June 2005 By Philip Berk
Having watched her TV show Nick and Jessica, the Newlyweds, I was intrigued.
Was Jessica Simpson really as unschooled as she appears on the series?
Meeting her on the set of The Dukes of Hazzard I was pleasantly surprised.
Granted she uses the occasional malapropism, but because she’s so gracious you tend to overlook her faults.
And even at the end of a long day of filming in Baton Rouge Louisiana, she’s surprisingly fresh, vibrant, and stunningly beautiful.
Before the show caught on, her husband Nick Lachey was the better known of the two, as the lead singer of 98 Degrees, a boy band of the 90’s.
But once into the first season, Jessica has become the star.
And in this her first movie role she’s so good, her producer Billy Gerber (he used to be head of Warner Bros.) has signed her for two other movies.
Knowing that both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were up for the role of Daisy Duke, I ask her how she got it?
“It was something I really, really wanted for a very long time.”
“Because she’s that all-American girl. She’s sexy, but she is very powerful and strong and just really positive, and I thought she would be a cool transformation for me to move from music into the acting world. Eventually I’d like to play all kinds of roles, but Daisy Duke seemed just made for me.”
In the original TV show Daisy wore those provocative short-shorts which had guys drooling. Did that pose a problem for her?
“Not really, because I am from Texas and everyone wore those shorts. So it wasn’t a problem for me especially since I’ve never heard anything bad about Daisy Duke as being a bad role model. A lot of women and even young girls look up to her; so if anything, that made me want to do it even more.”
Growing up in a Christian fundamentalist home, did you ever think you’d become a singer or an actress, or go into show business?
“It was just something that just kind of fell in my lap. I always wanted to entertain people but because I am really kind of a shy person it didn’t seem a realistic goal. I know people don’t think of me that way, but it’s hard to get to know the real me. That was always my dream to put on a show, and be the blonde who sings and entertains. That was what I wanted to do. And in fact I signed my first record deal while I was still singing in church. But it wasn’t something I made happen because I never believed it could happen.”
Going from Gospel to pop music, did that create a conflict?
“There was definitely conflict because I started out singing gospel music, and I ended up with a record label which folded and lost all their money. Then when we shopped around all my Christian records to other labels, they said I was too sexy to sing Christian music, which didn’t really make sense to me because I was just fifteen years old, and I didn’t understand what that meant.”
So what did you do?
“I decided it was time to walk through other doors that were opening for me. I felt you can be sexy and positive at the same time. But I was definitely judged there for a little bit.”
Both you and your sister Ashlee are singers. Has there ever been sibling rivalry?
“Ashlee and I are very different. Our personalities are very different. Ashlee is a lot like my mom and I am a lot like my dad. So we always balance each other out. We never really fought about anything except about her taking my make-up and clothes. I mean, stupid stuff like that, nothing deep”
In which way is she more like your mom and you more like your dad?
“My mom is very headstrong and she’ll tell you exactly what’s on her mind and what she wants. My dad is a little bit more reserved and you really have to know him before he opens up. I am more like that.”
Were you attracted to Daisy because she’s such an empowering person?
“Definitely. When you take on a movie like Dukes of Hazzard and it is your first role you want it to be something where people walk out of the theater and they remember you. Whether it’s for your shorts or your smile, I thought it would be cool to be able to maybe, hopefully, leave a lasting impression with my first movie.”
How grueling was the casting process?
“The most grueling part was the fact that it was already reported in the press that I had the role; so there was that added pressure to prove myself. I wasn’t just being handed this role. All those magazines that make up stories about me had mentioned it over and over. So, if I had failed then I I don’t know what I would’ve done. But, I really had it in my head that I would get this role.”
Now that you’ve worked on the film, is acting what you’d like to?
“Absolutely. I’ve had so much fun on the set. It’s just really comfortable for me. I didn’t expect it to be so comfortable, and I really have to thank Sean William Scott) and Willie (Nelson) and Burt (Reynolds.) Everybody really has just been so helpful, and its great to not have to travel every day as you do in the music business where you’re on tour every day and you do the same thing every night. You have to answer the same questions to all the radio programmers. Even though I love it, I can tell you, there is not a lot of music in the music industry. But with acting everyday you come on the set, you do a different scene. It’s exciting”
Who are your favorite actresses?
“There are so many. Right now I’ve been in my trailer watching Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby, and she is just unbelievable. And of course I love Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin. That would be a dream role for me. Something like that. And of course Julia Roberts, all the ones everybody loves.”
(Her next movie, incidentally, will be a remake of Goldie Hawn’s Private Benjamin)
Daisy Duke in the movie is the level headed one. Bo and Luke depend on her to figure things out. But on your TV show, you’re just the opposite.
Will this change the public’s perception of who you are?
“Definitely. I think people will see a lot more depth in the next couple of years to Jessica Simpson. What you’ve seen is a slightly manipulated reality show that shows a lot of my personality but involves a lot of editing as well. In the movie roles I choose, I think people will see the brains behind it all.”
Has the Newlyweds been a good training ground?
“I don’t even notice cameras anymore. It’s very sad. But sure it helped with the movie stuff.”
Will you continue doing the show?
“We only have like two weeks left, thank God, and we’re done”.
Will you continue recording?
“I am actually going to be doing some stuff for the Dukes of Hazzard soundtrack, a duet with Willie Nelson. That will come out a little bit before the movie opens. I’ll be going into the studio right after we wrap, like next week basically. We’ll be going in and putting together new music and see what comes of it and maybe touring with it this summer after I shoot my next movie.”
Did you get a break from the Newlyweds while filing in Baton Rouge?
“Oh no. They’re here in Louisiana right now. They shoot from when you wake up till you go to sleep.”
No privacy at all?
“Nothing. That’s why I can’t wait for it to be over.”
How hard has that been for you personally?
“I’m okay with people knowing things about me, but there are certain things I keep secret. Certain things I keep to myself. But I am so thankful for the Newlyweds. I mean, it has given me an amazing career and just an amazing future, financially, even with my product line. And it’s given me the chance to relate to the rest of the world, and that was important for me as a celebrity. I didn’t enjoy being put on a pedestal where people couldn’t connect with you. I like to come down to a level where everybody else is at. Because that really is who I am. I can burp and fart and clear out a room. You know, I am just a normal girl.”
Playing a newlywed on the show, did that make being a newlywed in real life more difficult
Not understanding the question, she replies, “I don’t know because I’ve never been a newlywed before.”
Being holed up in a hick town like Baton Rouge must be quite an adjustment for someone used to living in L.A?
“I didn’t really mind it. It’s nice for me because it put a lot of things back into perspective. It’s easy to get lost in Hollywood. It’s easy to get lost in expectations and opinions when everybody is writing or saying something about you. So being here I feel like I’m in college. It’s like I’m in a college town.”
Have your friends and family visited you?
“My family, yes. Nick is out here right now, but whenever I’m working away from home I like to surround myself with all my best friends. That makes me comfortable. They all work with me. We live together.”
How did the guys treat you on the set?
“Awesome. They’ve been amazing. And the crew. also. I’ve learned so much from them. Both of the guys, Sean and Johnny (Knoxville) don’t care what people say or think about them. They mess up in a take because they’re so goofy. They just do anything that comes in their mind, and as a new actress I found that really helpful. I never feel intimidated at all. I could fall on my face and it would just be funny, and it would be great.”
Does Daisy get to drive a car in the movie?
“She drives her jeep. She kicks some butt.”
And does she fight?
“Oh, I fight. Of course, Daisy always fights. I fight and pursue in bikinis.”
Besides Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott, Willie Nelson, and Burt Reynolds, the film features (Wonder Woman) Lynda Carter in a role specially created for her.