Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview: Tamala Jones Keeps the Castle Boys in Line

Tamala Jones is best known to TV audiences as medical examiner Dr. Lanie Parish on ABC's "Castle." So, what's it like to be a part of a show that not only has one of the most talented and fun casts on television, but is also a huge hit with every category of television viewer? I spoke with Tamala recently and asked her just that. 

Celebrity Extra: First off, let's talk Twitter. Was it Nathan Fillion who got all of you to join, or how did that happen? Because all of a sudden, everybody from "Castle" is on Twitter now.

Tamala Jones: Well, Nathan, he is a gadget man. He is very computer savvy, and when we first started the show, he was like, “You guys need to be on Twitter.” And I think he was a member before "Castle" started, from all of his Sci-Fi things. So he had a bunch of fans already on Twitter, and he’s the one who actually told us about it. He got us tweeting, and we’re all addicted now.

CE: It is so much fun. Also, this season I am happy, as I’m sure you are, that Lanie has been getting more air time. Especially because it’s something the fans have wanted for some time, from what I’ve been reading. I guess the higher-ups were listening.

TJ: They listen to everything that they see on Twitter. They hear everyone’s voice. That’s the one thing that our producers definitely pay attention to — to Twitter, and e-mails they receive about what people want to see. I’m always grateful and thankful to people for writing in and expressing how much they wanted to see more of Lanie. Because they heard them and they made it happen.

CE: That’s really good to hear, because a lot of times the fans feel kind of helpless. Especially when a favorite show gets canceled, unannounced. That’s really good to hear that ABC’s "Castle" was listening like that.

TJ: Even with the whole Lanie and Esposito relationship. Jon (Huertas) started campaigning for this last season. He got all of the Twitter fans to join him and get this thing going. And the producers decided: “Okay, let’s do it. If it’s what they want to see, let’s give it to them.”

CE: I didn’t realize that was his campaigning that got it. I just thought the writers took you there, so you just went.

TJ: Honey, Jon has been campaigning for this every day for the past season. “Let’s get Lanie and Esposito together. It’s gonna work. I’m telling you.” He knew what he was doing, because it drove the fans crazy.

CE: Now, when you finally saw it on paper that they were finally acquiescing, what were your and Jon's reactions to it?

TJ: Well, Jon brought it to me, because he reads everything before anyone else does. So he turns to the page and goes, "Now look at this, Tam." I look and my eyes just roll up into the top of my head, like, “Okay, you got your wish.” I love Jon and it was nice to hear we were getting ready to do it, and he told me even before that: “I hope you’re working out. Cause we’re probably be going to have to take some shirts off.” And I’m like, “No boo-boo. You’re gonna have to take your shirt off, not me!” But, it worked both ways.

CE: He is really good at keeping a secret though because I interviewed him right before the beginning of the season and he hinted a little but he did not tell me. I could not pry it out of him. Speaking of clothes, because it’s nice that we get to see Lanie in something other than her lab coat. And this is kind of a very superficial question, but is that now more fun for you too because you’re not always in lab mode? Your character gets to have more of a personal life now.

TJ: I love that they are digging into Lanie’s background, her personal life. But me, as Tamala, I love wearing the lab coats because I’m a sweats girl. I love jeans so I’m like: “This is a great job! I get to come to work and comfortable.” But that’s something also that viewers wrote in about. “We want to see her outside of that. We want to see her get dressed up and go somewhere and do something.” That’s the one thing about our writers and producers: They really, really pay attention to and listen to what everybody wants. And they try to make good on it as best they can.

CE: What is the atmosphere on the set? You guys always look like you are having so much fun!

TJ: We’re always laughing on set because of Nathan, and the fact that we’re allowed to play a little bit more onscreen is even better. Nathan does so many things when he’s doing his takes. And you’ve got to hold it in; you can’t crack a smile.

CE: Another aspect of your character that I really like is she’s a medical examiner, but she’s a young vibrant woman, not like a stuffy middle-aged person that other shows often get as their medical examiner. She’s a smart cookie, but she’s young and sexy. What do you like about playing Lanie?

TJ: I love all of what you just said. I love that Lanie is young and vibrant and is smart, but she gives you the sass when she can. But for the most part, to bring down what exactly has gone on with the deceased that’s laying on her slab, she’s down to business. There’s no holding back in what she’s seeing, what she saw and identified on the outside.

And I love the fact that she’s young, because now there are young doctors out there. There are young medical examiners out there. I had food poisoning after New Years, and I had to go to the hospital, and you know, I’m very flirty. And the doctor came in, and he was young and he was cute, and I’m sitting there looking like I’m about to die. I say, “Oh, I thought you were going to be old and crusty, but you’re sexy.” And he said: “Well, thank you. And how are you feeling?” And it’s true. There are younger doctors out there. I look at Lanie as the female Doogie Howser.

CE: And I like her quick wit, especially with Castle. She puts him in his place, a lot.

TJ: And Nathan was the one who campaigned for that. He was like, “You need to get me sometime.” So he talked to the writers and enhanced that part of my character. Which I love him for doing that, because it really does work.

CE: Now, during all the filming, it must start to feel like boys day on the set, because there are so many guys there. How do you and Stana release your womanhood on them, so to speak?

TJ: Well, Stana and I are usually on our own side sitting in our own chairs talking about the latest fashion or who’s cute. Girlie stuff. Now we’re on this new water kick, so we’ve got our water-testing strips, and we’re testing which one has the highest potency, and we’re trying to stay hydrated and keep these guys hydrated. So we’re like the moms on the set, keeping the boys in line.

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