Courtney Thorne-Smith: On Her Way to Mommy Place
Interview by Peg Moline
Expecting her first child this winter, Courtney Thorne-Smith, now 40, is also promoting her first book, Outside In (Random House). The novel is about an actress on a prime-time drama who is wronged by her sleazy husband and her co-star. Thorne-Smith's own husband, Roger Fishman, has a digital media company, The Zizo Group; they married Jan. 1, 2007. Currently starring in ABC's According to Jim, she previously appeared on (the prime-time drama) Melrose Place and on Ally McBeal. Here, she talks about her book, her pregnancy, her body and the importance of friendship.
You show no signs of a career slump, so why write a book?
It has been my dream since I could read. When I shared that secret with Roger, I kept saying, "I can't write the great American novel." Then I thought, "So what if I don't?" In the beginning, I wrote an hour a day. Then the characters started coming to me, and I started writing at least a scene a day. Every time I had 15 pages, I'd send it out to my friends. And they liked it. At that point, I was embarrassed to say I was a writer, but then my agent read and liked it. He sent it on to a literary agent and she really liked it. That's when I felt, OK, I am writing a book. When I finished it, I said to myself, "You've created something." It was really great; acting is such a collaborative effort, but a book is just you.
Is your novel's main character, Kate, actually you?
No, it is fiction. I got to put every annoying person I've ever worked with into Sapphire, Kate's nemesis, and I tell women, "Hamilton [Kate's husband] is whatever horrible, controlling boyfriend you ever had—whoever makes you enjoy the book more."
But even though Kate is not based on me, I can totally relate to what she thinks and struggles with—that fighting to find her own voice. She's 30 but seems so much younger. Now, Paige [Kate's friend] is the adult me and all my girlfriends. What I really wanted to show in Kate's situation is what might happen if you don't have a support system, or anyone around you who tells you the truth. That's what we are seeing with young actresses now—they are surrounded by "yes men."
Let's talk about your pregnancy. Is having a baby something you've always wanted?
I really have always wanted to be a parent, and when I hit 36 and had just ended a relationship, I remember thinking how much I still wanted it. But I thought I'd adopt. I was very open to it, thinking being pregnant wasn't what was important.
Knowing that seemed to quiet my biological clock. Then when I met Roger, he never doubted that we would have a baby. But I was 39, and you never know. I really lucked out.
How are you feeling at 25 weeks?
I feel amazing. My back gets a little sore now, so I roll out of bed and do my cow/cat stretches. But I'm having so much fun; the baby kicks all the time, which is beyond heavenly.
Any morning sickness?
No, which surprised me because I get carsick. I did have a few migraines in the beginning, and you can't take anything, so I had 12 days of migraine sickness instead of 12 weeks of morning sickness.
How about cravings?
Nothing really strange, although cottage cheese is ambrosia to me. I normally chop up tomatoes and put them in, but now it's just salt and pepper, and I also dip apple slices in it. I eat a ton of fruit salad. I love candy, but I don't eat it because I am such a freak about it.
And have you had any aversions?
Before I even knew I was pregnant, I made a spicy beef dish and used grass-fed beef. It smelled really gamey to me, and my reaction was so intense, my girlfriend said, "You're pregnant."
What kind of mother do you think you'll be?
I honestly don't know. I hope I will be a calm mother; I do yoga and I meditate, and those should help. The one thing I do know is that I will have time for this baby. I'm at a time in my life that I don't feel I have to prove anything in terms of my career. I feel I'm in a place where I can really devote myself to raising my baby. The baby is all I'm doing.
And we're going to try going without help outside the family. My doctor had some very good advice about bringing in someone like a baby nurse. He says some of them have very definite ideas, and you need to find your own way of doing things first—otherwise, you're doing everything their way, not yours. I want to figure out what works for us.
So, how do you get your information?
I'm mostly talking to my friends, I've read a couple of books, and I have someone come in for an hour and teach me the basics—how to bathe the baby, etc. But I think the books can make you crazy. Each book you read negates the one you just read. I've been careful about what I read, which is really hard when there's so much swirling around the Internet. When I found out I was pregnant, I saw a nutritionist to make sure I was getting the right vitamins, and to find out what to avoid. I've stayed pretty calm.
Have you gotten anything else from your friends?
Most of them have teenagers now, and they can't wait to get their hands on a new baby. My friend Jean is a nurse and has six kids; she was one of the first women to have a VBAC. Someone asked me if I was getting a doula, and I said, "No, I have Jean."
Have you been working out?
Well, I used to be a compulsive exerciser, but I'm over that. For the past several years, I've been walking 40 minutes and doing Pilates and yoga stretches at home, so that's what I'm doing now. I used to run 8 miles a day, then go to the gym, do weights and then yoga, until I realized that I was so hungry and tired all the time. So I stopped doing all that and started just walking. I feel so much freedom now: I don't have to stay in a hotel with a gym and I'm never so hungry that I panic.
A lot of women are in a crazy exercise cycle; they're so afraid they'll gain weight if they stop, and it's especially hard when they get pregnant. What they need to realize is that if you're not exercising so much, you don't have to eat so much, and your body adjusts. It sounds so simple, but you really do have to listen to your body.