Sunday, May 30, 2004

Loughlin molds own WB series

By Bridget Byrne
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Lori Loughlin is on the beach. There's sand and deck chairs and surfboards - but the sunshine is artificial light and the sky a painted backdrop. It's the set of a fictional seaside community called Summerland, a new family drama on the WB.

When Loughlin first saw the set being built on the Raleigh Studios lot in Hollywood, she acknowledges a tear came to her eye.

"I cried. I didn't sob, but I was really touched that, off an idea, all these people have a job and all these actors have a chance to take their careers to a different place."

The idea was Loughlin's.

The WB expressed interest in finding a series for the appealing actress who played the girlfriend-turned-wife of Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) on ABC's extended family sitcom Full House. She felt she should have a concept to offer.

"So I came up with this idea about a single woman, who worked in the world of fashion, who had this great life and lifestyle, who wasn't married and didn't have children. All of sudden her life changes on a dime, because her sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident and she gets their three kids."

She never thought the network "would actually go for it." But the concept of a surrogate family fit the WB's demographic. Spelling Television came aboard as producers and Stephen Tolkin signed on as writer and co-executive producer.

"I thought the idea was so emotional and so simple, and I liked Lori," says Tolkin, who added a circle of friends to bring another twist to Loughlin's original concept. That adds an "it takes a village to raise a child" touch, according to co-executive producer Remi Aubuchon.

"What we've seen a lot before is, 'Yuppie finds their heart,'" says Tolkin. He took care to create "someone who is very emotional, very connected to her heart, who approaches parenting with great energy and will, and then finds out how hard it is."

The WB hopes to air 13 episodes. The two-hour pilot airs Tuesday (8-10 p.m.), and encores next Sunday, at the same time. The first hourlong episode airs June 8, in what will be a regular Tuesday time slot (9-10 p.m.).

Loughlin plays Ava Gregory. Her nephews Bradin (Jesse McCartney), 16, and Derrick (Nick Benson), 8, and 12-year-old niece, Nikki (Kay Panabaker), find themselves transported from Kansas to the California beaches.

Tolkin is pleased that the WB recognizes "that family is a franchise, that life is a franchise - they don't have to also be detectives!"

Loughlin says, "the Ava that you will see is exactly what I had envisioned ... she's very open and loving and warm - inexperienced as far as parenting, but learning as she goes along."

Loughlin, 39, is married to Mossimo Giannuli, creator of the clothing line Mossimo. She's a parent herself, mother to Isabella, 5; Olivia, 4; and stepson Gianni, 12.

Born in New York to a family with no links to show business, Loughlin was a child model who as a teen played Jody Travis on the soap opera Edge of Night. She was also cast in 1983 in one of Aaron Spelling's few unsuccessful pilots, The Tom Swift and Linda Craig Mystery Hour.

She credits her success to "flukey things" and her "work ethic."

"It's not rocket science," she says. "We are not solving any great problems here. We are just trying to make people forget about their problems and have fun."

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