Joining the fray of reality shows focusing on celebrities and their families, actor Lorenzo Lamas brings the Lamas tribe (and an ex-wife or two) front and center in "Leave It To Lamas," which premieres this weekend on E! In the half-hour series, the former "Falcon Crest" and "Renegade" star appears alongside his three children... well, alongside two children (Shayne and Dakota) since his long-standing rift with son A.J. is one of the main arcs of the series. To find out why he'd venture in the world or reality at this point in his career, if the estrangement with his son heals in the course of the show and, as primetime soaps are being resurrected left and right, if he'd be up for a "Falcon Crest" redux, our Jim Halterman talked with Lamas earlier this week by phone.
Jim Halterman: So tell me how the show came about and the timing of it for you in your career?
Lorenzo Lamas: The show happened because of Shayne. She was on "The Bachelor" and Mike Fleiss, who produces the show, thought that Shayne really popped and that there would be a television show behind that bubbly personality of hers. Mike and Shayne went around and shopped it and E! gave it a look-see. Mike called me and said he was doing a show with my daughter and I said if anyone was going to be making a reality show about my daughter, I'm glad it's Mike. I trusted that Mike was genuine and he would do right by her, not make her look foolish and just take her talents and work with them so there are situations that revolve around them. He asked "Would you want to be in it?" and I said "Not so much."
Honestly, I didn't want to be looked at like I was riding the coattails of my daughter's success. I think it would be distasteful and I was very comfortable doing my nightclub act and doing plays around the country; making a living doing that. I did shoot a scene with Shayne for the pilot; we had a lunch together and just caught up with things in her life. E! liked that scene a lot and they went back to Mike and said "We really want Lorenzo on the show more." So I said if we can do the show where I am not a part of the circus but I just have scenes with Shayne I can probably make it work and get on board and that's exactly what happened. So the scenes I have in the show are events that Shayne and I did together. Red carpet events, dinners, you know stuff Dads do with their daughters.
JH: These reality shows keep coming and viewers can't get enough. Why do you think that is?
LL: It's remarkable how compelling those shows are to people. I was asked about that today - what I thought was the draw. I gotta tell ya, I think that the reality shows that we watch on television are like the sitcoms from 10 years ago. They've kind of taken the place of scripted comedy.
JH: Reality TV has done wonders for the Kardashian girls. Are you prepared for the same attention to be directed at Shayne?
LL: That's the thing. I wanted the show for her and if I could help get it on the air, then I'm in. She's very photogenic, she's a sweet girl deep down and, well, I'm her dad, what else am I going to say? But I do see a star quality in her and I think the show will reveal that.
JH: Of course another big part of the show is your relationship with your son. Why aren't you two closer and how does that develop over the course of the first season of "Leave It To Lamas?"
LL: It's very coincidental how that tabloid article [saying that AJ slept with Lamas's ex-wife] came out while we were shooting. I don't know who the source was that released that story but the problem that my son and I have goes deeper than that tabloid article. It's not just that hypothetical situation between what may or may not have happened between my son and my ex-wife. Our relationship had suffered for years prior to that. We do work on our relationship on the show. If anything, the show is the reason why we're working on the relationship. We had both gone on without each other in our lives so if it weren't for the show, we probably still would not be talking. There are parents out there that can relate to estrangement. Young adults go through difficulties and I was there for my son and I always wanted the best for him but as a parent I tried to set certain guidelines for him and I felt that those guidelines had not been followed to the best of his ability so we were at an impasse.
JH: How did it feel to mend that impasse with cameras present? It's one thing when you're acting but another when it's your life, right?
LL: There's a similarity there. As a character, you're basically trying to tell the truth. I mean, the best actors are the ones that the audience believes that they're telling the truth. It's not too dissimilar in the show. I'm not acting as a character, I am myself but I am still being honest with my son and he's being honest with his feelings. There's a similarity in that the participants are coming from a place of their own truth. I'm not acting like I'm upset. I am! He's not acting like he was misunderstood. He was! A.J. and I met at a mutual friend's house to talk about our problems and in the middle of the taping, I was thinking to myself "my son really seems vulnerable here. I hope they're getting that." [Laughs.] I was hoping the cameras were seeing the vulnerability that my son was showing and I thought that it was a phenomenal window into his psychology and the way he is as a person.
JH: In that pilot with Shayne, you give her some advice on dealing with the tabloids. Are they really just a necessary evil in the business?
LL: Well, they are not necessary. They're unnecessary. [Laughs.] If you're in the public eye and you make a living in politics or entertainment or sports, your life is an open book. My father [actor Fernando Lamas] told me years ago when I was starting out in the business not to believe the good press because then you get a big head and don't believe the bad press. Let it roll off the back of your shoulders because you can't do anything about it. It's just the nature of that business and it goes back to having a reality show, which gives the person the power to really voice their own opinion about their life. Tabloids are all quoting "some source" but who is that source? Certainly not the subject or the person they're writing the story about. It's some other secondary person so who knows what we're getting when we read that stuff.
JH: With "90210" and "Melrose Place" back, if "Falcon Crest" were to come back could longtime fans expect to see you as Lance Cumson again?
LL: Maybe a movie but I don't think I'd do a series. I might do a movie because it might be fun to get together with everyone again but that's it.
"Leave It To Lamas" premieres this Sunday at 11:00/10:00c on E!