Exit Interview: Joey Lawrence

The Jenkintown native talks about Dancing With the Stars,, his shorn head, and his mentor — George Clooney. Plus: bonus online outtakes.

When your show-biz career is defined by one word that isn’t really even a word, but a monosyllabic airhead yelp — “Whoa!” — it would seem wise to put it behind you. But that’s why 30-year-old Jenkintown native Joey Lawrence is so likable. Despite a resurgence thanks to Dancing With the Stars and its road show, which he brings to town on February 6th, Lawrence embraces his teen-idol days on the ’90s hit Blossom and seems unsullied by Hollywood, openly and earnestly discussing his shorn head, his beef with Justin Timberlake, and his mentor, George Clooney. May you find your ER, man, and may you never lose your Joeyness.

Exit Interview: I guess we should begin with your name. Joey? Joe? Joseph?
Joey Lawrence: Joey’s fine. It’s kinda weird. I did a series called American Dreams for a couple years, and by accident they put Joseph on the [credits]. It became this huge thing that I changed it. I didn’t purposely do anything. That’s why when I did [Dancing] I made sure it was Joey. That’s my name.

EI: Is your family still here in Philly?
JL: My mom and my father are both in Los Angeles. But yeah, I’ve got a lot of cousins. My Uncle Tommy and Aunt Marlene are still in Philadelphia. My Uncle Jimmy. I haven’t been back in a while.

EI: At the height of Joeymania, when it came to the ladies, did you and “Little Joey” cut a swath through the entire Delaware Valley?
JL: Um, you know, it was, um, I mean, y’know, there were, it was, it was neat to have so many people liking what you did and stuff. I met [my wife] Chandie when I was 16, right at the beginning of that whole thing. We were in a serious relationship for about seven years until I was an idiot and said I needed a break. Typical stupid guy stuff. Fortunately, I was blessed to get her back.

EI: So you didn’t have a “sow your wild oats” period?
JL: A what?

EI: A time when you took full advantage of being a heartthrob?
JL: I had a period after I broke up with Chandie where it was about figuring out what life was gonna be and all that kinda sh … stuff. You do the dating thing. Honestly, it sorta sucked.

EI: Have you come to terms with your Blossom legacy, or does “Whoa!” cast a dark shadow?
JL: No. I don’t understand people who have a lot of success for something and then resent it. I think it’s great. When Justin Timberlake, who I absolutely love, doesn’t want to talk about the Mickey Mouse Club and he’s better than that, well, don’t be a hater about it. You should be happy about that, not act like you’re too cool for the room. I’m not a big fan of that kind of attitude.

EI: Did you ever look into copyrighting “Whoa”?
JL: Y’know, I should have. We had a lot of bad legal advice in those days. I made it up. It wasn’t even in the script. They asked me to do something funny and I just did that. I didn’t even think about it.

EI: You’re best known for acting, but you’ve made unrecognized contributions to hip-hop, too-specifically the end of your 1993 jam “Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix,” which goes: “Our love has got to shine through/And baby you got to see it too/That we were meant girl me and you/But lately you’ve been acting like I smell like a zoo. …”
JL: “Philly Zoo to be exact/And Philly’s my origin as a matter of fact/But let’s get back to the subject at hand.” Something like that, right?

EI: Wow. You still remember.
JL: I do. [laughs] I was, like, 15 when I wrote that thing. It was definitely one of the earlier crossover pop hits that kinda worked.

EI: Let’s discuss your smooth pate on Dancing With the Stars. This seems akin to Jon Bon Jovi wearing a mohawk.
JL: My hair was such a part of who I was. But I wanted to do something different. I just decided to shave it off and be a neutral palette when it comes to acting. I can wear any sort of wig that I want now when I play a character. It’s a heck of a lot easier. I’m hair-dryer’d out, man.

EI: Did you fear that, like Samson, you would lose your Joeyness without your plumage?
JL: I wasn’t worried about that too much. At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you happy.

EI: Were there any Dancing costumes you refused to wear due to their sheer, overwhelming flamboyance?
JL: They wanted me to wear a rhinestone tank top one week, and I just said, “Nah, I can’t do the rhinestone tank top.” But it is ballroom dancing — it’s about glitz and really tight clothes. You’ve gotta go with it.

EI: I read that your dream would be to star in a Die Hard-type movie. Is America ready to see Joey Lawrence packing heat and kicking ass?
JL: You know what I love about those films? Die Hard was really smart. It had a lot of heart, that movie, y’know? Bruce Willis was an everyday guy that at the end of the day had to suck it up and save the world. I don’t think we have a lot of those heroes in movies right now. I’d love an opportunity to play something like that.

EI: Has anyone in Hollywood been a mentor to you?
JL: George Clooney, for sure. We often talk about it-he was playing a dumb, dimwitted jock on The Facts of Life in the ’80s, but he was 25 years old. He said, “You’ve done some amazing work over 25 years. It will happen. Believe me. It’s just going to be that right time. For you, and for me and a lot of leading men, it doesn’t really happen until you’re in your mid-to-late 30s.” Something like that makes you feel great. I hope and pray that I have an opportunity like he had with ER, to really show people there’s something here.

EI: In the meantime, what should folks expect from the live Dancing show?
JL: Just a lot of fun, man. Two hours of total fun.

EI: And if the hometown crowd gets a “Whoa” chant going?
JL: Why not? It’ll be fun.

See these online-only outtakes for Joey’s thoughts on Lindsay Lohan, today’s young Hollywood, and the song that makes him cry.

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