.
TVGuide.com: Any political aspirations on your part?
In the last few years, people have asked me to run for president of the Screen Actors Guild. That may be a way of "testing the waters."
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