By ANGELA DAWSON and LYNN BARKER
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips, the harmonizing offspring of Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Mamas & the Papas John and Michelle Phillips, respectively, are celebrating their 20th anniversary as recording artists known as Wilson Phillips, with a new reality series called “Still Holding On,” a takeoff on their 1990 hit song “Hold On.”
The series follows the Wilsons and Phillips, all in their 40s and married with children, as they try to balance family and career. The series premieres on the TV Guide Network Sunday, April 8 at 9 p.m. (ET).
They recently sat down to discuss their career via Skype from New York while they were promoting their show on the various morning talk shows. Phillips, ever the trouper, joined in the conversation despite battling a bad cold.
Front Row Features: Why do a reality show now?
Chynna: It wasn’t our idea to make a reality show. We had a few reservations because everything is exposed in your life but we think it’s a great tool for us to put ourselves out there again, and let people get to know who we are as people, and not just as singers, but the relationships between us as partners. We like to call it a docudrama, not a reality show.
Front Row Features: Has the show put any extra pressure on your relationship?
Carnie: It causes a little extra drama but it’s getting ready for it and being on time and getting the details right that is so hard. You’ve got to be somewhere and then you forget the outfit, and we have kids. I’ve got to drive a carpool to get the kids to school on time.
Front Row Features: Carnie, in “The Weight is Over” episode you have the lap band surgery despite the risks. Were you motivated by health reasons, your own self-image or the group’s comeback plans?
Carnie: The biggest driving force was for health reasons. For someone like me who’s been so open about my struggles with weight, it would be uncharacteristic not to talk about it publicly because I don’t want to hide anything. I look at this as taking control of my health so I’m really proud and grateful that I did it.
Front Row Features: Carnie, the pilot showed more of your family than the other girls. Will we see more of Wendy and Chynna’s family and kids in other episodes?
Wendy: When we signed up, we agreed to have our families peripherally in the show, and they are but we don’t want to overexpose our kids. They’re in it but just to a certain degree. We want to protect our children most of all. We don’t want to embarrass them and have them look back on this with regret 20 years later.
Carnie: Also, they followed me through the first episode through the (lap-band) surgery. It just so happened to work out that way.
Front Row Features: Do you all have more patience now than you did when you were starting out together and can you more easily deal with each other’s personalities?
Chynna: We’ve grown up a lot since we made our debut record 20 or so years ago. We’re completely different women. The three of us interact with each other in a way that’s so much more healthy and productive. We immediately look for a solution now instead of fighting over something. It’s not always easy but we really aspire to try our hardest to respect one another and find solutions.
Carnie: It is kind of like a marriage. We don’t honor the differences but know we’re going to be that way. We are who we are. So the respect, now that we’re women, is so much more than it ever was.
Wendy: The communication is a lot clearer now. We try not to let things fester too long. If there’s something we disagree on we’re much better at communicating, and that always helps.
Front Row Features: Over the years you’ve undergone a style and beauty evolution. Were there any style or beauty missteps you remember?
Wendy: Oh yeah. First of all, our eyebrows were very dark and pointed, and the big hair, of course. Some of the jackets we wore were a little frumpy. But overall, I think we’ve always had a sense of style and felt put together.
Chynna: I’m never going back to the short hair. I love my (long) hair.
Carnie: I’ve always loved the clothes. The only thing I didn’t love was that stupid lingerie we wore for the “You Won’t See Me Cry” video (in 1992). That didn’t seem natural to me. I wasn’t comfortable with the way any of us were dressed.
Front Row Features: Would you be okay with it if your kids wanted to go into show business?
Chynna: My daughter, Brooke, (and Wendy’s son), Will, want to be on a Disney Channel show. I know they would love that but my mom didn’t let me get into a career until I was 18. I think they’re too young to make their own decisions so I don’t want make decisions for my daughter that will impact her for a lifetime. I’ll wait until she’s 18 and can make her own decisions. Then she can’t blame me if it doesn’t work out. (She laughs.)
Carnie: If my daughter Lola, who’s turning 7 this month, said to me, “Mommy, I want to start acting or sing,” I would let her do whatever she wants. So I feel a little different (from Chynna).
Front Row Features: “Hold On” enjoyed a resurgence last year when you performed it at the end of “Bridesmaids”?
Chynna: That song is an anthem and it’s helped so many people, so obviously we’ve been humbled by it. We don’t get tired of people telling us that the song has helped them through a difficult time. It’s humbling to know your music has impacted somebody else’s life.
Carnie: We remember the message of “Hold On” and other songs we’ve written that have that meaning of young love sentiment. It’s amazing that this many years later, the song still connects with people. That goes to show you the power of a catchy melody and meaningful words.
Wendy: It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. As long as someone’s getting something from it, it keeps giving back.
Chynna: Another thing about the song is that everyone can hold on for one more day. We didn’t sing “Hold On For One More Week.”
Front Row Features: Any hints you can give us on some of the problems that surface in future episodes?
Carnie: You’ll just have to watch.
Chynna: I don’t think we’re allowed to talk about it.
Carnie: To be honest with you, the way you film a reality show, it’s all jumbled. They shoot scenes in no particular order. I have no clue at all. It’s really one big jumbled mess. When we’re on the road we get lost on the tour bus. Our manager gave us the wrong time to get to the venue so we miss a sound check. Problems occur when you travel. It can’t be helped.
Wendy: When you have three women, there’s always drama. We ended up doing each other’s makeup on the bus. Stuff like that. It seems silly but it’s kind of fun to watch.
Front Row Features: How do you all stay healthy when you are on the road and traveling so much?
Chynna: It’s not easy. It’s been a real thorn in my side having to take care of myself physically while on the road. I have really strong feelings about what I’ll eat and what I won’t eat. I’m not a prima donna at all. I just take a lot of pride in making sure I eat a lot of organic foods. To some people, it’s a little obnoxious but I take it very seriously and unfortunately it sometimes affects other people’s lives. It causes trouble sometimes.
Wendy: It’s a pain in the ass.
Carnie: It’s life. We just try to make health decisions. But today I’m not getting enough water because I’ve got to do interviews. It’s the same things when we’re on the road doing shows.
Wendy: When I’m on the road that’s when I eat the least and I drink the most water. When I’m at home I’m watching my four kids and not focusing on myself.
Front Row Features: What is your message for your fans about the show?
Carnie: How about thank you for watching, if you do? We hope you laugh and cry and enjoy the ride with us because we’re on the ride too.
Wendy: Try to have a sense of humor when you watch the show.
Chynna: It’s a little more wholesome than other reality TV shows. You don’t feel you have to take a shower after watching it. There’s drama and definitely moments where you’re on pins and needles wondering what’s going to happen next, but it’s cool. We’re enjoying it much more than we thought we’d enjoy it.