Courtney Thorne Smith: I Love Playing Drunk
Courtney Thorne-Smith has been a TV staple for the last two decades. Starting with the 1992 premiere of Melrose Place, not a year has gone by that she hasn't starred on one massively successful series (Ally McBeal) or another (According To Jim).
Two and a Half Men has ensured that her streak stays alive by bringing back her delectably devious character, Lyndsey -- Alan's ex-wife and current flame. Although, for safety, it's best to keep gin-soaked Lyndsey away from all open flames. I caught up with Courtney to talk about returning to Men in a post-Sheen world, why it's so dangerous being "drunk" and why you have yet to see a proper Melrose Place reunion.
ETonline: Were you excited to bring back Lyndsey in such a major way?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: So excited. I love this role. It's such an extraordinary gift to have this kind of writing. I thought by this point I'd be playing the mom and always shouting, "Hey kids!" To get to play this great, funny, sexy, drunk, crazy character is incredible. The writing is so good on this show. And Jon Cryer is, honestly, the best in the business.
ETonline: I feel like you and Jon came up in this business around the same time -- did you know each other before Men?
Thorne-Smith: Right before I got According to Jim and he got Two and A Half Men, we were out trying to pitch a show together. We met on this show called Partners and just got along so well. We have similar comedy styles but nothing came of it. Now we get to work together … it's just 10 years later.
ETonline: In the last new episode, we learned that Alan and Lyndsey's mothers are now dating. Pretty sure that's the first time we've seen that on TV!
Thorne-Smith: You work on Two and a Half Men long enough and you realize that they will go anywhere. Luckily it's my sense of humor, so the further they push it, the better. I love working with Holland [Taylor] and I love that Georgia [Engel] can say the most horrible thing in the world but do it in that adorable voice and it becomes the sweetest thing ever. It's stunning how she brings words to life.
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ETonline: You've been a part of Men pre and post-Sheen -- is there a difference?
Thorne-Smith: There's not a huge difference, but I didn't have eight years with Charlie. I had one year with Charlie and now I've had one year with Ashton [Kutcher]. I think people miss Charlie but they love Ashton. Also, I know it looks like a lot has changed, but on-set, there's just one different person. It's not quite as jarring to us as it is to the audience.
ETonline: Looking ahead with Lyndsey, what are you hoping for?
Thorne-Smith: I love Lyndsey and Alan – they have this understanding that they're together because neither could do better. I just think that's so charming. There's no artifice. They're just so honest. I love drunk Lindsay, she’s hilarious, so I want to be drunk more. I hope Lyndsey never gets sober [laughs]. I keep asking if she could just throw up a little less.
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ETonline: You've now played two of TV's most memorable drunks. What's the secret?
Thorne-Smith: The thing about playing drunk is if you do it wrong, it looks so bad. So you really just have to find that right amount where you're off-balance and slurring. It's terrifying to do, but it's wild. I've never played someone like Lyndsey before – I always get cast as the good girl, so to play the one that's causing the havoc is fun for me. It's a thrill.
ETonline: You playfully mocked your Melrose past on Men -- do you have fond memories of that time?
Thorne-Smith: I do. I have very fond memories. Melrose Place was an extraordinary time. I keep calling my friend at Fox to ask why they haven't done a reunion! It's been 20 years. Let's just get the whole cast to sit in a room and talk about this show; make fun of each other. I'd love to revisit that time.
ETonline: Since you've been a part of so many amazing shows, do you find that what fans approach you about always changes?
Thorne-Smith: No. It's Melrose Place. It will always be Melrose Place. That was just a special time in people's lives – more than anything else I've done. So often I hear, "I had those friends" or "I lived in that building." There's a stronger connection with that show than any other to those fans. Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley were those shows for me, so if I see those actors, I fall over – it’s all about the time in your life when you experience a TV show and people really related to Melrose Place.
Two and a Half Men airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBS.