Fame & Fortune: Laura Leighton

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Who could forget the crazy vixen, Sydney, who brought hell on earth to her fellow apartment dwellers on “Melrose Place”? Thankfully, nobody, for Laura’s one guest appearance turned into several seasons on the campy Aaron Spelling hit.

That was the first major role of Laura Leighton’s acting career after toiling for years in television commercials and guest-starring roles. Since then, the stunning redhead has done various television projects (“Eyes,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Boston Legal,” “Shark”) and is in an upcoming Hallmark movie “Daniel’s Daughter.”

Along the way, the 39-year-old Iowa native married fellow “Melrose” co-star Doug Savant, who now stars on “Desperate Housewives.” The pair, who got married in 1998, are parents of Jack, 7, and Lucy, 2, while raising Doug’s two daughters from his former marriage — Arianne, 15, and Maddy, 14. Laura’s days are chaotic, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bankrate: How would you explain chaos in the Leighton/Savant household?

Laura Leighton: Well, it begins when everybody comes home from school and I’m trying to get dinner on the table. That’s chaos. That’s the busiest time of day around here — 5 o’clock. By the time the kids come home from sports and other extracurricular activities I’m usually driving to and from, then it’s trying to get dinner launched. Everybody has stuff to talk about and it all comes out at the same time.

Bankrate: Typically, what’s for dinner?

Laura Leighton: Well, it could be a takeout night. Or grilled chicken, steak or salmon. Those are our three staples that we barbecue. We do take advantage of a climate that we can do outdoor grilling almost year round. And something easy to go with it such as rice or potatoes or pasta. A green vegetable or salad. Pretty simple, but at least it’s healthy.

Bankrate: When shuttling kids and doing errands, what’s the one thing you won’t leave home without?

Laura Leighton: Besides my cell phone? (she laughs). ChapStick, ChapStick, ChapStick. That and a sunscreen with SPF 55. Shiseido’s sunscreen is good for my skin.

Bankrate: You and Doug have been married for almost 10 years, which is an eternity in Hollywood, especially with a two-actor career family. Any secrets to your happiness together?

Laura Leighton: I don’t know that there are any keys or secrets. I feel like I have a husband who shares the same values and goals that I do. We have the same idea about what it means to be married and what it means to have a family. We take care of each other and take care of the family. Just because we’re in Hollywood, it didn’t scare us to get married. Doug and I don’t do a lot of Hollywood things. He coaches our son’s baseball team and we attend all of our kids’ sporting events. Our calendar is much more filled with kids’ events than with work events, and that’s the way we like it. And I love Doug’s sense of humor and what a great dad he is.

Bankrate: I remember you saying one time that a hit show — such as “Melrose Place” — gives you the appearance of prosperity. Do you ever think you’ll have real financial security in the business you and Doug are in?

Laura Leighton: I don’t think it is a secure business that we’re in. In fact, actors aren’t really financially secure because you never know when your next job is going to come. And you can go for a long time in between jobs. So even if you’re having a good year on a show, the show can disappear and you might not work again for another three years. That’s the scary thing. We’ve built ourselves a very large life with four kids, and a big life, so it’s scary to feel like we’ve got to keep making this work.

Bankrate: Does a “big life” come with an assistant, nanny, cook and housekeeper?

Laura Leighton: I do have somebody help with meals sometimes, especially if I am working and Doug’s working at the same time. I don’t cook every evening. Every day is different in terms of the extracurricular schedule. But I don’t have any nannies or anything like that. I do my own grocery shopping. In fact, it’s little things like running to the grocery store after the kids are in bed that I find myself really appreciating the quiet time in the car — or the loud time if I’m blasting my music. It’s sometimes nice to run an errand with no kids in the back seat and being able to listen to music other than kids’ music.

Bankrate: Is it true that at one point, you and Doug were out of work for a while, falling on lean times, and a family relative gave each one of you a St. Genesius medal? And soon after, both of you got steady work coming your way?

Laura Leighton: Well yeah, it is actually. “Desperate Housewives” came right after we got the medal, and that’s been a hit. I got a series soon afterward (“Eyes”) but mine didn’t last as long as Doug’s. There are a lot of things I don’t have explanations for, but I don’t think that anyone can argue that if you believe in yourself, that’s the most empowering kind of faith.

Bankrate: Have you invested some money for a rainy day when those jobs aren’t coming your way?

Laura Leighton: Yeah, we certainly try and do all the prudent things and make wise investments and good choices. We hope we can keep being blessed with work. Like most people, it’s always trying to do your best and definitely plan ahead.

Bankrate: If you were going to go out and splurge on something now, would it be for Doug, the kids or for yourself?

Laura Leighton: We’re on a home improvement thing right now, so splurging would be on the house. Every five years or so we think of doing a little bit of something that’s been on our list and we’re getting to the point where we’re ready to face another project. I think it’s going to be a new bathroom for our oldest girls. They share a bathroom so we’re going to redo it. They’ll have a nice one for the few years before they go off to college. They deserve it. Plus, people say redoing a bathroom or kitchen actually adds value to your home. Let’s hope they’re right.

Bonnie Siegler is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.
Photo supplied by retna.com