Naomi Judd on Betty White, Girlfriends and Her New Hallmark Movie Nearlyweds

January 11, 2013

We had the chance to talk Grammy-award winner Naomi Judd during her whirlwind media tour in New York City for her Hallmark Channel original movie, Nearlyweds. In the movie, Judd plays a monster-in-law to one of three best girlfriends who find out that their marriage licenses were never signed. The women must decide if their marriages are worth fixing or if the oversight was a blessing in disguise.

Based on Beth Kendrick’s novel of the same name, Nearlyweds also stars Danielle Panabaker, as Judd’s daughter-in-law, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Britt Irvin, Ryan Kennedy, Travis Milne and Steve Bacic. Nearlyweds premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Sataurday, January 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

How did you get involved with Nearlyweds?
Naomi Judd: They asked me [laughs]. When I read the part and realized I’d get to play someone I’m not, a helicopter mom that just hovers – she’s really not a mother, she’s a smother. I may have been that once upon a time, so it’s fun for me. I don’t like my son’s future wife [in the movie] so I’m just awful to her. It’s kind of like Betty White on a bad drunk. That was my motivation. I was flashing back to my days of PMS, so that worked.

Back in those days, were you ever as bad as a helicopter mom as your character in this movie?
NJ: Oh, no. Carl Young says that all of us have a shadow personality and I guess that’s what I was getting into. The whole experience of being part of a team is my favorite thing. You just become a family and I just love that. That was one of the reasons that I did this. It’s familiar to me because I lived on the road with about 50 guys. We’d be out on tour and it was like this big traveling circus – this caravan. But I absolutely loved when everybody was at their personal best and everything was working and clicking.

And this is a big ensemble cast.
NJ: Yeah, it was. The hair and makeup girls became my best friends and they still write to me even though they’re up in Vancouver. Every day is so important to me, and if it ain’t fun it ain’t done. It just turned out to be a hoot and on the last day, everyone was sort of depressed. “Aw, can’t we do one more scene.”

What drew you acting in the first place?
NJ: They asked me and at first I went, “You called the wrong Judd.” And then I went, “Wait a minute…” I’m such a daredevil and a stimulus seeker, so I decided to try it. I’m such a stimulus seeker, I would love to be part of a SWAT team [laughs]. So, the whole [acting] experience appeals to me and then to get to work with people who are gifted, that really makes me happy. I am so pleased with the movie. When I watched it, I think I smiled the whole time. And it’s funny. One of the things I enjoyed was the camaraderie between the three girls [who play the best friends]. I found that very endearing. Girlfriends are just so important, especially in this day and age when people don’t connect as much as they should. So I was proud to be part of this.

Is there any specific scene in the movie that’s your favorite?
NJ: The last one. We were way over time-wise, production-wise and the producer was pulling his hair out. It’s one o’clock in the morning, which means we’re way over union time and the money and the clock are ticking. It’s last night of the whole shoot and everybody is not walking, they’re stumbling. Their eyes are all bloodshot and the coffee’s gone. It’s the last scene and it’s mine and I’m lying on the couch and I look up and [the crew is] eight feet from my face — people don’t realize that. If you do a scene where you’re supposed to be alone, you are so not alone. There’s 30 people within arm’s length of you. I’m lying there and I look up at my buddies, and I said, “Okay. What’s it worth to you guys if I get this on the first take?” So somebody pulled out a bowl and they all started throwing five dollar bills in it [laughs]. Then I got tickled and I said, “Okay, I gotta be serious. This is real.”

Did you nail it?
NJ: I did! But I do have to be very careful because once I start laughing, I can’t stop. I’ve done that on stage… I’ve done that so many times. That night I was sympathetic towards the whole crew and the producer.

You’re in New York right now doing press for the movie. What’s your favorite thing to do when you go to the big city?
NJ: Interesting question. I think just seeing everybody. I met Piers Morgan last night. He’s one of the few people I’ve never met and boy did I throw him a curve ball, which was great fun.

How did he react to it?
NJ: He loved it. I think he’s a fascinating guy. He’s so emotional. It’s always right below the surface. He processes very rapidly. He’s incredibly smart. I’m so interested in human behavior; I’ve been studying it for 20 years. Neuroscience is my passion and he’s awesome to observe because – you know that you have 41 facial muscles? I can hit mute on the TV and still watch him because of his body language. Eighty-five percent of our communication is non-verbal, so I just love these experiences of meeting different personalities.

Last week when I was in LA, I did The Talk and I realized that Sharon Osbourne was the only celebrity I’d never met. Our conversation was pretty deep because of what she’s been through health-wise and the Mayo Clinic gave me three years to live in 1990. I’m a medically documented miracle now. She’s got two kids… we just had a lot to share.

Sometimes when you meet people in these instances – it’s just the way I am, I just go straight to it. People will come up to me on the street or at the car wash or standing in line at the grocery store and it’s interesting because they don’t even tell me their names, they just go right into some connection. That’s very humbling to me. They seem to feel like they know me or trust me or can confide in me. I think because I’ve had such an adventurous life, there’s something that they connect with. And I love it because it’s our stories that connect us.

How often to do you get approached when you’re out?
NJ: Oh, [laughs] all the time. I know everybody at the Walgreens. I know the two ladies at the dry cleaners. I know half the people on Main Street. That’s my neighborhood.

It’s probably great for them to have a celebrity in the neighborhood who’s just one of them.
NJ: I think it’s fun for them to see me on TV because they never see me with makeup on or my hair brushed [laughs]. And I’m very blessed to have my circle of girlfriends. We call ourselves the Divine Ya-Yas. I don’t know what I would do without them. Tomorrow is my birthday. My girlfriends, of course, wanted to do something, because we always celebrate each other. But because I’ve been in New York, I’m going to need a day or two to myself just to process. But on Monday – and I know this sounds weird – we’re having a pot-luck dinner at my house and I’ve got a Red Cross volunteer coming over to teach everybody CPR. That’s my birthday [party]! [laughs]

I’ll go home tomorrow and my husband is in Hawaii this week with the international Elvis fan club because it’s Elvis’s birthday week. He’s having a great time because he’s with the original Elvis crew. And Wynonna’s on her tour bus somewhere. But Ashley‘s next door, so she’ll come over and dote on me tomorrow.

It’s nice that Ashley lives so close to you.
NJ: Yeah, she lives up the road on the farm and Wynonna’s over the hill behind me on the farm. We have so much wilderness that we can’t see each other, which is important, but I can’t imagine not living that way. Especially when the girls travel so much.

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