Courtney Thorne-Smith has been a fixture on network television since the early 1990s, getting her first big break as Allison Parker on “Melrose Place” and graduating to lawyer Georgia Thomas in the award-winning “Ally McBeal” series. But for the past eight seasons, she played the role of wife Cheryl on “According to Jim,” where she played mom to five kids opposite Jim Belushi. Now a first-time mom herself, Thorne-Smith, 41, spends her time multitasking at home and work.
Growing up in a San Francisco suburb, Thorne-Smith spent a lot of time eating homemade yogurt, huge salads, whole wheat bread, not to mention liver — for breakfast. “My mom was sort of a hippie,” she says.
While trying to rebel against these dietary laws, the actress says she now gets it and is thankful to her mother. Now making her home in Los Angeles that she shares with her husband Roger Fishman, son Jake and their dog, Thorne-Smith is decidedly going in a different direction now that she has joined the motherhood club.
Bankrate: I remember the last time we spoke, you had about four books going at the same time. Are you still such an avid reader?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I don’t have as much time to read. I always have a book going and used to have several going at once. But now I have one for bed and get 20 minutes of reading in before I fall asleep. Anne Lamott’s book “Operating Instructions” about her son’s first year was really helpful to me because she’s so human and so honest.
Bankrate: What are some of life’s simple pleasures for you?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: My husband was just saying this morning that he loves our morning time together. We’re all really morning people and get up at 5 or 5:30, hang out and play and follow Jake around for two hours or so. It’s such a lovely, quiet time when the phone isn’t ringing and nobody is really up. I also still like to shop. That’s a guilty pleasure for me. I like to shop in stores where I know the women who work there.
Bankrate: Was there ever a dream you shelved only to reclaim it later?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I always dreamed about being a writer and wrote a novel a few years ago. So I did achieve that dream. And I still have the dream of going to college and studying English as a major. I think I will do that, so that dream isn’t gone.
Bankrate: “Ally McBeal,” “Melrose,” “Jim” … you’ve worked quite consistently throughout your career. Do you feel you’re financially stable at this point in your life?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Yes, I’m financially secure. I could probably stop working, but I don’t. I’m not ready to stop working.
Bankrate: What does financial success mean to you?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: It means freedom. My husband always says it means the freedom to not have to work, and that’s an extraordinary freedom to get to do what I want to do at this point in life. Right now that means spending most of my time with my son. I’ve worked 40 days since he was born, recently on a TV movie in Canada. That was perfect. I got to work and feel like I was part of society and active again. But I really get to spend 90 percent of my time with him, and that’s a gift that not a lot of women get to have, especially in this economy.
Bankrate: So what’s your latest splurge?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I’m about to go to one of my favorite boutiques and buy an outfit to wear on a talk show, so I’m about to make my next splurge. I love it when I have to shop because then I don’t feel guilty. So I’m excited.
Bankrate: In this economic climate, how have you instituted cost-saving measures in your everyday life?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: I’m much more conscious now. We’ve made cuts around the house and adjusted a lot of our household spending. I realize our (grocery) bill has gone down a lot because when I walk with Jake in the morning, we go by this market so I buy a little bit everyday. When I was buying for the week, I would over buy because I was trying to figure out what I needed for the week. So I would do a lot of impulse buying. My bill has gone down by 25 percent. Isn’t that amazing?
Bankrate: It seems you live a simpler lifestyle than is typical for Hollywood. Is it true that you’ve chosen a simpler lifestyle?
Courtney Thorne-Smith: Oh yeah, but I always lived a simpler lifestyle. I never went out a lot and did a lot of things that looked glamorous. I’ve always liked to cook, knit and watch TiVo. My girlfriend said to me, “What are you going to do in your 80s?” … There’s nothing to change. Why should I change? I have my husband, my son and a great group of women friends, so why should I change? I’ll do the same in my 80s.