Whether whispering to ghosts, fighting the tabloids or playing Audrey Hepburn, actress Jennifer Love Hewitt has a loyal fan base. When she was photographed in a bikini in 2007 after gaining some weight, her fans famously lashed out at the tabloids, and so did she. In 2010 her book about love and dating, "The Day I Shot Cupid," was a New York Times best-seller. The cover of Maxim magazine has featured her four times, with the most recent being the April issue.
Along with being an author and cover girl, she is a singer, songwriter, producer and director. The 33-year-old stars in Lifetime's new series "The Client List," playing a single mother who gets into the sex trade to make ends meet. The show airs Sunday at 10 p.m.
When you were researching your role for "The Client List," did you talk to women in the sex trade?
I did not. I chose not to. I think the biggest part of the show is the sort of sex worker position she finds herself in, but for me the biggest part of the show is the inner workings of a girl who becomes a woman through her circumstances -- a single mom who is just trying to make it work. For me the research was more about who she is as a person and less about what she does. So as fascinating as it would have been to go and spend time with those women and understand the day in and day outs of their life, that is not who Riley is to me. Ultimately. I spent more time trying to figure out emotionally where she would be versus how she would technically do things.
You have been acting since you were a child, so is preparing for a role like riding a bike -- no matter what the role, you know what you have to do and how to do it to prepare?
I mean there are definitely things that throw you through a loop. There are harder parts than others. I mean playing Audrey Hepburn was difficult and had to be handled very gently. It took a look of research. When I did [one of NBC's "Law & Order" series] "SVU" a year ago, playing that rape victim, there was a lot that went into that. That was very different for me. This character for me is not easy at all, but it is something that is ingrained in me and that I know very well. Because on some level emotionally I feel like I'm playing my mom. I am from Texas. I come from a very big family of really strong-willed, feisty, gorgeous, great Texas women. My mom was a single mom, who did everything she could to make sure that her two kids, a boy and a girl, much like my character on the series, were taken care of and never wanted for anything. That's very much who Riley is, so for me I've been sort of researching Riley my whole life sort of watching my mom.
Your mother moved you and your brother to Los Angeles to pursue your career. She had to have faith in you, but wasn't that scary for her?
It was pretty scary for her, and she had the utmost faith in me, which is something I will never forget my whole life. It's part of the reason I am able to go and do what I do every day. You know when you have somebody believing in you like that it is priceless. It's been really great. You know my Mom is kind of an extraordinary lady who is very daring and very bold. It's just like her to do something like that. [laughing]
Did you feel pressure to succeed?
I never felt pressure, I really didn't. My mom never made me feel like I had to be here. I always had the option to pull the plug so to speak and say, "Let's go home. I'm done. I'm not having fun anymore; this is scary. Let's get out of here." And/or I could stay here my whole life and be in this business 24 years later, which is the route that I chose, and she was fine with that. So I always had complete freedom and faith instilled in me and on me from her for this journey, and I'm so grateful for that.
Do you ignore what is said in the tabloids now, or does it still bother you, or have you got thicker skin?
I don't. I don't ignore it. Thicker skin -- maybe a little, but I definitely don't ignore it. It still hurts. I'm a human being. It's not enjoyable, you know, but I definitely have learned that who I am is mine and doesn't belong to other people. Magazines and opinions of you and stuff like that, those will change, but your opinion of yourself does not have to based on what other people say. So I just learned that my inner voice has to be louder than their outside voice [laughing]. So I have learned to get through it and deal. I will say people have been extraordinarily respectful and more respectful than a few years ago, when that kind of unfortunate stuff sort of all hit and everything. I think they understood I was a human being, and maybe they took it too far.
You stood up for yourself, which a lot of celebrities opt not to do.
I did, and really it's funny because people say that, but for me in that moment I was really not standing up for myself as much as I was standing up for a lot of girls out there who look up to me and what I represent to them and I felt got damaged when that stuff came out. We have to be very careful about what we say out there to the masses in the entertainment industry because people are listening to every word, and they take it to heart. What I didn't want to do was be somebody representing a bunch of girls who were going to bed that night feeling they were less than because they weren't 6 feet tall and a size zero. I was really touched that people had the reaction that they did and were as supportive as they were. So now we've all moved on and life is different and better and it's fine, you know, c'est la vie. It was definitely a learning experience for me for sure.
Do you ever feel your acting ability is ever overshadowed by your sex appeal?
It's hard to answer that question. Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes I definitely wish there were more comments made about "Wow she was really good in that scene." There are so many actors that get "This is the new up and coming person of this moment" or whatever. I get a lot of "Wow, her boobs looked great in that movie" [laughing]. A part of that is those are roles that I have gotten and roles that I have chosen to take ... that's my responsibility. On the other hand, it would be nice to be, you know, something else, but at the end of the day I'm still a girl and a woman, and it's fun being a girl and a woman. There are way worse things in life then people saying nice things about your looks [laughing]. ... I would love for it to balance out. I would love people to say, "Wow there goes that girl with great boobs, who is a heck of an actress." You know if that could be the new sentence for 2013, that would be great. But I'm not complaining about being talked about or being able to work 23 years solidly in a business I love.
You've embraced your sexiness and have been on the cover of Maxim magazine several times.
Yeah, there are worse things in life then people saying, "Oh you're sexy." You can't really get angry at that.
So where do you draw the line between slutty and sexy?
Slutty to me is overt. It is for the sake of a reaction. Often times I view sluttiness as insecurity. Sexiness to me is not being perfect. Not showing everything all the time and being somewhat secure in what you have to offer. I don't know, I feel like sexiness is a spirit. It's a very certain kind of spirit in a girl. I feel like sluttiness is an attitude, and I feel like sexy people don't have attitude. They have confidence. It's a spirit. Something that comes from a deeper place. Sluttiness to me feels very surface. It's often made up to just distract from something else. I think sexiness is something you have or you don't.