Aside from an official premiere or festival screening, it’s always a sort of weird thing to watch a movie while sitting in the same room with one of it’s stars – unless you’re a part of the production. It’s also a weird thing to show an audience something that you’ve worked on when it hasn’t already been released – as you don’t know whether they’re going to like it or not, and there’s a certain level of anxiety that can come with that as you screen something that you’ve already seen dozens of times, paying attention to the body language of those in the room around you. Having been in both situations personally, I can tell you that if Leigh-Allyn Baker was experiencing any anxiety, it really didn’t show as the Executive Producer and star of BAD HAIR DAY screened her new film for a family-focused press group just days ahead of it’s television premiere on the Disney Channel. What followed was a discussion on parenting, career and taking the reigns to help shape your own path… and of course, BAD HAIR DAY, too.
That statement, spoken in regard to some of the underlying messages present in BAD HAIR DAY, can also be applied to much of what Baker expressed about her own life and career. As an actor stepping into the role of Executive Producer for the very first time, her scope is changing as she leaves behind GOOD LUCK CHARLIE (for which she’s perhaps best-known right now) and looks ahead to expanding her career in the years to come.
“As my husband said, ‘they’re finally gonna pay you to micromanage everybody else,'” she says, explaining when she signed-on for the producer’s chair on BAD HAIR DAY. “I felt it was very tempting to see if I had it in me to see something built from the ground-up, and to really be brave and be bold to put my vision — not hide behind somebody else’s vision, but put my own out there and see how it went.”
After hiring a writing staff to re-work a script and pitch that that originally featured a “male cop” as one of the leads, BAD HAIR DAY became a starring vehicle for Baker as Liz, a disgraced cop posing as a private investigator posing as an FBI agent (seriously) alongside AUSTIN & ALLY’s Laura Marano as tech-savvy blogger and Prom Queen hopeful, Monica, the titular victim of the baddest of bad hair. But really, the hair itself is little more than a MacGuffin to set in motion a series of events that are fueled by a “girl power” mantra… events that just happen to involve a British jewel thief, a car chase and some other unpleasantries that manage to wrap themselves up in 90-minutes.
“There are so many talented young actors in this town, but Laura Marano has a certain maturity and skill set that I think was really necessary,” details Baker on the casting of her co-star. “We needed a girl who could pull off being in the lead for prom queen and ‘Miss Pretty Perfect,” and could also pull off knowing how to work that computer and have the smarts and the thinking and the brain stuff going on. And Laura just came in and she just knocked it out of the ballpark. She just — it’s not easy to find young talent that can go toe-to toe-in comedy with an adult.”
While BAD HAIR DAY represents “the now,” Baker is thinking ahead to the next chapter, being mindful of what’s on network tv – weighing the options of doing more mainstream roles (she recently turned down a pretty rough guest spot on a crime drama) between maintaining the family-friendly foundation of what her years on Disney Channel have built. Experienced with tons of voiceover work over the years, audiences can currently hear her voicing both Queen Delightful on The 7D, and Queen Coralie on episodes of JAKE AND THE NEVER LAND PIRATES. She’s also working to develop her own live-action series alongside “a gentleman” of her “same age who used to be on the Disney Channel.”
With multiple irons in the fire, the much-talked-about “work-life-balance” comes into play, and Leigh-Allyn Baker has her own recipe for making it all work:
“I learned [balance] in season one of GOOD LUCK CHARLIE. I just had a baby, Griffin (my oldest) and I remember just missing him terribly all day, and then when I got home I was rocking him to sleep at night, my favorite part — and I was thinking ‘Oh, I can’t believe that I missed that at work, and I missed that,” and I should have been focused. I realized ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m not 100% there at work and I’m missing the enjoyment there, and I’m not able to be 100% with him here, so I’m missing the enjoyment here.
From there on, simplicity rules.
When you’re at work, you work. When you’re home, you’re home and that’s how you do it. That’s the only way I can do it. And I love doing sitcoms. Honestly, as far as acting goes there is no greater job for a mom in the acting world than half-hour multi-camera sitcom work because you actually have a life. There’s a regular schedule. You don’t shoot crazy odd hours except for one day a week. You shoot three weeks on and one week off. You get five month hiatus in between seasons. I know what it’s like to be a full-time working mom, and I know what it’s like to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. I’ve done, and do both of those within a year.”
BAD HAIR DAY premieres on Disney Channel on Friday the 13th of February, 2015 at 8pm ET